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Costco eye exams: How are they different?

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Affordable eye exams at Costco

A Costco eye exam can be an affordable way to stay on top of your vision prescription and eye health. But getting your eyes examined at a wholesale shopping club can be a slightly different experience than you’re used to, especially if you’ve never scheduled one there before.

Stay mindful of a few important details and you might be able to save a nice chunk of change on your next eye exam.

How much does a Costco eye exam cost?

A basic eye exam at Costco usually costs between $50 and $100 (without insurance) for a comprehensive eye exam for glasses. Prices will vary based on location.

Services such as dilation, retinal imaging and contact lens fittings, if needed, can all increase the final price. Some doctors include dilation or retinal imaging in the cost of the exam, but contact lens fittings will always be at an additional fee.

The optometrist at your local Costco will be happy to answer any pricing questions you have before your appointment.

According to our survey of 100 optical centers across the country:

  • Independent optometrists associated with wholesale clubs (like Costco and Sam’s Club) charged $61 for an exam, on average.

  • All locations, including non-retail locations, charged $95 on average for an eye exam — $34 more than the average wholesale club.

If you have vision insurance, your plan could cover most or all of this fee — just be sure to verify your eligibility before your appointment.

Without insurance, it’s hard to go wrong with an eye exam at a store-based vision center.

Optometrists at Costco versus elsewhere

Eye doctors at Costco aren’t usually employees of the company. Instead, they’re known as independent doctors of optometry. The term “doctor of optometry” is just another name for an optometrist.

In a retail setting like Costco, an independent doctor is one who is associated with a particular store but practices on their own. This is how most retail stores work with eye doctors in the U.S.

For the most part, independent doctors set their own prices, which is why Costco’s eye exams aren’t the same price at every club. But these doctors (and Costco) have an understanding that customers expect a lower exam price, so they are usually priced on the affordable side.

How a Costco eye exam compares to others

In general, you’ll get roughly the same set of vision and eye tests at Costco as you would anywhere else — especially when it comes to eyesight correction.

This series of tests is called a comprehensive eye exam. During this exam, a doctor measures your visual sharpness and makes sure the inside and outside of each eye looks healthy.

They may perform several painless tests that monitor:

  • Visual sharpness.

  • Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.

  • The health of your retinas (the thin layer in the back of the eye).

  • Fluid pressure inside your eye.

  • How well your eyes move together.

  • How good your peripheral (side) vision is.

  • Color blindness.

After your exam, the optometrist will provide an updated vision prescription. You can use this information to get prescription glasses, sunglasses and contacts anywhere — not just at Costco.

If you have specific concerns about the health of your eyes, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist (medical eye doctor) at a private eye care practice. While a retail optometrist knows how to spot the signs of eye disease, they will likely refer you to a separate vision practice if anything warrants a second look.

Doctors in private offices are usually better equipped to diagnose and manage complex or long-term medical issues than store-based optometrists. In many cases, group-practice optometrists work with ophthalmologists — if they need a second opinion, they can get one on the spot.

SEE RELATED: What to expect during a comprehensive eye exam

Do you need a membership to get an eye exam at Costco?

No, you do not need a membership to schedule an eye exam at Costco. In fact, since most Costco eye doctors are independent, non-members will pay the same price for an exam as members.

But the same can’t be said for vision-related products. Costco owns and operates the optical centers inside their stores, so you will need an active membership to buy glasses, contact lenses or eye care products.

To schedule an appointment with an eye doctor at Costco, all you have to do is call the independent optometrist inside (or outside) the store. If you can’t find a phone number, call the Costco store and ask to be transferred to the optical center.

Some locations will offer walk-ins, but you’re usually better off playing it safe with an appointment.

If your optometrist is located inside the store, let the greeter know that you have a scheduled exam. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with someone at the customer service desk, which is usually located near the store’s exit.

RELATED READING: Your guide to eye exams

Popular alternatives to Costco

If price is the biggest motivator in your decision-making, a Costco exam is usually one of the most affordable available. But optical centers inside supermarkets or department stores could result in similar savings.

The following national retail chains offer a similar experience to Costco:

  • Sam’s Club

  • Target

  • Walmart

Unlike Costco or Sam’s Club, you won’t need a membership at Target or Walmart to order glasses or contacts during the same trip.

Eye exam prices at these stores tend to be in line with Costco exams. But remember — prices vary from store to store, so make sure to call ahead of time.

If a Costco optometrist offers a lower exam price, you’re already a member, or you just want to grab a jumbo-sized slice of pizza afterward, Costco could be your winner.

READ MORE: Walmart eye exams

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