Who has the best deals on kids’ prescription glasses?

sisters taking selfies in their new eyeglasses

If you’re wondering where to buy glasses for your children, you have a lot of options. 

Kids’ glasses are sold in a number of ways, the most obvious being right in your eye doctor’s office. Then there are optical chain stores like LensCrafters, vision departments in large warehouse and retail stores (think Costco and Target), and online vendors such as EyeBuyDirect.

Where you buy your child’s glasses isn’t as important as making sure that you get a durable pair, made of quality materials, that fits correctly. That said, it’s extremely important to work with a professional to find the right fit because children are less inclined to verbalize if a prescription seems off and you aren’t trained to recognize if an adjustment is needed. 

Before letting your kid fall in love with the cool blue dinosaur frames, the first step when buying kids’ glasses is to review your vision insurance. You might find that your allowance is high enough that price is less important. 

You will, however, need to confirm that your preferred eye doctor and/or eyeglass provider accepts your vision insurance. Even if you’re not covered, in most situations, kids’ glasses are not super expensive since they likely won’t need complex prescriptions like bifocals or progressive lenses.

Once you know which providers are covered by your plan, the process should begin with a thorough eye exam. 

“The correct measurements need to be taken, and the glasses need to be verified in person by an optometrist or optician,” says Kerry Gelb, a New Jersey-based optometrist. 

After the eye exam is complete, it’s time to pick out glasses. 

Finally, it’s your job to help your child pick out glasses that he or she will be comfortable wearing from style, safety and fit perspectives. 

Here are some shopping options for buying kids’ glasses, along with what you should know about each one:

Option 1: Your eye doctor’s office

Some eye doctors have a large selection of children’s glasses in their offices. If you have vision insurance, there will probably be a group of children’s eyeglass frames that are covered fully or partially, as well as higher-end designer frames that may cost you a bit more out-of-pocket.

Option 2: An eyewear chain

Places like LensCrafters and Pearle Vision have optometrists and opticians in stores to conduct children’s eye exams, and a large number of glasses from which to choose the best frames for your son, daughter or all of your children. 

Buying your child’s glasses at an eyewear chain store may be among the more costly options, however. According to Consumer Reports, eyeglasses from popular U.S. eyewear chains cost an average of $369 per pair.

Option 3: Eyeglass departments at big box chains and warehouse stores

Yes, you can buy kids’ glasses at places like Costco, Walmart and Target. While it might not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking about where to buy eyeglasses for your child, a big box store or warehouse club vision center has eye doctors and opticians on-site. 

In fact, purchasing your child’s glasses where you buy your family’s camping gear and a month’s worth of drink boxes may save you money: The Consumer Reports study found that these discount retailers had an average out-of-pocket cost of $184 for eyeglasses. 

Option 4: Online retailers

In the last few years, buying eyeglasses online has become popular because of the vast variety of frames available and the potential savings offered. But, when buying glasses for kids, doing so online can be tricky. 

In fact, Gelb doesn’t recommend it at all. 

Why?

A child’s pupillary distance needs to be lined up perfectly for the glasses to do their job, he says, and, without a proper fit, the child may experience eye strain that they don’t know how to verbalize. 

The other problem is that many opticians don’t want to take on the responsibility of adjusting frames purchased online, or, if they will, they might charge you for it. 

If you want to give buying kids’ glasses online a try, you should go by the following guidelines for the best results: First, go with a reputable retailer that has a strong money-back guarantee and generous return policy in case you’re not happy with the finished product. 

Do some research, even checking the Better Business Bureau before you shop. 

Of course, picking out glasses without physically trying them on can be tough to do, so look for online retailers that give you a chance to try before you buy. Some sites will send you a few frames at a time so you can see which one fits best. 

Other sites have a virtual try-on feature that lets you see different frame styles on your child’s face using an uploaded photo. It’s less than ideal, but it can help you narrow down the options.

One tactic you might consider is having your child try on different brands and styles in person at a brick-and-mortar eyeglass retailer. Take photos of your favorites and jot down the brands, model numbers, sizes and prices so you can search online for a better deal. 

You might also consider speaking to your eye doctor to see if  he or she will fit prescription lenses into frames you purchase online, that way you can save money and get a proper fitting.

The final option is to purchase children’s glasses online complete with the prescription lenses. If you do this, you’ll have to get an in-person exam and then upload the child’s prescription. 

While this may sound convenient in theory, you could be putting your child’s eyesight at risk: If you are sent the wrong prescription, a professional won’t be there to help you figure that out.

“Opticians are really the experts when it comes to getting glasses,” Gelb says. 

What’s more, he adds, most well-known eyeglass retailers and private practices are careful about what they’re giving children because of liability, and will go above and beyond to give the child a high-quality product. 

Ultimately, especially if your child is very young, you are probably best served by working with an eye doctor and optician in person — whether in a private office, chain store or big box store — and then picking out frames and lenses with their guidance. This will help ensure that your child’s glasses are the right prescription and fit well. 

DOES YOUR CHILD NEED GLASSES? Find an optical store near you or online and start shopping.

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