Getting routine eye exams can be an important part of protecting the health of your eyes and catching early signs of disease.1 But if you don’t have insurance, you’ll likely pay more for an exam than you would with vision coverage.
If you don’t have vision insurance, the average cost of an eye exam is about $75–$250.2 The costs can vary based on where you get the exam. If you visit an independent eye doctor, you could be paying up to $200 as a new patient or up to $150 as a returning patient. You could also visit an eye doctor at a large chain or retailer, where the cost for an exam without insurance may be lower:2
There are a few different kinds of eye exams. Some check your vision, while others assess your eye health and look for eye disease. Some common examples of eye exams include:
Comprehensive eye exam
A comprehensive (or routine) eye exam involves several tests to check the eyes for vision problems and signs of disease. An eye doctor will examine the sharpness of your vision, your pupils’ reaction to light and the alignment of your eyes. The eye care professional will also measure your eyeglasses prescription and may test for signs of eye diseases such as glaucoma.
Contact lens exam
If you want to wear contacts, you’ll need a special exam to make sure that contact lenses are right for you. During a contact lens exam, an eye doctor will measure the size and shape of the cornea and check for signs of conditions such as dry eye syndrome. If you are a good candidate for contacts, the exam may include a trial contact lens fitting. The cost of a contact lens exam without insurance may vary based on where you get the procedure done.
Unlike a comprehensive eye exam, a vision screening is usually performed by a primary care provider, not an eye doctor. Routine screenings are not normally recommended for most adults who have no vision issues, but they may be performed for children as part of regular pediatric checkups. Vision screenings involve quick tests such as eye chart readings that check the eyes for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and other common eye problems.
If you need an eye exam, there are several options to choose from. You could schedule an appointment at a local eye doctor’s office or visit an eyewear chain store location. Some large retailers, such as Walmart or Target, may sometimes include vision centers at their locations.
Typically, if you have vision insurance, you will have access to a network of vision care providers where you can receive an eye exam. Since exams are routine preventive care, they are usually covered or subject to a small copayment in vision insurance plans.
Comprehensive eye exams are an important part of preventive care for your eyes. Many common eye problems are easy to manage if caught early. But if left undetected and untreated, some eye disorders could lead to macular degeneration or blindness.