Health: Click to buy your contacts

Online retailers are offering great bargains on all types of contact lenses. Your optometrist may need to watch his back.

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by Romana King
January 19th, 2012

From the December/January 2012 issue of the magazine.

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More than 55% of Canadians now prefer to shop online, a number that isn’t surprising when it comes to books, music and airline tickets. But contact lenses?

You bet. Online stores such as ClearlyContacts.ca and VisionPros.ca now offer flashy sites and competitive prices. In fact, these new sites are taking a run at Walmart and Costco, the reigning low-cost champs in the contact-lens market. Independent and chain opticians, such as Hakim Optical, are finding it harder and harder to compete.

We decided to dig around a little bit to find out which stores offer you the best price for your contact lens purchase. The results were surprising.

Discount retailers: Most provincial health care plans will pay for an eye exam every two years. However, some discount retailers will require you to pay an additional one-time “fitting fee” that ranges from $25 to $200. Still, this additional cost may be justified in the long run because of the lower prices these stores offer on popular 30-day lenses.

Opticians/Optometrists: Unlike big-box retailers, both independent and chain opticians only make economic sense if you buy in quantity. Optometrists get rebates from contact lens manufactures, which they pass down to you, but usually only if you buy a 12-month supply. These savings can add up to anywhere from $40 to $100, depending on the brand of contact lens you use.

Online: Bargain hunting for contact lenses is easy once you have a prescription in hand and you know the type of lens that is best for your eyes. “The online retailers can offer cheaper per-box rates because they often buy in significant bulk,” explains says Dr. Peter Milonas, a Toronto optometrist.

But before you click and confirm your online order, verify your total costs. “Many online retailers don’t include shipping and handling in their costs until you confirm the order,” says Milonas. This can add $6 to $40 to your order, depending on the brand and quantity.

Above you can see the results of our research into where you can find the best deals. We price shopped for three of the most popular contact lens brands and found that VisionPros.ca, offered the best prices overall. Surprisingly, however, we found the most competitive deal for daily-wear contacts was at the local optometrist. This is largely due to rebates that dropped the overall price on a bulk order.

Find out where to get the best deal. MoneySense comparison shopped to determine which retailer offers the best prices on three of the most popular contact lens brands.

Click image to enlarge

19 comments on “Health: Click to buy your contacts

  1. It is irresponsible to suggest consumers purchase a medical device online to save money. Purchasing prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses from someone you do not know brings with it a range of risks. Some of these risks relate to the health of the eye (e.g. improperly fitted contact lenses can cause injury to the cornea) and some relate to the effectiveness of the eyewear (e.g. eyeglasses with lenses that do not match a patient’s eye measurements can impair vision). Improperly fitted eyewear can interfere with your ability to see, causing impaired depth perception, blurred vision, falls and other accidents, and worsened near or far-sightedness. A health care professional who can properly assess, fit and follow up is part of the reason you'll pay more for these products.

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    • Then buy a sample pair from a local merchant. Get the proper numbers and buy it online. Don't see what the problem is.

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  2. With respect, Laurel, this is the sort of thinking that makes those "professionals" rich and the rest of us poor. As a liftime wearer of glasses, I've had a number of instances where the professional got it wrong. In some of those cases, they acted as if I was at fault and in one case, wanted me to pay to fix their mistake. I have no doubt that similar issues will crop up with online providers but at least I'm saving money in the meanwhile. Count me in.

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    • Totally agree with you, Jim. Laurel, those risks you write of are equally present in glasses or contacts purchased "live". I've worn glasses and contacts for 35 years, and I have not been happy with the quality and service I've gotten in the last few years from optical stores for very expensive glasses. When I asked around, I found friends and family with the same complaints at different stores–expensive, wrong, broke easily, lens coatings came off, staff unhelpful or insisting that the glasses or contacts are fine when they clearly are not. I tried Clearly Contacts for my most recent pair. They are fine, were much less expensive, they were delivered within a week, and the whole selection and ordering process was well-explained. Plus they have a money-back guarantee to help you get over the weirdness of buying glasses without trying them on first.

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  3. I've been wearing contact lenses for years and have been purchasing them from my eye doctor because I didn't know there was another choice. I search on Google and quite a few websites are selling my lenses like the sites noted above in this article. I decided to purchase from VisionPros.ca because they had the best price and said my lenses were in stock when I called. Literally, 2 days later my lenses arrived by FedEx. I appreciate the speed of the delivery, but what I was most impressed about how much I saved. I used to pay $79 a box for my lenses, VisionPros was the cheapest at $42. I'm happy about the savings and will continue to shop there, but what I find so irritating is the fact that for more that 5 years I have been gouged by my eye doctor for the same lenses I got for half the price. Enough is enough!

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  4. I've also been wearing contact lenses for 5 years. In fact, I have bought contact lenses from ClearlyContacts since last year. However, I found out that there are actually more online contact lenses available then ever, and Clearlycontacts isn't the cheapest one you can get from. contacts express.ca, bestcontacts.ca, visionpros.ca to name a few. So take some time and do some online shopping.

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  5. I find that Contactsexpress.ca is a cheap alternative, ships from Ontario and quick delivery to Quebec. They currently have a new customer offer of $10 off advertised on their main page: http://www.contactsexpress.ca

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  6. Just bought a pair of Boston Gas permeable lenses for $89 dollars from Clearly Contacts . Came in a few days. Previously always bought them from my optometrist for $320 a pair . Now I will be buying a new pair every year instead of holding on to scratched uncomfortable ones for three years.

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  7. I've been purchasing my contacts from ACLens.com they are an American company but have competitive prices (worth consider especially since the Canadian dollar is up or near par).

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  8. Just bought from Contactsexpress.ca about $3 cheaper per lens and $1 cheaper shipping charge than Visoin pros too. clearly contacts is way too expensive

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  9. I've been a customer of clearlycontacts.ca for a long time and have always received great service. My contact lenses show up fast and I just tried ordering glasses and they turned out great for me too (pleasantly surprised). To anyone who says ordering online is not safe – that's just a lie. The boxes of lenses are exactly the same. I visit my Dr. for exams and then buy my product online and save a bunch of money. There's no reason to over pay.

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  10. I've tried a few different online contact lens retailers; but have gone back to clearlycontacts.ca. There prices are great and their speed and service are much better then the other companies I've tried.

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  11. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been looking for info about buying contacts online, not that I’ll ever ditch my opticians office. There’s just something good about having a real person to help you if your order gets a little messed up!

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  12. I think Laurel's post is relevant to a first time fitting… you should get a pro to do that and get your first batch with them so they can address any issues (care quality can vary).
    But after that the money saved re-ordering online is substantial, no point padding the optical stores pockets.

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  13. I search on Google and quite a few websites are selling my lenses like the sites noted above in this article.

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