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Best and worst optician shops for 2016 revealed by Which? survey

Where to go for an eye test, plus tips for buying glasses

opticians brands

Nearly 8,500 Which? members have rated their optician in a Which? survey, to reveal 2016’s best and worst places to have your eyes tested and buy glasses.

Independent opticians topped the table with a an overall customer score of 87%, with established brands filling up the top – and bottom – of the table behind independents.

See our full survey results, including how Boots, Specsavers and Vision Express opticians were rated, in our full opticians stores compared guide.

Below we round up our tips for ensuring that you receive the best care for your eyes possible.

1. Eye test, glasses or both?

According to our survey results, the best place for an eye test isn’t necessarily the best place to buy glasses.

We asked customers to rate their optician for eye tests, buying glasses as well as their overall satisfaction with the whole experience. Some shops score much better for eye tests than they do for buying glasses and vice versa, so it may well be wise to have your eyes tested in one place, but switch to a different store to actually buy any glasses you need.

For example, one supermarket optician brand is ranked second out of nine by people who bought glasses there, with five-star ratings for price, value for money and offers, whereas it’s only eighth out of 12 for eye testing.

And one large optician store’s customers rate its eye-testing better than for buying glasses, with all but one of it’s glasses-buying scores – including value for money and range of products – rated average. 

Jump straight to our results showing the best place to buy glasses and the best places to have an eye test.

2. Consider buying glasses online

Only a minority of Which? members have bought glasses online. But – despite the difficulty of being able to give an online optician the right measurements, which is particularly important for varifocals and higher prescriptions – shoppers rate buying glasses online higher than buying on the high street.

Glasses Direct got an excellent 95% overall satisfaction score with the same percentage of its customers saying that the price they were charged was either excellent or good.

3. Understand the options

Our research shows that Which? members don’t always understand whether different options for glasses, such as lens coatings and materials, are right for them. 

With so many added extras available for glasses, we’ve developed five steps to the right prescription glasses, including lens type, lens material, lens coatings and tints, the right varifocal lenses and frames.

4. Avoid paying extra for thinner lenses

If your glasses are a high prescription, you may be tempted to pay extra for thinner lenses (known as high-index lenses). But if you choose your frames wisely, you could benefit from thinner standard lenses without having to pay extra.

Frames with a pupil distance (PD, the distance between you eyes measured from the centre of your pupils) that’s close to your own, and smaller frames (such as small, round frames rather than a large aviator shape) naturally reduce lens thickness.

5. Don’t overspend on varifocals

Varifocals are a cause of recurring complaints to the Optical Consumer Complaints Service.

Generally, the more you pay for varifocals, the better the optical design and quality (with fewer distortions round the edges). But most people are unlikely to benefit from the priciest bespoke lenses.

Find out more using our guide to choosing varifocals.

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