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Varifocal glasses: the best and worst places to buy

Independent opticians rated the best by Which? members

Varifocal glasses: the best and worst places to buy

Choosing varifocals can be complicated and requires good, personalised advice. We surveyed almost 4,500 Which? members who wear varifocals to find the best and worst places to buy varifocal glasses – with independent opticians coming out on top.

We asked Which? members to rate opticians selling varifocals on key measures, including how well they explained different options in price and lens type, how well they fit the lenses and the explanation of any potential limitations of varifocals.

Local and independent opticians, as a category, were rated highest by Which? members by a comfortable margin.

Keep reading to find out more about whether you should buy varifocals from the big chains, plus expert tips to help you make sense of the wide range in prices.

To find out how big chains, including Boots, Specsavers, and Vision Express scored, go to choosing varifocals.

Should you buy varifocals from the big chains?

We calculate scores for the stores in our survey based on the respondents’ overall satisfaction with the most recent visit and likelihood of recommending to a friend. The scores allow you to easily compare our survey results.

  • Independents were top, with a score of 87%
  • The runner-up – a discount chain – scored 81%
  • The lowest-scoring was a chain with 61%

Independents as a category scored the best. However, obviously individual stores are likely to differ. So ask friends and family, or locally on social media, to see which independents people recommend.

If you’d prefer to go to a chain, make sure you look at our varifocals survey results. The chain that ended up in the bottom of a table was there by a decisive margin.

Making sense of varifocal prices

There are hundreds of varifocal lens designs available with a wide range of price points. None of the stores in our survey scored the maximum five stars for explaining differences between varifocals price points and types.

Independents got four stars out of five, but all of the other stores received a middling two or three stars.

Where’s the cheapest place for varifocals?

  • Asda have the lowest prices, as there is currently no extra charge for varifocal lenses, which is unusual.
  • Costco entry-level varifocals include polycarbonate lenses, which are thinner and lighter than standard lenses.

Are budget varifocals any good?

We asked an expert optician who told us: ‘There are many budget varifocals on the market that are pretty good.’

Our expert explained that there are situations where people would benefit from more personalised, expensive designs. For example, when frequently using digital devices at home and work, and multiple screens in the workplace.

What can you expect to pay?

According to our expert optician, the optimised freeform design (which has some bespoke features) will be the best choice for most people. These varifocals range in price from about £160 to £420.

It’s important to seek personalised advice. Our expert points out that with such a large range of occupational lenses on the market, it’s best to run through your particular needs with a qualified dispensing optician.

For essential tips on choosing the best specs for you, read our five steps to the right prescription glasses

Buying varifocals online

Our undercover investigation into online glasses stores earlier this year revealed that buying varifocals online could be risky.

This is because most stores didn’t take height measurements, which are crucial for positioning your pupils accurately in the lenses.

If you’re tempted to go online:

  • Look for stores that have virtual fitting tools (like virtual try-on, or sending a photo of yourself to assist in the production of the lens)
  • or that physically send out the frames for you to try on before you purchase.

Before you shop, find out more about buying glasses online

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