Discount chains and independents are the best places to buy glasses, according to our survey of more than 5,000 Which? members.
Usually, independent opticians top our table decisively, but this year – when we asked about the best place to buy glasses – a branded chain offering low prices came out on top.
Independents retained the crown when it came to eye tests, and in the overall scores which combine buying glasses and eye tests, they topped the table too.
Overall, independent opticians received five stars for customer service, thorough eye testing and quality of products.
Many people in our survey said they preferred to buy glasses where they have previously had an eye test, which makes sense because you can get personalised advice from someone who is familiar with your prescription.
For people who chose independents, this was the main reason for doing so, along with having bought glasses there before.
To find out how big chains such as Boots, Optical Express and Specsavers fared, and which brand scored better than the independents, see our full breakdown of the best and worst opticians for 2020
Where to buy cheap glasses
If price is most important to you, independents might not be your best bet, as they scored a middling three stars on price and value for money.
The larger chains – Specsavers and Boots – didn’t fare so well in these areas either, receiving two- and three-star ratings in those categories.
On price and value for money, only two brands scored five stars across both categories.
Price was a particularly important factor for people when buying glasses, as the lowest-scoring brand received four or five stars in all categories apart from price and value for money, where it received two stars and one star respectively.
For a full breakdown of scores by brand, see our full glasses buying guide.
Where to buy glasses online
According to our survey, people who bought online were most likely to do so because of price and convenience.
All of the online stores we looked at scored highly on value for money, although not all of them did so well on deliveries and the range of glasses they offer.
73% of people in our survey who bought glasses online bought single-vision lenses, rather than varifocals, and we’ve found in the past that if you’ve got a simple prescription, buying online should be fairly straightforward.
If you wear varifocals, or have a high-strength prescription, it can be a bit trickier to get the right fit, frames and lens thickness online.
For complex prescriptions, these need to be really precise and tailored to you, in order for your glasses to be usable.
We recommend choosing a store that will let you try on frames before buying, which is something that our top-rated online store does.
Find out which are the best and worst online glasses stores, and get more advice about buying online in our full guide.
Eyecare and COVID-19: what to expect
Opticians across the UK are now able to offer face-to-face routine care, but measures that were adopted during lockdown – such as virtual and telephone appointments – are still possible, and in-person appointments have also changed.
When we asked opticians what patients can expect, many said that practices won’t be able to fit in as many appointments during the day, due to hygiene and distancing requirements, so there may be longer waits to be seen.
There might also be some elements of eye tests that still can’t be done if your optician doesn’t have access to the personal protection equipment (PPE) they need.
For example, puff tests (which measure intraocular pressure to check for issues such as glaucoma) produce aerosols and might increase the risk of infection.
Some practices might ask customers to wear masks or fill out health screening surveys before coming in, so check before you attend.
Your optician may still be doing phone consultations and video appointments while restrictions start to ease. It’s a good idea to call and check what measures are in place before going in.
Look after your eyes while working from home
As always, it’s important to look after your eyes when spending time in front of a screen. The College of Optometrists advises that people:
- Apply the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That will give your eye muscles a rest.
- Try to blink regularly. Focusing on a screen may make you blink less, which may make your eyes dry and uncomfortable.
- Position your screen correctly – it should be between 40 and 76cm away from your eyes, tilted away at an angle of between 10 and 20 degrees. Your eyes should be level with the top of your monitor.
- Watch out for warning signs. If you have red eye, eye pain, or an unexplained drop in vision, call your optometrist. They will be able to advise and, if necessary, arrange emergency care.
As with other health issues, don’t avoid contacting your GP, optician or dentist due to fears over COVID-19. It’s important to still talk to them about any concerns you may have, and they can advise on the best course of action.
Results based on survey of 5,006 Which? members in April / May 2020
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