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Best and worst opticians stores

Best Places To Buy Glasses

By Anna Studman

Article 3 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

We reveal which high street and online optician stores offer the best prices, value for money and special offers when you're buying glasses. Plus where to buy contact lenses.

Our opticians customer survey reveals the best places to buy your glasses. We've surveyed those who bought both in-store and online to find the best and worst options. We've also surveyed members on the best places to buy contact lenses.

To get straight to the relevant section, use the links below:

Best places to buy glasses on the high street 

Brands were rated on the price and value of their glasses range, as well as the in-store experience.

  • Independent opticians do well on all measures, but are slightly less favoured for price. 
  • If value for money is key, you might have to compromise on store environment. The only store to score five stars for value got only two stars for store environment.

It's more common than ever to have your eye test in one store, and to buy glasses in another, or even online. Our results suggest that this could be a good idea. 

While using different brands for buying glasses and getting your eyes tested enables you to shop around for your favourite frames, it can lead to problems if there's a dispute over an issue with glasses and who is responsible. Ask staff at your optician store how this would work.

Below we reveal the best and worst-rated brands for buying glasses, based on price, store environment, staff professionalism and value for money. 

High street glasses brands compared
Brand Price Store environment Staff professionalism Value for money Customer score
Asda Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Boots Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Costco Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Leightons Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Local/independent opticians Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Scrivens Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Specsavers Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Vision Express (including within Tesco) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Tesco (non Vision Express) Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content

Table last updated 10 December 2018. Notes:

Based on a Which? survey of 8155 members in July 2018.

Customer score based on satisfaction with the store on last visit and likelihood of recommending to a friend.

Sample sizes: Asda (197), Boots (1346), Costco (71), Leightons (93), Local/independents (2654), Scrivens (74), Specsavers (2510), Tesco (45), Vision Express (572)

Discover the top-rated brands for eye tests

Buying glasses - expert tips

Our expert opticians recommend the following when you're deciding where to buy your specs, and what you can afford:

1. Check if there are conditions attached to a ‘free’ eye test For example, will you have to pay for it if you don’t make a purchase?

2. Be up-front about your budget and ask for a quote Most opticians make a loss on your eye test (they get £20.90 from the NHS per patient), so it’s likely that they’ll want to try and keep your custom – including finding you affordable glasses.

3. Choose quality where you can  The mark-up on cheaper frames tends to be higher – you’ll get better value from frames if you can spend a bit more. Check for a smooth finish and sprung sides. Make sure they fit your face and are comfortable. Also, check they don’t fall off if you tip your head forward, and that the sides are the right length for your head.

4. Check if you're eligible for help from your employer Across the UK, if you use a display screen at work, you can claim the full cost of a standard test from your employer, and - if you need glasses specifically for display work - your employer should pay for a basic pair of single-vision glasses. 

5. Check whether a special offer gives you what you need Look closely at the terms and conditions: does it include only single-vision lenses, or a limited number of frames? Will you have to pay a premium for basic coatings or high-index lenses? Customers in our survey gave Tesco, Asda and Specsavers good scores for their in-store offers. 

Best places to buy glasses online 

We surveyed Which? members about their experiences of shopping for prescription glasses online, and asked opticians for their advice on how to ensure you get the best from buying glasses on the web. Only a minority of Which? members that we surveyed have bought glasses online, and nearly half (46%) of those who bought online bought from Glasses Direct. Overall, online shops score highly, with customers generally happy with the service they received.
Online optician stores rated
Brand Ordering process Ease of using the website Delivery process Price Customer score
 Glasses Direct Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Selectspecs Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Spex4Less Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content

Table last updated 10 December 2018. Notes:

Based on a Which? survey of 397 members in July 2018. 

Customer score is based on satisfaction with the store on last visit and likelihood of recommending to a friend.

Sample sizes: Glasses Direct (216), Selectspecs (33), Spex4Less (33), 

Buying glasses online - what you need to know

More people are shopping around for glasses - getting their eye test from one optician, but buying their glasses from another. When shopping online, you have no choice but to split your glasses-buying in this way.

The College of Optometrists - the professional body for optometrists - urges caution. By splitting the prescription and dispensing parts of buying glasses, it can be more difficult and time consuming to resolve any problems. Here are some expert tips for getting the best results:

Ensure you have the right measurements to hand

Opticians aren't required to put all the measurements needed to dispense glasses on your prescription, as some are taken when your glasses are dispensed rather than when your eyes are tested. This means that by buying online you may be missing details such as your such as your PD (pupillary distance).

Those measurements are key to getting the right glasses. Research shows that a key reason for online glasses not being right is the customer giving the wrong PD measurement. If lenses such as varifocals are not positioned accurately, the glasses could be unsafe when driving and using stairs. 

If you do decide to buy glasses online, there are steps you can take to try to get the fitting right. Look for websites that send you a selection of frames to try at home. Also look for websites that have a ‘best fit finder’ and frame fitting advice, and that give full frame measurements. And if you need to take measurements yourself, make sure they’re accurate.

Take care when buying bifocals or varifocals online

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

The ideal varifocal lens design provides sharp vision in the far distance, middle and close up for reading, is comfortable to swap between each zone, is easy to get used to, and has few distortions at the edges.

Varifocal design has become very sophisticated over the past 10 years, but there are big differences in quality and variability of lenses. Use our guide to choosing varifocals to make sure you know what level you need and what quality you’re buying.

Precise fitting measurements – such as the pupillary distance (PD) and the vertical pupil position - are crucial to how well any lens will perform.

Our experts also strongly discourage shoppers from buying bifocals or varifocals from websites that don’t ask – at the very least – for additional information that would help them gain the necessary measurements, such as a photo of the customer wearing their chosen frames.

Know your rights

If goods you buy are faulty and don’t do what they're supposed to, or don’t match the description given, you have the same rights under the Consumer Rights Act as you have when buying face-to-face.

Any terms and conditions that say you must cover the cost of returning an item don't apply where the goods being returned are faulty.

When you buy goods online, you have additional rights to return them. This is because your decision may be based on a brief description or a photograph – so what you receive isn't always quite what you’d expected.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations give you 14 calendar days from the day after you receive your goods to cancel. See our Consumer Rights section for more information. 

Where to buy contact lenses 

We asked hundreds of Which? members who wear contact lenses about their experience buying them - including quality of lenses, value for money, price and customer service.

As with buying glasses and eye testing, local and independent optician stores got the highest customer score for contact lenses. 

Contact lens stores rated
Brand Quality Value for money Price Customer service Customer score
Boots Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Local/independents Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Specsavers Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content
Vision Express Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content Subscriber only content

Table last updated 10 December 2018. Notes:

Based on a survey of 698 members in July 2018.

Customer score based on satisfaction with the store on last visit and likelihood of recommending to a friend.

Sample sizes: Boots (130), Local/independents (51), Specsavers (162), Vision Express (50)

Buying contact lenses online 

In the UK, contact lenses can only be fitted by, or under the supervision of, a registered optometrist, qualified dispensing optician or medical practitioner. 

Once fitting is completed, your practitioner will issue you with a contact lens specification. You can then buy contact lenses from a shop or go online, provided the sale is under the ‘general direction’ of a registered practitioner. 

The law says that online sellers must confirm that a buyer has a valid contact lens prescription by seeing it, or checking with the optician who supplied it. Eyes change over time, and an optician can pick up on complications and worrying practices, such as inadequate cleaning, that threaten eyesight. 

If you do shop for lenses online, don’t assume that prices are always lower; factor in shipping, handling and insurance costs that can bump up prices.

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