Best Places to Buy Contact Lenses in 2019

Anna Burleson ·
Entertainment Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent eight hours evaluating websites where you can order contact lenses. This meant looking thoroughly at all the available brands and extras listed on each site. All 10 of the websites we looked at offer the common types of contacts, including toric, colored, bifocal and multifocal as well as several disposable kinds. To compare the sites, we focused on the variety of available brands along with other items like solution, eye drops and even glasses. In our analysis, AC Lens is the best overall for its price matching, affordable lenses and wide range of brands.        

Best Overall
AC Lens
AC Lens has a ton of brands and types of contacts along with several kinds of glasses, contact solution, eye drops and a primo price matching program.
View on AC Lens
Best Value
Coastal
Coastal is our best value pick because it has a wide selection of glasses, free shipping on all orders and a price match program.
View on Coastal
Best Selection
Discount Contact Lenses
Discount Contact Lenses has affordable prices for most contacts and one of the best price matching programs of any website we evaluated.
View on Discount Contact Lenses
GO@Discount Contact Lenses
Best Selection
Discount Contact Lenses
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Price
Selection
Customer Service
Accessories
Price Comparison
Price Match Guarantee
Free Shipping Minimum
Number of Brands
RGP (Hard) Lenses
Halloween Lenses
Standard Shipping Time (Business Days)
Return Policy
Glasses/Readers
Solution
Drops
Check Price
9.1 10 10 6.3 10
A+
Match + 5%
$99
44
5 to 7
1 Year
Check Price
8.8 9.3 10 6.3 10
A-
Match + 5%
$99
44
5 to 7
1 Year
Check Price
6.2 7.3 3 6.3 10
B-
Match
$0
26
-
-
5 to 7
1 Year
Check Price
5.8 6 7 5 4.3
C-
Match
$0
33
-
5 to 7
30 Days
-
-
Check Price
5.8 3.5 8 7.5 2.8
F
Match + 2% off
$75
40
-
5 to 7
Unlimited
-
-
Check Price
5.7 3.3 2.5 10 10
D-
-
$0
21
-
-
1 to 3
Unlimited
Check Price
4.9 5.3 3.8 7.3 2.8
C+
Match
$49
18
-
Up to 5
1 Year
-
-
Check Price
4.7 4 2.8 6.3 7.3
B+
-
N/A
24
-
-
3 to 6
30 Days
-
Check Price
3.6 4 2.8 6.3 0
D+
-
$0
24
-
-
5 to 7
1 Year
-
Best Overall
This website has a large selection of contacts, so whether you need a very specific type of lens or want something in a bright color just for fun, odds are you’ll find it.
You can pick from 44 different brands of contact lenses, including less common ones like RGP or even Halloween-themed lenses. Whether it's ProClear, FreshLook or a less common Fluoroperm RGP lens, this website should have what you need. AC Lens also had the most affordable contacts in our price comparison, earning an A+. For example, one box of Dailies we looked at across all websites cost an average of $27 on other websites while AC Lens sold it for $18.99. Like the other websites we looked at, though, AC Lens offers a discount on most purchases if you sign up for an automatic refill subscription or purchase more than one box at a time. It also offers price matching if you find your contacts available elsewhere for less; it will even take an extra 5 percent off, which is something only offered by one other company we evaluated. The downside to this site is the required $99 spending minimum to get free standard shipping. It then takes roughly 5 to 7 days to get your contacts depending on how quickly your prescription can be verified. This is a comparable shipping speed across the board at contact lens ordering websites. You then have a whole year to return any unopened or damaged contacts, which is much better than some websites which only give you 30 days. AC Lens’s low-cost contacts, price match program and wide range of contact brands and types are what make it our overall best pick.
Pros
  • This website earned an A+ in our price comparison
  • Forty-four different brands of contacts are available
  • You can buy eyeglasses, sunglasses and various strengths of reading glasses
Cons
  • It can take about a week to get your order
  • You must spend at least $99 to get free shipping
  • Some eye accessories like sunglasses and swimming goggles are expensive
GOAC Lens
Read the full review
Best Value
This website makes it feel like you’re shopping for contacts at an upscale boutique without the inflated prices.
Not only do you have 33 contact lens brands to pick from – the third most of any site we evaluated – but you have your pick of stylish eyeglasses and reading glasses. It even carries RGP contact lenses, which are harder to find online in general. This site has all the common lens types such as colored contacts, several kinds of disposables, lenses for people with astigmatism, multifocal and bifocal contacts. Coastal got a C- in our price comparison, but its large selection and easy-to-use website make it our best value selection. With Coastal, you get free shipping on every order. This can save you around $10 every time you order. It will take roughly a week to get regular, non-custom orders, though you can buy several boxes at a time depending on the lens. Buying in bulk means you’ll get even more of a discount. Coastal also price matches competitors if you find your order for less money elsewhere. Keep in mind, this service doesn’t offer eye drops or contact solution, so you’ll need to buy that elsewhere. The website is well-designed and even has a live chat option in case you need help while you shop. There are articles about contact lens misconceptions and FAQs if you’re new to optical care. One of the links even explains how to read your own prescription, which we know can be a little confusing. These little helping hands paired with the selection and affordability make Coastal the best value pick for online contact lens shopping.
Pros
  • All orders ship for free within the United States
  • It will match any other website’s price
  • There are 33 brands of contacts to pick from
Cons
  • In our price comparison Coastal got a C-
  • You can’t buy solution or eye drops
  • It can take a week to get your order in the mail
GOCoastal
Read the full review
Best Selection
This website is the most expansive one-stop-shop for contacts and other eye care products and accessories.
You have 44 brands of contacts to pick from along with numerous styles of lens: disposables, toric, multifocals and even vial and RGP lenses. There are big name brands like Acuvue and Air Optix alongside some lesser known names like SGP and O-Perm. No matter how unique your vision needs are, Discount Contact Lenses most likely has what you need. You can buy decorative colored lenses or even some that give you cat eyes or lightning on your iris, but those lenses take 7-10 days to ship while most regular soft lenses only take 5-7 days. If you find your contacts cheaper elsewhere online, Discount will match that price with an additional 5 percent off. This is one of the best matching programs of the websites we evaluated. To test prices, we compared the cost of three different boxes of contacts across all the websites we rated. AC Lens earned an A+ while Discount Contact Lenses was the runner-up with a grade of A-. You should note that standard shipping isn’t free unless you spend $99. If you happen to get lenses that don’t work, you have 365 days to return them. That’s a very generous return policy. There are plenty of other eye accessories available on Discount Contact Lenses, including solution, eye drops, frames, reading glasses and even sunglasses. This website’s live try-on feature is very accurate and frankly a lot of fun to play with. Using your computer’s webcam, you take a series of photos turning your head from side to side and within moments you can see what any set of frames looks like on your face from several angles. You never have to worry about not liking your glasses again.
Pros
  • It has a very competitive price match program
  • There are 44 brands of contacts to pick from
  • You can purchase different kinds of glasses, cosmetics, solution and eye drops
Cons
  • You have to spend $99 to get free standard shipping
  • Some Halloween lenses take longer to ship
  • It can take about a week to get your lenses
GODiscount Contact Lenses
Read the full review
Best One Stop Shop
Walmart has a lot to offer besides just contacts.
It’s the best place to get everything you need from eye drops and solution to eyeglasses in every style imaginable. If you want contact lens cases that are functional as well as stylish, there are a multitude of colors and styles to pick from. There are also a ton of drops available if you have specific needs like dryness, allergies or eye redness. If you visit one of the Vision Centers in-store for an exam you can even pick up your household necessities like groceries, clothing, toys and even automotive care products.
Pros
  • Free shipping within the U.S.
  • 26 brands available
  • You can buy glasses and other optical necessities
Cons
  • The price match program doesn't include an additional discount
  • No costume lenses
  • No RGP lenses
GOWalmart
Read the full review
Best Return Policy
Even though 1-800 Contacts didn’t fare well in our overall cost evaluation they have 40 different brands to choose from, the second-most the websites we looked at.
You can also return your unopened or damaged lenses any time and considering some websites limit that to one month or one year, we think it’s a pretty great deal. That way if you go without your contacts for a while and then decide to start wearing them again only to find they’re damaged, you aren’t going to lose any money. The website says if you are dissatisfied for any reason they will make it right.
Pros
  • 10 percent off for students
  • You can return unopened or damaged lenses any time
  • RGP lenses available
Cons
  • $75 minimum purchase to get free shipping
  • Got an F in our price comparison
  • Lacks glasses and eye drops
GO1-800 Contacts
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

Our experts have been reviewing contact lens websites since 2010, when ordering contacts online really became commonplace.

AC Lens Marketing Director Robert Drumm said shoppers are limited to what their doctor prescribes them, so AC Lens focuses on simplifying the process for customers. For example, many contact lens websites have a live chat feature that offers immediate customer service.

“I think it streamlines the entire optical process for the customer and allows them to just forget about it,” Drumm said. “You don’t have to worry about your eyes. We just tell you when it’s time to take care of it.”

Drumm also warned of sketchy websites that aren’t legitimate. He said most of the time it’s pretty apparent when a website isn’t an authorized retailer.

While you can get your contacts from your doctor, online shopping does have its perks.

Laura Schmidt of 1-800 Contacts said in an email that its online shoppers get the same lenses they would receive directly from an eye doctor paired with money-saving opportunities like rebates and promotions.

"With over 15 million contact lenses in stock, 1-800 Contacts is more likely to have a contact lens wearer’s prescription than anyone else," she said.

How We Tested

In testing, we noted all the different types and brands of contact lenses each website sells. Because all the websites we reviewed offer common types of contacts such as disposables, lenses for people with astigmatism, multifocal contacts and even colored lenses, we put a lot of weight on how many brands each website has to offer. This meant we went through and tallied up how many brands were listed on each website. In this process we counted brands that offer several lines of contacts only once. For instance, even though Acuvue has lines named Oasys, Vita, Define and Moist – among others – we only counted Acuvue once.

We also looked at every website’s price matching guarantee, shipping rates and general ordering information to make sure all prices were accurate upfront. In doing so, we found all the sites offer discounts if you sign up to have your prescription automatically refilled or simply purchase in bulk. We also discovered not all sites sell glasses, solution and drops, but since those are a pretty standard need for people who wear contacts, we favored websites that did.

How Much Do Contacts Cost?

How much you pay for contacts online is going to vary depending on your prescription. Customized RGP lenses, for instance, can cost upwards of $40 per lens while a 30-pack more commonly prescribed lenses are about $1 per lens. What you pay out of pocket depends on your eye insurance plan as well, so you’ll need to have that information handy when placing your first order. Many websites will also note whether you can use an HSA or FSA account to buy certain contacts.

Is It Safe to Wear Contact Lenses?

The short answer to this question is yes, as long as you wear them correctly. Most medical contacts are very safe to use, especially when prescribed by a doctor. Keep in mind that contacts could cause damage to the eyes since they are placed directly on the cornea. Still, at most this usually only results in minor scratches, which, while unpleasant aren’t life-altering. To prevent any problems, make sure you don’t wear your contacts for too long and that you clean them properly.

If you wear dailies, be sure to dispose of them properly and use a new pair every day, as these are not designed for multiple days of wear. If your eyes are dry or irritated, they are easier to scratch, so talk to your doctor immediately if they become uncomfortable. You’ll also want to use good hygiene practices to prevent any bacteria from finding its way to your eyes. Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before placing or removing contacts. Additionally, before you swim or take a shower, remove your contacts to prevent chemicals and bacteria from getting trapped against your eyes.

Do Contacts Make Your Eyes Worse?

If you go in for a checkup and discover your vision has declined, you might want to ask if your contacts are the root of the problem. In the majority of cases, myopic changes are natural and would have occurred whether or not you wore contacts. In some rare occasions, usually when using contacts incorrectly, injuries can occur.

This leads us to another common question: Can contact lenses make you go blind? In very rare instances, usually when using poor hygiene practices, an eye ulcer can develop. Left untreated, this obstruction can cause permanent vision loss. Even when treated, scar tissue can sometimes result in reduced vision. But once again, this is very rare and only affects a small portion of the population. To prevent complications, follow your doctor’s instructions as well as the instructions on the contact lens box and solution bottle. If you start to experience any discomfort or develop red eyes, consult your doctor right away.

Read WebMD article if you want to learn more about corneal ulcers.

How Many Hours a Day Can You Wear Contact Lenses?

The unsatisfying but true answer is, it depends. Some people’s eyes can handle contacts for longer periods without needing a break, while others are more at risk of infection when contacts are worn for extended periods. Some lenses are made to be worn longer than others, so it also depends on the type of contacts you use. An absolute certainty is that for most people, wearing contacts overnight increases the chances of an eye infection.

According to All About Vision, our eyes need oxygen to remain healthy. Wearing contacts too often can lead to oxygen deprivation, so make sure you take your contacts out regularly, especially before going to bed. Most people can wear contacts every day without a problem, but it really depends on your doctor’s diagnosis and directions. To prevent any complications, some doctors ask that you take your contacts out an hour or two before bed every night. To be safe, always follow your doctor’s instructions for proper contact use, and replace your lenses as directed.

Contact Lenses for Amblyopia

It’s not uncommon for young children to develop a vision disorder where nerve pathways between the brain and eyes are disrupted, making it so the burden of vision falls on just one eye. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the most visible symptom of amblyopia is a lazy eye, but you may also notice your child has poor depth perception and eyes that don’t seem to work together. Your child might also get frequent headaches or have loss of vision in one eye. This can, in turn, cause them to squint or strain their good eye. If not corrected in childhood, this disorder can cause permanent vision problems.

There are corrective glasses that can help children overcome or lessen amblyopia, as well as eye drops. You can also correct this problem with special contact lenses. Contact lenses draw less attention to your child and their condition, which could help their self-esteem. You need to check with each contact delivery service to see if it offers corrective lenses specifically for amblyopia. As with any other contact order, you need a prescription from a doctor to purchase these lenses.

Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

Toric contact lenses are designed specifically for people who have astigmatism. Astigmatism is an imperfection in the eye’s curvature, which causes distorted vision. This usually means the cornea is oblong like an egg instead of being spherical. Astigmatism is very common, affecting more than 3 million people in the U.S. every year.

Toric lenses must stay in a specific position on the eye to correct astigmatism. They are usually made of soft materials like hydrogel, though some are made of Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP), also called Gas Permeable (GP), materials, which make them harder. Some toric lenses are weighted at the bottom to make sure they stay in the right location on your eye. This prevents them from rotating and only allows them to move vertically when you blink.

According to Foothill Optometric Group, GP lenses, while not as popular as soft lenses, don’t contain water and are therefore less likely to attract and breed bacteria. A single pair can even last a full year if you take care of them properly.

You’ll find that most contact lens companies sell corrective toric lenses in both soft and GP form. Talk with your doctor to determine which option is right for you. If you want to fully correct astigmatism, discuss LASIK with your doctor to see if it’s an option for your eyes.

Dry Eye Remedies

If you wear contacts regularly, you might be one of the thousands who suffer from irritated, red eyes. To get help, make an appointment with your eye doctor to see what the best remedy for your situation is. It might be something as simple as getting prescribed eye drops or changing the lens solution you’re using. There are also specialty lenses that help with irritated eyes. According to All About Vision, there are at least five different types of contacts to help with dry eye: Bausch + Lomb Ultra, Dailies Total 1, CooperVision Proclear, Extreme H2O and Scleral Lenses. Speak with your doctor to determine if one of these contacts is a good solution for you.

There have been rumors going around that consuming Omega-3 from fish oil supplements will help with dry eye. However, a recent National Eye Institute funded study found that these capsules are nothing but a placebo when it comes to dry eye. To get actual help, consult your eye doctor.

What Is Computer Vision Syndrome?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), prolonged screen use causes several eye and vision problems, and viewing a backlit screen, whether that be on a tablet, computer or smartphone, puts strain on your eyes. Most commonly, symptoms of computer vision syndrome (also called digital eye strain) include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder strain, and eye strain. Typically, these symptoms are caused by poor lighting, uncorrected vision problems, poor posture and screen glare.

To get help with digital eye strain, you need to consult your eye doctor. He or she will evaluate your eyes’ ability to focus and check for vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Your eye doctor can prescribe treatments based on what they find. Seeing your eye doctor regularly and adopting healthy screen-viewing habits should benefit your overall eye health.

How to Treat Digital Eye Strain

There are special glasses and contact lenses to help people suffering from computer vision syndrome, including glasses that are tinted or created specifically to reduce glare. Your doctor should help you select the contacts you need.

According to LensCrafters, 30 percent of adults spend more than nine hours on a digital device each day. It’s no wonder that many people have digital eye strain. Ideally, you should take breaks from screens, but this isn’t always doable when computers and tablets are part of your job or school routine. To reduce effects and improve screen time, the AOA says to make the following changes to your computer setup:

  • Place your computer directly in front of you, 15 to 20 degrees below eye level.
  • Place any documents you need within sight of the screen so your eyes don’t need to adjust between the paper and the monitor.
  • Move the screens so there isn't glare from other light sources. You might even want to consider purchasing an anti-glare screen for your computer.
  • Make sure you use proper posture. Your feet should be flat on the ground with your thighs parallel to the floor. Sit with your back straight in a comfortable chair.
  • It’s best to take a 15 minute break for every two hours of uninterrupted computer use. This gives your eyes a rest and should reduce strain. There’s also the AOA’s 20-20-20 rule: Take 20 seconds to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.
  • When we stare at computer screens, we don’t blink as much as normal, which can lead to dry eyes. Try to develop the habit of conscientiously blinking frequently while at a screen.

Keratoconus Contacts and Treatments

Unlike astigmatism, which is an eye deformity, keratoconus (KC) is an eye disease that gets worse over time. Symptoms include blurred and distorted vision, progressive nearsightedness and a sensitivity to glares and light. Physically, the cornea develops into an irregular cone shape. According to All About Vision, the first signs of KC for many people is needing changes in their eyeglass or contacts prescription every time they see their eye doctor.

When the disease first starts it can be treated with special contacts and eyewear. The contacts must be fitted to your eye, which takes time and several visits to your ophthalmologist. If soft lenses don’t do the trick, then GP lenses are often brought into play. However, as the disease grows, these lenses become less effective until they no longer work.

Scleral and semi-scleral lenses are another option. These larger GS contacts cover portions of the “white” part of the eye. The shape of these lenses causes less pressure on the cornea, making them more comfortable to wear.

Are Contact Lenses Better Than Glasses?

There are several advantages and disadvantages to both eyeglasses and contacts, but the decision to use one over the other really comes down to preference and convenience. Glasses require less preparation time – both when getting ready in the morning and when going to bed at night. They don’t need to be cleaned as often, either. Wearing glasses also prevents you from touching your eyes, which reduces the risk of eye infections. Further, glasses are cheaper in the long run since they don’t need to be replaced as often and don’t require special solutions.

On the other hand, since contacts are placed directly on your eye, your peripheral vision isn’t distorted like it is with glasses. Also, you can engage in rigorous outdoor activities and sports without worrying about your glasses falling off, getting scratched or breaking. If it’s cold outside, your contacts won’t fog up like glasses will. 

What Are Multifocal Contact Lenses?

Multifocal lenses may be the best option if you're dealing with presbyopia, or age-related farsightedness. Also called near/far contact lenses, one lens has more than one prescription to help you see near and far. CooperVision explains there are pros and cons to using these lenses. On the plus side, you can usually see without wearing glasses, your range of vision is better and the transition between prescriptions is smoother. On the other hand, the viewing experience is very different and might take some time to get used to. New users usually experience hazy or shadowed vision during the transition. These lenses also happen to be very expensive since they are more complex than others.

If multifocal lenses don’t sound appealing, there are other options. For example, you could wear contact lenses with reading glasses or use monovision or bifocal contacts. If you’re willing to spend the money, see your doctor to discuss surgical procedures or lens implants.

What Key Features Should I Look for When Selecting an Online Contact Store?

Be Prepared
You can shop around at contact lens websites all you want, but to place an order you’ll need a prescription from your eye doctor. Most websites offer several ways to verify your prescription, including uploading an image of the prescription or even getting in touch with your optometrist’s office. This even applies to zanier colored contacts or ones with a Halloween theme to really put your zombie or monster costume over the top. According to 1-800 Contacts, contacts can’t legally be sold without a prescription because the Food and Drug Administration categorizes them as a medical device. If you don’t need vision correction but want to have some fun with your eye color, Walmart Contacts recommends talking to your eye doctor about getting a prescription for 0.00 or plano contacts.

On a similar note, keep in mind that many Halloween and novelty stores sell unlicensed colored contacts, both at physical locations and online. Health Canada, a medical association, has stated that novelty stores’ contacts usually haven’t passed safety regulations and often contain toxins and harmful materials that could damage or infect your eyes. The Canadian Association of Optometrists says that even prescribed novelty lenses are often used incorrectly and result in vision complications, for example, scratching or cutting your cornea, which can cause an allergic reaction or infection. Of course, the most common problem with novelty lenses is vision obstruction, which can lead to accidents.

If you’re still determined to get novelty lenses to complete your costume, make an appointment with an eye doctor. To prevent complications, clean the lenses properly before putting them in, never sleep with them in and never share them with others. Above all, listen to your eye doctor's instructions for proper care, use and cleaning.

So Many Options
The type of contacts you need depends on your prescription. All of the websites we reviewed had colored contacts, toric contacts, multifocal contacts and disposable lenses for daily, weekly or monthly use. Only some of the sites we looked at had RGP custom contacts. Rigid gas permeable lenses are made of a firm plastic that lets oxygen pass through. According to the Contact Lens Spectrum, only 9 percent of all new contact lens fits and refits in the United States were RGPs in 2012. Ultimately, it's up to your eye doctor to decide what kind of contact you'll benefit from the most. Be sure to find the store that sells your brand for the best price.

Related Guides: