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The Cost of Eyeglasses vs. Contact Lenses

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The debate over eyeglasses versus contact lenses has been going on for decades. Fans of eyeglasses say they’re easy to wear and clean while offering highly customizable styles. Contact lenses offer a wider field of vision, freedom of movement, and a “more natural” look. They both correct vision problems, but when it comes to cost, which one wins?

On average, contact lenses have a higher upfront and replacement cost than eyeglasses. While some designer eyeglasses can empty your wallet, there are always bargain options that can provide adequate vision correction, an option that isn’t really available with contacts.

As for if the extra cost is worth it, that comes down to your lifestyle and what you’re looking for in regards to eyewear.

Measuring the Cost

We can look at the cost of eyeglasses and contact lenses in 3 ways:

  • Upfront cost
  • Replacement cost
  • Maintenance cost

In general, eyeglasses tend to be the cheaper choice in all categories. 

Upfront Costs

Contact lenses sit directly on the eye, so fitting them is more labor-intensive and requires a trained optometrist to map your eye’s surface. They also must be made of special materials to protect your eye’s soft tissues. All of this can increase the cost of buying contact lenses.

That’s not to say eyeglasses are cheap. There’s a lot of impressive technology packed into these little tools, and designer prescription frames and lenses could push eyeglasses to the expensive side.

Replacement Costs

Take care of your glasses and they should last you until you need to update your prescription. Contact lenses have a bit more variety.

Soft daily disposable lenses are one of the most popular lens types, and wearers discard them every day. Some contacts, such as rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lenses, are worn repeatedly so could cost less in the long run. Unless you’re sitting on your glasses every week, contacts likely are still more expensive.

Maintenance Costs

As you may expect, daily disposable contact lenses don’t require any maintenance at all! Once you wear them, you can toss them and don a fresh pair the next day. Other contact lenses require a special cleaning solution and a storage case.

Eyeglasses also require cleaning supplies such as wipes and cleaning spray, as well as a decent case to keep them safe when not on your face. Still, these supplies are typically less expensive than contact lens solution and last longer.

A woman trying on glasses to compare the cost of glasses vs contact lenses

Pros & Cons of Eyeglasses & Contact Lenses

Cost is a significant factor when deciding on your vision care, but it’s not the only one. Here are some other features to consider when looking at your options.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses offer several advantages over glasses, including:

  • Greater freedom of movement: Contact lenses sit on the eye, not the face. It’s less likely they’ll get knocked off, which can make them ideal for sports or physically demanding jobs that put eyeglasses in a precarious position.
  • Better peripheral vision: Eyeglasses frames can be pretty stylish, but they can get in the way. Contact lenses don’t block your peripheral vision and you’d be forgiven for forgetting you’re wearing them.
  • A “natural” appearance: Most of the time, if someone doesn’t tell you they’re wearing contact lenses, you’ll never know. Contact lenses don’t affect your appearance the way that glasses do.
  • Some contacts can treat eye conditions: Speciality contacts, such as scleral lenses, create fluid reservoirs that can offer daily dry eye relief. Additionally, Ortho-K lenses can slow myopia progression in children, helping preserve future vision.

Some contact lens downsides include:

  • Increased risk of infection: Contact lenses require proper care or they can increase your risk of eye infections.
  • Dry eyes: While specialty contacts can address dry eye symptoms, traditional contact lenses can worsen dryness and irritation if worn too long.
  • Incompatible with some eye conditions: We’ve come a long way in fitting irregular eyes, but it’s still possible for some people’s eyes to be simply incompatible with contact lenses.


The classic vision correction options, glasses offer some advantages over contact lenses, including:

  • Convenience: Glasses sit on your nose and ears, making them easy to remove with one hand. This can be ideal if you only need occasional vision correction, such as while reading or driving.
  • Low maintenance: Glasses are typically simpler to care for and maintain than contact lenses.
  • Lower infection risk: Since you don’t have to regularly touch your eyes or risk bacteria getting trapped under the lens, people who wear glasses have a lower risk of eye infections.

Much like contact lenses, glasses also have some downsides, including:

  • Reduced peripheral vision: Glasses can block your peripheral vision, which can be a problem if you need a full range of vision for daily activities.
  • Can be knocked off: The convenience of easy removal comes with the disadvantage that glasses can be easily knocked off or just get in the way.
  • They affect appearance: Some people love the style options glasses offer, but it’s hard to deny they change how you look. Glasses sit visibly on the face and their appearance isn’t for everyone.
  • They can fog or smudge: Like glass on a greenhouse, eyeglasses can fog up in humid or cold weather, effectively reducing their vision correction benefits.

Making the Decision with Expert Help

The answer to whether eyeglasses or contact lenses are more expensive is fairly clear cut. Contact lenses have a higher upfront and replacement cost, however, “cost” can be about more than monetary value.

No matter the cost, it’s a good idea for everyone who needs vision correction to have a pair of glasses. Even if you’re a daily contact lens wearer, your eyes might need a break, especially in cases of eye injury or infection. These glasses should have your up-to-date prescription as well, and shouldn’t just be an old pair you have lying around.

Everyone’s situation is unique, and the cost of vision correction can include your lifestyle. The team at Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs can discuss your options with you, helping simplify this decision process.

Your budget is a factor, but not the only factor. Book an appointment, and let us help you see your future clearly.

Written by Dr. Sara Johnson

Dr. Sara Whitney graduated with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Rockford College in Rockford, IL and received her Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. As an optometry student, Dr. Whitney completed a primary care externship in Wilmington, NC, and a hospital-based rotation at the Naval Health Clinic of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, TX. Dr. Whitney has cared for patients as an optometrist in the Colorado Springs area since May of 2009. She has experience in family eye care, including pediatric eye examination, adult eye care, treatment and management of ocular disease, contact lens fitting, and eye surgery co-management. Colorado State licensed and certified in ocular pharmaceutical agents, Dr. Whitney’s training and experience allow her to diagnose, treat, and manage or co-manage all eye conditions. Professional memberships include the American Optometric Association, Colorado Optometric Association, and Southern Colorado Optometric Society.
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