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Do endless options at the opticians leave you feeling confused?

Retro optician equipment

Choosing a new pair of glasses often unleashes a mountain of options leaving many stumped when it comes to making a decision…

I’ve started wearing glasses in recent years, and a whole new consumer market of endless and confusing choice threatens to blindside me.

I could pay from £50 to £500 for my varifocals: the dispensing optician at my posh local independent place shows me a series of diagrams that seemingly demonstrate that I won’t have any peripheral vision at all if I rein in my spending, but there’s a high street budget 2-for-1 special offer that seems tempting… and that’s before the premium coating and the thinner lenses…

So to help cut through the confusion we recently teamed up with an expert optician to make sense of what’s out there.

Choose your optician wisely

The first big decision is picking an optician from the range of choice on the high street.

When we recently surveyed nearly 8,500 Which? members independent local opticians topped the ratings table with a customer satisfaction score of 87%. We also found that the wholesale retailer Costco came second place, getting an impressive 82%.

Now for those of you thinking about getting your eyes tested in one place and your glasses in another, you may be interested to know that the ratings can be quite different.

For example, one supermarket ranked second out of nine by people who bought glasses. It’s been awarded a five-star ratings for price, value for money and offers. But then when it came to eye tests it ranked eighth out of 12.

And customers of another major retailer rated its eye-testing better than for buying glasses, with all but one of its glasses-buying scores being average – including value for money and range of products.

Don’t fall for special offers

Now the second big decision is choosing your glasses.

Don’t just fall for the first special offer you see. It won’t be a bargain if you have to add on extra costs, such as pricey high-index lenses or the all-singing, all-dancing lens coating you want so that you’re not constantly peering through smudges and water droplets.

We recommend using our step-by-step approach that systemically works through the right lens, lens material, type of varifocal, coatings and tints, and frames.

Choosing well can save you money: for example there’s little scientific evidence to prove that most people would see more clearly or comfortably using the priciest varifocals, so many people can avoid trading up. And choosing your frame wisely in regards to the style and suitability for your eye measurements can help you avoid pricey higher index (thinner) lenses.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist the lure of the pricier specs, but I feel a bit better informed when it comes to making my choices at the opticians. And being informed gives us shoppers a little bit more power and a lot more confidence.

So have you had a particularly good or bad experience at the opticians?


A matter that has seriously needed covering.


There is some interesting information to be had here but I do really think these Advice sections should be dated and even up-dated to confirm that the information has been checked for validity x years on.

I am a little dismayed to find that the Advice section on glasses is undated and given a reference to Dollond and Aitchison being taken over in 2009 by Boots very probably old.This link does not work.
Your search – which.co.uk/media/popup/table-popup-laser-eye-surgery-375902.html – did not match any documents.

The four sections on laser eye surgery seem a little bland on the problems people have faced following surgery. Given the Conversations on the subject I feel that this points to a mismatch between Guide and Conversation both hosted by Which?. I am very happy to believe that percentages of success are to a degree trustworthy but in the interests of understanding what can go wrong and the effects it can have on your life then surely real life experience is helpful to people considering it.

On the spectacles side I understand that until recently that the anti-reflection coating was nowhere near as tough as glass and the cleaning could result in this being visibly damaged as a sort of film spreethed across the lense. I understand a new super-hard version is now being touted. Can you ask your tame optician if the coatings are liable to damage by sub-optimal use of handkerchiefs, tissues etc.


Needs a good eye over the whole thing. Focus – that’s what’s important.


This is a difficult topic to research yourself. Eyesight is precious and getting a good result, whether with spectacles or contact lenses, is my prime concern, I use a local optician for a comprehensive annual check, and I buy the contact lenses they recommend. These are varifocals. I expect I pay more than I need to, but testing the other options from other suppliers is really impossible. How do you judge value, other than acceptable vision and comfort? If I have a problem the dispensing optician is responsible for sorting it out – and mine does . My optician gives me good results, I change my lenses about every 4 years or so, and the cost of such a vital aid is secondary. About £1.40 a week.

I also use reading glasses in low light – cheap off-the-shelf ones are quite adequate.


Curiously, and I forgot to mention it in my longer post, I was thinking about the amount of light required increasing as one gets older.

I posted a link here in the past couple of years of a very useful chart showing the various ability of eyes to resolve print etc from age 21 upwards and the corresponding recommended light required. I thought to myself that Which? really should be providing a place for this sort of advice – most likely in features on lighting or eyesight.

And up the subject pops with nary a mention of lighting being a consideration. Seems that the silo approach to products means the overall subject is neglected.


Lighting is important – as we age the lens yellows so reducing the amount of light reaching the retina – hence higher light levels needed for the elderly. Must also be careful with the light position, as glare causes the light to diffuse when entering the eye due to slight cloudiness, and puts a “veil” or “fog” over the image. This can be particularly difficult when facing oncoming headlights at night. It is a pity we leave cataract operations until they are quite advanced, giving people unnecessarily poor eyesight for far too long. Perhaps some of the NHS’s fringe activities and life-style-choice remedies could be sacrificed to help those with such debilitating problems.

dieseltaylor says:
8 September 2016

You will be pleased to note a BBC programme “Trust me I’m a Doctor” actually covers this degeneration and what foodstuffs can help!.

You can watch it tonight at 8 pm on BBC 2


Indeed diesel, there is authoritative published information on the relationship between visual acuity and illuminance (amount of light) with age. Most lighting is designed for the mid-age group. For domestic situations general lighting may be fine for general ambience and easy tasks but I use local lights (reading lamps, table lamps etc,) that you can get closer to – increasing the illuminance – to improve your ability to read smaller print and study detail. Magnifying (reading) glasses also help.


I would really like to see a breakdown of the actual cost of producing a lens and a frame. When one can easily part with the best part of four hundred pounds for something it would be good to know where that money is going, and to whom. Which consistently refuses to address this issue and this is probably the fifth time I’ve typed this message over the last few years. Ditto ink cartridges.


I’d also like to know the best “brands” for spectacle and contact lenses. Opticians have a choice of what they offer – how do we decide? Ditto frames – which are most robust for example.

Somebody out their ought to be able to supply the “wholesale cost” of frames, lenses and contacts so we could see just how much margin is being made.


As nobody has mentioned it so far other than peripheral vision and having intensive eye treatment and spectacles changed recently one of the major things that should have attention to is the type of lenses for good peripheral vision . Now people seem to be in two groups those that like bifocals and those like me who cant wear them and need varifocals . Varifocals come in a price range depending on the peripheral vision needed and yes the dearest ones –where you can move your eyes without moving your head to see something can cost a lot of money , and as the Convo states – up to £500 but what price is blindness ? This was brought home to me , as I have posted previously , in a very life changing manner by my not bothering about my eyes till I had advanced Glaucoma requiring laser treatment of holes in my eyes , and yes in my right eye I lost some peripheral vision , luckily enough it was towards my nose and not towards my right ear which is more vital . So I dont go along with this -save money attitude of cheap glasses as a matter of fact I am totally against it . I have worked in places where people are blind and I have been in homes of people who are blind and apart from dying of cancer, to me there is nothing worse than being blind . I feel so strongly about it I am thinking of donating my house to the blind if I live longer than my wife , thats how serious I take it , no “laughing matter ” from where I am standing !!!!

DenC says:
16 August 2016

Following a recent eye-test at Specsavers the optician agreed with me that I should reuse my old frames and simply replace the lenses in them to adjust for my new prescription.
When it came to choosing my lenses, the counter staff told me it was not Specsavers policy to reuse frames that the company did not normally stock.
Not too sure that I will be going back there again in hurry the next time I need an eye test.

grenache says: