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4 Things to Know About Shopping for Eyeglasses

Here's how to keep your vision — and your budget — in focus

3. Lens Treatments

In addition to scratch resistance, popular choices include:

  • Anti-reflective lenses: These reduce light reflections. Generally recommended for high-index wearers, all-day computer users, nighttime drivers bothered by glare, public speakers under bright lights, and those who've had LASIK surgery (they reduce halos and ghost images).

  • Photochromic lenses: These darken when outdoors, replacing the need for prescription sunglasses.

  • Polarized sunglasses: Designed to enhance contrast and eliminate glare, they're especially good for fishing or driving, but aren't as effective at reading smartphone screens and cameras with viewfinders. "They're also very expensive," says Rosenberg. Regular prescription sunglasses are usually fine, he says, but avoid getting lenses that are too dark "and never use them at night." When evaluating tints, look at a traffic light to ensure you can make out the colors; if you can't, they're too dark.

4. Where to Buy

Costco gets top marks from Consumer Reports, with savings of up to 40 percent compared with walk-in optical chains. Sam's Club and Wal-Mart are also good choices for price, according to Consumer Reports, but independent optometrists and opticians score best on selection and merchandise quality. You should know that LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut and optical branches of Target and Sears are owned by the same company, Italy-based Luxottica, which also controls 80 percent of major frame brands.

No doubt that online vendors have some great prices. But studies suggest that many consumers received eyeglasses that don't meet prescription specifications or safety standards.

One budget-friendly suggestion, especially if you require multifocals: See if you can purchase frames online but have lenses handled by a local practitioner or optical chain.

Sid Kirchheimer, the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, writes about consumer and health affairs.

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