Do you understand the difference between an online refraction and an eye exam done by an optometrist?

Difference #1: Time Investment

An in-person eye exam, even when relatively brief, will still take more time out of your day than a simple online vision exam.

The total invested time of this first online exam is about 25 minutes.

There are reasons for this disparity in time investment, of course.

A true in-person eye exam involves the scrutiny of a skilled optometrist who can also help gauge how healthy your eyes are. They look for symptoms of other underlying problems —an online eye exam doesn’t have these features, therefore cutting down on time of travel and testing significantly.

Difference #2: Convenience

Simply put, you don’t always need to walk in an optometrist’s office to get a prescription updated.

True: an optometrist’s office is vital for checking up on the health of your eyes. But what if your check-up was recent enough that all you need now is a refill on your contact lenses? Or what if you need an updated pair of glasses before you go in for your full eye examination?  It’s easy enough to call your eye doctor’s office to reorder contacts, and having a professional optician help you choose and fit your glasses properly is a time saver rather than trying to choose the right glasses online, ordering, returning, and going to an eye doctor’s office to have them adjusted.

Difference #3: Cost

Going to an eye exam isn’t only about how much time it will cost out of your day—it’s also about what it will take out of your pocket.

Truth be told, most eye exams today are reasonably-priced. According to, the “typical office eye exam can range from $50 to $250, depending on where you get it done and who performs it” when you go without insurance. That won’t exactly break the bank, especially when it comes to budgeting for your long-term eye health.  Our office offers self pay $89 eye exams and for new patients who purchase glasses or contacts, the cost is $69.

An online eye test will be around $70 and depending on who performs it, it may produce an accurate prescription or not.  If you bring your online Rx to our office and we make your glasses from it, if it’s incorrect we do not remake the glasses at no charge.

Difference #4: Comprehensiveness

Let’s be clear: the online vision test is not a substitute for a full vision exam.

Remember to see a Doctor for health purposes!

An online vision test can be a convenient, helpful way to obtain the details needed for a prescription pair of glasses—but it requires a health professional’s personal touch if you want to know more about your eye health.

That means that the two exams aren’t mutually exclusive.

An in-person eye exam allows an optometrist to use the latest diagnostic equipment to have a look at the health of your eyes. And beyond that, optometrists can often use symptoms present in the eyes to diagnose other problems—high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

The serious medical opinion of an experienced professional is something that won’t come in through the online vision exam, which is why it’s important to know when to use both.

Difference #5: Uses

When you consider the information above, why wouldn’t you always go in person for a full eye exam? Well, it depends on what you need.

If you simply need a refill on a contact lens prescription or need to update a pair of glasses, it’s possible to use an online vision test to get a quick and convenient prescription.

If you need to have your eyes checked for your own personal health, there’s no substitute for the in-person experience of a licensed professional.

Just make sure you understand the differences between the two before you make your next eye exam decision!