Spectacles buying guide

A price war has broken out in the optical industry. CHOICE’s shadow shop will help you assess your next pair of specs – and save plenty.
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As Australia’s biggest specs retailers, OPSM and Specsavers, go head to head in an aggressive price-cutting war, the upside for consumers is an abundance of cheap glasses. At Specsavers for example, you can currently pick up two pairs of single vision glasses for $179, and pay no gap if you’re covered by one of their nominated health funds. OPSM is offering 70% off a selection of complete glasses.

Smaller players such as Optical Superstore and newcomer Big W Vision have also intensified competition. But with such a confusing array of options and extras, how does the average customer cut through the hype to recognise a genuine bargain?   

To see how far your dollar can stretch, we bought five similar-looking standard single vision spectacles from Big W Vision, Budget Eyewear, OPSM, Optical Superstore and Specsavers. Some were designer glasses, others no name brands. Prices varied from $149 to $250. We had them tested and found all lenses were of acceptable quality.

The verdict?  If you’re not a fashionista and your prescription only requires single-vision lenses – which is what most special offers are restricted to – then you can definitely capitalise on the current market to buy some seriously cheap specs. This buying guide will help you work out what extras you do and don’t need.  

Our shadow shop 

An experienced female shadow shopper first visited the School of Optometry at the University of NSW in Sydney for a prescription, and purchased one pair of single-vision spectacles with standard plastic lenses and anti-scratch coating, and with unisex metal frames with flex hinges.

Using the same prescription, she then visited Big W Vision, Budget Eyewear, OPSM, Optical Superstore and Specsavers and purchased similar specs, with prices ranging from $125 to $250. We added the cost for anti-reflective coating for price comparison in the profiles, as this was recommended by all the retailers. Next, she visited five smaller independent specs retailers in and around a suburban shopping centre in Sydney, and got quotes ranging from $159 to $250.

Our shadow shopper told us she found trying to understand the different lens coatings on offer confusing, as store assistants’ explanations of “anti-reflective”, “anti-scratch” and “multi-coat” varied considerably.



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