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Laser Eye Surgery Cost vs. Contacts and Eye Glasses Cost

Laser Eye Surgery Cost vs. Contacts and Eye Glasses Cost

Author: Dr. William Tullo
July 18, 2013

Laser eye surgery cost is one of the most common questions amoung those considering the surgery.  The average national cost of LASIK is about $2,000 per eye, though that varies slightly based on geography, technology and experience.

Americans spend nearly $30 billion a year on eye products and services. Many people wonder how the one-time cost of laser eye surgery compares to the lifetime costs of eyeglasses, contact lenses and incidentals including eye solution. Everyone’s costs of eye care are unique, due to factors such as vision prescription and geographic influence on cost of living, but average costs shed light on a realistic comparison.

Average cost of laser eye surgery

The laser eye surgery cost varies in price per eye from about $1,000 to $4,000. Anything less than $1,000 per eye should be cautiously approached for many reasons, such as the provider possibly lacking the latest, safest technology. The cost of laser eye surgery typically includes all expenses, from pre-surgery consultation to post-surgery follow-up care. On average, the total cost of LASIK for both eyes ranges from $3,900 to $4,500. Most insurance plans do not cover the cost of LASIK eye surgery, but some offer their members discounts.

Assume the cost of LASIK is about $4,500. Will you save money in the long run?

Compare LASIK cost to lifetime contact lens cost: When will I save?  

Yes, someone who wears contacts will almost certainly save money by having LASIK. A conservative, average cost of contacts per year is generally about $240, though this can vary widely. People with astigmatism or who prefer certain contact lenses to others might pay more, for example. But over 20 years, a person paying this average price spends about $4,500 on contacts, assuming there is no inflation, which would increase the cost of contacts. Thus, LASIK pays for itself in 20 years or sooner with inflation. In 30 years, laser eye surgery will have paid for itself and saved the person about $2,700, or more with inflation.

People who wear eye glasses spend less money than those who wear contacts. (Fun fact: People who wear both spend most.) Eye glasses cost about $196 on average, though you can find pairs as cheap as $8 on Zenni Optical or upwards of $600 for designer brands and special lenses. It is estimated each adult replaces his or her eye glasses every two to three years. Ten pairs purchased over two or three decades cost around $2,000—comparable to the cost of LASIK for one eye. Someone in his 20s who buys a pair of $200 glasses every two years will therefore make back the cost of LASIK eye surgery in his 60s, or sooner with inflation.

Laser eye surgery patients enjoy some non-monetary benefits, too. They may be able to lie down to read or watch TV without eye glasses poking their faces, buy more fashionable sunglasses, go to bed without removing contacts, and wake up any time of morning and read the alarm clock and shampoo bottle.

It’s hard to put a price on these luxuries. Paying a little bit more for the vision correction option that is right for you is important. It’s also important to remember that laser eye surgery, such as LASIK or PRK, does not guarantee complete independence from eye glasses or contacts. Most adults, for instance, need reading glasses when they reach a certain age. In addition, your lifetime eye care costs will vary from these averages. It’s worth calculating your annual costs to determine what portion of that $30 billion you contribute. 


The information on this site is meant to complement and not replace any advice or information from an eye care or health professional. This website is sponsored by Health Care Marketing Services, LLC, a marketing company under the common ownership of The LASIK Vision Institute, LLC and TLC Laser Eye Care Centers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.