Why Do High Index Lenses Cost So Much?

If you’re shopping online for high index prescription glasses or lenses, chances are you either don’t have eye insurance, your eye insurance won’t cover the new pair of glasses you need, or you need a special kind of glasses that you can’t find at the eye doctor’s office.

Either way, you’re probably looking to spend a fair amount less online than you would at the local optometrist’s, but what if you need high index lenses? By all appearances, many online stores appear to have insanely low prices for their glasses… until you start getting into the special lens options, that is. Suddenly, shopping for glasses is threatening to break the bank again.

Let’s answer the question before we talk about how to circumvent it.

Why Are High Index Lenses Expensive?

  • High index lenses are essentially the diamond ring of lens materials. They offer the sharpest optical quality, the thinnest (and best-looking) profile, and, usually, the lightest weight.
  • The material the lenses are made of is a synthetic plastic that (in general) took a fair amount of research and chemistry to create.
  • High index plastic always costs more than traditional plastics or polycarbonate to manufacture.
  • High index lenses have more overhead cost in the optical lab because they are completely unforgiving when you’re generating a prescription into them. So, where a normal plastic lens may allow a +/- 0.1mm difference in thickness, a high index lens will only allow a +/-0.01mm difference. The required precision is on a different order of magnitude, so it’s common for a few lenses to be destroyed before the lab makes a pair that can pass inspection and be sent to a customer. This increases the overhead cost.

Now that we know why the lenses are so expensive, let’s talk about how to get the best price. There are a few things to consider with regards to cost when you’re shopping for high index lenses.

There are sites out there that offer extremely affordable prices for high index lenses. While no sites that we’ve ever seen offer high index plastic for the same price as regular plastic, it’s certainly possible to get a pair of high index glasses for as low as under $100.

Obviously, if you’re getting transitions lenses, a Dolce and Gabbana frame, and the best super hydrophobic anti-reflective coating, expect to pay for it. But if you’re actually looking for a deal, they are out there. You just need to look.

High index lens material is a trade-off between affordability and quality. High index lenses are the best, especially when it comes to strong prescriptions, so it makes sense that they’d cost more. As a buyer who is researching high index lenses online, though, you’re on the right track to getting them at a very affordable price. Take a look at some of our other topics to learn more about the lenses themselves, and happy shopping!

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Guide to High Index Lenses 9 Responses to Why Do High Index Lenses Cost So Much?
  1. Sharon Dignard
    June 5, 2013 | 5:50 am

    Hello: Is it wise to buy progressive lenses online? I thought that if you buy online how will they know where to measure where the progressives starts on your lenses even if I have my PD measurements. Please help me to undertand this. Thank you

    • Kieran Hunt
      June 5, 2013 | 4:51 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Sharon! Great question.

      When our customers have this question we usually let them pick out five frames from our online store and we send them to your home for you to measure. You can find which frames you like best and get the precise measurement at the same time.

      I’ll follow up this comment with an email… hopefully we can connect in the near future.

      Kieran Hunt
      888-440-9797 x113

  2. Sandy York
    June 26, 2013 | 11:55 pm

    My insurance company allows me to add the high-index option for $55, but the hard-sell optician wants me to get $450 lenses for my high prescription (-9 and -6.5); I feel like I’m being grossly upsold. Is there a reason other than thinness to be spending this much? (my last pair is from 2006; I don’t even know what level of indexing was around then, but their thickness is fine) What am I missing if I just go the basic route for glasses I only wear at home? Can’t seem to find info this specific online… Thanks!

    • Kieran Hunt
      June 27, 2013 | 1:21 pm

      Hi Sandy,

      First of all, thanks for the great question!

      $450 for a pair of lenses is very steep, but it’s pretty common for an eye doctor to upcharge a lot. If you choose to go with something other than high index plastic, your lenses may be so thick that they are difficult to use. Past a certain thickness, you start to get some optical distortion, and -9 in a standard material is going to be pretty thick. It may not be an issue for you, especially if your current glasses are that strong in a standard material and you’re fine with them.

      But if you do decide to go with high index, it doesn’t mean you need to go with the fanciest (and most expensive) high index plastic. A happy medium would be choosing 1.70 high index, which should not be nearly as expensive as your doctor is quoting.

      Have you considered trying to see if your insurance company will reimburse you if you purchase glasses online? If you can get reimbursed by your insurance, I can connect you with our sister site which sells high index lenses, including the 1.70 high index plastic I mentioned. They can also do the lenses in your frame if you prefer to reuse it instead of going with one of theirs.

      Thanks for the great question, Sandy!
      Kieran Hunt
      888-440-9797 x113

  3. Winnie
    July 7, 2013 | 1:30 am

    Is there a site where I can ship my current sunglasses to them to get them fitted with new tinted lenses? Is it possible for these lenses to be high index plastic?

  4. [...] High index lenses are more expensive than standard lenses to begin with, but when you add on the extra charge most labs add for prism, your glasses can get really expensive. Polycarbonate or standard plastic are a better choice if you’re trying to save money. [...]

  5. [...] a comment below. We also have several other articles discussing high index lens costs including How Much Do High Index Lenses Cost? and Why Do High Index Lenses Cost So Much?, so if you want to learn more about high index lens [...]

  6. haris
    April 4, 2015 | 9:08 am

    My no is -14 .my look is cery old but im 18year old.plz tell me correct glasses for me.who beter my personality.&plz tell cost these lenses.i m really very worried

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