How Much Does an Eye Exam Cost in California?

An eye exam in California could cost between $50 and $200, and it will really depend on where you have the exam done.

If you get the eye exam performed by a doctor in a clinic or medical setting, it is likely going to cost more than it would if you had it done at a Walmart Vision Center or another discount outlet.

Additionally, many insurance providers will cover the cost of an eye exam, and you will want to have that cost looked at as well before you undergo this expense.

An eye exam in California is going to cost between $50 and $200, but you can get a lower-cost exam if you do your research.

Discount vision centers offer the exact same services as a medical clinic will – and you will get the same result.

At the same time, insurance will often cover the cost of eye exams and any prescription lenses that may be the result of your eye exam.

Table of Contents

What factors go into the cost of an eye exam?

how often you have had your eyes checked

The cost of an eye exam in California will be determined by a few factors, including how often you have had your eyes checked.

If you are a new patient to the clinic you are visiting, you are likely going to see a higher cost for your eye exam than you would if you are a returning patient.

Additionally, a refractive vision test isn’t always included in your eye exam and could be an extra cost.

The difference between an eye exam for a new patient and a returning patient could be as high as $100 in California.

The cost of the refractive vision test alone is typically in the $50 to $75 range. In some areas, age will play a role in the cost of your eye exam.

The cost of an eye exam could be higher as well if you need prescription lenses or want to get contact lenses.

You will also pay more if you visit a specialist for your eye exam than if you visit a discount vision center, where, in most cases, doctors with the same credentials can help you with the same exam.

Some specialists will not give you options when it comes to what is included in your eye exam, and you may wind up paying for a refractory vision exam whether you want it or not.

What is included in an eye exam in California?

peripheral vision test

An eye exam in California will include a general vision sharpness test, a peripheral vision test, an eye alignment test, some muscular function and ocular health tests, and a test of your pupillary reactions to light and objects that are close.

The most common test is the visual acuity test, and this is the test you will take when you are reading letters from a chart on the wall.

Here you will use one eye to read letters that are a specified distance away.

The visual acuity test will help your clinician to determine how close your eyes are to the desired standard of 20/20 vision.

A refractive test will help to determine what kind of prescription you may need, and you will have this performed while looking at the eye chart as well.

You’ll be asked which you see more clearly, and these answers will help to determine if you are near-sighted, far-sighted, or have something like astigmatism.

If you have good vision, you may not get a retinoscopy, which is the test your clinician will perform to determine the strength of the prescription that you need.

You will look through a large scope with different lenses switched back and forth from your eyes.

A light will be shone in your eyes and the doctor will watch how this light impacts your eyes at the different levels.

What other tests might happen at an eye exam in California?

keratometry test

At your eye exam in California, you may also experience tests like the keratometry test, and the peripheral visual field test.

The intraocular pressure measurement test may also be performed. In the keratometry test, you may look into a machine that is aligned with your eye, and the doctor will measure your cornea and its shape.

In this test, the doctor is looking to see a normal-shaped cornea, and how it experiences or reflects the light.

A peripheral visual field test will help your doctor to determine how good your peripheral vision is, and again, you will look into special machines for this test as well.

Here you will look at a certain location and may be asked to press a button when you see flashes or lights.

The doctor may also move things around your peripheral vision and ask you questions, where you will tell them when you can and cannot see the objects in question.

A pressure measurement exam may also be performed where the doctor is looking for the amount of liquid in your eyes and the pressure they are creating.

If you have more pressure than you should, it could be a symptom of something such as glaucoma.

How often should you get eye exams in California?

get eye exams

Most clinicians in California will say that an eye exam every two years is recommended, but that could vary by age and clinical presentation.

The most common reason people book an eye exam in California is because they are suddenly experiencing an eye or vision problem.

Another common reason is that they are having problems with their existing glasses, either they have broken or are not working as expected.

Some people will book eye exams as often as their insurance company will let them. Pain in the eye is also another common cause of getting eye exams.

People with diabetes may also get eye exams more frequently, particularly if they are experiencing problems.

Children may get eye exams more frequently as well. It is recommended that babies get their eyes checked at the six-month mark.

An annual exam for children struggling with this is not unusual, either.

When should a person have an eye exam more regularly?


People with medical conditions regarding the brain, diabetes, or known vision problems should probably get their eyes checked more regularly.

The recommendation here is to get the eyes checked every year. People that wear contact lenses should also get their eyes checked more frequently.

Adults that do not have existing vision problems don’t need an eye exam more frequently than every two years.

People with glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts, or are over the age of 60 or 65, should also get their eyes checked annually.

If you break your eyeglasses or decide to switch from contact lenses to glasses within the two-year mark, you won’t need another eye exam, either.

You can simply bring in your glasses or contacts and have the prescription tested before you buy new ones.

You can also go to the same clinic you had your eye exam, and your prescription should be on file.

Should I see an ophthalmologist or an optometrist for an eye exam in California?

An optometrist is enough for an eye exam in California, particularly if you are hoping to save money.


Overall, if you don’t have any vision issues beyond needing some help with getting your glasses prescriptions filled, then an optometrist will be enough.

Diabetes patients can also be okay with an optometrist if they are not experiencing a sudden decline in their vision.

If you are only going for your regular checkup, an optometrist is enough. It is when you have a sudden problem, such as sudden deteriorating vision, that you will need to have your vision checked.

When you are saving costs and not experiencing a vision emergency, an optometrist is all you will need for an eye exam in California.