Once you’ve been wearing contacts for a while, it’s easy to get tired of shelling out the big bucks when you get them from your eye doctor. If you are like me, you have been wondering if there’s a better way. Fortunately, contacts are another thing that companies now sell directly online – so you are probably wondering if you can avoid the markup and get them “direct”.
The good news is, yes.
But, like everything on the internet, there are many different options. How do you decide which of the numerous subscription services available is right for you? They all promise that you can easily sign up online and receive contacts every month in your mailbox. These subscription services generally cost less as well. Are the contacts the same brands that you are used to, or are they at least similar?
What’s the difference between Waldo, 1-800 Contacts and Sightbox?
1-800 Contacts, Waldo and Sightbox all provide a way to order contacts online and get them delivered directly to your door. In addition to the convenience of getting everything sent right to you, they also promise cost savings in many cases.
These companies work in slightly different ways, so it’s worth knowing the nuances between the three.
Waldo is one of the fairly new direct-to-consumer brands that gets its own daily lenses manufactured and sends them to you by a monthly subscription service. You can only buy its proprietary brand of lenses rather than the brand that you might get through the optometrist, but its lenses are comparable in terms of quality.
The lenses are FDA-certified and endorsed, have UV protection, and Waldo’s website says it partners with “an internationally recognized and certified supplier.” And you can generally save money compared to the eye doctor and even other online companies, with its lenses priced at $19.50 per box of 30 lenses (a regular subscription with Waldo is two boxes per month). One huge advantage to Waldo is that you can get 10 pairs for free as part of their trial — you only pay for shipping.
1-800 Contacts and Sightbox are a bit different from Waldo. They still allow you to subscribe to a plan that sends lenses to you on a regular basis, but the big difference is that you order name-brand lenses from major manufacturers — rather than a proprietary brand like Waldo. 1-800Contacts and Sightbox each sell a variety of brands, so you can order whichever you’re use to or your optometrist recommends.
You’ll find the manufacturers you’re familiar with, including Bausch & Lomb, Johnson & Johnson, Alcon and CooperVision, as well as others you may have been curious about like Air Optix, Dailies, Acuvue and Biofinity.
These sites simply give you a way to order lenses online that’s potentially more affordable and convenient than always going back to your doctor for new boxes. Neither offers a free trial, unfortunately, so if you want to try before you buy your best choice between the three is Waldo.
It’s important to know that Waldo has a more limited selection of lenses. You won’t be able to order multifocal or toric lenses for astigmatism (although Waldo claims these options are supposedly in the works). So if you eyes require more specialized correction, 1-800 Contacts and Sightbox are a better choice since you’re able to get any kind of lens, including toric, multifocal/bifocal, color, and more.
How do you order contacts online from 1-800 Contacts and Waldo?
So, the method for ordering online is a bit different depending on the company you’re working with. Nonetheless, you can expect a pretty similar experience from 1-800 Contacts, Waldo and Sightbox.
With Waldo, you only have the option of its proprietary products – so you’ll simply sign up for the subscription service. The process is different with 1-800 Contacts. With these, you’ll need to pick the manufacturer and brand from a broad selection of major, recognized options.
But you’re not able to simply choose any brand or product that you wish. Instead, you have to go for the ones your optometrist has prescribed you. If you’re interested in a different type, you’ll need to talk to your eye doctor about it. This is a bit more “old school” than Waldo, and is the traditional way contacts are picked and “fitted.”
It is important to note that you are going to need a prescription – that’s just how these products are sold in the US.
Before signing up for Waldo or 1-800 Contacts, you’ll need to set up an appointment with and see an optometrist. They’ll do the normal procedures, checking your eyes and prescribing a particular prescription strength and product/brand. Then, you’ll simply type in the info about this prescription when you sign up for the online contact company of your choice.
Sightbox is different because it has you sign up first and then the optometrist visit is part of your subscription plan.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of signing up for each service:
Waldo Daily Contacts
To get started on Waldo, you go to the website and click on one of the countless “Get Started” buttons. Put your prescription information into the website, and you get to start with a great free trial of 10 pairs—you just need to pay the $2.95 for shipping. After that, you’ll get boxes of contacts according to the subscription plan you pick:
2 boxes per month
$19.50 per box of 30
6 boxes every 3 months
$18 per box of 30
12 boxes every 6 months
$17 per box of 30
As you can see, you can save a little bit per box by signing up for the quarterly or bi-annual plan. And you can change or cancel your subscription any time, so if you are not an everyday user you can get a few boxes then slowdown or stop the deliveries to suit your needs.
To sign up, you go to 1800contacts.com. You find your brand, put in your prescription and set up your order. This company makes it easy to:
- find your brand — you search on the site or use the app to scan your current contacts box.
- enter the prescription — you have the choice to enter it on the site, upload a picture of the prescription from your doctor or even have 1-800 Contacts contact your eye doctor for you instead.
Whereas Waldo and Sightbox require subscriptions, 1-800 Contacts allows you to do one-time orders, and then you save 5% on every order if you set up a subscription. You have three subscription choices:
- 2-week or 1-month contacts: $39 per month for 12 months
- Daily contacts: $89 per month for 12 months
Then, you put in your profile information with your name, address, etc., and Sightbox handles the next step of setting up an optometrist visit for you. After your visit, the doctor will send Sightbox your prescription information. Your credit card will be charged and the boxes will be shipped directly to you.
Waldo vs 1-800 Contacts vs Sightbox: Which online contact service is best?
All three of these companies make it easy to order quality lenses online, and they all come with free shipping. Yet there are distinct differences between the companies that will help you decide which one to go with. Use this chart to see key details to support your decision-making process.
Online Contacts Companies Comparison
|How to Purchase||Hiwaldo.com||1800contacts.com||Sightbox.com|
|Trial||First 10 pairs free with $2.95 shipping||Discount on first order||None|
|Monthly cost||$19.50 for box of 30, 2 boxes per month||Varies by brand, can be quite expensive for the most cutting edge brands||$39/month for 2-week and 1-month contacts; $89/month for daily contacts (Price includes eye exam)|
|Brands||Waldo||Brands from Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, CooperVision and Johnson & Johnson||Brands from Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, CooperVision and Johnson & Johnson|
|Toric lenses?||Not yet||Yes||Yes|
|Bifocal/multifocal lenses?||Not yet||Yes||Yes|
|Accept FSA (Flexible Spending Account)?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
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Each company has benefits and cons depending on what you’re looking for and your vision needs. In other words, if you need toric lenses for an astigmatism, Waldo won’t be for you, whereas it could be if you’re looking for regular lenses delivered to your door at a good price.
We also have some different write up on other brands, such as these reviews:
Hopefully some of these in-depth reviews helps you make a decision. If you’re still unsure, here’s more color on each company.
Waldo Daily Contacts
A huge benefit of Waldo is that it offers a great trial offer so you can see if you like the brand and the quality of the lenses. Even though it doesn’t offer the expensive brands you recognize, it works with a reputable, FDA approved supplier and provides high quality lenses.
Additionally, Waldo costs a lot less than traditional brands, and you can get a monthly subscription for about half (or more) of a traditional, expensive brand name.
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Waldo does have some real downsides, though. If you have “special” eyes, you can’t get toric, multifocal/bifocal or color lenses (at least not yet). And because they only offer their own brand, you can’t get the specific ones that you might already be using.
A bonus of 1-800 Contacts is that it offers free returns if you’re not happy with your contacts or free replacement if they rip. Also, the company offers to beat a lower price with its best price guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about paying more here than elsewhere.
That being said, we have seen online reviews where consumers claim that their list pricing was surprisingly high – so if you are going to go with them it pays to shop and know what price you should be paying.
You can get any type of contact and brand you’re looking for, but the prices vary wildly so you won’t know what you have to pay until you find your brand. Compared to Waldo or Sightbox, they can sometimes be more expensive, with the upside being that you are going to get the specific brand that you want.
The Sightbox monthly subscription price includes a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting along with the contact lenses you’ll need for a year.
There is consistency with the same monthly price regardless of the brand you get—and you can choose from any of the major brands and types of contacts available.
A distinction of Sightbox is that it finds a great optometrist in your area for you and even makes the appointment and pays for the exam—all you have to do is show up. The monthly subscription price may be a bit high for dailies, but it includes the price of the eye exam spread over the course of the year.
If you don’t already have a lens prescription, this might be a good option for you. But if you already know what you want, 1-800 Contacts is a good place to check since you don’t have to pay for another doctor’s visit.
And if you are just looking for the lowest price, and don’t have special eye needs, check out Waldo since their pricing is great.
Comparing Waldo vs 1-800 Contacts: Which is right for your eyes?
Waldo and 1-800 Contacts both can get you contact lenses online, but the two services have some major differences. The first is price: Waldo is clearly a low cost leader at only $36 per month. Waldo also offers a 10 pair free trial, which means you can try out their product for basically nothing.
1-800 Contacts is better if you need specialized products like toric or multifocal/bifocal – or if you want a particular brand name of contacts. You’ll need a valid prescription for both. The table above breaks down the differences.
The Verdict: Where should you buy contacts online?
In general, we are pretty biased toward the new online direct-to-consumer players like Waldo – they usually offer lower prices and a quality product, with less hassle.
That being said, they are clearly not the right choice for people who have more complicated vision or eye care needs – so if you have any unique needs, it would be best for you to see your optometrist and get a specialized lens, which you could purchase on 1-800 Contacts if you wanted to try to save money.