Why are prescription sunglasses so expensive?

If it wasn’t bad enough that you have poor eyesight, you also have to pay for the privilege of wearing the clunky medical apparatus we call eyeglasses.

But to rub it in even more, if you want to avoid headaches, eyestrain, UV damage, and generally bumping into things while protecting your eyes from the sun, you also have to dish out a fortune for prescription sunglasses.

There’s no way around it. You can try wearing your favourite pair of 80s Raybans, balancing a pair of oversized sunglasses over the top of your specs, or ordering prescription shades from a high street chain, but all roads inevitably lead to where you began.

Headaches and frustration.

So, as expected, you give in and buy a pair of overpriced prescription sunglasses. And at the very least, for your troubles and the cost, you want to know just why they’re so damn expensive.

The one company behind all the brands

If the reason prescription sunglasses are so expensive could be linked to one place, it would be Luxoticca — the Italian company that makes frames and sunglasses for eighty percent of the world’s major glasses brands.

Rayban, Prada, Chanel, Oakley, Sunglasses Hut, Dolce & Gabbana; if they’re designer and they’re sunglasses, chances are high they’re made by Luxottica. As the monopoly has well and truly dominated the glasses market, it doesn’t have to keep its prices low in order to stay competitive and in business. Rather, it pushes them as high as possible and forces brands to increase their prices or suffer very little markup.

Of course, it is possible to get sunglasses that weren’t produced by Luxoticca for a fraction of the cost. But there’s a reason Luxottica are so successful — namely the high quality of materials and production. As such, the company estimates that at least half a billion people are wearing its glasses — all of whom paid far much more than they needed to.

What extras do you want with your vision?

Buying a pair of shades that are tailored to your prescription would be cheap if that’s all there was to it. But add to that style, shape, brand, and additional specs like UV protection and anti-reflective coating, and you have a high-end premium product.

Take style. Simply due to the way they’re designed, some sunglasses cost more to be fitted with your prescription. Drill mounted frames that are often rimless, like many styles of aviators, involve drilling the lens to mount onto the frame and therefore cost more. Not to mention pairs like wraparound sports glasses which can distort the lenses and so are often not available for certain prescriptions and progressive lenses — at least not unless you’re willing to pay the price.

And then there’s polarised lenses. Polarised lenses first became popular with fishermen and boaters for helping reduce glare from the water, and today they’re commonly offered as an optional extra when buying sunglasses. But despite what some salesmen may tell you, polarised lenses won’t protect your eyes any more than standard sunglasses. They can help with driving, particularly if you live in a sunny area where there’s a lot of water, but other than that, they’re just another way to get you to pay more.

And in terms of brand, well, I don’t need to tell you how much brands like those above can say about your status and your bank balance. After all, sunglasses are today as much fashion accessories as they are functional pieces of equipment.

Avoid paying through the nose for an item you’re going to either break next week, lose in a few months, or change next year. Consider more reasons for ditching the glasses for good and having Laser Eye Surgery.