Excited states of donor-acceptor dimers are studied using many-body Green's functions theory within the GW approximation and the Bethe-Salpeter equation. For a series of prototypical small-molecule based pairs, this method predicts energies of local Frenkel and intermolecular charge-transfer excitations with the accuracy of tens of meV. Application to larger systems is possible and allowed us to analyze energy levels and binding energies of excitons in representative dimers of dicyanovinyl-substituted quarterthiophene and fullerene, a donor-acceptor pair used in state of the art organic solar cells. In these dimers, the transition from Frenkel to charge transfer excitons is endothermic and the binding energy of charge transfer excitons is still of the order of 1.5-2 eV. Hence, even such an accurate dimer-based description does not yield internal energetics favorable for the generation of free charges either by thermal energy or an external electric field. These results confirm that, for qualitative predictions of solar cell functionality, accounting for the explicit molecular environment is as important as the accurate knowledge of internal dimer energies.