6 Things to Know When Buying Glasses Online

Frames can cost as little as $5, but you'll pay extra for certain types of lenses and coatings.
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Glasses Inspection

When you're looking for a new pair of glasses, you may get sticker shock from the prices at your optometrist's office. But you don't have to spend that much, particularly if you just need single-vision lenses. Buying glasses online can be a cheap way to get the eyewear you need without paying a hefty price.

Here's everything you need to know to buy glasses online.

You Still Need a Prescription for Glasses

Even though you're shopping online, you'll need a valid glasses prescription — typically no more than a year old — to order. The eye exam payment could wind up being the bulk of your glasses cost, meaning you should spend time shopping around.

Your doctor is legally required to give you a copy of your prescription after your exam, so you can get your glasses anywhere.

Your health insurance may cover eye exams, so review your policy before you pay for an exam out of pocket. But even if you don't have insurance coverage, you should be able to get an exam for around $100. (Note, however, that if you're interested in contacts as well as glasses, your exam will cost a little more.) The exact price will vary depending on the doctor you see and where you're located, but reasonably priced exams are available at plenty of national chains. Check with these retailers to see who has the best deal in your area:

Your doctor is legally required to give you a copy of your prescription after your exam, so you can get your glasses anywhere. Before you leave your doctor's office, check to see if your pupillary distance, or PD, is listed on the prescription. If it isn't, be sure to ask for it — you'll need this to order glasses online.

Not All Glasses Frames Are the Same Size

Buying the right frames involves more than just picking out the style you like — you need to find frames that fit your face. There are three measurements to know: lens width, bridge width (the width across your nose), and temple arm length (the length of the arms).

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If you own a pair of glasses that fit, you can start by checking their size. These measurements are usually written inside the frame, listed left to right (lens width, bridge width, temple arm length). You'll find them printed inside the temple arms or the nose bridge. Once you have your measurements, you can use those numbers to find the right frames.

If you're buying your first pair of glasses and have no idea of your sizing, the process is a little trickier. Consider shopping at Warby Parker, which will mail you frames to try on before you buy. And wherever you buy, check their return policy so you know what your options are if your frames aren't a perfect fit. Some retailers offer generous return policies, and some won't take ill-fitting glasses back without charging a hefty penalty.

Figure Out Your Pupillary Distance

Pupillary distance is the distance, in millimeters, between the centers of the pupils in both eyes. When you put on your glasses, the lenses need to be centered on your pupils, so if this measurement is off, you may not get the perfect vision you're hoping for.

If you don't see your pupillary distance on your prescription after you've had your eyes examined, ask for it.

Your PD should be listed on your prescription — if you don't see it listed after you've had your eyes examined, ask for it — but it may not be. If it isn't, you can measure it at home. Warby Parker has a tool to measure your PD by snapping a photo of your face, and you can also measure on your own with just a mirror and a ruler.

Add-Ons Make Glasses More Expensive

You're likely to see some extremely low prices quoted when you're shopping around — you probably won't pay the lowest price, though. Not only do frame costs vary (expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $100), but you'll also pay extra for certain types of lenses and coatings. Like frames themselves, these can vary greatly in price.

While you probably won't need every upsell, some will be useful. Here are the options you're likely to find.

Anti-Reflective Coating

Blocking reflections makes your eyes more visible and can reduce glare. This may be included in your lens price, but otherwise, expect to spend around $5 for a basic coating.

Oleophobic Coating

This makes lenses more resistant to oil or fingerprints, which helps keep them clean. Expect to spend around $15 for this coating.

Scratch-Resistant Coating

This makes lenses more resistant — though not immune — to scratches. It's often included in the price of the lens.

Ultraviolet Protection

UV exposure can hurt your eyes, so you want glasses that block 100% of UV light. Many lenses will block UV light without any extra cost, but less expensive lenses may not.

Blue Light Filter

Computer screens emit blue light, which can make our eyes tired and interrupt our sleep cycles. Lenses with a slight amber tint can help block blue light. Whether this is worth it is a matter of opinion — some people dislike the tint color, while others consider it a must-have. Expect to spend from $10 to $50 to add blue light protection to a pair of prescription glasses.

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Polycarbonate and Trivex Lenses

These lightweight, durable lenses are ideal for glasses that will see hard wear. With some retailers, polycarbonate lenses are the cheapest options, but others have a small upcharge for them — expect to pay up to $30.

High-Index Lenses

Lenses with an index of 1.61 or higher are typically called "high-index lenses." The higher the index, the thinner the lens. Expect this to add anywhere from $30 to $100 to your cost.

Progressive Lenses

These are bifocal or trifocal lenses that don't have the typical line through the lens. Expect them to add anywhere from $30 to $70 to the total price, but you may have to pay more than that.

Light-Adjusting or Photochromic Lenses

These lenses darken in the sun, so you don't need a separate pair of sunglasses. This can be a modestly priced upgrade, starting at around $30, but brand-name photochromic lenses (like Transitions) will add at least $70 to your total.


Eyeglasses

Where to Buy Glasses Online

While most online retailers brag about low prices, I was curious about what you'd really pay for a pair of lenses. I wear glasses all the time, so I usually spring for fairly nice ones. Currently, I'm wearing high-index progressive Transitions lenses that cost me $199.98 at Costco (without the price of frames included).

If you only need no-frills glasses, Zenni Optical is the cheapest place to get them.

For the retailers below, I've listed both the lowest possible price of glasses as well as the price for the glasses I'm wearing now. In most cases, the cheapest glasses are significantly cheaper than what you'd pay at a brick-and-mortar store — but higher-end lenses can cost the same or more online. To find the best deal, you'll want to check both options.

Zenni Optical

If you only need no-frills glasses, Zenni is the cheapest place to get them. Frames start at just $6.95 and that price includes basic, single-vision lenses. However, these basic lenses are very basic and there are a lot of upcharges — many of which are poorly explained, making it hard to decide what you really need to buy.

At minimum, regular glasses-wearers will probably want to spring for fingerprint-resistant, anti-reflective lenses, which add $14.95 to the price. But even with an upcharge or two, you can get a decent pair of single-vision glasses for around $30.

Price: Starts at $6.95 (my glasses would be $209.95)

Includes: Single-vision lenses with anti-scratch coating and UV protection

Returns: Within 30 days. If there's a manufacturing error, they'll send you a new pair. If you entered your prescription incorrectly or just don't like the glasses, you'll be refunded 50% of the purchase price, or you can get 100% of the purchase price as store credit.

Warranty: 30 days for frames, one year for for anti-reflective coating and photochromic film

Pros: The cheapest glasses you can buy online

Cons: Complicated website, mediocre return policy

EyeBuyDirect

The prices listed on EyeBuyDirect are a little deceptive because unlike many retailers, the frame cost does not include the cost of lenses. However, the cost of basic lenses isn't bad, so you won't find yourself paying particularly more. EBD also has a decent return policy that lets you send your glasses back for any reason at all within 14 days.

SEE ALSO: Your 9 Biggest Warranty Questions — Answered

With an easy-to-use website, decent prices, and reasonable return policy, EyeBuyDirect is a good choice.

Price: Starts at $12.95 (my glasses would cost $234.95)

Includes: Single-vision lenses with anti-scratch and anti-reflective coating

Returns: Within 14 days. Return for an exchange or a full refund.

Warranty: One year against manufacturer defects

Pros: Fair price, fair return policy

Cons: Not the best price or the best return policy

GlassesUSA

While several retailers will send you frames to try on at home, GlassesUSA actually lets you try glasses on at home with your prescription in them. Try them out for 14 days and then return the pair you don't want. The catch is you can't try out their pricier frames, and you can only get two pairs of single-vision glasses or one pair of multifocal glasses at a time. That's not quite as good as having a whole optician's shop to try on, but it gives you a great chance to check out your glasses in person before you buy.

Frame prices are a little high for the basic lens options included, but sales and coupons are common — so you could find very good deals.

Price: Starts at $48 (my glasses would cost $243)

Includes: Single-vision lenses, no coatings (add scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coating, plus UV protection for an extra $29)

Returns: Within 14 days. Return for an exchange or a full refund.

Warranty: One year against manufacturer defects. If your glasses break within the first year, you can get half off a new pair.

Pros: Great try-on-at-home glasses options

Cons: The base price of frames is high considering the low-end options they come with

Warby Parker

Starting at $95, Warby Parker's frames are pricier than most, but the retailer does a lot to take the guesswork out of shopping online. Warby Parker eliminates the biggest pain point of buying glasses online by letting you try on frames before you buy — and that alone could be worth the higher price tag. Just pick five frames and Warby Parker will mail them to you (shipping's free). You have five days to try them on, then just send them back and order your favorites. Warby Parker even has retail locations where you can go to browse or get adjustments.

Warby Parker eliminates the biggest pain point of buying glasses online by letting you try on frames before you buy.

The retailer also offers a fantastic return policy, letting you return your glasses for any reason within 30 days. The warranty is great, too: if your lenses get scratched within the first year, they'll replace them for free.

Price: Starts at $95 (my glasses would cost $300)

Includes: Single-vision polycarbonate lenses with scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coating, plus UV protection

Returns: Within 30 days. Return for an exchange or a full refund.

Warranty: One year against scratches

Pros: Great shopping experience, return policy, and warranty

Cons: High price

Felix + Iris

Though this is another pricey option, Felix + Iris is the easiest place to shop. While most retailers make you go through pages of menus to see the price for your prescription, Felix + Iris shows prices for common lens types alongside the frame cost. And like Warby Parker, they'll send frames to your home for a test run — you can try out four pairs for five days, with free shipping both ways. Felix + Iris also includes instructions on marking the lenses on your test frames, just like an optician would do. That should help you get perfect lenses.

While their warranty is limited to manufacturing defects, Felix + Iris will repair any damage for a fee, and pay for shipping if the glasses are still under warranty. While it's better not to break your glasses in the first place, it's good to know Felix + Iris will fix them up if you do — most online retailers don't offer repair services.

Price: Starts at $119 (my glasses would cost $350)

Includes: Single-vision polycarbonate lenses with scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coating, plus UV protection

Returns: Within 30 days. Return for an exchange or a full refund, with free shipping.

Warranty: One year against manufacturing defects

Pros: Great shopping experience, warranty, and return policy

Cons: High price

Want more options?

Though these are some of best options for buying glasses online, they're hardly the only ones. If you're looking for a wider range of styles, check out 39DollarGlasses, Coastal, DiscountGlasses.com, or Glasses.com. Even traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like LensCrafters sell glasses online, so you aren't at a loss for options.

You'll Need to Get Frame Adjustments Locally

When your glasses arrive, the fit may be a little off. And while an in-person optician would adjust them when you've picked them up, it's harder when you're buying online. Some online retailers — like Warby Parker — have brick-and-mortar locations you can visit for adjustments. If that isn't an option, though, you can usually go see an optician for an adjustment. Many opticians will do this for free regardless of where you purchased your glasses, but there could be a small fee.

Readers, have you ever bought glasses online? If so, how was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!


DealNews Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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10 comments
Kizzle
I was able to buy locally MK frames and decent lenses (single vision) for around $100 at Eyeglass Express. They always mail coupons and have good service.
jkmoliverio
My son loves Goggles4U but also feels that paying more for better lenses and coatings makes a huge difference in his sight. I have not tried online ordering yet for eyeglasses but am willing to give it a try for progressive lenses. Coating on a pair from a local optical chain is wearing off a pair I purchased with progressive lenses, antireflective coating and transition. I cannot rub off the rest of the coating. It makes my vision through these glasses frustrating. The eyeglasses (metal frame) and lenses otherwise have held up extremely well. We'll see how online products compare......and insurance does little to reduce the cost. Without it though I would wince at the final price.
nestormart
@yudonami: "Glasses may seem expensive at your local optical, but it's because they are recommending coatings, lenses, frames that can hold up and most of the time should have a warranty for up to a year. " ....Glasses at the local optical are expensive because of the huge markups on brand frames. I don't care about brand names on my frames, I just want good glasses and frames that allow me to see clearly. And usually the cheapest option at the local optical is still more expensive and lower quality than what you can get online for the same price.
bobbart
Goggles4u is the cheapest when you apply their codes like DN50 which is 50% off. Titanium frames tinted 1.57 with scratch and glare for 15 dollars. No one beats that price. Very good product.
johna
Zennioptical.com is the best. I used it for years. Quality of the lenses is very good, lenses index 1.57 which is includes in $6.95 frame that fine. Service is super, they email you to advise if something you entered not clear. Just enter the values in your Rx, it is very easy to understand. The website is so clear explanation, I learned from it a lot. I have computer glass at work, reading book glasses, driving glasses, Rx tinted sunglasses, all cost about $15 each. Progressive, no line glassed cost me around $40 with nice frame. It has all information you need to know. It has all kind of frames with dimensions, all different size, type..You can try it for yourself, start with single vision for reading or distance, cost less than $15, includes shipping. I bought glasses from optician, warehouse places that costs more than $300 and didn't work for me.
junkle1
You absolutely do not need an Rx. I've been buying from eyebuydirect for years with whatever script I want.
from50613
My review of the places (purchasing since 2009)

1. Eyebuydirect
For about $20 (single vision, middle level lens) you will have a new pair of glasses. They are the lowest quality of all the brands listed in the article, but they are fashionable and about the price of a flannel. My two pairs lasted about 5 months each with daily wear before the frames cracked and broke. This is the first time in 30+ years of wearing glasses I had a frame break, let alone two. Since the cost was so low, it was fine.

2. Zenni
Better than Eyebuydirect, glasses were more basic but higher quality. Customer services is better too. They are my go-to. You will spend about $40 per pair.

3. GlassesUSA
Highest quality, great glasses. They have the most options available as well. I am wearing a 3 year old pair (Marc Anthony) from there right now that cost $120. I actually tried to buy the same pair from my eye doctor and was quoted $315.

Check out Warbly-Parker. Good quality and you can try b4 you buy.
yudonami
First of all, I find it comical that your picture shows you looking over the top of your glasses. It means they weren't made correctly. Not a big surprise if you resorted to going to buying them online. I'm in the industry and I can tell you that the most common complaint is people getting their glasses online and they either don't hold up or they weren't made correctly due to input error or just low quality and poor quality control. The reason they are so cheap is they are using inferior products including the coating. Ever notice the coatings start to peal and crack? Yeah, that's inferior product. Glasses may seem expensive at your local optical, but it's because they are recommending coatings, lenses, frames that can hold up and most of the time should have a warranty for up to a year. You do the same thing when buying cars, houses, and tv's. There are price differences due to quality differences. When you buy from an optical tell them what your budget is instead of gambling online.
twesterh
Had tried ordering glasses online years ago and wasn't happy with the off brand frames.

I recently tried again when I found the Jones New York glasses (model J525) I liked at a local Ossip online for $78 shipped to my home (after coupon code).

Eyeglass prescriptions are good for two years. (Contact lens for one year.) Took a selfie and they were able to measure my PD for me.

Now, these were single vision plastic lenses with anti-reflective and anti-scratch coatings only. So, bare minimum, nothing fancy. Also, it took a good two weeks to get them. But they have held up great 6 months in.
mrbib
LensesRx is also a decent online seller, with the benefit (last I checked) of making the lenses in the U.S., which cuts down delivery time. They cost a bit more, but still attractive.

Your PD is not measured by the optometrist, and is often considered proprietary to the optician.Just have a friend measure it with a ruler. It's best to get separate left and right measurements.

As a wearer of progressive lenses, I hate to say it, but fitting them is something best left to the local optician. Why? 1. Placement of the main focus region is a bit tricky and different brands of progressive lenses suit different people. The optician can better suggest the best ones for a given wearer, and will usually even let you exchange a time or two to get the right one for you. I bought a cheap pair of progressives online, and they work. BUT they don't work nearly as well as the ones from the local optician.