Where can I buy glasses online?
November 30, 2013 4:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to go get an eye exam, and I would like to buy my glasses online. However, there seem to be so many sites out there that I'm having trouble choosing which one to order from. What have your experiences been like?

So far I've checked out Warby Parker, Zenni, Visio-Rx, and EyeBuyDirect. I've found frames I like on all four sites. A co-worker of mine recently had a very good experience buying from Warby Parker, but if I could get away with paying less for decent quality frames then I would like to do that.

What have your experiences been in buying glasses online? What site would you recommend? For what it's worth, I'll be buying regular glasses (not bifocals) in a pretty heavy prescription.

I know there are older Ask questions about this topic, but I'm hoping for some new information. I assume the options have expanded in the past three or four years. Thanks!
posted by christinetheslp to Shopping (38 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
I love 39 Dollar Glasses.
Nothing but GOOD to say about them, the ease of ordering, the quality of the frames, etc. I've been a customer for about 5 or 6 years, with at least one new pair each year, both glasses and sunglasses. I finally sprang for the Transitions lenses this year.

Make sure your prescription has your pupillary distance measurement, as you will need that when filling out the prescription part of the order.

For coupons and discounts, you might want to check out Ira's Glassy Eyes Blog.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:00 AM on November 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

My wife has bought three or four pairs from Zenni and never had the slightest problem with them. She has a crazy heavy astigmatism, and the results have always been great. She's not super picky about style though, and has never tried to return any, so I don't know how well they deal with that.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:20 AM on November 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Very happy with Zenni. The 39 Dollar Glasses website looks alot like Zenni's IMHO, and the prices seem to be in line with each other after add ons.

EDIT Zenni will stand by their mistakes, but if you screw up the order, they will still give you 50% back...this happened to me with a reversed bio-focal order.
posted by lobstah at 5:22 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by lobstah at 5:31 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine buys her frames from coastal contacts. They post deals on Facebook pretty frequently.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:33 AM on November 30, 2013

I have been happy with every pair from EyeBuyDirect. Plus they have enough sales and customer loyalty coupons to make sticking with them worth it.

I bought a pair of bifocals from Zenni, and they were unwearable. I could return them, though. It wasn't my error. The return was easy.

They all take about six weeks for the glasses to arrive, so don't hope for fast shipping.

When you receive your glasses, if you have a problem with fit, you can go to any big box store's optical center and get adjustments.
posted by schnee at 5:34 AM on November 30, 2013

Warby Parker has terrific customer service. I ordered a pair and the tortoise-shell pattern on the glasses that arrived was drastically different than both the online image and the sample frames I tried on (they vary and the pair I ended up with was almost all dark)--they actually swapped the lenses out for me for a different, lighter frame in the same pattern.
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:39 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am reading your post right now through a $7 pair of Zenni glasses for around the house, and I get compliments on my $20 rimless pair. I have been pleased with Zenni for some years.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:40 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

My SO just bought two pairs of glasses from glasses.com and raves about the service, from being able upload a photo of yourself to "try on" frames to the presentation when the final sample set arrived to the ease of returning them when finished.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:41 AM on November 30, 2013

My husband had a really good experience with Warby Parker too. They also donate a pair of glasses for each one you purchase, if that weighs in your decision-making.
posted by goggie at 5:48 AM on November 30, 2013

I ordered three pairs of glasses from Zenni nearly three years ago. One pair didn't fit me quite right (my eyelashes kept hitting the lenses wtf) but the other two were just fine, and I still paid a fraction of what one pair from a traditional store would cost, so I've got no regrets. The frames didn't feel quite as sturdy as my old expensive glasses, but the pair I've ended up using for daily wear is still in great shape, and I don't go out of my way to protect my glasses. I also really liked how Zenni has a bunch of fun-colored frames, for cheap enough that you can get a pair without having to commit to wearing them daily. (They're also cheap enough that if you don't like the frames, you can paint over them with nail polish like I did.)

I've heard many raves about Warby Parker but not tried them myself.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:55 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've got three pairs of Zenni glasses and couldn't be happier with them. I have one acrylic frame, one acrylic frame with sunglass tint and one wire frame with sunglass clip-on, all single vision. I'm into all three for less than $100 total.
posted by workerant at 6:15 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've bought two pair of (tinted) glasses from Zenni this year. The most recent pair is just a basic plastic frame, but it fits well and I'm happy with it.

There's a slight distortion around the edges of my first pair, but I imagine that's partly because of my strong prescription, no desire to buy thinner frames, and the fact that they're sun glasses and I'm not wearing them all the time. My eyes haven't adjusted to them.

I've been eyeing a buy one get one half off sale they're having this weekend. They have some fun holiday frames, and they're cheap enough that I don't feel bad buying a pair that I'll only use a few times a year. The code is boho2013 and is good until Dec 2, if you're interested.

In the newest pair, I got them in about a week. I seem to remember that the first pair took a little longer then that. I don't need any special lenses or treatments, so it could be that's why they shipped fast.

Both sets came with plastic cases, of about medium quality. They also came with microfiber cleaning cloths in different designs. One was a lighthouse and the other was a tropical sunset like a spray-painted t-shirt design.

Over all I am happy and I can see.
posted by royalsong at 6:20 AM on November 30, 2013

I used Zenni for several pairs of single-vision glasses and sunglasses and was happy with the fit and, with the help of some Photoshop tinkering beforehand, the look. (The upload photo and online "try on" is not very accurate.) The cost was less than $20 per pair and the delivery was within 2 weeks. However, these are very cheap glasses. Each pair lasted from between 6 months to 1 year before discoloring/breaking/peeling--as in the "color" is actually a plastic film that peels off.

Now I have a couple pairs from 39DollarGlasses and the quality is a THOUSAND percent better. They also delivered very quickly... in one case, I ordered on a Friday evening and received them on Monday. If you order sunglasses, the standard tint is very dark, ie too dark to wear indoors, the percentage is not explained on the website but I was able to return them for free and got the revised pair at no extra charge.

I would say the quality fir 39DollarGlasses is the same as Warby Parker. WP will actually send you 4? 5? pairs to try on, so there's that.

Also, before buying, google for online coupons for free shipping or discounts.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:31 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've ordered probably 20 pairs of glasses from zenni over the past five years because the price is super low - however, I prefer plastic frames and every pair I've worn daily has started flaking within 6 months. but I mean, I paid $12 for each pair so I don't get too bent out of shape about it. they're good, I think, for fun novelty frames that you won't necessarily wear every day, like a brightly colored pair or cateye or whatever.

I recently leveled up and bought two pairs of glasses from coastal using their 2 for 95 deal. these frames are light years better - they feel sturdy, they're fashionable. I'll order again from coastal, definitely, and save zenni for "fun" pairs.

I also tried warby parker - I loved the free home try-on, but my wide face was too wide to fit in their mostly narrow frames. still, the home try-on was fun and it can give you a good idea of what frames will look good on your face. (and also what sizes you should be looking for!)
posted by kerning at 6:52 AM on November 30, 2013

I've bought from all the major eyeglass sites. Zenni has the best selection of really funky plastic frames, but the shipping is the slowest. I'd say that the quality of 39dollarglasses is right on par with zenni, with faster shipping and customer service. For the quality, I like coastal best--I've gotten my favorite pair of glasses ever off there--but unless you have a promotion, they're much more expensive.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:56 AM on November 30, 2013

I spent a lot of time pondering over a pair of Warby Parker frames I keep as a "spare", and I am really happy with them, and I am a huuuuge glasses snob when it comes to buying frames. I tried on a lot of frames using their service where they ship you 5 frames to try on for a week a couple of times. I also went to their NYC showroom and looked at their entire line in person. The final product arrived very quickly.

Honestly, it was worth it to pay a little extra for the good service, ability to try the glasses on myself, and the knowledge that I was getting the frame that I wanted the first time. Their titanium line looked very good as well if you're not interested in the standard Warby Parker "aesthetic."
posted by deanc at 7:01 AM on November 30, 2013

Oh, and one option to consider is buying direct from Shuron if you like funky, old fashioned frames. They're a small American company that has been making eyeglasses since the 1860s, and they do orders by phone.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:05 AM on November 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, Warby Parker is terrific to deal with. So is classicspecs.com. I've had stellar customer service from both, and glasses that have lasted years.
posted by lenore at 7:21 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have two pairs from Coastal.com and am very happy with them. I actually got both pairs free (other than shipping costs) through the special offers they frequently run via facebook & email. The pair I'm currently wearing is just as nice as the ones I paid $300 for at a "normal" optical shop a couple years ago.
posted by belladonna at 7:48 AM on November 30, 2013

I recommend Zenni to everyone. I love them. They are the best ever.
posted by firei at 7:49 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've used greateyeglasses.com six or seven times and haven't had any trouble. Looks like the cheapest pair I've ordered was $14.99 for regular no-frills black plastic frames, and most expensive was $27.99 for prescription sunglasses. I've been wearing the cheap plastic frames for over three years now (ordered 11/10) with no flaking or other problems. I just tighten the screws at the hinge every six months or so.
posted by CheeseLouise at 8:23 AM on November 30, 2013

I got a very accurate prescription at the Warby Parker store – after getting a very bad one from an independent ophthalmologist – and an optically excellent pair of glasses there, but their frames are all too hip and heavy for me. Also, my prescription is strong, and Warby only has 1.67 index plastic lenses. I sent that prescription to Zenni to have 1.76 index glasses made and they sent me a pair of very poorly ground glasses in which the lenses were wavy and blurry, then replaced those for free with a pair that are quite good.
posted by nicwolff at 8:56 AM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another happy Warby Parker customer here. Wearing them right now, would buy another pair from them in a heartbeat.
posted by ambrosia at 9:11 AM on November 30, 2013

I bought my frames from Warby Parker, and got a discount ($10?) for having plain lenses put it them instead of prescription ones. I brought them to my optician to have the real lenses put in.

I love my frames, and how cheap they were, but given the amount of adjusting they needed -- I don't mean the lenses, I mean the frames themselves -- I would have been unhappy if I'd had to wear them straight from the box.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:33 AM on November 30, 2013

I have Warby Parker prescription frames and sunglasses and I love them. Shipping is insanely fast and they have a great selection of different styles of frames, more than your generic "hipster chunky" plastic frames.
posted by ruhroh at 9:51 AM on November 30, 2013

Despite the silly name, I've had good experiences with goggles4u.com. In fact I'm wearing a new pair from them right now.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2013

I've bought from both Zenni and 39dollarglasses and like the 39dollar pair the best.

If you decide on 39 Dollar Glasses, try the coupon code "25dollarglasses".
posted by cropshy at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2013

I have a pair of glasses from EyeBuyDirect that I liked for a few weeks but now loathe. The price was great, but they turned out to be really uncomfortable over time and were not adjustable.

I do not recommend you purchase plastic-rimmed glasses online without trying them on first. Particularly in the lower-cost brands, they are molded into a particular shape and can't be adjusted, even by an optician. Whereas glasses with the metal wire in them can be dipped in that hot bead thing at the optometrist's to reshape how the sides fit over your ear, the cheaper frames can't be adjusted like that.

My glasses kind of squeeze the sides of my head and become painful after a few hours of wearing, and the arms don't hook over my ear far enough, so they slide down my nose and frequently fall off my face when I lean over. You don't even want to know where those glasses went before I decided to buy glasses that fit better.

If I had purchased those glasses from a physical shop, I could have figured out that they didn't fit my face so well (despite meticulous measurements of my head before purchasing). Metal frames (or maybe even plastic frames that are designed to be adjustable) could have been fixed, but my super discount frames could not. They were cheap, but not worth the hassle, in my opinion. Beware if the plastic frames Buddy Holly style glasses is what you're looking at purchasing.
posted by wondercow at 12:39 PM on November 30, 2013

I have a pair of Warby Parker's for my main glasses, and two pairs from Zenni as my spares. Both companies charge more for higher prescriptions. The Warby Parker's feel MUCH sturdier than the cheaper ones. Regardless of where you buy, if you've got a pair of glasses that fit well that you can measure, you'll be much more likely to find a good fit. (stem length, width of lens, height of lens, etc)
posted by ansate at 1:02 PM on November 30, 2013

I've gotten several pairs from EyeBuyDirect that were ok as spare glasses, but didn't fit well enough to wear comfortably for more than a day. My hair constantly got caught in the hinges, too. Whenever I took those glasses off, I'd pull out a few hairs along with them.

I now have a pair from BonLook that fit way better. The hinges fit together well enough that my hair doesn't get caught in them. It was also super easy to exchange a pair that didn't fit well. They're in the same price range as Warby Parker.
posted by kiripin at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2013

I've bought pairs from Coastal, eyebuydirect and 39dollar and have had good results with one exception. A pair of plastic frames that I bought from 39Dollar have cracked 3 times and they won't give a refund, only another frame. So we are in a closed loop of receiving glasses, having them crack 6 months later and sending them back, receiving glasses etc.

The metal frames I've gotten vary in quality but fit good and the prescription is good. Some of them have a pretty thin finish and others seem easy to scratch despite getting the special coating. However, I used to have to pay around $400 for a pair from the major retail outlets and I won't be doing that again anytime soon.
posted by jabo at 5:58 PM on November 30, 2013

I've bought 4 or 5 pairs through "Goggles4U.com" and people I live with have easily doubled that ... the glasses themselves seem to be drop-shipped from Pakistan, although the most recent shipment didn't make this as obvious as older ones did. They've been very good.

The glasses themselves are somewhat lower-quality than the $500+ pairs I used to get from traditional optician-type places, but they also cost 1/10th the price. 90 percent of the quality at 10 percent of the cost seems like a fine tradeoff to me.

My only suggestion in doing business with them is to take a screenshot of each pair of glasses as you order them. Not because they aren't good about fulfilling orders, but so you have it to reference later when you want to get another similar pair and you can't find them on their site anymore (styles available change constantly). The screenshot will let you at least figure out what general size and style you found them under.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:10 PM on November 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've bought several pairs from zenni over the years and have recommended them to family and friends. The website is easy to use, you can upload a picture to see what the glasses would look like on you, the glasses were cheap (you really can't beat $7), shipping was fast, and the quality was on par with the $100+ glasses I used to buy locally. I have not experienced the peeling and breakage some other commenters here have.
posted by Nickel at 4:09 AM on December 1, 2013

I routinely buy glasses from Zenni optical and have nothing but good to say about the experience. I have two Zenni pairs right now which I purchased recently—not because I need two different pairs of glasses, just for fashion.

Occasionally I've gotten a pair that was way too small or large, as their photo "try-on" system does not size the frames to your face all that accurately. If you have a pair on hand that fit your face well, take a ruler and measure them, and compare those measurements to the ones for each frame on the Zenni site. I've found that to be a more reliable method.

I have bought glasses previously from EyeBuyDirect, and I was not impressed. I only tried it once, however, so it could have just been the particular pair.
posted by audacity at 6:58 PM on December 1, 2013

I started wearing glasses full time for the first time last year, and I bought my glasses online from Warby Parker. Their home try-on service (free!) is very helpful. That was last prescription. For this year's prescription, since I was more familiar with what shape and size fits my face best, I branched out a bit.

Coastal.com offers a first pair free that is actually FREE. I got one pair from them, and liked it so much that I later bought two more in their "2 for 95" deal. They include a really nice cleaning/repair kit with every pair, and a very sturdy case.

I've also bought a BUNCH of glasses from Zenni. So crazy cheap, why not? Especially good for buying prescription sunglasses. You can add tinting to any pair of glasses. It may seem insane to some people that I own like 10 pairs of glasses, but frankly I paid less than I would have for ONE pair at the traditional optical shop. And I love having so many glasses - I leave a pair at work, one in my car, one in my bedroom for watching TV, and enough different styles/colors that I can switch up my look every day. Zenni includes a microfiber cleaning cloth with each pair, but their cases are plastic. They seem sturdy enough but you might prefer something more solid. Zenni just redesigned their web site, it's a bit swankier now.

So here's what I would do:

1. Use the home try-on from Warby Parker (pick five styles you think you like, preferably in different shapes) and make note of which frames fit your head the best. Style doesn't really matter, what you want to know is the bridge width, the lens width, and the temple length. For example, my most comfortable frame has a bridge width of at least 17, a lens width of at least 50, and a temple length of at least 140. Also check to see which shape looks best on you.

2. If none of your Warby Parkers fit and/or flatter, send them back and order five more. You can seriously do this as many times as you want. It's crazy!

3. Once you have your measurements and know the shape you need, you can shop from any of the online sites, and as long as you pick a frame that roughly matches the measurements you were comfortable in, you know your frame will fit.

I've also bought one pair from BonLook, and I did a try-on but didn't end up buying from Rivet & Sway.

Good luck!
posted by Groovymomma at 6:22 AM on December 3, 2013

I forgot to add in my previous comment: shipping speed. This varies a lot.

For Warby Parker and Bonlook, you'll have your glasses in a few days after ordering. Coastal will be almost as fast. The only site I've used that takes a longer time is Zenni, but even they only took about two weeks.
posted by Groovymomma at 6:26 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

Good: I love my glasses from zenni. I bought them as spare glasses in case my daughter broke my primary pair and ended up wearing them daily. I have a prism prescription so most internet glasses vendors don't even bother with me.
Bad: my daughter dropped my zenni glasses on the floor and one of the nose pads cracked off. Flimsy!
Good: zenni offered to send me free nose pads.
Bad: they took forever to get here and were way larger than the noise pads that came with my glasses, so the glasses fit worse with the new nose pads.
Good: when I complained they said they'd send me another pair of nose pads in the right size.
Bad: the smaller nose pads still haven't showed up.
Good: in the meantime I decided I like my glasses so much that I ordered them in another color. Even with my weird prescription, and the fanciest coating, I got away under 40 bucks.
posted by town of cats at 9:04 AM on December 6, 2013

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