High-prescription eyeglasses online (personal experiences appreciated!)
February 18, 2015 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I have higher-than-average myopia (close to -7). I notice most online eyeglasses makers tend to charge extra for my prescription, which is not a dealbreaker, but makes me wonder whether they are the best option for me. Do you have any personal experiences with online eyeglass orders for high prescriptions? Any input appreciated. Again, cost is not the only factor for me; I'd rather have a robust frame that lasts than a cheap one that doesn't.

My reason for going online: I find most 'local' opticians in Seattle outsource their lens grinding anyway, so it takes over a week of turnaround time any way.

I did find a post from 2010 on this topic here, but thought it worthwhile to ask again since things might have changed since then.
posted by splitpeasoup to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I bought my -6 glasses from both an in-town (to me) optical center (not a chain) and bought some fancy name frames that were also insane. But they've lasted a number of years.

I also have "backup" glasses from Zenni Optical and they're okay. I'm sure if I wore them for several weeks they'd be more than "okay" (I love the sunglasses). Might wear out faster (frame) but I had no problem with Zenni; they still cost about 60 bucks and the coating does wear off faster than the ones from the optical center.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2015

I can't speak to online orders, but I will say that every in-person office where I've ever ordered glasses has charged me significantly more for my prescription than for people with better eyesight. I have terrible vision, and the type of lenses that would be covered fully by my insurance would essentially make for unwearable glasses (i.e. the lenses would be too thick to be practical due to being overly heavy). As such, I need high-index lenses, which my insurance has never fully covered (though I get some type of discount). If your prescription makes it necessary for you to purchase high index or any other type of special lens, I would not be surprised that it costs extra, either online or in a physical office. You might try comparison shopping at a physical eye doctor's office (you could just call and ask what lenses they recommend for your prescription/what the extra cost is).
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2015

Do you mean they charge extra for thinner lenses? If so, that's always been the case - even at local optometrists.

I am -6.75 in one eye and -5 in the other. I've bought glasses online from Zenni Optical with the free/thicker lenses option. I have been mostly happy with it. The only real difference I notice is that my vision is slightly distorted around the edges when I switch from the ones with thinner lenses I bought at America's Best to the thicker ones from Zenni. My understanding is that this is normal because the thicker lenses cause some distortion. Your brain/eyes would adjust to the distortion if you wore them all the time. (in my case, my zenni frames are sunglasses and the america's best frames are everyday wear so I'm "adjusted" to the thinner lenses.)
posted by royalsong at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2015

I have a higher-than-average astigmatism that generally triggers significant upcharges (~100% of the cost of the lens) in lens cost for brick-and-mortar opticians. For reasons unbeknownst to me, those upcharges are significantly less for online eyeglass makers (~15-25% of the cost of the lens). I keep exactly one pair of glasses that are made by a brick-and-mortar optician, but I do so mostly to get a frame I like in person with the assistance of the optician, as I have little to no sense of style. All other glasses I have (sunglasses, sports glasses, spare glasses), are made online, generally at a cost of 1/4 to 1/5 the cost of a brick-and-mortar optician. Sometimes the quality is not great and sometimes it turns out the frame selection I made wasn't optimal, but I do know at the cost savings, I can literally throw away the glasses and buy new ones and still come out ahead.

I would caution that you need to know exactly what you're buying. For instance, in the linked thread, there are some people that had issues with the resultant product because they specified the wrong product. For instance, if you want thin lenses, you will have to order high-index glass - the thickness of the lens is a function of the prescription and the glass index, not the quality of the manufacturer. Similarly, you can't just guess your pupillary distance (PD) - which is usually not specified on your prescription - you need to actually measure it, preferably carefully and repeatedly.

If you are looking for a "robust" frame, you should know that most online eyeglass makers sell unbranded frames. In my experience, they are about 80% as "solid" and 80% as "fashionable" as branded frames. For instance, I have had issues with the nose pads on several frames coming loose and/or irritating my skin. This is not a significant issue for me and is well-worth the cost savings. It is, however, becoming increasingly harder to buy branded frames with lenses online, so if you do want the "best" frames, you may be limited to brick-and-mortar opticians.
posted by saeculorum at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2015

I've got astigmatism with prisms and progressives. I pay a HUGE amount for glasses. I get the cheapest frames possible.

I've ordered from on line and my focal points are really important. The glasses I got didn't work all that well, they were too narrow from top to bottom, so the reader portion was a sliver. An in person optometrist would have pointed that out to me and suggested a different frame.

If you have single-vision glasses, you'll have a better experience than if you have something tricky. If you have prisms or progressives, bite the bullet.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have terrible vision and yes, I am charged extra from online glasses places for my lenses. Also, I have thus far not been impressed with the quality compared to what I get in brick-and-mortar. I find the RX isn't quite right, or the frame feels cheaply made. YMMV.

Randomly, I am also located in Seattle and would like to throw out a plug for Oculus Eyecare over in the South Lake Union area. I went in for an eye exam on Wednesday and my glasses were ready by that same Friday morning. Yes, they outsource the lens-grinding but whoever they use is fast and sends them right away. Also, the staff are just great and their frame selection is tops.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:58 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've order a number of glasses from ClearlyContacts.ca‎. I have a similarly high prescription with astigmatism. The big issue as Ruthless Bunny mentions is the focal point. There seems to be no way to put the focal point into your order, they ask for pupil distance but not where vertically the pupil will sit in the glasses.

I am happy with my purchases, though. They have free returns so I was able to try them on and send them back if I didn't like them. I ended up only keeping one pair with lenses made by clearlycontacts.ca. The glasses I wear everyday I bought with cheap lenses (not my prescription). I then paid a lot of money to get my prescription put into them by my optometrist.

tldr: There is no guarantee that your lenses will be placed right in the frame, if you aren't looking for unique frames, just go to a store.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:06 AM on February 18, 2015

I've been thrilled with Warby Parker -- great frames, great customer service, no prescription problems.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:09 AM on February 18, 2015

I'm in the neighborhood of a -9 or -10 for glasses (what do I win!?!) and looked at getting glasses from Zenni, but with the extra mandatory cost for thinning the lenses, it ended up costing me more than the clearance pair I picked up at Target. Those were ready within a week. I get the appeal of online glasses for those with slight vision problems but Zenni ain't $6.95 for some of us.
posted by jabes at 9:21 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

With a higher script (and especially with other concerns such as prism and astigmatism on preview) there is a lot of variation from thick to thin in the lens that causes a likelihood of breakages in the edging process. There is a significant chance that your lenses will go through more than the typical 2 blanks in the process. Along with the up charges in lighter, thinner lens materials (like high index) that come with their own issues during edging. This is simply why even in person you will have a difficult time getting a guarantee of less than a week, but they will delight just as much as you if they're done sooner
posted by lawliet at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2015

Best answer: Yeah, I've always had eyeglass places refuse to fill my prescription without going high index, so I feel your pain.

I also had a good experience with Warby Parker. They charged extra for higher-index lenses, but it was minimal -- I think maybe $30? I am happy to pay that, personally, given what some other places have tried to charge me to go high index. The frames have been sturdy and I have been very happy thus far.

That being said, I was able to visit a location in person, which was v. nice and let THEM measure the PD and made choosing frames much easier -- I don't see any in-person locations in Seattle. I can't speak to the online aspect of Warby Parker.

I did not have a great experience with Zenni, but that was as much because my PD measurement was off as anything.
posted by pie ninja at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2015

I have a -6 in one eye and -6.25 in the other, and I've been getting thick lenses from zenni optical for the past...3 years, I think?

They are great. Cheap, nice quality - I can't say enough good things about them!
posted by firei at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2015

I just recently (as in two weeks ago) received my glasses from Zenni Optical and am very pleased with the quality. My prescription is tricky (-9.00 on one eye and -5.00 on the other), plus I'm now at that fun age where I need progressive lenses, so I put in my order not expecting much. I ordered memory titanium frames and the thinnest most expensive progressive lenses they carry with anti-reflective and fingerprint-resistant coating and my total with shipping was still under $120.00! That shit cray. The frames alone would've cost me more than that locally, and, as you rightly point out, the order would've taken the same amount of time.

Zenni does allow you to input your PD (pupillary distance) and they also leave room for you to give any special instructions or notes before you place your order. The glasses came out great and are really comfortable considering how strong my Rx is. I'm wearing them more than my contacts now and wish I would've ordered from them sooner. I usually order from Costco, but I've grown tired of dealing with their long lines in the optometry dept and having to send in my receipts to VSP (Vision Service Plan; I hate them!) to get reimbursed. My Costco glasses also usually require multiple trips back and forth because they'll forget to polish the edges or something dumb like that. Two thumbs way up for Zenni from me! The frame selection isn't as extensive as the ones you'd find locally, but I think you can buy the frames you want and send those in and just let them do the lenses. Call first though because I don't know for sure if that was Zenni that offered that service or another company.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 9:39 AM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have a high prescription (-8, -8.25), and ordered glasses from Warby Parker. As a previous poster said, they charge slightly extra (I remember it being $20), but you can have them ship up to five pairs of frames for you to try before you order, at no cost, and can continue doing that until you find frames you like. They skew a bit hipster, but do have some fairly normal frames as well. If you don't like them even after they have prescription lenses, you can return for free.

Costco also has very affordable high prescription glasses, if you're a member.
posted by odayoday at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2015

The issue I've had with ordering online is that in the past, they haven't had the *ultra* high index I need at around -9 - without the 1.74 index my glasses are unwearable (and they still make my eyes look super weird and are relatively thick at 1.74.) I would check what numerical index your current lenses are, then make sure that can be matched by the online retailers. I haven't checked in a while, so they may now carry the ultra high index in case that's what you need.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:37 AM on February 18, 2015

I was approximately -14 in my left eye and -12 in my right eye before I had Verisyse lens implants immediately after they were approved in 2004. (Yes, seriously. Truly awful vision--the worst my ophthalmologist had on record.)

When I bought glasses, it was worth it to me to purchase them locally, as stated by jabes. Not only was the local cost about the same as the "cheap" options when implemented, but the frame and lens quality was higher, the glasses were better produced, and they lasted longer than other options.
posted by miss tea at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2015

My husband got his almost -7 prescription glasses from Warby Parker and has been very happy with them. If I remember right there was a small upcharge, but they were still very affordable compared to most retail glasses.
posted by geeky at 12:26 PM on February 18, 2015

I got some designer frames very cheap online, and ordered the thinnest, most anti-glare lenses for my 6.5 rx.

The frames are beautiful, the lenses were terrible. I returned the lenses immediately.

I will not mess around with lenses online again. Even though the online shop said they were the 1.74 thin lenses, they were much thicker than the local shop's 1.74 lenses. The local shop also had an anti glare coating so my glasses look great.
posted by littlewater at 1:36 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Zenni did a great job with my high diopter astigmatism. I paid about $160 for a pair with the thinnest possible lenses and titanium frames. From the eye doctor I paid $500 for similar glasses. Zenni has made me several pair and they are all as good as I would get from the doctor.
posted by irisclara at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2015

I'm -8.75 left, -8.00 right, with -1.25 astigmatism, and I'm very happy with my Zinni Optical glasses. I ordered (and have since reordered) these which were $24 for the frames, and the 1.74 High-Index lenses which added $79. The frames are light and sturdy.
posted by nicwolff at 4:29 PM on February 18, 2015

I have -6.75 glasses and I ordered my first pair from Zenni a few months ago. It cost ~$60 with anti-glare and thin lenses instead of $420 at my optometrist, and I don't find them noticeably different. I lose or break my glasses at least every 18 months, so the longevity of the frame is not my primary concern - but I could go through half a dozen pairs and still be ahead financially.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:09 PM on February 18, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all! I ended up going with Warby Parker; will update this thread if I have anything interesting to report about my experience.
posted by splitpeasoup at 7:21 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Too late now, but for the future: I've twice ordered the frames from Warby Parker and then had the lenses made at Woodlawn Optical in Wedgwood, and I'm very pleased with them. It's not the cheapest way to get a pair of glasses, but it's the best I've found.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:20 PM on February 19, 2015

« Older New nurse   |   Need to ID and replace a battery charger Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.