Prescription glasses online?
July 6, 2022 6:11 AM   Subscribe

What are the best sites for buying prescription eyeglasses online and what is the process like?

Years ago I remember reading either here or on the blue that one could get prescription eyeglasses online significantly cheaper than buying from an optometrist or brick-and-mortar eyeglasses store. I have only ever gotten glasses in person. What are the best sites to look at? What do I need to make the process go as smoothly as possible? Any potential hiccups in the process?

I've had wayfarers for a longtime but they're broken. They're also expensive to get a new pair and I think they don't fit me very well (specifically distance from the front of my face to my ears). I do want my new glasses to look very similar to wayfarers, though.

Where should I be looking?
posted by msbrauer to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I've bought a couple of pairs from Eye Buy Direct. What I liked best about it is I could shop for frames by precise size, like 152mm from screw to screw. Also they have a decent "show the glasses on a photo of your face" feature that I found helpful in picking a style.

Not sure if it really counts as cheaper; the basic prescription glasses I bought ended up being $70, the prescription sunglasses were $140. The frames are cheap but the price mounts up as you add better glass, tinting, etc. But it's a convenient process and the glasses were good. Also they have free 2 day shipping for some non-sunglasses that actually worked.
posted by Nelson at 6:26 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]

I’ve also used Eye Buy Direct and have found their service and their prices remarkable.

You’ll probably want to enlist someone to help measure the physical width between your eyes, but otherwise you’ll just need some standardized prescription numbers.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:32 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

Wife and I have been very happy with inexpensive, many choices, fast delivery.
posted by davidmsc at 6:33 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I have used Goggles about a dozen times and never had a problem.
Just enter your specs,located on the arm of our glasses,and a headshot pic.
Then you can see what the frames look like on your face.
They have many many frames,lol.
posted by LOOKING at 6:45 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

Yeah any of the main companies like Eye Buy Direct or Zinni work fine, but the challenges that come from buying online are:

- Pupillary distance. Make sure you have that on your prescription. Optometrists tend to leave this off b/c they want you to buy from them.
- Do you have particularly bad eyesight or astigmatism or other issues? That can make it hard to get really sharp prescriptions.
- And, If you do have a more severe or particular prescription, you'll start to get a bunch of additional costs to the order (like thinning the lenses or whatever) and it won't be so affordable.
- You still need to get the glasses to fit, so you may still go to the optometrist to get them to make those adjustments.

People I know who have simple prescriptions love online buying, b/c they can get a bunch of glasses and have options, but it gets more expensive and complex the more challenging your prescription is.
posted by RajahKing at 6:46 AM on July 6 [5 favorites]

Next time you are having your eyes checked, ask them to measure your pupillary distance so you can get that right. Not all prescriptions come with that measurement but it is important to getting your glasses to fit right and not give you headaches.

I've done eyebuy and zenni and prefer eyebuy.
posted by soelo at 6:47 AM on July 6

Response by poster: Not sure if it really counts as cheaper; the basic prescription glasses I bought ended up being $70, the prescription sunglasses were $140.

I think the last wayfarers I bought were over $200 just for the frames!
posted by msbrauer at 6:47 AM on July 6

Please note that the spelling is Zenni and not Zinni
posted by soelo at 6:49 AM on July 6 [16 favorites]

Another vote for EyeBuyDirect -- single vision, cheap no-name frames in a variety of shapes, delivered pretty quick. I got a "don't care if they get broke" regular glasses and sunglasses for like $60 for both (I think I used a coupon or buy-one-get-one deal which are frequent).

Bifocals or other advanced features get expensive, though.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:51 AM on July 6

I've been using EBD for years, and they have really frequent sales so I tend to pick up glasses here and there as I get emails about them. They often have totally fine but not fancy frames for $6-20, and while I have a bifocals prescription I mostly navigate life with single-vision lenses and can keep cheapos on my nightstand, by the TV-watchin' sofa, etc. The price does go up for bifocals or progressives, and the various coatings, but that also happens at the optician and they never have $6-20 frames.

It's definitely changed my life in that I had never owned a second pair of glasses until I started ordering online.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:56 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I bought a pair of glasses on zEnni and love them. $65 total. Make sure you have your pupillary distance. You should be able to call your eye doctor to get it. This is information they keep on file but don't typically write on your script.

Owning more than one pair of glasses is amazing!!
posted by twelve cent archie at 7:02 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I personally like and have been wearing Warby Parker for over a decade , but their glasses start at $95 and go to $125 for higher strength prescriptions. Their aesthetic may appeal a little bit more to you, as they definitely have wayfarer style glasses.

I have a tricky prescription (my vision is weird enough that I have computer glasses, regular glasses and sunglasses) and they work for me, and I have returned glasses/had the lenses redone at no cost. I currently own 3 pairs.
posted by larthegreat at 7:04 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I have had surprisingly good luck with progressive lenses from Zenni. Zero issues and they cost ten percent of what the optical department at my ophthalmologist wanted to charge me. So, not cheap compared to buying readers at the pharmacy but not $1800, either.
posted by corey flood at 7:13 AM on July 6

My wife just ordered two pairs of prescription glasses from Zenni Optical. She's really happy with them, and the price was fantastic ($71 for both pairs, using a coupon code that we found online). My wife's prescription didn't include the pupillary distance, but we were able to measure it without much difficulty. The Zenni website has instructions and a ruler that you can print.
posted by alex1965 at 7:14 AM on July 6

I've been using Zenni since mathowie owned the site and recommended them. (For some reason that sticks in my brain). Like everyone else mentioned, the hardest part is measuring your PD (distance between pupils). The rest is pretty straight forward - enter your PD and prescription, pick your frame, maybe upload a picture of yourself to see the frame on your face. At checkout pick options - anti-glare, tint, etc. Credit card details, and .. wait. That's the worst part, when you are used to amazon next day shipping its painful to have to wait a few weeks.

You'll have to take my cheap prescription sunglasses away from my dead hands (or wait until I've lost or sat on them, anyway...)
posted by cgg at 7:20 AM on July 6

I've had decent experiences with both Zenni and GlassesUSA. If you don't have your current prescription and don't want to call up your optometrist to get it, GlassesUSA has an app you use with your current glasses to figure out the prescription and it worked well for me. But my prescription is strong but otherwise uncomplicated.

In both cases the resulting glasses were a bit flimsier and less well made than the ones I get at the optometrist, but they were also about 20% of the price so that's not unexpected. And it's not anything anyone would notice but the person actually handling the glasses.
posted by Stacey at 7:23 AM on July 6

I've used EyeBuyDirect, Goggles4U, and Zenni and have had good results with all of them. Zenni has been the most consistent though, so I go back to them again and again.

My typical pattern for buying glasses on Zenni is to order three pairs at once: the ones I think I'll like; a more conservative choice; and a bolder choice. I don't load up on options with these first three, just single vision, no upgrades. That makes them come to like $80-ish, shipped. The pair I like best I order again with coating, lighter lenses, etc. and then in that order, I also get some prescription sunglasses. That order will be $85-95, shipped.

In the end, I'll have a pair I really like with all the options, a nearly identical backup pair, two other spares, and prescription sunglasses. All for less than $200.

The simplicity and low cost of this kind of method is aided by me only wearing single vision glasses, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:34 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]

I've used most of the online shops mentioned above, and also want to mention JINS. The quality of their frames are pretty much on par with my expensive frames, and they are inexpensive. They are a Japanese brand.
posted by nanook at 7:38 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]

I haven't had great experiences with Zenni for regular glasses (the prescription on my pair is probably just a little off) but have 3 pairs of prescription sunglasses from them that I've been thrilled with (it's such a luxury to have multiple pairs of sunglasses after decades of only being able to afford one at a time! And the prescription seems right in all of them.). I have a pretty simple prescription so wind up spending $30 - $50 per pair depending on how fancy I get with coatings and such.
posted by snaw at 7:44 AM on July 6

Same as everyone else has said- but I’ve used Glasses USA for years. I’m usually a contacts wearer so I will say that there’s the upside that they don’t usually check that my prescription is within the last year (mine is pretty static) the downside is that they aren’t the most high quality- but also for the prices I’ve paid I’m not surprised (they feel flimsy, the arms get a bit warped, etc)

This is excellent as backup glasses that I don’t mind taking camping, or prescription sunglasses, but for normal, constant use I might look for something nicer
posted by raccoon409 at 7:49 AM on July 6

Zenni fan here. I just measured my own PD in the mirror with a ruler. No complaints at all about the frames, and my experiences with Zenni's polarized sunglasses is that they have better optics than ones that I paid many many hundreds of dollars for at a boutique optometrist (which had some bad distortion out near the edges).
posted by straw at 9:17 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]

My first order from Zenni was uninspiring (one of the bows is curved all to hell), but they did throw in four or five little rulers for measuring pupillary distance and a hard case and a cloth.

As is, these "bent" glasses are still better than the ones I spent most of a hundred bucks for, at Wal-Mart like half a dozen years ago.

I bought the cheapest possible frames and options that Zenni offers, and paid like $24 shipped. I am willing to try again with fancier lens coatings next time.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:54 AM on July 6

I just ordered a pair from Warby Parker (after having tried online glasses about 10 years ago that weren't quite right) and was VERY impressed by the process. It's super easy and slick in the app: see different glasses right on your face, snap a picture of your prescription (or type in the numbers if you want), and use the camera to measure your pupillary distance automatically (is this super accurate? not sure, but the glasses make me happy).

I was sort of desperate because I snapped my glasses in half one morning and didn't have a good spare pair to wear, so I didn't shop around (I was just like "who makes glasses?" click. buy.). Glasses were $95 (+$20 for expedited shipping), shipped the same day I ordered them, and were at my house two days later. I think they're as good as any optician-made pair I've had.
posted by teditrix at 9:57 AM on July 6

I have ordered from several online retailers…Coastal, 39 Dollar, EBD, Zenni but mostly from Firmoo…and never had a problem with ordering. My prescription is not complicated (single vision). I knew my PD measurement but one of them used to send little plastic rulers with my order, another sends tiny screwdriver kits with replacement screws. I think another way of measuring PD is to put on your current glasses, stare straight ahead and have someone mark the center of your pupils on the lenses with a marker.

The online retailers let you filter by frame shape, general frame size, height of lenses, width of frame at temple, earpiece length, and by frame composition. I have had cheaper Zenni acetate frames’ coating peel off after 6 months of daily wear. Since you are looking for a Wayfarer style, you’ve already narrowed down most of the process.

I don’t find the “upload your own photo” feature very reliable but with the help of higher math and photoshop, I came up with a laborious workaround. Customers upload their own selfies and that’s helpful to judging the actual frame size too as a lot of them end up with glasses way too large for their face.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:10 AM on July 6

Forgot to add, is it Warby Parker that would ship you several pairs of frames to try on at home? Another online retailer did it as well…Bon Look?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:13 AM on July 6

I get constant compliments on my Zenni glasses. I have like four pairs, which cost me a total of $100 including anti-glare coating. (I have an uncomplicated prescription.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:40 AM on July 6

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice here.

I actually live close to a Warby Parker does the in-store process differ from the online process?
posted by msbrauer at 10:58 AM on July 6

I like in-store bc I like to try on all the glasses. My face is a little off-balance so I find trying on in-person to be beneficial. YMMV. But their in-store experience is also very efficient. Most locations you can get an eye exam to renew your prescription (must make appointment). But to shop you just walk around--there is floor staff to help you with styles you might like, or you can browse solo then the staff will assist you in ordering the frames with your prescription (using the same site you'd use if you were ordering from home). I also love that once you receive the the frames in the mail, you can take them to the store to have them adjusted to your face for free if they feel uneven or have loose temples.
posted by greta simone at 11:16 AM on July 6

Nthing Zenni. I have used them since 2015 for progressives in the -2.5 range for distance and +2.25 range ADD (near) and have been pretty happy with them, but (if you have progressives) you have be sure to get a tall enough frame get useful mid and near range out of it. The price has consistently been around $100, when in-store glasses (US) have been $400 or so even with VSP. At some point I learned that I could also submit afterwards to VSP and get somewhere around $40-50 reimbursed.

The hardest part was the first pair, when I had to get an idea of the correct measurements to start with. IIRC they were printed on the inside of the earpiece of my most recent in person pair. As someone else mentioned, the first time I got a cheap single-vision (distance) pair just to test them out. Frame quality varies - some feel cheap, but others are very solid. All have been at least “fine.”
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 2:32 PM on July 6

I've used both Zenni and Googles4U. I haven't used GlassesUSA but it should be similar.

It goes roughly like this:

Register a profile

Enter your prescription (there are FAQs if you don't understand what's what). You will need your PD (pupillary distance) which is not always marked on the prescription.

They give you a list of frames that are compatible and you pick a style you like.

Now comes to the lens, and you decide if you want bi-focal / multi-focal or just a single vision lens.

Then you decide if you want to make it thinner/weigh less by opting for more expensive material, or pick those auto-darkening tint glass (Transitions tm) and similar)

You can then opt for coating, like anti-blue-light, anti-oil, anti-smudge, non-reflective, and so on.

You can also opt for tints if you want, and/or any accessories like extra deluxe case, snap-on sunglasses inserts, lens clothes, and so on.

Once you finalize, you pay, and you get your glasses shipped to your home in a few weeks.
posted by kschang at 3:11 PM on July 6

It so happens that I got an eye exam today and did some browsing at the Warby Parker store near me, and came home with my prescription to purchase a pair online. My prescription was already saved in their system, but I also have it in an email so I could copy the numbers and use them with a different glasses retailer.
posted by emelenjr at 3:40 PM on July 6

Well, in person Warby Parker has all the glasses that you can by online to try on, so it’s effectively the same as buying at an optician, but with an option to replicate everything online. If you live near one, you might as well pop in and see if you like anything; I recommend them as an internet option because you can do the whole thing without stepping foot in a store.

In store, an associate creates your online profile for you, you pick out glasses you like and then they order online for you, glasses get shipped to you.

Online, you create the profile yourself/use the app to try on glasses/place order yourself, glasses get shipped to you.

And yes they have an option to ship you 5 frames to try on. They definitely fit a hipster *aesthetic*, so aren’t for everyone.
posted by larthegreat at 3:48 PM on July 6

The one time I bought online I went through Zenni. I was very happy with them, except their progressive lens design wasn't at all right for me (I had no idea there were different ways of grinding progressive lenses), though I understand they now have several different progressive designs. I ended up getting my progressives from Sears, but got a set of computer glasses and a set of bifocals from Zenni. Their prices were great, their customer service was also great, and their online "try them on" feature worked fine.

Pupillary distance is a measurement you must have. I was fortunate in that my prescription came from an optometrist who worked at a larger medical clinic and didn't sell glasses. It was easy to get the measurements from him.
posted by lhauser at 7:09 PM on July 6

Zenni. Easiest time ever buying glasses. And Rx sun glasses!!
posted by james33 at 4:49 AM on July 7

Just to add one more superfluous response, Zenni has been great for me. I actually splurged for a set of progressives from them once, and they worked better than the ones from the local shop. I think the slightly off prescriptions are mostly due to wrong pupil distance. I always straight up tell the optometrist that I need my precise PD because I'm going to be ordering glasses online, and she never balks.

I've ordered dozens of glasses from them at this point. The only ones that didn't work out were errors on my part (wrong size, I messed up the prescription), and they even refund a portion of those kinds of mistakes.
posted by nixxon at 5:29 PM on July 7

I just ordered 4 pairs from Zenni; the total was under $100. This is my third time ordering from Zenni, and I'm really happy to have a place where I can get affordable glasses. It's also nice to be able to re-order the same thing - I broke a pair, and I could just click "Reorder" to replace them. For $25.

Having read the comments above, I may well try Eye Buy Direct next time, but I just wanted to say that I'm very happy with the online buying process and very happy to not have to pay $300 for every pair of glasses.
posted by kristi at 10:01 AM on July 8

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