Here’s How to Buy Eyeglasses Online
Buying eyeglasses at the doctor’s office can get expensive. Your insurance might cover a certain portion of the purchase, but you might find that additional options add to the expense. Plus, you might not even have vision insurance to pay for glasses. Unfortunately, most people who need vision correction have to devote some of their hard-earned money for corrective lenses.
You don’t have to purchase eyeglasses locally, though. There are benefits to buying them online. The top websites that sell glasses are reputable and offer a hassle-free approach to ordering specs.
Benefits of Buying Eyeglasses Online
You can usually save money by ordering eyeglasses online. Some websites offer glasses for as low as $6 per pair. Designer frames and lenses are more expensive, but they still tend to cost less online than at your optometrist or a discount retailer, such as Lenscrafters.
Statista reports that the average retail price for eyeglass frames in the U.S. was $125 in 2012. That doesn’t include the cost of lenses.  ECP University says that the median retail price of glasses with lenses in a brick-and-mortar practice is $227. The typical markup is 2.6 times the wholesale price.  Online vendors can usually charge less because they manufacture their own glasses and cut out the middleman.
Ordering eyeglasses online also saves time. You’ll have to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist to obtain and update your prescription. After that, you can spend time browsing the selection of frames from the comfort of your own home instead of driving to and from an office or store.
Moreover, online eyeglass retailers often have large selections. Depending on where you live, your options for buying glasses locally may be limited.
If you don’t wear contact lenses, it can be hard to determine how a particular frame style looks on you. You can’t see yourself well in the mirror when you try the glasses on, and you have to guess whether they complement your features. When you buy online, you can often upload a photo of yourself and try on the glasses digitally.
Have These Before You Order
You’ll need an up-to-date prescription to order glasses online. Eyewear prescriptions are usually good for one or two years, depending on the state in which you live. Most opticians will provide you with the prescription for each lens.
Your prescription won’t always indicate the pupillary distance, or PD. This is the distance between the pupil of each eye. Your lenses aren’t uniform in thickness, and the surface that sits directly in front of your pupil is vital for helping you focus properly. If you don’t have the right PD, you might see double, have blurry vision, or experience eye strain.
Most online eyeglass retailers give instructions for measuring your PD. For a more accurate measurement, you can go to your local optician’s office. Many charge a fee to perform this service, however.
You’ll need to know the name, phone number, and address of your eye doctor. Most retailers double check your prescription using this information. You’ll also need a credit card to make a purchase.
Ordering glasses online is almost that easy. There are a few other things that you might want to consider, however. Options include:
- Lens materials: Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses are extremely durable and lightweight. They’re usually preferable for children or people who are physically active.
- Lens coatings: You can often choose from anti-glare, scratch-resistant, UV-protective, and anti-fog coatings.
- Lens types: You need to know whether you wear progressive lenses or bifocals. You might also want photochromic lenses, which get darker in the sun.
You might also want to have a ruler or measuring tape and your current pair of glasses handy. Frames come in many different sizes. You might need to measure the glasses that you already wear to choose the best frame width and height as well as the length of the arms and the width of the bridge.
Top Sites to Shop for Glasses
Your online shopping experience may not be stress-free if you don’t shop at a reliable site. The top sites offer many styles and other perks to make buying glasses online easy and straightforward. 
One of the main reasons to shop at Warby Parker is that the company will ship you five frames to try at home for free. This is usually more effective than using a virtual fitting tool online. Warby Parker will mail the styles to you, and you must send them back within five days using a prepaid return label to avoid getting charged.
If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, the company offers a quiz to help you find the most appropriate styles. Prescription glasses start at $95 per pair, and for every set of glasses that you order, a pair is distributed to someone in need.
If you’re looking for a less expensive range of options, you might want to check out Zenni Optical. Many glasses cost between $15 and $30 with basic lens materials and coatings.
Every product page gives you the option to preview the way that the glasses look on a photo. After you make a purchase, you’ll typically receive the glasses within two to three weeks. If the glasses need minor fit adjustments, you can follow the detailed instructions on this page to help them fit properly and comfortably.
Most frames on EyeBuyDirect cost between $10 and $50. Lenses add another $6.95 to $100, depending on your prescription and the options that you choose.
EyeBuyDirect also offers RFLKT Eyewear, a line of premium frames that are handmade. With every purchase of one of these frames, EyeBuyDirect sends a pair of glasses to a child in need. Although these may sound more expensive, they’re not. RFLKT frame prices include premium lenses with anti-scratch, anti-reflective and UV-protective coatings.
All these websites offer tutorials for measuring your PD. They also let you upload a photo to preview different frames on your face. Warby Parker is the only option that will send you frames to try on for free. Strong prescriptions or special requirements will generally cost more on any of these sites. Still, you might end up paying less and having a larger selection to choose from when buying glasses online.
- “Average Retail Price of Eyeglass Frames in the U.S. 2010-2012 | Statistic.” Statista: The Statistics Portal, Statista, 2018, statista.com/statistics/256941/average-retail-price-of-eyeglass-frames-in-the-us/.
- KEY METRICS: Assessing Optometric Practice Performance: 2015 EDITION. Practice Advancement Associates & Essilor, 2015, KEY METRICS: Assessing Optometric Practice Performance: 2015 EDITION, ecpu.com/media/wysiwyg/docs/paa_keymetrics_0415.pdf.
- Boerner, Leigh Krietsch. “The Best Places to Buy Glasses Online.” Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World, Wirecutter, Inc., 8 May 2018, thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-places-to-buy-glasses-online/.