Buying glasses online is a growing trend and we've spent the last ten years researching and comparing services to find the best glasses online.
When evaluating the best places to buy glasses online, we look in-depth at what each company has to offer, considering criteria like the number of lens options and frame styles each one has, also well as whether each service accepts vision insurance. That's not forgetting the tools and interface each site has to help you correctly and easily order and return glasses.
GlassesUSA.com carries a large selection of non-designer frames and makes all the lenses it uses in its own laboratory to ensure they are of the highest quality. Both these reasons make it a good choice for purchasing glasses online.VIEW DEAL ON GlassesUSA.com
Buying glasses online
Buying glasses online has gained popularity in recent years and some business experts predict that this trend will grow. Richard Kestenbaum, writing for Forbes, contends that buying glasses online will become even more popular.
Some complications exist now, but that may change in the future, Kestenbaum writes. For example, you need a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist, which requires an on-site eye exam. More difficult is the fact you also need an indicator of the pupillary distance (PD), the distance between your eyes, so that the lenses can be ground properly. Not every optometrist provides that easily. However, Kestenbaum indicates some firms are working on online tools that will measure PD with a smartphone or computer camera, which could dramatically change the market for online glasses.
It’s also important to check with your vision insurance to make sure it will cover glasses online, according to Andrea Browne Taylor, the online editor for Kiplinger.com. If not, you might use a flexible spending account or health savings account to offset some costs.
Can I buy glasses online without a prescription?
While you can buy fashion-only glasses online without a prescription, if you need them for vision correction, you must have a current prescription. To buy prescription glasses online, you must input data from your eye doctor into the order form. Often, you can email or fax your prescription information if you prefer. In case you don’t have a copy of your prescription or are unsure about how to read it, many online glasses companies can contact your eye doctor’s office to get the necessary information.
Reputable online glasses stores strongly encourage customers to get regular eye exams. Some, like Eyeglasses.com, even have locator features on their websites to help you find a local eye doctor.
If you have excellent vision naturally or wear contact lenses but like glasses for their stylish flair, you can buy non-prescription glasses from many providers. In most cases, you need to pay for the lenses, though non-prescription lenses cost much less than corrective lenses. Still, some online stores include very basic non-prescription lenses in the price of the frames. In addition, some companies let you enhance non-prescription lenses with extras like anti-reflective coating, anti-scratch coating or even UV protection. However, you need to pay for those features as well.
1. GlassesUSA.com: best overall
GlassesUSA.com has over 6,000 frames in stock from more than 45 designers. You can shop by the type of glasses you want, like multifocal lenses or sunglasses. There are numerous kinds of glasses available, including prescription glasses and glasses in a range of colors and styles, To make it easier to find your perfect glasses, you can even search by brand, sales and even trends like lightweight glasses, tortoise shell frames or clip-on sunglasses.
GlassesUSA.com frequently offers coupon codes and discounts, so you'll most likely be able to find something affordable as well. If you're unsure what kind of frames will look best on you, the website also has a digital try-on feature, called the Try-It Mirror. You can use preloaded photos of models or upload an image of yourself or your child to see what the glasses will look like. This eliminates the chance of getting your glasses in the mail and immediately hating them. Every pair you buy is backed with a 365-day warranty, and you get free shipping and returns in the United States. Customer service is proactive too, responding professionally to every review on leading user-review sites like TrustPilot, and offering to resolve any negative issues that are mentioned. With a wide selection, easy-to-use website and great shipping and return options, GlassesUSA.com is one of the best places to shop for frames online.
- Read our in-depth GlassesUSA.com review
2. FramesDirect.com: best for kits
This online glasses company has more than 100,000 frames to pick from, many of which are for kids. You can search by brand, style and lens type, including single-vision and progressive lenses or even bifocal and trifocal lenses. The frames for kids are where this website really excels. We saw more than 30 pages of frames to pick from in a rainbow of colors. Some single frames have as many as a dozen color options. If you have an adventurous child who oftentimes forgets they're wearing their glasses, this website is ideal because you get an anti-scratch coating and edge polishing on frames without having to pay extra. Lenses also come with a UV lens coating. Alongside kid's glasses, FramesDirect has a large selection of regular and prescription sunglasses. FramesDirect gives you free shipping on all orders within the United States and you can expect to get your order in three to eight days. You can also pay for faster shipping if your child needs new glasses ASAP. You can also try on any glasses before you buy them with virtual try on. If you still need help, customer service is available to give you pointers and help you find the perfect fit by measuring your face.
Read our in-depth FramesDirect.com review
3. Zenni: best value
Zenni is an affordable place to get your lenses and frames for men, women and children. There is an entire section to look through featuring glasses for under $10. There are several ways to shop, including by frame material such as plastic or stainless steel. You have more than 6,000 frames to choose from. You can also pick up a pair of reading glasses or add personalized text along the arm of your frames so you'll always be able to identify them. The website has a quick start guide to help you pick out the perfect pair. It suggests knowing your pupillary distance, which is the length between your pupils. You can also upload a photo of yourself to the website's digital try on feature, Zenni Frame Fit. There are single-vision, high-index and polarized lenses, the latter of which you can add a tint to. If you have progressive and bifocal prescriptions, you can also shop for photochromic or transition lenses. The one downside to this website is it takes a while to get your glasses: 14 to 21 days. You can pay extra for fast shipping if you need to.
Read our in-depth Zenni.com review
4. Frame Boutique: best search
This website has one of the easiest user interfaces out there. First you search by gender and then narrow the results down by style. Frame Boutique has prescription lenses, sunglasses, readers and every style of rim on the market. Granted this website doesn't yield a ton of search results in every category, but it is very easy to find exactly what you're looking for. You might think the frames are limited, but you can buy ones that work for bifocal and progressive lenses. You even get anti-scratch and UV coatings for no additional cost. There are tinted lenses available along with lots of designer brands to choose from. Searching for accessories is also separated out by gender for easy searching and there are a lot of products available, including microfiber cloths, cases and chains. Once you've figured out what you want you can double check with the virtual-try on feature with either preloaded model photos or an image of your own face. You also get free shipping and free returns should your purchase not work out. Zenni doesn’t have a very large selection, but it is one of the easiest websites to use for ordering glasses.
Read our in-depth Frame Boutique review
5. Eyeglasses.com: best selection
This glasses retailer has the largest selection available. Founded in 1999, this company has a lot to offer. You can search through glasses from more than 400 name-brand designers and sort by shape, price, color, rim style and a variety of other factors. There are lenses available if you need distance, progressive, bifocal or trifocal lenses, as well as just single-vision or reading glasses. They are manufactured at Essilor, a massive lens laboratory, and come with a UV coating and anti-glare coating. You can also add on color and gradient tints along with polarized tint or mirror coating. The downside to Eyeglasses.com is the shipping cost. You have to spend $55 or more to qualify for free shipping, which will take between one and six days in the United States. They also don't pay for returns if your glasses don't work out, but that shouldn't happen if you use the website's virtual try-on feature. The site also has a dressing room function where you can compare images of yourself wearing different frames side-by-side. There is, however, a 30-day period after you’ve bought your glasses to return them, no questions asked. If you need further help you can get in touch with customer service via live chat, phone or email.
Read our in-depth Eyeglasses.com review
Things to consider when buying glasses online: shipping
The great thing about most companies that sell glasses online is that the shipping is usually free! This means no matter how much you spend, you'll get your glasses in the mail at no additional cost. The few websites that do have a free shipping minimum usually set it around $50, and as most glasses cost that much (or more), it's most likely not going to be a problem.
Can I return prescription glasses?
If you follow all the steps correctly to get your online prescription glasses and they just don’t work for you, reputable companies will exchange the glasses, provide a full or partial refund or sometimes give store credit. The length of time you get to decide whether to keep a particular pair varies substantially from one company to another, so you need to check that before buying. For example, Zenni Optical gives you 30 days to call for a “return authorization” and offers a 30-day warranty, while Coastal.com gives you 14 days for an exchange or refund, and has a year-long warranty covering manufacturing defects. Some firms give you a full year, but they often require that the glasses must be returned in unused condition, and some companies, in rare cases, will deny returns.
If you are having trouble seeing with the glasses you ordered, you can take them to the optometrist who initially examined your eyes and wrote the prescription to inspect the glasses for accuracy. However, you’ll likely need to pay for this service. It could be that your prescription needs adjusting or that the lenses were not ground correctly.
How to find frames online that flatter your face
Buying glasses online is tricky enough just with getting the lenses right, but finding frames that look good adds yet another complication. There are four factors to consider, according to an article on VSP’s website. VSP is Vision Service Plan, an international vision insurance company.
The first consideration is your face shape. If you have a round face, VSP recommends square or rectangular frames. For an oval face, choose frames that are wider than the broadest part of your face and look geometric in shape. Oval and round eyeglass frames look good on square faces. If you have a diamond face, try frames that are wider than your cheekbones and perhaps slant upward. For a heart-shape face, check out frames that draw attention to the lower part of your face and draw an onlooker's eye away from the forehead.
VSP also recommends you considering your skin tone. If you have warm skin tones, go for gold, bronze, honey or tortoise frames. On the other hand, if you have cool skin tones, try black, dark tortoise, silver or even colors such as pink or purple. In addition, the company suggests you consider your personality and lifestyle when choosing frames.
Many online glasses retailers help you pick frames with virtual try-on features. To use this tool, you either upload an image of yourself or use a webcam, then try different frames on the picture to see how they look on you without even leaving home. Five of the online glass companies we reviewed offer this useful service: GlassesUSA.com, Eyeglasses.com, SmartBuyGlasses, FramesDirect and Zenni Optical.
How often should I get an eye exam?
There’s no set rule, and it’s not uncommon for people to keep wearing their glasses for years as long as they can see well and the glasses are comfortable. On the other hand, some people choose to change frames often for fashion purposes. Others want to make the use of a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account before the calendar year runs out.
The Mayo Clinic recommends eye exams for children once before age three, then another eye exam between ages three and five, and an exam every year or two after that. Adults over 30, in good health and without vision problems, should get an eye exam every two to four years.
However, if you wear glasses or contact lenses, the Mayo Clinic recommends more frequent eye exams – even if you don’t think you need to get new glasses. It also urges individuals to get frequent exams if they are at risk for vision problems from a chronic disease like diabetes or if they have a family history of eye problems.
Can new prescription lenses be added to your old glass frames?
That’s certainly possible, as long as the frames are good quality and well made. Attempting to put prescription lenses into cheap drugstore sunglass frames simply won’t work. A colleague at Top Ten Reviews has recycled the same pair of glasses frames three times, getting new prescription lenses as her prescription changed.
She said she was cautioned by the retailer that the process of inserting new lenses into older frames might not be successful because it can put a lot of stress on the old frames, but so far it has worked well for her. She likes her existing frames and appreciates the fact that she doesn’t have to always buy new ones. This cuts the cost quite a bit.
In the online platform Quora, several people weighed in on the question of whether you can put new lenses into frames for sunglasses, and the consensus was yes, as long as the frames were high quality .
In that Q&A, Neda Gaikwad, who is working toward a master’s degree in optometry and vision sciences at the University of Hyderabad in India, addressed the question of putting new lenses into sunglass frames. She suggested instead considering light-sensitive glasses that darken when you go outdoors. “It'll be amazing when you're out in the sun and you don't have to decide between sun glasses or your own spectacles,” she says. However, she cautions that these kinds of glasses cause a bit of trouble inside where the lighting is low due to lower contrast.
Who can write you a prescription to buy glasses online?
Virtually every online glasses store requires you to provide a prescription for corrective lenses. But where do you get one?
Typically, a local optometrist can give you an eye exam and write a prescription. Optometrists are not medical doctors, but they can diagnose eye disorders and abnormalities. They are also authorized to prescribe medication for some eye diseases.
You can also get a prescription from an ophthalmologist, who is a medical doctor. Ophthalmologists can handle vision-related medical procedures, prescribe necessary eye medications and perform eye surgery. Some ophthalmologists get additional training and subspecialize in areas such as glaucoma, the retina, the cornea, pediatrics, neurology and plastic surgery, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus’ website.
Are prescription sunglasses necessary?
Not only are sunglasses cool to wear, but they also serve a vital purpose in protecting your vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says, “The sun can be harmful to your eyes and skipping protection for them altogether can be dangerous.” This applies whether you need glasses for vision correction or if you have 20/20 vision.
“The most important part of any pair of sunglasses – prescription or not – is the UV-blocking lens. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays contribute to a number of eye problems, including cataracts, cancer and growths on the eye,” according to the AAO.
For people who need glasses to see clearly, prescription sunglasses can be a boon. With them, there’s no more fiddling around with snap-on dark lenses, which might not block all or close to 100 percent of UV rays – something that’s essential for the best vision protection. You also don’t need to bother with contact lenses to actually see what you’re doing. Buying prescription sunglasses online is similar to buying regular glasses, and virtually all the companies we reviewed offer a variety of sunglasses.
Why are eyeglass frames so expensive?
It is easy to find reasonably priced eyeglass frames from many online retailers, but often the most stylish and attractive frames are surprisingly costly. You’d think the technology and craftsmanship that goes into lenses would be the driving factor that hikes the price of glasses, but the cost of frames can do quite a bit to boost the final price.
One reason is that for many consumers, glasses have evolved from simple vision correction devices to fashion statements. Another reason is a mammoth Italian company called Luxottica manufacturers most of the designer brand frames. Prada, Armani, Tiffany, Chanel and Ralph Lauren frames come from Luxottica, according to a 2014 report in Forbes. Luxottica also makes frames for companies not traditionally associated with luxury such as Target Optical, Lenscrafters and Pearle Vision.
Luxottica is the biggest eyewear company in the world, and with such size and reach, it can influence prices. However, the company denies it is a monopoly and notes the quality and appeal of its frames.
Of course, no one is forced to buy designer glasses, and if you’re on a budget, there are online eyeglass retailers with fine selections of attractive, more reasonably priced frames. Zenni Optical makes its own frames, which cuts out the middleman and can help keep costs down. A quick look at the New Arrivals section on the Zenni webpage showed nice-looking glasses ranging from $19.00 to $32.95. There are also sale sections on its website with glasses that start as low as $6.95 for frames and basic, single-vision lenses. Naturally, the cost of these rock-bottom price glasses increases when you add specialty lenses like bifocals and if you get anti-glare and anti-scratch coatings, but they’re still very inexpensive.
Shopping online for children’s glasses
You can buy glasses for kids from many of the same sites you can buy your own. You just need a copy of your child’s prescription and information about their pupillary distance (PD) from their eye doctor. However, there are some special considerations to keep in mind.
Since your child’s nose is small and still growing, it can be difficult to get a proper fit on the bridge to keep their glasses from sliding down. Nose pads affixed to the inside of the glasses can help. A saddle bridge, which loops entirely over the nose but does not use nose pads, can also help if it fits tightly enough.
To further aid in keeping glasses positioned right on your child’s face, you can purchase frames with a cable temple – a C-shape extension of the frame that extends down from the top of the ear and around it. It should fit snugly but not tight enough to be uncomfortable.
Another boon to parents everywhere is the invention of flexible eyeglass frames that can withstand twisting and still not break. Other all-important features are anti-scratch coatings and anti-glare coatings. The latter helps reduce eyestrain and strain-induced headaches, especially when your child is under fluorescent lights at school, watches TV and uses mobile screens.
When you buy glasses for kids online, it’s good to shop on a site that has a generous return policy since it may take some trial and error to get frames that fit right.
Are those lens coatings really necessary?
As you order glasses online, you’ll notice the sites always offer a number of lens coatings. They jack up the price enough that you might wonder if any of them are absolutely necessary.
Certain coatings can make your lenses more durable and prolong the life of your glasses. Scratches, glare from strong sunlight and glare from computer screens can hamper your vision, and in many cases, they cause eyestrain and headaches. Lens fogging can also cause vision problems.
Anti-scratch coatings are usually always worthwhile. “Today, most eyeglass lenses, including high-index lenses and lenses made of polycarbonate and Trivex, have a built-in scratch-resistant coating,” according to a 2017 article in the online publication AllAboutVision.com.
However, blog author Dr. Gary Heiting, an optometrist, says lenses with scratch-resistant coating on the front and back have a harder surface that resists scratches caused by being dropped or being cleaned with something rough like a paper towel.
Anti-reflective coating can cut down on or even get rid of glare from light reflecting off your lenses. This coating is especially useful for night driving, reading and using a computer. “AR coating is highly recommended for all eyeglass lenses, but particularly for polycarbonate and high-index lenses, which reflect more light than regular glass or plastic lenses if anti-reflective coating is not applied,” Heiting says.
If you live in an area that gets very cold, an anti-fog coating could save your life, since fogged up glasses can hamper your ability to see once you come inside a warm place. There is a coating called Fog Free that gets rid of moisture condensation on lenses and prevents glasses from fogging up. “Fog Free can be applied to plastic, polycarbonate and other eyeglass lenses, including high-index lenses and Transitions photochromic lenses. The anti-fog coating is applied to the lenses before they are cut to fit into your frame at the optical lab. Ask your optical retailer about pricing and availability,” Heiting says.
You can also try Optifog lenses. For them to work, you need to apply a drop of Optifog Activator onto each lens, then use a microfiber cloth to smooth the liquid fully across both sides of the lenses. One drop per lens eliminates fog for as long as a week.
In addition, you may want a coating that blocks ultraviolet (UV) light. The sun’s rays can contribute to cataracts, retinal damage and other problems, according to Heiting. This coating helps protect your sight. Most plastic prescription lenses already have some UV light protection, but you can opt to pay for a UV-blocking dye that gives you complete protection. You don’t need this coating if you get photochromatic, polycarbonate or high-index plastic lenses.
How to care for your glasses
No matter where you buy your glasses, one thing is certain: They’re bound to get smudged and dirty, usually daily. It’s important to clean them correctly to protect your investment, even if you nabbed an online bargain. Scratched lenses won’t hurt your vision, but they can cause eyestrain and headaches, according to a 2018 Q&A section on the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s website.
You should resist the urge to simply grab the edge of your shirt to clean your lenses, since this can create tiny scratches. Many people are surprised to learn that tissues, paper towels and paper napkins are also too harsh for cleaning eyeglass lenses. You should also avoid using spray liquid window cleaners and other household cleaning products at all costs, since they can harm the protective coatings.
According to an article on AllAboutVision.com, the best approach is to blow off any debris and then gently wash the glasses with warm water and non-lotion dish detergent. Make sure to clean all areas, including the frame and nose pads, then shake the glasses a bit and dry with a lint-free dish towel that hasn’t been treated with any kind of fabric softener (liquid or dryer sheet). “A cotton towel that you use to clean fine glassware is a good choice. Make sure the towel is perfectly clean. Dirt or debris trapped in the fibers of a towel can scratch your lenses; and cooking oil, skin oil or lotion in the towel will smear them,” the article says.
When you’re on the go or even at home, microfiber cloths intended for cleaning glasses work beautifully, and they don’t harm the lenses. These typically are inexpensive, and you often can buy packs of multiple cloths.
If your new glasses are giving you a headache, there are several things that could be causing the problem. Fortunately, they all have relatively easy fixes! The most common cause of headaches with new glasses is a prescription change. If you didn't get headaches wearing your old glasses but do while wearing new ones, visit a doctor's office and make sure your lenses are the right prescription. There's always a chance the online company made a mistake, and even a slight deviation can make a difference. If you know your prescription has changed, give your eyes a chance to adjust. The headaches will go away over time.
Your glasses can also cause headaches if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen. If you have this problem, invest in an anti-glare filter and make sure your prescription isn't too strong for close-up reading. If you get headaches during certain times of the day or during certain activities, it may be caused by the lighting. Bright lights combined with an incorrect prescription is a recipe for disaster and usually means it's time to get new lenses with an updated prescription.
If you're experiencing headaches, blurred vision or have difficulty concentrating visually, there's a possibility you're experiencing overprescription. If you've already consulted with your eye doctor more than once about these problems, we'd suggest getting a second opinion. Wearing lenses with a prescription that is too strong can cause a multitude of side effects that can be avoided simply by wearing a different lens.
Once you've found the perfect glasses, you need to protect them. If you work in an industry that puts the safety of your glasses at risk, Cocoons has exactly what you need. This company sells lightweight durable sunglasses meant to be worn over your prescription glasses. Think safety glasses, but much more stylish and just as protective. These frames can eliminate glare, block UV rays and help you see better in extreme conditions. There are more than 500 size, color and lens combinations to pick from. The online size finder makes it easy to figure out which lenses will work for you, but just in case they're not perfect, the company has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Whether you work in an industry with a lot of debris or simply look at computer screens a lot or need help with avoiding glare at night, Cocoons has a protective pair of stylish glasses that will work for you.
Extra features to consider
Not everyone needs specialty coatings or lenses, but they may help your vision, improve comfort or make wearing glasses more convenient. Even though they add to the cost of lenses, most people find things like standard coatings to be necessary. For example, anti-scratch coatings are essential for both children and adults, and anti-glare coatings can prevent eyestrain and its accompanying symptoms such as headaches. However, some online retailers offer other extras you might like. Here are some to consider:
Polycarbonate lenses: These plastic lenses are lightweight and can take plenty of knocks. They’re often used for children’s glasses but are also an excellent choice for active adults who risk having their glasses knocked off in sports, gymnastics, dance and other activities.
Progressive lenses: These glasses don’t have the obvious lines found on regular bifocal and trifocal lenses. Progressive lenses look better and are less aging. In addition, they can make it easier to see since there aren’t dividing lines in the middle of the lenses.
Photochromic lenses: These dual-purpose lenses correct vision in indoor lighting and darken when exposed to sunlight. However, they don’t get quite as dark as most sunglasses.
Most of the online eyeglasses services we reviewed also sell contact lenses so check out our expert best contact lenses buying guide.
Buying from a physical retailer
Despite the convenience of online shopping, some people choose to stick to their local optometrist’s office for their glasses, according to Nathan Amery, who has managed eyewear ecommerce websites Pretavoir.co.uk and GlassesNow.co.uk, and now leads digital marketing at jewellerybox Ltd. In a 2014 post on Quora, a question and answer website, he observed several reasons why. For example, you can get a better sense of how the glasses feel and how heavy they are when you physically try them.
You might choose to shop in person if you need someone to answer questions, provide feedback or examine your old glasses, and this is “especially true for people who have high or complex prescriptions or varifocals,” Amery said.
Amery says some consumers “just need to be sold to or recommended something. Imagine this was your first pair of glasses – all you had was a piece of paper with numbers on it that meant nothing to you. I’d rather go to a shop in that situation.”