Coastal is smart and comprehensive and offers a small range of both own-brand and designer frames. The site looks good, but not the best in action. Despite this, it still makes our list of the best eyeglasses online as it has plenty to offer. If you shop smart and your requirements aren’t too demanding, your finished pair won’t cost the earth, but add designer label chic and a pair of progressive lenses and you’re soon talking high hundreds of dollars.
As we explain in our Coastal review, it sells both fashion and prescription eyewear, albeit with a restricted range. It also sells some of the best contact lenses online, which is handy if you wear both types of eyewear. There’s a good list of well-known names, but each designer only has a few of their frames represented. The lens choice isn’t exhaustive either, although nothing is conspicuously missing.
Coastal review: Site build
- Sub-menu issues
- Good looking overall
Date founded: 2000
Pricing starts: $19
Delivery time: "A few days"
The site looks good, but in use it’s a little bit fussy and clunky. Sub-menus pop up in different areas of the screen and need to be clicked just so before you can move on with your shopping. Pop out info boxes blend in with the background and aren’t immediately noticeable, and again, need the correct stroking to remove.
The virtual try-on tool wouldn’t work for us, claiming that our (perfectly functional) webcam was busy elsewhere, and finally admitting in an error box that ‘something went wrong’. The site has been around for a long time and the different sections don’t all have the same flow and the same navigation tools, which can get disorienting.
Coastal review: Wide range
- Designer brands
- Own-brands available
The frames that Coastal does have are fairly varied and really nicely chosen. The range is such that we’d imagine there was something for just about everyone, and our thrifty eye started to look towards some of the juicier designer brands.
Their own-brands are similarly various and a little larger, and again, really stylish. They’ve opted for an only slightly cheaty middle ground, by having their own in-house designers have separate ranges, at a slightly higher cost that the basic models. We have to admit though, they all look very wearable.
Coastal review: Informative
- Useful blogs
- 50 contents pages
Coastal is closing in on its 20th birthday, and its team have been diligently blogging throughout. The result of this is 50 contents pages pointing you to hundreds of really well-written blog post, many very prettily illustrated.
They range from tips, trends, eye care advice and online shopping guides, through to puff pieces and outright advertisements, but they’re all engaging and fun and well worth the effort.
Coastal review: Quality and fashion
- Anti-scratch and reflective as standard
- No tint options
Where some sites have made the most of their expertise in lens technology, Coastal is clearly all about the frames. The range of lenses isn’t basic, but doesn’t do anything you wouldn’t expect either. There are transitions and progressives.
The standard lenses have anti-scratch and reflective coatings, but don’t come included in the price of the frames, so watch out for your final bill. Blue light protection and something called C-Shield is available (it makes it easier to clean, apparently) but we couldn’t find options for tints.
Coastal review: Customer service and deals
- Phone number contact
- Deals online
Coastal offers free shipping and free returns, as well as something called ‘personalized customer care’ (a phone number). We’re not sure one phone number between all of us constitutes personalized, but never mind.
There are a bunch of offers, ranging from standard clearance sections to buy-one-get-one-free deals. Coastal coupons are often loose on the web too, and you often get good deals from discounted coupon sites such as Groupon.
Coastal review: Charity work
- One pair donated for every purchase
- Helped with 1.5 million vision screenings
Like many of its competitors, Coastal likes to talk about its charity work, and donates a pair of glasses for every one it sells. It claims it’s helped with 1.5 vision screening and 400,000 pairs of glasses, but the info on the website is out of date by a couple of years so it could be more.
If a social conscience is something that’s important to you in your online eyewear outlet, Coastal definitely has you covered. Or did, in 2017 at least.
Should you buy from Coastal?
Coastal offers a small range of good-looking frames, including designer pairs, at fair but not discounted prices. The lens range isn’t that extensive, but is perfectly serviceable as long as you don’t need anything too specific.
There are offers and extra info and Coastal is keen to sing the praises of its customer service department. There’s no ‘try at home’ box, and the virtual try-on didn’t work for us. Sadly, a slightly generic story and a few technical let downs don’t help Coastal to distinguish itself from the crowd.