If you like this post, check out my post on flash sale sites for fashion and decor at sample sale prices. Also check out my post on a SECRET way to get up to 40% off online stores even when they don’t list a promo code! Last, check out one of the most popular posts on Hello Foxy – a roundup of 100+ monthly subscription boxes like Birchbox and Julep.
Hi, my name is Laurie and I own six pairs of prescription eyeglasses.
It’s not a problem unless it’s a problem. Right?
If you’re looking for cheap prescription glasses but have a fear of buying prescription glasses online, I am here to HEAL YOU. Because buying glasses online is CRAZY CHEAP and is totally, totally safe and awesome, as long as you go to the right places.
The great thing about owning six pairs of prescription eyeglasses, other than having a different pair for every day of the work week, is that I know a LOT of great places to buy glasses online. Did I mention that I bought 5 of those 6 pairs online?
Luckily, I’m here to tell you which places those are.
If you’re an old pro at shopping for glasses online and just want to see the list of shops, click HERE to skip ahead.
Cheap Prescription Glasses Online: A Buying Guide
What You’ll Need Before Shopping for Glasses Online
Your vision prescription
It doesn’t have to be on any formal letterhead, you could literally have it written on the back of a napkin. All you need are the actual numbers so you can type them into the website. The main thing is that you need to have all of the numbers, which brings me to:
PD is short for ‘pupillary distance’ and it basically measures how far apart your eyes are. The thing that sucks about this is that most optometrists do NOT write this on your prescription. I don’t know if it’s because they want to force you to buy glasses from their office or what, but if you want your PD, you’re probably going to have to ask for it.
Luckily, if you don’t have plans to see your optometrist again any time soon, there are ways you can measure it at home. But don’t just guess! Your PD is how they determine where to center your field of vision in the lens so getting it wrong can screw up your glasses, give you headaches and make it hard for you to see. Here’s a video that shows you how to measure your PD at home.
What you’re looking for
Are you looking for every day glasses that will match any outfit or are looking for something fun to wear occasionally? What kind of glasses do you already have? If you already have black frame glasses, or wire frame glasses, maybe you don’t want to get another pair that looks almost exactly the same.
If you’re wondering whether to upgrade to a thinner lens and anti-reflective coating, I can say from experience that you definitely should. You’re saving so much money with any of these online stores that it’s totally worth it. Lenses that don’t have anti-reflective coating look awful in pictures and can give you a headache if you work at a computer all day. And thicker lenses are noticeably heavier in my experience (especially if you have a stronger prescription) and can leave painful indentations on your nose. Ouch!
What looks good on you (optional)
Pretty much all online eyeglass retailers offer some sort of virtual try-on where you can superimpose an image of the glasses over a photo of yourself to get a sense of how they look, and some shops will even ship frames to your house for free so you can try them on in person. And almost all of them have a pretty liberal return policy (free returns within anywhere from 30 days to a year). So it’s not absolutely imperative that you know what you want going in but it will make the process quicker and easier for you.
The best way to figure out what glasses suit your face is to go to a store with a friend and try on as many pairs as you can. Take photos of yourself so that you can look over them later to remind yourself what worked and what didn’t.
We all know that certain face shapes look better with round frames or rectangle but there are other things to look out for too – do you look better with a heavy brow or a lighter one? Thick frames or thin? Light or dark? Big or small? Plastic or metal? Wide arms or slim? Patterns or solids? Rectangle or geometric? Frames that angle slightly up or slightly down?
If it sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. You’ll get a sense pretty quickly of what you like and what you don’t. Knowing these things will make it easier to buy glasses online with confidence but if you’re not sure, just check out the virtual try-on centers, see if you can have a few pairs sent to your house to test and make sure the shop has a solid return policy.
Your insurance / Flexible Spending Account information (optional)
If you’re lucky enough to have vision insurance, check to see if they’ll reimburse for glasses that you purchase online. Many insurance companies will. Find out what you need to be reimbursed – most online shops will happily provide an itemized receipt for you to submit to your insurance provider.
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) through your employer, you only have until December 31 to use up the money or you lose it forever (some programs have a grace period through early March). If you have money left in your account that you need to spend, you can use it to buy prescription glasses and sunglasses. If you have money left in your account, this could be a good time to pick up a new pair.
The Best Places to Buy cheap prescription glasses Online
Warby Parker has a great home try-on program so that your purchase really is risk-free. You can pick 5 pairs of glasses and they’ll send them to your house for free. You can try them out for 5 days, get your friends’ opinions and make faces at yourself in the mirror in the privacy of your home (just me?). Available to anyone in the 48 contiguous states (sorry, Alaska and Hawaii).
(1) evelyn in marine slate, (2) liv in greystone, (3) mabel in gimlet tortoise, (4) beckett in striped evergreen, (5) huxley in tennessee whiskey, (6) marshall in rum cherry, (7) tenley in burgundy fade, (8) holt in blue slate fade, (9) crosby in marine slate, (10) winston in old-fashioned fade, (11) duckworth in marine slate, (12) nedwin in summer green
I have Beckett in Striped Evergreen and people always ask me where I got them. So cute!
Best Part: Warby Parker sells monocles. No joke. You might need a monocle to go with your monthly pocket square subscription. Actual Best Part: for every pair of glasses they sell they’ll send a pair to someone in need. They also partner with non-profits to train low-income entrepreneurs to sell affordable glasses. Nice!
I bought a pair of cute prescription sunglasses from Global Eyeglasses this fall. My grand total was $52.35 including tax, shipping AND a lens upgrade (because I’m blind as a bat). I was nervous about buying from this company site unseen but it turned out great. These are now my go-to sunglasses.
Global Eyeglasses has a virtual try-on center, like pretty much all online glasses stores do now, so you can get a sense of how the glasses will look on you before you purchase. They don’t have a home try-on program but they do have a 30-day money-back guarantee so if you hate the ones you get you can always send them back.
Plus: they work with a couple of international non-profits to provide vision care to people in need all over the world. Global! Get it?
(1) anthony brown sunglasses, (2) blown away sunglasses, (3) fusion red sunglasses, (4) taylor mayne sunglasses, (5) apollo – purple, (6) carlos – black, (7) tough – brown, (8) relax, (9) angrycat, (10) passion – lime green, (11) passion – pink, (12) band of adams – tortoise shell, (13) tropical beach – green, (14) dark sludge – black, (15) hotcat – brown
I picked up a gorgeous pair of peach ombré frames from Coastal awhile back and paid $91.98, including tax, shipping and fancy upgrades for ultra thin, anti-scratch, anti-reflective lenses. Amazing. Super recommend.
If this is your first time shopping with Coastal, enter code FIRSTPAIRFREE to get your first pair free. This only applies to certain frames but it applies to a lot of cute ones, including the peach ones I bought.
I made my first GlassesUSA purchase earlier this year and I could not have been happier. I got these super cute glasses for a grand total of $84.40, including shipping AND special, extra thin lenses (I have a strong prescription). The last pair of glasses I bought at the mall cost almost $600 so I was PRETTY happy.
The funniest part is that these are the cheapest glasses I’ve ever purchased and they ended up being the ones I wear almost every day. I love them.
You’ll get free shipping, and free returns within one year of purchase. Anti-scratch coating is included with any lens.
I’ve never bought from this site but they have cute glasses and they have a home try-on program that’s similar to Warby Parker’s. Frames (including basic lenses with anti-scratch coating) seem to range from about $97 – $117. They also donate to a non-profit in Utah that gives needy children access to high-quality vision care.
I think Zenni Optical was one of the first shops on the cheap prescription eyeglasses scene. I remember seeing ads for their $8 glasses yeeeeears ago. I’ve never personally bought from them but I have a friend who did and had a positive experience. Her glasses are super cute.
(1) black geometric, (2) aqua blue wayfarers, (3) leopard print wayfarers, (4) leading edge – dark purple, (5) tortoiseshell geometric, (6) brown rectangle with bows, (7) green wayfarers, (8) yellow pattern
Zenni tends to have really crazy frames that I would buy as a second or third pair but not as a pair I’d wear every day. Frames start as low as $6.95 so you could get several pairs to switch between for the price you’d pay for one pair at Lenscrafters in the mall. All lenses include UV protection and anti-scratch coating, plus a protective case and a microfiber cloth for cleaning. Looking good!
Ivory + Mason is another sweet glasses shop like Warby Parker and its ilk. Glasses start at $95 per frame and they have some majorly cool stuff. They have some more “out there” stuff than a lot of these stores, which I really like. Also, you get 20% off your first pair if you’re a new customer (code: NEWMEMBER)!
They also sell vintage frames AND for every pair of glasses they sell, they donate a pair of glasses to a visually impaired child.
They don’t seem to have a home try-on program, but you can return your glasses within 30 days if you’re not 100% into them.
Enter code JUNE30 for 30% off storewide at Firmoo, including 1.50 single vision lenses. Expires 6/30/14.
I have a pair of glasses from Lookmatic that are made out of real wood. Crazy, right? I get compliments on them everywhere I go. (I don’t think they sell them anymore but they have lots of other cute ones.) I had a good experience buying from them and I have at least one other friend who also bought a pair of glasses there that they love.
Non-prescription sunglasses and frames are $65; prescription glasses are $95. Free shipping and free returns. They also have two virtual try-on options, including this crazy one that is 3-D / live video? I don’t even know how to explain it, it’s bonkers. It’s worth checking out the site just to see it. We live in the future, you guys!
Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame is a Lookmatic customer. That might go in your pro list or it might go in your con.
This is an Australian company (lucky ducks!) that offers free shipping and returns throughout Australia. They also offer free shipping anywhere else in the world, but delivery takes a bit longer and the cost of returns is on you. But I love the name and they have some SUPER cute frames.
You can use their virtual try-on system just by signing up for their newsletter and if you live in Australia, you can borrow 5 pairs of glasses at a time for their home try-on program as well.
Cost for regular prescription glasses is $180 AUD for the first pair, $90 for the second (if placed in the same order). If you have a super-strong prescription (stronger than -4.0), there’s an additional cost of $60 per pair. You can turn any pair of their glasses into prescription sunglasses for an extra $50. This one’s more on the pricey side but still way less than you’d pay for frames of a similar style in the mall.
I’ve never bought from this store before so I can’t vouch for them personally but I just thought their site was so cute that I had to include them.
I’ve never bought from these guys but a friend of mine just bought some super cute glasses from them (I think from their Williamsburg store though, not online). All of their glasses are $89 including shipping and anti-reflective coating and they are for REAL cute. All of their frames have a very vintage/retro feel to them.
Know of a great place I missed? Let us know in the comments below. And if you buy a pair of glasses from one of these places, post a pic!
NOTE: If you have a mom & pop eyeglass shop in your town, it’s always ideal to shop locally if you can afford to spend a little more. But if your local option is a national chain, remember that these online shops are mostly small, independent businesses that just happen to have their storefront online. Some of them even have brick and mortar stores in their hometowns.