A pair of eyeglasses can cost hundreds of dollars, but there’s no need to pay anywhere near that much. Quality eyeglasses can be bought online for less than $15 a pair for standard prescriptions…and even complicated prescriptions generally can be filled at various Web sites for $30 to $100, including the frames and lenses.
Even if you prefer not to buy eyewear online, there still are places you can shop where your price is likely to be less than $200 for glasses that might cost $400 or more elsewhere.
We asked consumer advocate Clark Howard to explain what eyeglass wearers need to know…
CONSIDER BUYING ONLINE
Internet sellers including Zenni Optical (ZenniOptical.com), EyeBuyDirect (EyeBuyDirect.com) and Goggles4u (Goggles4u.com) offer well-made prescription eyeglasses, including both lenses and frames, for as little as $6.95. Shipping might add $5 or so to your order. Features such as thin lenses, tinted lenses, antiglare coatings, bifocals and progressive lenses—lenses that offer multiple lens powers without the lines of bifocals—usually cost extra. Many frame choices cost more than the base price as well. Still, even a challenging prescription with extras and upgrades typically costs less than $100.
The online eyeglass deals can get better if you use a coupon code. Google “coupon” and either “eyeglasses” or the name of the online seller you’re considering…or go to RetailMeNot.com to find these codes. Typical codes provide 15% to 20% off for first-time customers…free shipping…free antiglare coating…and more savings. Once you buy from an online eyeglass seller, you’re likely to receive even better coupon offers in your e-mail.
Example: I got two pairs for the price of one.
Downside of buying eyeglasses online…
It’s more challenging to find frames that fit your face and look good on you. The Web sites do provide tips for selecting frames that fit, but you should look at the numbers on the temples of your current glasses for help with sizing information, assuming that they fit well.
Most of these sites also let shoppers upload a photo of their face and then superimpose different frames to see which look best.
Some shoppers complain that they have had trouble resolving problems with eyeglasses purchased online, and there have been reports of some unreliable eyeglass sites. Personally, I’ve had only one problem in all my years of ordering eyeglasses online, and it was resolved to my satisfaction. Do be cautious about ordering eyewear from sites not mentioned in this article, however, unless you get positive reviews of those sites from friends, publications or review sites that you consider reliable.
Internet sellers can’t provide an eye exam. You will have to see a local optometrist or ophthalmologist to confirm that your eyes are healthy and to obtain a prescription. Such exams can cost $100 or more, though this could be partially covered by your health insurance. Or save money by getting your exam at a Walmart Vision Center or Costco Optical, where rates can be as much as 50% lower.
Helpful: Eyeglass prescription forms typically do not list “pupillary distance” (PD), the distance between your pupils, center to center, in millimeters (mm). (Most adults have a PD between 54 mm and 74 mm.) Ask for this when you get your exam—you will need it to order glasses online. The online glasses sites do provide do-it-yourself PD measurement guidance, but a professional measurement will be more accurate.
Your glasses might take one to two weeks to arrive, sometimes longer. If you need glasses in a hurry, it might be worth paying the higher prices charged by a provider that can make lenses while you wait, such as LensCrafters.
Progressive lenses are particularly complicated to make and to match to the wearer, increasing the odds of problems that could be difficult to correct if the glasses are ordered online. Buying glasses with progressive lenses from a local eyeglass store also allows you to work with that professional to find the progressive lenses best-suited to your needs—for example, some have expanded intermediate zones for computer use…others, expanded near-zones for reading.
Even if you prefer not to order your primary eyeglasses online, this still is a good way to get backup glasses so that you don’t have to overpay for replacements if your primary glasses are lost or broken. A woman I work with tends to misplace her eyeglasses, so she orders eight pairs of very inexpensive glasses from Zenni each time she gets a new prescription. For around $60, she never has to worry about not being able to find her eyewear. Alternate strategy: Buy frames online, and get your lenses locally.
DEALS ON FRAMES
Warby Parker (WarbyParker.com) is a good option if you want to save money but also want trendy frames. It does not offer bifocals or trifocals, however, it does offer progressives.
Warby Parker prices start at $95, shipping included, for glasses featuring stylish frames. Warby Parker mainly sells through the Internet, but it does have retail stores in 100 cities, with an optometrist and opticians available at some locations. If you don’t live near one of these locations, you can pick five frames to have mailed to you to try on at home for free.
The company offers a 100%-satisfaction, no-questions-asked, 30-day return policy that even covers return shipping. There’s a one-year no-scratch guarantee on the lenses, too.
BEST IN-PERSON OPTIONS
If you prefer to buy eyeglasses from a bricks-and-mortar store that provides high-quality in-person customer service, buy your glasses at Costco. Eyeglasses cost an average of $150 there, which is more than you would pay online but significantly less than you would pay for comparable glasses at almost any other store—so much less that buying a single pair of eyeglasses can more than cover Costco’s $60 annual membership fee. Another option is to have Costco install new lenses in your current frames or frames that you bought online, though there is a small additional fee for not buying your frames there.
If you’re not satisfied with your Costco glasses, you can return them at any time for a full refund without limitations.
Alternative: The company For Eyes also has prices below typical retail at its more than 100 locations, ForEyes.com). It’s appropriate if you are not near a Costco or don’t want to pay an annual membership fee.
If neither chain is in your area and you don’t want to order glasses online, buy from an independent optometrist, ophthalmologist or optician rather than another chain. Most chains tend to charge higher prices and offer worse service than the independents.