As someone who has worn glasses since I was 3 years old, I know the struggle of getting a new pair of glasses all too well. From the lengthy process to the jaw-dropping (and not in a good way) price tag, it’s all too much. But thanks to modern technology and some ingenious entrepreneurs, you can now easily shop for prescription eyeglasses online. One of our favorite (virtual) spots to shop is GlassesUSA thanks to its wide selection of frames and price points—the retailer is also a clear Forbes Vetted audience favorite.
Convenience is one of the largest draws of buying prescription glasses online, but another attractive benefit is the possibility of a lower price tag. Online retailers cut out middlemen, like brick-and-mortar optical shops and third-party manufacturers, then pass those savings on to you. That means, in some cases, you can get a new pair of specs for just $6. And yes, that includes the lenses.
The best online prescription glasses stores also accept vision insurance or funds from flexible spending or health savings accounts, so if you’re looking for a way to use up FSA or HSA dollars during the year, this is it. And don’t forget, you can find some excellent prescription kids glasses, blue light blocking glasses and sunglasses (both with or without a prescription) online, too.
Where To Buy The Best Prescription Glasses Online
Manufacturing the best prescription glasses requires an advanced level of skill and some serious attention to detail, something that not all online retailers possess. Also you, as the buyer, must have collected the right information and an idea of what you’re looking for in your next pair. Scroll to the bottom of this story for a complete step-by-step guide on how to shop for glasses online, complete with expert advice from Dr. Sandra Young, OD, an eye health expert at GlassesUSA.
To help you find your perfect pair, I put together this list of the best places to buy prescription glasses online. If you’re shopping for eyeglasses online, you can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list. While each retailer stands out in its own way, they share commonalities, like fair prices, a wide range of styles and a virtual try-on process.
Best Variety Of Prescription Glasses
GlassesUSA: A Selection That’s Hard To Rival
Best Classic-Style Prescription Glasses
Liingo Eyewear: For Classic Styles At Affordable Prices
Best Glasses For Any Budget
EyeBuyDirect: Frames Start At Just $6
Best Place To Find The Perfect Fit
Lenskart: Browse Frames By Width, Plus Styles And Prices For All
Best Value Prescription Glasses
Zenni Optical: Get A Prescription Pair For No More Than $50
Best Blue Light Prescription Glasses
Felix Gray: These Glasses Do Double Duty With Blue Light Blocking
Best Designer Prescription Glasses
Frames Direct: A Vast Selection Of Designer Frames
Best Online Buying Experience
Warby Parker: An Online Retailer That Offers At-Home Try-Ons
Best Quirky Prescription Glasses
Eyebobs: Unique Frames For People Who Like To Stand Out
Best Affordable Luxury Glasses
DIFF Eyewear: Luxury Frames At Budget-Friendly Prices
Best Glasses For All Face Shapes
Eyeconic: Filter Styles By Your Face Shape
Best Changeable Prescription Glasses
Pair Eyewear: Clip-On Toppers Change The Look Of Your Frames
Best Tried-And-True Glasses Retailer
LensCrafters: The O.G. Of Prescription Glasses
How We Chose The Best Places To Buy Prescription Glasses Online
As glasses-wearers ourselves, the Forbes Vetted team members who assembled, edited and continue to update this list know what it takes to find the right pair of glasses. We spent hours researching each company’s reputation and what they offer in terms of selection, value, insurance eligibility, return policy and turnaround time. We also throughly browsed each site to test out the user-friendliness of the glasses-buying process and discover special features like virtual or at-home try-ons and prescription renewals. Finally, we enlisted the help of eye care expert Dr. Sandra Young, OD, to share expert tips on choosing and buying the right glasses for you.
A Step-By-Step Guide: How To Choose A Pair Prescription Glasses Online
If you’re new to online prescription glasses shopping, it can definitely feel like a large departure from the traditional way of going to your eye doctor or an optical shop and trying on frames in person. But in this case, we think change is a good thing—and it’s really easy. Here’s how you do it:
1. Get A Current Prescription
For new prescriptions: No matter which online prescription glasses store you choose, you’ll need a current prescription. In most cases, this means you’ll have to make an appointment with your regular eye doctor first. Some stores, like Warby Parker, allow you to schedule an eye exam right through the website, but the actual exams are still done in person. It’s important for your eye doctor to get a close look at your eyes to make sure everything is healthy and functioning as it should.
For renewing prescriptions: That said, there is an exception when it comes to renewing prescriptions. Some sites, including Warby Parker, let you renew your prescription via a virtual vision test, but only if your health qualifies and your current prescription is still working for you. It’ll likely cost you, but not much (Warby Parker’s exam is $15, and only if your prescription is renewed).
Interpreting your prescription: When it comes to getting and inputting your prescription, here are the values you’ll need (and what they mean):
- SPH: This number indicates your spherical refractive error, which measures your near- or far-sightedness. You’ll have an SPH number for both your right and left eyes.
- CYL: This value means you have an astigmatism and provides a measurement to help correct it.
- Axis: Also associated with astigmatism, this measures your astigmatism in degrees.
- Prism: If your eyes move slightly out of sync, a prism correction may be in your prescription. This is usually associated with an eye condition or disorder.
- Add: This indicates extra magnification and is usually seen in prescriptions for bifocal, progressive or reading glasses.
2. Measure Your Pupillary Distance
In addition to a current prescription, you’ll also need your pupillary distance (or PD), which is the distance, measured in millimeters, between the centers of your pupils. This number is essential because it represents the spot on the lens that you’ll actually be looking through. If it’s off, you may be left with blurry or distorted lenses.
For the most accurate results, your best bet is to have your eye doctor measure pupillary distance during your eye exam and give you that number with your prescription. There’s also the option of using apps, like EyeMeasure, or online tools, like Warby Parker’s PD measuring tool. And according to Dr. Sandra Young, OD, you can measure PD at home using the following steps:
How To Measure Pupillary Distance At Home
- First, get the right tools. You’ll need a ruler that measures in millimeter increments, says Dr. Young, who notes that you can print one out if necessary.
- Next, stand 8 to 10 inches from a mirror in a location where there’s good lighting. If you normally wear glasses, be sure you take them off.
- With the ruler held above your eyes, close your left eye, aligning the 0 millimeter line with the center of the right pupil.
- Lastly, open your left eye and close your right eye—be careful not to move the ruler—and the number that aligns with the center of the left pupil is your PD.
Dr. Young shares a few more helpful tips. “Since accuracy when measuring PD is critical, repeat the measurement two or three times,” she says. “It is even more critical for stronger prescriptions.” When possible, Dr. Young says, it’s helpful to ask a friend to double-check the measurement. And for a baseline, “The average adult distance PD ranges between 54 millimeters to 74 millimeters. The average child’s distance PD is smaller, ranging between 43 millimeters and 58 millimeters,” Young says.
3. Virtually Try On Frames
Once you have your prescription and pupillary distance ready to go, the next step is virtually trying on frames. Most online prescription glasses stores offer some type of virtual try-on that you can access through your computer’s webcam.
It’s also helpful to know which types of frames work best for your face shape and your prescription. For example, round frames look best on square and round faces, while rectangular frames complement oval faces. If you need help determining your face shape or choosing a style, EyeBuyDirect has a visual guide that can help.
Another option is to visit optical stores in-person and try on similar frames there. Often, you can find the same models online that you tried on in store.
4. Choose Your Lenses
After picking your frames, it’s time to choose your lenses. Dr. Young explains the two major type of lenses.
- Single vision: “A single-vision lens has one optical prescription correction for the entire lens. These lenses include prescriptions for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.”
- Multifocal: “Multifocal lenses are lenses that have two or more optical power zones combined into one lens. A bifocal lens is designed for two different distances to be clear; a trifocal has three distances. Typically the two zones of clear vision in a bifocal lens are close up and across the room. Trifocals have the addition of an intermediate zone of clear vision between distance and near vision.”
- Progressives: ”These gradually change zones from distance to near, providing clear vision near, far and all points in between.”
5. Choose Your Lens Coatings
Here are some popular types of lens coatings and when you should consider them, according to Dr. Young.
- Anti-reflective: “Anti-reflecting (AR) coatings are recommended for lenses that reflect more light, such as high index and polycarbonate lenses. AR coatings decrease halos around lights, which is especially helpful for night driving.” These may also be helpful for anyone who frequently uses a computer screen.
- Anti-scratch: “Currently, many plastic lenses have built in anti-scratch resistance. But if it doesn’t have scratch protection, plastic is soft and needs an anti-scratch coating.” If you have kids or tend to be rough on your glasses, consider getting durable lenses or ones with an anti-scratch coating.
- Anti-fog: “These coatings help to minimize moisture condensation that occurs [when] going from an indoor environment to outdoors, especially during winter months.”
- Blue light blocking: Perhaps one of the most popular add-ons, these coatings help block the blue light emitted from screens to help reduce eye strain. This is a great option for anyone who wears prescription glasses regularly and works at a computer.
- Transitional: Another common add-on, this coating allows your lenses to automatically transition to sunglasses in the sunlight, then return to clear once you’re out of the rays.
6. Place Your Order
The last step in shopping for prescription glasses online is placing your order. Typically, you’ll add your frames to your cart and then enter your prescription and pupillary distance at checkout. Triple check your information before hitting submit, because one wrong number can make a huge difference in your new specs.
7. Try On Your Glasses
Make sure you try on your new glasses as soon as they arrive. Most online glasses stores offer an accuracy guarantee—if the glasses aren’t right, they’ll replace them or send you a new pair—but you’ll have to let them know quickly, usually within two weeks to 30 days of receiving them.
Keep in mind that it can take some time for your eyes to adjust to new glasses, especially if the prescription has changed significantly. Give yourself up to a week to get used to your new pair, and if you’re still having problems, reach out for troubleshooting tips and possibly a replacement.
Is It Cheaper To Buy Prescription Glasses Online?
In many cases, yes. While designer frames still have hefty price tags, online glasses brands tend to be much cheaper (and just as stylish) as their name-brand counterparts. Further, the direct-to-consumer style of shopping online cuts out third-party markups.
Can I Order Glasses With An Old Prescription?
No. Reputable prescription glasses retailers require you to upload a copy of a recent prescription before creating your order and will not accept expired prescriptions.
Is There A Way To Get A Glasses Prescription Online?
No, an in-person exam is required to get a new prescription. That said, there are a few online glasses retailers, like Warby Parker, that let you renew your prescription via a virtual vision test, as long as your health is in good standing and your current prescription is still working for you.
What Measurements Do You Need To Buy Glasses Online?
Aside from your prescription, you’ll need to know your pupillary distance (PD) to order a comfortable pair of specs online. The PD refers to the distance between the centers of your pupils. If this measurement is off, you can experience blurry or distorted vision (and dizziness and headaches as a side effect) while wearing your glasses.
You can measure your own PD as explained above by Dr. Young. Also check out Zenni Optical’s step-by-step guide and Warby Parker’s PD measuring tool. However, your optometrist can likely give you the most accurate measurement.
How Do I Choose A Pair Of Glasses?
There’s a lot to consider, including your budget, style and the ability to customize your glasses with add-ons like blue light and anti-glare coatings. Aspects of the actual shopping experience, such as the ability to “test” styles through a virtual try-on feature or renew your prescription with a virtual vision test, can help narrow your choice. And no matter which pair of glasses you end up choosing, be sure the retailer offers a return policy or warranty that you’re comfortable with in case you need to switch the specs out.