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Buying prescription glasses online may seem novel, but in today’s digital-shopping age, getting your eyewear on the internet—including contact lenses, blue light blockers, sunglasses and the like—has become the norm. Thanks to modern technology and some ingenious entrepreneurs, you can easily browse, customize and try on your new eyeglasses without setting foot in the optometrist’s office. You’ll need a current prescription, of course, but retailers like GlassesUSA (one of the best places to buy glasses online, in our opinion) let you renew expired prescriptions with a virtual vision test.
Shopping for glasses from home can save you cash, too. Since having digital storefronts allows retailers to cut out the middlemen (like brick-and-mortar shops and third-party manufacturers) those savings are passed on to you. Furthermore, many online glasses companies also accept HSA and FSA funds, meaning no out-of-pocket costs for you.
As someone who has worn glasses since I was three years old (and contacts since I was eight), I know the struggle of getting a new eyewear all too well. From the lengthy process to the jaw-dropping—and not in a good way—price tag, it’s all too much. So to help our fellow bespectacled buyers, we’ve gathered the best places to buy prescription glasses online from trusted, reputable retailers, some of which Forbes Vetted staffers swear by themselves.
For more help, you’ll find a step-by-step guide at the bottom of this story including technical advice from Dr. Sandra Young, OD, an eye health expert at GlassesUSA, and style tips from Kari Molvar, senior fashion editor at Forbes Vetted. And while we’re on the subject of buying prescription eyewear, don’t forget about the kids’ glasses, as well.
Best Variety Of Prescription Glasses Online
Offering a mix of name brand, designer and house-designed frames, these retailers have specs for every style and budget.
Best Affordable Prescription Glasses Online
Looking for a bargain? In-house brands are especially affordable for budget shoppers or those prone to losing (or breaking) their specs.
Best Specialty Prescription Glasses Online
From cool, unique style to special-fit designs, these brands offer frames you won’t find anywhere else.
Try-Before-You-Buy Prescription Glasses Online
A great option for hesitant first-timers, these retailers will send you five frames of your choosing to try on at home before making a commitment.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
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. Having written several stories on eyewear (including contact lenses, blue light blocking glasses and kids’ glasses), we also tapped into our subject knowledge to highlight retailers that offer the best products and the best online shopping experience.
We also enlisted the help of two experts whose tips you’ll find below. Dr. Sandra Young, OD, advises on the technical aspects of ordering the right prescription by detailing with how to measure pupillary distance, explaining lens and coating options and more. Kari Molvar, senior fashion editor at Forbes Vetted, shares her tips on finding the best frames for each face shape (below).
How We Chose The Best Prescription Glasses Online
We spent hours researching popular eyewear companies and what they offer in terms of selection, value, insurance eligibility, return policy and turnaround time. We also thoroughly 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 included firsthand recommendations from Forbes Vetted staffers like GlassesUSA, Zenni Optical and Warby Parker.
To help you pinpoint the best eyewear retailer for your needs, we indicated the estimated turnaround times, return policies, availability of a virtual try-on features and vision renewal tests, and whether insurance and HSA/FSA funds are accepted. We also noted key points about the eyewear options offered as well as reasons one might prefer shopping somewhere else.
This story is regularly updated and was last edited in January 2023.
How To Purchase Prescription Glasses Online
If you’re new to buying prescription glasses online, it may seem a bit complicated, but that doesn’t have to be the case. As long as you have the correct information handy—and you purchase from a trustworthy retailer that offers a fair return policy—you can shop with confidence at your convenience, and save money, too.
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).
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.
3. Choose Your Lens Type
Dr. Young explains the three 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.”
4. Choose Your Lens Coating
Most retailers also give you the option to add different coatings. Dr. Young details some popular types:
- 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.
A Few More Tips For Buying Prescription Glasses Online
- Look for HSA or FSA eligibility: The best online prescription glasses stores also accept vision insurance or funds from flexible spending or health savings accounts. If you have these benefits, pick an eyewear retailer where you can apply these plans to keep more money in your pocket.
- Try them on ASAP: 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.
- Expect an adjustment period: 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.
How To Find The Best Frames For Your Face Shape
“The rule of thumb is essentially to create contrast between your face shape and frames,” explains Kari Molvar, Forbes Vetted’s senior fashion editor. “Note that you can also be a blend of two types of face shapes.”
- Round: Round faces are characterized by symmetry all around, with equal fullness above and below the cheekbones. The best frames for round faces include square and rectangular shapes.
- Square: Square faces are defined by a straight jawline and forehead line, with narrowness at the sides of the face. Look for round or cat-eye frames that are extend slightly beyond your cheekbones or temples in width.
- Oval: Oval faces are longer than they are wide, with a jaw that’s narrower than the width of your cheekbones. Since this face shape is proportional, it looks good with most frames, from round to square and everything in between.
- Diamond: Diamond faces are described as having a narrow chin and forehead with wide cheekbones. Frames that work best for this face shape have narrower sides and fullness at the bottom—such as aviators and cat-eye styles.
- Heart: Heart faces are characterized by a wider forehead and narrower chin. Consider round frames and low-bridge options that tend to sit a bit lower on the face, which brings fullness to the lower half of your features.