All You Need to Know to Get Your Prescription Eyeglasses Online

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say right up front that when I first heard about ordering prescription eyeglasses online, I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. What next? Mail order surgery? Online doctor visits? Not me. 

Lady wareing glasses

It does seem weird if not downright irresponsible to get prescription eyeglasses online. I’m the first to admit it.

I mean, what kind of person would trust her eyesight to some website in the sky by forwarding a doctor’s written prescription, selecting frames online and expect said unknown entity to grind those lenses properly, fit them into the frames of choice, return these prescription eyeglasses to said person, having them fit perfectly, charging him or her a fraction of the cost he or she would pay locally and expect any of this to turn out well?

Do not be surprised when I say that I would be that kind of person. I’ve had an epiphany, a change of heart. 

Up until the past decade, I’d not worn glasses, enjoying perfect vision. But life happens (perhaps you’ve noticed this). I was totally unprepared for the mind-numbing cost of prescription eyewear. 

I went to a top-notch optometrist (I still do) and assumed that to take the best care of my eyes, I needed to purchase my new glasses from the little boutique there in his office.

When the bill totaled more than $750 for my designer frames, lenses, anti-scratch coating (don’t believe it), UV protection and the anti-glare option, I was shocked. And more than ready to consider other options.

All this to tell you that I’ve waded into the waters of online prescription eyeglasses. By now, I have thoroughly tested two of the top-rated providers at my own cost and wow. Why was I so hesitant?

My worst fears were put to rest when I realized that I still get my eyes examined by my trusted optometrist. There is no self-diagnosis involved here. My doctor hands me my written prescription and I’m outta’ there. 

After considering the cast of online providers, I started with Zenni Optical because I found it to be cheapest, with great reviews and generous 30-day return policy.

Prescription glasses including frames and single-vision lenses start as low as about $7 at Zenni. Can you believe it? I spent a bit more than that because I chose more expensive frames, but still, seven bucks. 

My new glasses arrived quickly, and I couldn’t have been happier. They fit well, the frames are decent quality, the prescription is spot on and included anti-scratch, anti-glare coatings, and full UV protection. The price for everything including shipping? Just $43.85. Amazing.

I am thrilled with Zenni Optical.

Another well-known, highly reputable discount online prescription eyewear provider is Coastal, from which I have also purchased prescription eyeglasses and been super pleased.

Here are the steps:

Get an examination

You cannot get your eyes examined online, at least not yet. You do need to see your optometrist or ophthalmologist for a proper eye examination. If you require corrective glasses, request a written prescription.

Select an online provider

There are two sites that I recommend for prescription eyewear: Zenni Optical, located in Novato, Calif., and Coastal located in Blaine, Wash.

Select frames

Both providers offer frames for men, woman, teens, and kids. And the selections are amazing. No optometrist I know of has on display more than 700 choices of frames! And let’s just agree that if you must wear glasses, it’s all about the frames.

You upload a picture of yourself and somehow it sizes perfectly so you can “try on” frames right there on your computer monitor. Just drag the frames to your face and voila! There you are. 

If you’ve ever tried on new frames but couldn’t see yourself in the mirror because you can’t wear your prescription eyeglasses and try on new frames at the same time, you understand the problem. This virtual try-on is great. I made my selection, and quite easily.

Both of these providers offer personal chat with a representative and extremely helpful step-by-step instructions.

Once you have made your selection you’ll get instructions for how to measure your eyes. I know. Sounds scary at first, but it’s not. Trust me and follow the steps. You will come to a part where you need to measure something called your “PD.” This is easy. Or your eye care professional may even have taken your PD at your last appointment, so be sure to ask him or her to include that with your prescription.

Open an account

This is where you will upload your doctor’s written prescription, following the specific instructions you’ll see as you go through the prompts.

Both of these providers, Zenni and Coastal, offer intuitive FAQs (frequently asked questions). And at any time during the process, you can simply request an online chat if you need help or have other questions.

Good news! Both Zenni and Coastal offer from 2% to 6% (it varies) cash-back to your Ebates account. That’s like getting a double discount.

MORE:  Ebates—an Awesome Way to Build a Cash Stash

Complete payment

It’s as easy as ordering something from Amazon. Just make sure you do this with a credit card or bank draft, never a debit card.

Anxiously await

In just a few days your new prescription eyeglasses will arrive.

Not happy? No problem

Both Zenni and Coastal offer amazing return policies—way beyond anything I’ve ever heard of from my local providers.

Can you imagine getting new glasses and wearing them for 364 days and still having the opportunity to return them within the first year? That’s what Coastal offers! But don’t take my word for it. Check for yourself by reading each company’s return, refund, and exchange policy.

I’m quite certain you are going to be surprised by the complete cost for prescription eyeglasses—even including options like progressive lenses, transition lenses, tri- or bi-focals; polycarbonate, non-glare and scratch resistant lenses.

Even when you select designer frames, the total price is going to be a fraction of what you may have paid in the past but will never pay again in the future.

At the very least, both sites are worth a look.

Pssst! At this update, Coastal is running a 70% Sale on selected frames. See? Wow! 

Question: Have you ever ordered prescription eyeglasses online? Tell us about it. I’m anxious to hear about your experience. 

PREVIOUSLY: The Most Critical Six Months in a College Grad’s Life

Updated 3-13-19

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52 replies
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  1. Rita
    Rita says:

    I also tried to get my progressive prescription done online (Not Zenni) and it failed miserably. My optician said there is no way they can make it perfectly without a certain measurement. It’s not the PD measurement. Since some of you have gotten progressives from Zenni and they worked, I may try next time if they will do rimless glasses which Costco won’t.

  2. Shelly Alvine
    Shelly Alvine says:

    I have purchased progressive lens and frames several times from Zenni and it was a waste of money. I have a smaller face so it was hard to get a glasses to fit. The prescription didn’t work for me and the frames were not adjustable. My husband, however, has had good luck with his Zenni glasses and has purchased several pairs. For me, it’s worth the extra money to get glasses from the optometrist.

  3. Bronson Beisel
    Bronson Beisel says:

    I started using Zenni when my eye doctor quoted me $1500 for a pair of glasses. Oh they tried to convince me I’d end up looking like Colin Firth’s younger brother when I wore them, but I passed, asked for my prescription, and left determined to try Zenni. I was so impressed with Zenni. I spent less than $200 for a pair that looks exactly like the $1500 pair and had all the same coatings, etc. They work great. I updated my prescription last year and was able to order the same frame easily.

    Another tip…when my kids were younger, they often broke or bent the frames. With Zenni, I’d order a full pair and then an extra empty frame. When they bent a frame, I merely removed and transferred the lenses to the new frame.

    I have noticed that since I started using Zenni, my eye doctor’s prices on glasses have dropped dramatically. A little competition can be a good thing.

  4. Amy Jones
    Amy Jones says:

    As a licensed optician, I can tell you that the size inside your current frame is a good guideline for a new pair, but depending on how the frames designed, you might use a 130 temple length on one frame and a 140 on another. The bridge size on your current glasses has nothing to do with the way it fits your nose, that number measures from the most nasal point of one lens to the most nasal point of the other. We use that number, along with the eye size, to determine where to position the optical center of your lens as it sits in the frame. A 56/18 may fit you exactly the same as a 59/14. While I think it’s perfectly okay to order glasses online, I know that you can’t get the best lenses online. It’s just not possible. Today’s new high definition lenses require measurements that you can’t take yourself. We measure things like pantoscopic tilt and vertex distance to get you a pair of lenses that are totally customized for you. It’s the difference between glasses that “work okay” and glasses that will amaze you.

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