A close up of a person wearing glasses

All You Need to Know to Get Prescription Eyeglasses Online

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

woman holding prescription eyeglasses online

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. Now I’m one of those believers who has and will order glasses online!

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 in his office.

When the bill totaled more than $750 for my designer frames, lenses, anti-scratch coating (don’t assume that means scratch-proof), UV protection, and the anti-glare option, I was shocked. And more than ready to consider learning how to order glasses online.

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 a generous 30-day return policy.

Prescription glasses including frames and single-vision lenses start as low as about $9 at Zenni. Can you believe it? I spent a bit more than that because I chose more expensive frames, but still, nine 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.

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Steps to order your glasses online:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Select frames

Both providers offer frames for men, women, 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 measurement at your last appointment, so be sure to ask him or her to include that with your prescription.

4. 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 Rakuten account. That’s like getting a double discount.



5. 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.

 6. 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 60 days and still having the opportunity to return them within the first year? That’s what Coastal offers currently! 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 —even including options like progressive lenses, transition lenses, tri- or bi-focals; polycarbonate, non-glare and scratch-resistant lenses – when you order your glasses online.

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 35% off all lens upgrades. 

There you go! All you need to know to order prescription eyeglasses online.

Updated 8-19-20


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  1. Red says:

    I had a horrible time finding an optician that would even make my lenses! I needed one lens without any correction and the other progressive. For some reason no one could really explain, my plain lens had to be progressive too. BJs was willing to make mine for about 2-3 changes in lens. As they mail to a lab also I would have been happy to try a mail order if they could have supplied what I needed. My need for glasses has now been remedied!

    Reply
  2. Nancy says:

    I have been pleased by the glasses I have bought online from GlassesUSA. I’ve bought 5 pair so far and for less than I’d pay for one pair in an optical store.

    Reply
  3. Kay Jones says:

    I cannot use the online companies because I have trifocals and a prism. My daughter also has a very complex prescription however there is a way for us to save money. We order the frames only, take them in to the office and they use our frames for the lenses. Another hint from a friend, order a second pair of the frames especially if they are inexpensive. That way if your frame breaks you can just pop the lens in and you are good to go. Yes we tried to use the companies, but they told us they couldn’t fill our prescriptions and were the ones to suggest we see about just getting the frames. Good customer service!

    Reply
  4. bonobosmarcos says:

    What is great about online glasses shopping is that most of them are open to the idea of needing to return your glasses and so you can return them and get another pair free of charge. One thing I loved when ordering mine was the fact that I could take a picture of my face and virtually try the glasses on. It worked really well and was accurate as to what the actual glasses looked like.

    Reply
  5. Lynnette says:

    I always get progressives and my last 3 pairs were from Zenni Optical online. They are great; no problems at all. I can highly recommend them.

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
  7. Lynnette says:

    The only time I ever had to return a pair of eyeglasses to Zenni Optical (they do have a reasonable return policy), it turned out that I had keyed in the prescription incorrectly – that was my fault, not theirs. Actually, it was partially my optometrist’s fault since her handwriting is practically illegible. Now, I ask her to write legibly, and I confirm with her what I think she has written down. Also, Zenni now has the ability for you to attach a scanned copy of your prescription to your order. Never had a problem since.

    Reply
  8. Happy says:

    I ordered round ones from Coastal which were not affordable in optical store…..love, love, love them – best pair of glasses I have ever owned….I got my measurements from prescription and old glasses

    Reply
  9. Kristin Burns, OD says:

    As an optometrist I am asked about ordering glasses online frequently. The few pairs I have seen back were terribly off in prescription (I don’t know which company they came from, and having been entered incorrectly by the customer is a definitely possibility). There is no reason single vision glasses shouldn’t come out fine. Progressives are dependent on measurements taken with the frame, and have a higher chance of coming out incorrectly. Keep in mind that your optometrist should not be expected to trouble shoot incorrect glasses ordered this way at no charge.

    Reply
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