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 that I could order glasses 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. 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 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 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 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.

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, 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.

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 Ebates account. That’s like getting a double discount.


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


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.

 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 —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 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

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here.

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52 replies
  1. 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.

    Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. WarrenK
    WarrenK says:

    I tried to order online after the first time you wrote about this but they would not make glasses for me because I have astigmatism. Ended up buying from Costco, very happy with the product and service.

    Reply
  6. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    My lenses have so many prisms, I’m not comfortable ordering on-line but would love to as the frame selection is so great. I go to an Ophthalmologist and it’s covered by Medicare; my eye exam today was $30 and I haven’t needed new glasses in years as my prescription hasn’t changed.

    Reply
  7. Terri Clark
    Terri Clark says:

    We adopted 3 boys from foster care-all who wear glasses! Our 5 year old is especially active. We are on pair #7 with him in less than 2 years! Zenni has been a lifesaver (and I love how I can just save his profile and reorder when we have broken glasses in hand)!

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Cute little boys in glasses … just makes me smile. Our 3-year grandson Sam has had his for about 6 months—first thing on in the morning, last thing off at night. Sweetest words ever when he put them on for the first time, “Grandma, I can see you!” He picked out his own bright blue frames. At preschool yesterday he was asked to finish this sentence: “God made me to ________” Sam: “… God made me to wear ‘grasses.'” What a blessing to have affordable, online resources like Zenni and Coastal.

      Reply
  8. Claudia McMurray
    Claudia McMurray says:

    Double discount! Ebates has access to both Zenni and Coastal websites. Hve not ordered yet from either, but plan to when I get my next prescription.

    Reply
  9. Mary Wilson
    Mary Wilson says:

    The article is very interesting, but you forgot to address a serious problem. That is what kind of glasses are you get. I need no line bifocals with prism in both lens. Can they only do simple glasses or the more complicated bifocals with prism in it?

    Reply
  10. Laura Robinson
    Laura Robinson says:

    I love Zenni!! I order from them all the time and have never had a problem. Another good company and very affordable is Firmoo.

    Reply
  11. Mary Wilson
    Mary Wilson says:

    You forgot to address a couple things in the article. The only thing you forgot to say is what kind of glasses you can get at these places. Most places do single lens glasses with no problems. But I a heavy prism in my glasses and also need no line bifocals.

    Reply
  12. Dina B.
    Dina B. says:

    Thanks Mary for the article and to all commenters. my glasses disappeared 18 months ago inside an alzheimer’s facility where I worked. i have a complex prescription and need progressives, which even at costco with cheap frames ran around $4-500. Shortly afterward i experienced unexpected health problems and was not only barely working, was barely able to get out of bed…so glasses just didn’t happen.
    i’m now struggling to rebuild/repair everything i fell behind in, but living without glasses when i truly need them makes every task more challenging. Have been trying to save up $$ toward them, but am so far behind on EVERYTHING, including back rent, that it has been difficult to manage, even at 6 days/50+ hrs week.

    So THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU all of you have relieved me stress level tremendously. I should be able to have glasses by end of Feb at these low sounding prices.
    am so excited!!!!

    Reply
  13. Nicky Evelyn
    Nicky Evelyn says:

    I have a complex prescription and from my childhood I wear glasses. I am very particular about my glasses, including it’s quality, lenses, prescription, designer pair or non designer and most importantly the eyeglasses store from where I always bought my pair as it is I wanted. It’s like you trust them blindly for your vision correction. I usually buy my glasses from high street stores in Sydney, but couple of days before, I got my new specs from the new store and it’s online eyewear store, yes, I bought my glasses online. https://www.optically.com.au/ is the website and they have a great collection of eyeglasses, free home trial service and what not..Their price range starts just from $ 9 and to be with high quality lenses, I used their Free Home trial service because I want to be sure about the quality of glasses and they are really good. I really had a good experience with Optically.

    Reply
  14. bonobosmarcos
    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
  15. Happy
    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
  16. Guest
    Guest says:

    I wear progressive lenses because with my work, having multiple sets of glasses for the combination of prescriptions I needed for distance, reading, and middle distance (where my computer screen resides) just wouldn’t work.

    When my first eye doctor told me I needed multiple prescriptions and offered me the option of either two sets of glasses or progressive lenses, he told me that so many people had difficulty using progressives, that most providers had adopted the policy of giving a full refund if for any reason the customer was not happy with the lenses. He warned me to avoid any provider who did not give such a guarantee. He also mentioned that he’d noticed most of the people who came back to him because they were having problems with this type of lens had had their prescriptions filled by a discounter, rather than seeking out a reputable local optician. He, himself, did not sell either lenses or frames, and he made no effort to steer me to any particular provider. Unlike many of my friends who went the discount route, I have never had a problem with my
    lenses, so I believe my doctor’s advice to stick with a good local optician for progressives was correct.

    Reply
  17. Lyn
    Lyn says:

    My husband is an optometrist and I work in his office. We have no problem with patients taking their prescriptions out to be filled somewhere else, but we ask that they bring back their glasses when they receive them to make sure they are correct. Often times they are not. If the mistake is ours, it is easy to correct it at no charge to the patient. We recently had a patient who took her prescription out and did not bring her glasses back to be checked. After several months of struggling with them, she brought them in and we discovered the prescription in the lenses bore no relation to the prescription the doctor actually wrote. It appeared her prescription might have been switched with that of another patient. It’s great to save money, but not at the expense of your vision. I see no problem with ordering online, as long as you take the finished product back to your eye care professional to have it checked.

    Reply
    • Lynnette
      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
  18. skizzatt
    skizzatt says:

    I was all ready to order my glasses. Had picked out the frames and began entering the prescription numbers. One of my numbers was not on the selection list so I called and asked about it. I was told I could not get my glasses because my number was not available. Wasted a lot of time and got nothing in return.

    Reply
  19. Kristin Burns, OD
    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
  20. NF
    NF says:

    This is one money saving idea I don’t quite agree with. For several yrs. I went to a high end optometrist and was very pleased with my glasses, frames and lenses. No redos of any kind, walked out the door seeing perfectly. I decided to go to a chain this year to save some bucks(about 3-400 to be exact). The exam was great, even had a picture taken of the inside of my eyeballs(no dilation, painless) for a few bucks extra that insurance would not pay for. The actual glasses, on the other hand, were awful. Frames were fine, but the lenses were terrible. The prescription was dead on, but the material used to make the progressive lenses was far inferior to what my previous optometrist had used. This chain did not have the lens material without a special order(weeks of waiting and extra$$$). After two redos, with the chain implying I had the problem, not them, I took the scrip to my previous optometrist. I kept my high end frames from them and just had them do the lenses. What a difference. Once more, walked out seeing perfectly, old frames tweaked and repaired at no additional cost. Worth every penny since I’m an avid reader and need good glasses to do my job(I’m ruff on glasses/warehouse work).
    If you have progressive lenses with all the bells and whistles, it’s worth going to a higher end doctor if you’ve been happy with the previous results. Just have them replace the lenses in your better frames(mine are titanium). I can’t speak for those with single vision glasses or children.
    On a good note, I recd most of my money back from the chain and someone, thru Lions Club, has recd a brand new pair of progressive lenses with every add on they can think of.

    Reply
  21. Pat
    Pat says:

    I have been ordering glasses from Zenni for several years and was always very happy with my purchase, which never cost over $100, even with anti-glare, progressives and Transitions. They never got ANYTHING wrong!

    Reply
    • Karen Williams
      Karen Williams says:

      I use visiondirect.com for my contacts. You can search online and get a coupon for your first order for 25% off. I have not found contacts cheaper when I am able to order with a coupon. The do send coupons via email periodically.

      Reply
  22. Libby
    Libby says:

    We have ordered from Zenni for about 5 years. The single vision glasses have always fit well and the prescriptions were perfect. The bifocals were the same. Unfortunately, I’ve ordered progressives two different years and neither were even close to correct. I’m currently wearing the $300 pair I got at the optical center. 🙁 I do highly recommend Zenni for single vision or bifocals and hope that, one day, I can recommend their progressives, too.

    Reply
    • Claudia Martindale
      Claudia Martindale says:

      I haven’t tried Zenni, but my progressives and a very cheap pair of sunglasses cost me $476 at Sam’s and I hate them. I went back to see if they had forgotten to put in the middle prescription. I had always had lined trifocals before with no problems. I was told that there is only one small “sweet spot” with progressives and I can’t find it.

      Reply
  23. Marion
    Marion says:

    With my insurance, I get a new pair of glasses every other year. When I needed to replace my driving glasses, it was a year where I did not have coverage. The eye doctor showed me his boutique of frames and I asked him if he had any that were “really cheap” or even free. They said they had some free frames. I thought if they were really bad looking I would just bite the bullet and pay for the frames myself but there were several attractive styles. I picked out a pair of wire rims with no anti scratch and no anti glare lenses. All I paid for was the basic lenses. Believe me when I tell you that I have received more complements on my free frames than on any I have ever paid for.

    Reply
  24. Julie
    Julie says:

    A friend put us onto Zenni last year. My son’s glasses went from ~ $ 125 down to $40. We’re completely satisfied. My question is: where are they made? I couldn’t figure it out from the website and am trying to avoid Chinese products as much as possible. Anybody know? Thanks!

    Reply
  25. ShellyH
    ShellyH says:

    Working in ophthalmology, I was very hesitant to order online. But many of my patients were satisfied so thought I’d give it a try. Single vision (no bifocal) lenses from Coastal are great! Designer frames, premium lenses and under $100!! Wasn’t happy with the no line bifocals, but they happily and quickly refunded my money upon return. With no line bifocals I’m still in the “you get what you pay for” camp.

    Reply
    • Jane
      Jane says:

      My husband and I were trying to save money, since we have to pay oop for our exams and any glasses/contacts we purchase. We each got our first pair free from Coastal and they were great! We each paid $14.95 shipping. Great money saver for us! Definitely recommend them

      Reply
  26. mjb5167
    mjb5167 says:

    I’ve been using Zenni Optical for many years. I have never been disappointed. Their prices are the best out there, bar none. I always order a backup pair or two, its nice to have a new style change every so often! I can buy a whole new wardrobe of glasses for what I used to pay for one pair from the Optician’s shop. Never will I buy anywhere else. I have also bought prescription sunglasses there which they can make out of any “regular” prescription with added tint. I think I paid 30 something for the last pair of progressive lens glasses from them. They also always include a hard case and cleaning cloth with each pair. Win-Win!!

    Reply
  27. DianaB
    DianaB says:

    I have never used an online company to order my glasses, but the prospect of spending over $500 each time I have my eyes checked and a new Rx keeps me from updating my Rx as often as I should, like annually as opposed to every 4-5 years as my pocketbook allows. My last visit was over 2 1/2 years ago for over $600. (Needless to say I am on Medicare and have no vision insurance.) I will have to check these sites out. Thanks for the great information. And, of course, in the optometrist’s office their goal is to up-sell you to all the bells and whistles, and that is extremely aggravating. And you cannot find a good-looking pair of frames for a reasonable price at their places, either.

    Reply
  28. Teresa Lenoir
    Teresa Lenoir says:

    My family has been ordering from Zenni for almost 10 years and we love them. My Mom is hooked too, she buys several pair to match her wardrobe because they are so inexpensive. My bifocal lenses and frames were less than $40! Gotta love that!

    Reply
  29. Lynnette
    Lynnette says:

    I have vision insurance which requires me to buy my eyeglasses at Walmart. Even AFTER insurance paid their part, the last pair of Walmart eyeglasses I got (a few years ago) still cost me almost $300 out of pocket (a co-worked said she spent almost $500). My insurance does allow me to go “out of networK” for which they will reimburse me a certain amount for each component. I now order my eyeglasses online from Zenni Optical. For this last pair I just got I ordered the most expensive frame they had ($39.95!) and got no-line bifocals, and upgraded everything else. I found a 10% off coupon online so my bottom-line out of pocket, including shipping was $98.40. I then submitted that to my vision insurance and was reimbursed everything but the $4.95 shipping. I actually like the eyeglasses from Zenni better than any I ever got at Walmart (or anywhere else) and the prescription is spot-on; I could tell the difference the second I put them on. As far as fit goes, they were pretty good, but I took them to my local Walmart optical center and they adjusted them for free (I did not tell them that I purchased them elsewhere and they did not ask). I can highly recommend Zenni !

    Reply
  30. D. Debord
    D. Debord says:

    I have ordered them from Eyebuydirect.com and was very pleased. I was so pleased, that I talked my mother into ordering a pair from them, as a back up, since she loses or mangles them. Of course her were more, since she wants all the bells and whistles. But even then, hers were about 1/3 of the cost of her original pair that came from the Doctor’s office. I have ordered them twice, for my adult son as well. My pair were around 25 dollars and that is with no-line bifocal. I would encourage anyone to look at purchasing online, before they fork out big bucks in a Doctor’s office. So far no one I know had any problems with ordering online and all are thrilled with their glasses.

    Reply
    • Tricia Kendell
      Tricia Kendell says:

      That’s what I want to know. Who does the fitting so they actually fit your face? I’ve almost never had a pair of glasses that fit perfectly the first time I put them on.

      Reply
    • julie
      julie says:

      For my son we had the benefit of his old glasses that still fit, so we measured them and compared with particular frames he liked . they give you specific measurements for each frame. Also, he’s 13 and not very particular as long as he can see well… I guess that’s not much help to you… sorry.

      Reply
    • cindyctn
      cindyctn says:

      Linda, you can see these measurements for each pair of frames. If you have a pair that fit now, measure them and you can even search for frames that are very similar in size!

      Reply
    • Bob McLellan
      Bob McLellan says:

      If you look on the arm of the frame, you will see these measurements printed on the inside , on mine it is on the left leg, here is a link for instructions on where to look

      https://www.framesdirect.com/knowledge-center/measure-your-frame-size?affiliate=25&gclid=CjwKCAjw1KLkBRBZEiwARzyE7_d9CKM-M7zkHePd5VGc2ZxNc6X4gyTh1W7F9iuUkOLrKlBDO0DvgBoCh1gQAvD_BwE

      Reply
  31. Mike
    Mike says:

    I usually get one pair at my eye doctor, that maxes out my vision benefit, then I order backups and perscription sunglasses from Zenni . I’m still wearing the Zenni glasses, the “good ones” nope.

    Reply

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