A close up of a person wearing glasses

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. 

A close up of a person wearing 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

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52 replies
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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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 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 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 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 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
  9. 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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