Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to buy eyeglasses online, really.

When I first heard about ordering glasses online, I was fascinated.  Even more so when I found out the prices were MUCH cheaper than my local optician. I know I should support local businesses, but got frustrated when I could NEVER find a pair of decent glasses whose cost was covered by my insurance allowance (which is not stingy!).

My first foray into ordering glasses online was in 2008 and it ended poorly.  I saw a gorgeous pair of frames online, ordered them, and when they showed up they were all wrong.  I couldn't see well, and they wouldn't stay on.  They sat around, inciting wasted-money guilt every time I saw them.  I finally took them to an optician to see if they could adjust them, and was told that they were completely the wrong size for my face.  She wasn't exactly nice about it, but I can understand that.  I had to donate them to charity and felt really crappy about wasting the money.

But I was determined to make it work.  Thousands of people do it and the price is right.  Last year I  ordered contact lenses with my insurance allowance so I couldn't get new glasses.  Since I wear disposable contacts regularly, there's pretty much *never* a year where I'd rather order glasses than get more contacts.

This past fall, I did some research first, to see if I could be more successful online.  I found the info on very helpful (and no, they're not paying me to write this!).  Here's what I learned:

1.  Get prescription.  Go to your eye doctor and get an eye exam.  Don't use a prescription that's more than a year old.  You also need a different prescription for glasses than you have for contact lenses, so ask for both at your eye exam and get a copy for yourself.

2.  Get measurements.  Ask your eye doctor to measure your PD, or pupillary distance.  Mine wouldn't do it because he doesn't believe in ordering glasses online, but others are more obliging. Optician's offices can also measure this (though if you're not buying anything there they may decline.)  You can do it yourself, but you'll need a second person to hold the ruler and read the measurement.  Do it 3 times and take an average, to be sure you're getting the best reading.

Another set of measurements that's really important is your frame size (in mm).  Find an old pair of glasses that fits you well.  Sometimes they have the measurements printed on them inside the glasses, which makes it easy. 

I had to measure mine directly with a tape measure. You'll need:  temple arm length (end to end), lens width, lens height, and the distance between the lenses (bridge).  You'll also want the frame width, end to end (this was my mistake last time!).  Here's the photo that helped me:


This seems like a huge hassle, but I promise it'll be worth it.  Write down all the measurements, and keep your prescription handy as well.

3.  Search frames.  This is the fun part. But don't do what I did and just pick the first cute pair you see.  You actually need to make sure the new frames will fit.  Since you can't try on in person, you'll have to go by the measurements.  Compare each frame's listed measurements with what you wrote down.  If they're significantly off, it's probably not a good candidate, but there's a buffer of a few mm here and there. 

For me, the most important were the frame width and temple length.  Apparently I have a narrow head that's not very bulbous, so my frame choice was limited.  Some sites didn't even have frames for me that were the width I needed, though I suppose some of the larger kids' frames might have fit.  If you have a more "average" head size, you'll have better choices.

4.  Select options.  Once you've selected your frames, you'll need to enter your prescription, PD measurement, and choose lens options.  This is where most of the places online will try to upsell you, so keep a close eye on total cost.  On a few sites, the super-cheap $7 frames were offset by extra charges for stronger prescriptions, plastic lenses instead of glass,  high shipping costs, etc.  Spend some time and comparison shop here, if you want a good deal.  Check the return policy of each place before you commit - some have a strict no-return policy and others will happily take them back minus shipping.  Since you're buying these sight unseen and they have to work, you need a flexible return policy.

One of the options was the anti-reflective coating, which I didn't get on my first pair.  (It was a significant cost for a $40 pair of glasses.)  I regret it now, though, because in photos, and when working on the computer or driving, the glare is distracting.  But I skipped the scratch-resistant coating and other fancy lens options, despite having a pretty strong prescription.  On my second pair I wised up and paid for the anti-glare coating and I'm glad to have it.

5. Use coupon codes.  Your last step before checkout is to scour the Internet for coupon codes to buy your glasses.  I found a $15 off coupon (EYE15) for so my first pair was only $29!  You can find coupon codes on or on Facebook and Twitter.

After you order, the hardest part is waiting for them to show up.  I ended up ordering all three of my pairs (the poorly fitting ones and 2 good ones) at because their website is easy to navigate and they had cute colorful styles. 

A close contender was Warby Parker, a new company that has its own hip designs, and an innovative program where you can choose 5 frames to try on at home.  They ship the trial pairs super-fast and it was really nice to be able to see them in person before I ordered.  They also donate a pair of eyeglasses for every one they sell. But they were nearly twice as expensive for my strong prescription, so I tried the cheaper site first.

Here are the two pairs I ended up with:

I love bold, square-ish glasses and am thrilled that I finally figured out how to order them online.  Since BabyT now wears glasses, I wear mine more often as a show of solidarity.  So I'm glad to have a couple of options.  (Also, please note that Sanford the Fox has his own blue plastic glasses, which Mr Potatohead kindly let him borrow.)

What do you think?  Have you ordered eyeglasses online?  Any tips and tricks to share?


  1. Great post. Really like the way that you have elaborated on this topic. It has always been an issue with frame size

  2. This morning DH asked me, "Do you know anything about buying glasses online?"... and I said... I swear I just saw a blog post on that.

    1. hehe. email me if you have more questions. I've gotten 2 good pairs now and I'm thrilled :)


sharing is nice

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