Buying Glasses Online – How to Find the Perfect Pair for Less

Shopping for a new pair of glasses can be an expensive endeavor. With eye exams, lenses, coatings and frames, the costs can quickly add up to several hundred dollars. However, thanks to the rise of online eyewear retailers, it’s now possible to purchase prescription glasses and sunglasses at a fraction of the price you’d pay in a brick-and-mortar optometry office.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find affordable, stylish eyewear online. You’ll learn how to get your prescription, choose the right features and frames for your needs, order glasses that fit properly, and avoid common online eyewear pitfalls. Read on to start seeing savings!

How to Get Your Prescription Information

The first step to ordering eyeglasses online is getting your current prescription information. This includes your sphere, cylinder and axis measurements for each eye, along with your pupillary distance (PD).

There are a few ways to obtain your prescription:

  • Ask your optometrist. At your next eye exam, request a copy of your prescription. By law, they are required to provide it to you.
  • ** Retrieve your last prescription**. If you’ve purchased glasses recently, check your records for your most recent prescription. It’s valid for 1-2 years.
  • Order glasses online with a prescription renewal. Select online retailers like Warby Parker allow you to take a vision test online and renew your prescription.
  • Use an online vision test. Companies like Opternative and Lensabl offer state-approved vision tests you can take online to get a valid prescription.

Once you have your prescription information, you’re ready to start shopping for the perfect frames.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Frames

With thousands of frames to choose from online, narrowing down your options can be overwhelming. Keep the following factors in mind when selecting frames for your prescription eyewear:

Frame material

  • Plastic – Lightweight and durable. Available in many colors, patterns and textures. Good for complex prescriptions.
  • Metal – Sleek and stylish. Strong but can bend out of shape if handled roughly.
  • Titanium – Ultra lightweight and hypoallergenic. More expensive but very durable.
  • Nylon – Flexible and sturdy. retains shape well. Often used for rimless glasses.

Frame size and shape

Consider the size and shape of your face when choosing a frame:

  • Small, round faces – Angular frames in rectangular or square shapes.
  • Oval faces – Rounded or oval frames.
  • Square, angular faces – Round or oval frames to soften angles.
  • Heart-shaped faces – Cat eye or rectangular frames to accentuate cheeks.

Bridge size

Measure the width of your nose bridge and choose a frame with a similar bridge size for proper fit.

Temple style

  • Rimmingless – Great for active lifestyles but not ideal for stronger prescriptions.
  • Full rim – Completely encircles lenses for a classic look. Good support.
  • Half rim – Rim only on the top half. Lightweight. Shows off more of your eyes.


Pick frame colors that complement your skin tone and hair color. Play it safe with versatile neutrals or make a statement with bold hues.

Special features

Look for features like adjustable nose pads, spring hinges and anti-slip temple tips for optimal comfort and fit. Blue light blocking lenses can reduce digital eye strain.

How to Determine Your Pupillary Distance

Your pupillary distance (PD) is the measurement between your pupils in millimeters. Getting your PD right ensures your lenses will be aligned properly for maximum visibility.

There are two types of PD measurements:

  • Distance PD – For distance prescription glasses. Taken while looking at an object ~20 feet away.
  • Near PD – For reading glasses or progressive lenses. Taken while looking at an object ~16 inches away.

Here are some options for figuring out your PD:

  • Have your optometrist measure. The most accurate way, but not all provide it.
  • Online PD calculators. Input your photo for an estimate. Not as precise.
  • Measure yourself. Use a ruler and mirror. Trickier to get right.
  • Try online glasses. Some brands like Warby Parker ship frames to try on at home.
  • Order adjustable frames. Select brands offer glasses with adjustable nose pads to tweal PD.

Knowing your PD ensures proper optical alignment and maximizes the accuracy and effectiveness of your lenses. It’s worth taking the time to measure correctly.

Ordering Your Lenses Online

Once you’ve selected the perfect frames, it’s time to configure your lenses. Here’s an overview of the lens options available from most online retailers:

Lens material

  • Plastic – Lighter weight. Good impact resistance. Cheaper.
  • Polycarbonate – Extremely strong and thin. Best impact protection.
  • High-index – Thinner and lighter. Good for stronger prescriptions.
  • Trivex – Lightweight with high impact resistance. Good vision clarity.

Lens treatments

  • Anti-reflective coating – Reduces distracting glare and reflections.
  • Scratch-resistant coating – Protects lenses from scratches and abrasions.
  • UV protection – Filters out 100% of harmful ultraviolet light.
  • Blue light filtering – Reduces exposure to digital eye strain-causing blue light.
  • Photochromic lenses – Darken automatically in sunlight.

Lens tinting

Adds a subtle tint for specialized uses:

  • Sunglass tint – Cuts glare in bright light.
  • Computer lens tint – Reduces digital eye strain.
  • Driving tint – Increases contrast for driving.

Other lens options

  • Progressive lenses – Correct presbyopia by blending distance and near vision.
  • Bifocals – Have an upper distance section and smaller lower near vision section.
  • Trifocals – Like bifocals but with a third section for intermediate vision.
  • High index – Thinner, lighter lenses for stronger prescriptions.
  • Aspheric design – Reduce lens distortion for crisper, sharper vision.

Review the pros and cons of each lens choice carefully to select the best lenses for your eyes and lifestyle.

How to Find Your Perfect Fit

The key to getting the right fit when buying eyeglasses online is to accurately measure your face, nose bridge and temples. Here are some tips for finding frame sizes that will fit you best:

  • Determine your face shape and choose appropriate frame shapes and sizes. Measure width across cheekbones to determine frame width.
  • Measure your nose bridge width where glasses will sit. Choose frames with similar bridge widths.
  • Measure temple length from near your eyes to around your ears where frames will rest. Select frame temple sizes to match.
  • Select adjustable nose pads and temple tips to tweak final fit.
  • Use a virtual try-on feature to see frames on your face.
  • Order 2-3 sizes if between sizes or unsure. Keep the best fit, return the rest.
  • Check frame measurements like lens width, bridge and temple sizes and compare to glasses that fit you well.

Taking careful measurements will help ensure you receive eyewear that fits comfortably and stays in place. Don’t just guess – measure!

How to Read Your Prescription Eyeglass Lenses

Understanding the numbers and abbreviations on your prescription lenses helps ensure you order the correct specifications online. Here are the key elements to look for:

  • OD/OS – Indicates right (OD) and left (OS) eyes.
  • Sphere – Controls nearsightedness (negative #) or farsightedness (positive #). Measured in 0.25 increments.
  • Cylinder – Corrects astigmatism. Higher #s indicate stronger prescriptions.
  • Axis – Specifies angle of astigmatism correction. Generally 1-180 degrees.
  • Add – Strength of near vision correction for reading. Typically +1.00 to +3.00.
  • PD – Pupillary distance. Distance between pupils. Helps center lenses.
  • Base curve – Controls lens curvature. Matched to eyeglass frame.

Carefully enter your prescription values when ordering glasses online to receive the correct lenses for your vision needs. Ask your optometrist to explain your prescription if you have any confusion.

How to Adjust Your Frames for Proper Fit

Sometimes your new eyeglasses need minor adjustments to get the ideal fit. Here are some tips for adjusting frames at home:

Adjust nose pads

  • Spread pads wider apart to widen fit. Bring together to tighten.
  • Bend pads down to lift frames off cheeks or up to lower fit.

Adjust temple tips

  • To tighten or loosen fit, use pliers to gently bend tip inward or outward. Don’t overbend.
  • Replace rubber temple tips if they become loose or fall off.

Adjust frames

  • Carefully bend endpieces and front frames in or out for wider or narrower fit.
  • Heat plastic frames first with warm water, dryer or hair dryer to prevent cracking.
  • Don’t attempt to adjust metal frames at home. See an optician.

Always make adjustments slowly in small increments. Have an optician make more complex adjustments for best results.

Best Places to Buy Prescription Glasses Online

Thanks to the rise of online eyewear retailers, finding affordable, stylish glasses has never been easier. Here are some of the best places to buy prescription eyeglasses online:

  • EyeBuyDirect – Huge selection of inexpensive frames starting at just $6. Prescription lenses from $29. Frequent sales.
  • Zenni Optical – Extremely low prices starting at $6.95. Large variety of frames and lens options.
  • GlassesUSA – Name brand and designer frames 25-70% off retail. Price match guarantee.
  • Warby Parker – Trendy, high-quality frames. Virtual try-on. Physical locations for fittings.
  • Liingo Eyewear – Modern, unique frame styles. Package includes lenses, coatings and shipping.
  • Lensabl – Get new lenses made for your existing frames. Online vision tests.
  • FramesDirect – Wide selection of designer brands at discounted prices.

Comparison shop a few of these top-rated retailers to find the best prices on your perfect eyewear style and prescription needs.

Tips for Buying Eyeglasses Online

Follow this expert advice to ensure successful online eyeglasses purchases:

  • Know your prescription – Have your latest corrective lens measurements on hand.
  • Measure PD – Determine your pupillary distance to center lenses properly.
  • Choose adjustable frames – For tweaking final fit and alignment.
  • Take care of lenses – Add scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings.
  • Understand return policies – Many offer free shipping and returns.
  • Join loyalty programs – For access to discounts and promos.
  • Compare prices – Shop around for the best deals on your frames and lenses.
  • Read reviews – Verify quality and service before purchasing.
  • Protect your eyes – Schedule annual eye exams even if you order glasses online.

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Glasses Online

Is it safe to buy eyeglasses online?

Yes, if you purchase from a reputable retailer and provide your latest corrective lens prescription, buying glasses online is entirely safe. Many online stores are now owned by or partner with traditional optical companies.

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How do I know my pupillary distance (PD)?

Your PD measurement indicates the distance in millimeters between the pupils in each eye. You can have it measured during your eye exam or do it yourself at home with a ruler.

Should I choose high index or polycarbonate lenses?

Polycarbonate lenses are more impact resistant while high index lenses are thinner and lighter. Polycarbonate is a good choice for kids. High index works well for stronger prescriptions that need a thinner lens.

Are cheaper glasses online lower quality?

Not necessarily. Many have the same quality as designer brands but cut out the middleman costs. Look for retailers that allow you to add premium lens coatings and treatments.

Can I adjust the fit of frames bought online?

Yes, you can make minor sizing and fit adjustments at home like bending the frame or nose pads. For more complex adjustments, take them to a local optician. Many online retailers also have physical store locations.

When should I replace eyeglasses bought online?

You should replace them every 1-2 years if your prescription changes, the frame breaks, or scratches build up on lenses that can’t be refinished. Buy a backup pair if your prescription remains stable.

Finding Well-Fitting, Affordable Eyewear Online

From comparing frame shapes and sizes to selecting lens features, ordering eyeglasses online has never been more convenient. As this guide outlined, taking the time to get accurate measurements and understand your prescription will ensure your new glasses fit comfortably and perform optimally.

By doing your homework, taking advantage of virtual try-on tools, and buying from trusted, budget-friendly online retailers, you can save big without sacrificing style or quality. So don’t overpay for your next pair of specs at a brick-and-mortar store – shop smart and see the savings online. Your eyes and wallet will thank you!

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