Seeing Clearly – Testing Zenni, Eyebuydirect and Other Cheap Glasses

Getting a new pair of prescription glasses can be an expensive endeavor. Name brand frames and lenses usually start around $200 and can easily cost over $500 from optometrists and retailers like LensCrafters. For those looking to save money on eyewear, buying prescription glasses online has become an appealing option. Online retailers like Zenni Optical, Eyebuydirect and Warby Parker offer frames and lenses for a fraction of the cost – some starting as low as $6! But are these cheap internet glasses really worth it?

In this comprehensive guide, we test and review some of the most popular budget online prescription eyeglasses retailers. We cover pros and cons of buying cheap glasses online, break down the components that go into a pair of glasses, and provide tips for finding high quality discounted eyewear that meets your needs and style.

Overview of Buying Glasses Online

Purchasing prescription glasses online can save you 50-90% compared to brick and mortar optometrist offices and vision centers. Prices are low because online retailers cut out the middleman and sell directly to consumers. But before you click purchase, there are some important factors to consider:

Pros of Buying Glasses Online

  • Huge cost savings – Glasses starting at $6 to $40
  • Convenience – Delivered to your door in 7-10 days
  • Big selection – Choose from thousands of frames and lens options
  • Try at home – Order 2-3 pairs, return what you don’t like

Cons of Buying Glasses Online

  • No try-on – Have to guess at fit and look before ordering
  • Need current prescription – Must already have your latest eyeglass prescription
  • No in-person expertise – Less guidance on best options for your needs
  • Not all lens types available – Some don’t offer progressives, bifocals, etc.

To get a great pair of glasses online, you need to understand your prescription, determine the best frame size and shape for your face, and pick lenses suited for how you use your glasses. Getting the details right takes some effort but pays off with stylish, affordable eyewear.

How to Buy Glasses Online Successfully

Follow this guide to find the perfect pair of budget eyeglasses online:

1. Get your prescription information

You’ll need your latest prescription details including sphere, cylinder and axis numbers for both eyes. Pupillary distance (PD) is also required. If your prescription doesn’t include PD, you can often measure it yourself in the mirror.

2. Determine your frame size

Consider measurements like lens width, bridge width and temple length to pick a frame that fits your face shape and size. Retailers have fitting guides online to help. Order 2 sizes if uncertain.

3. Choose frame material and lens options

Pick plastic, metal, rimless etc. based on style preferences and vision needs. Select lens treatments like anti-reflective coating and tints that suit your prescription and how you use your glasses.

4. Double check your order

Carefully verify all entered prescription details before completing checkout. Test smart phone PD measurement tools for accuracy.

5. Allow time for adjustments

When glasses arrive, get them adjusted locally for a perfect fit. Expect to exchange if something isn’t right – online retailers have easy return policies.

Breakdown of Prescription Glasses Components

To get the best results from online eyewear, it helps to understand the parts that make up a pair of prescription glasses and how they impact cost, vision and style.

Diagram showing parts of prescription glasses frame and lenses


The frames hold the lenses in place and dictate the overall style of your glasses. Key factors to consider:

  • Frame material – Plastic, metal, rimless, etc. Plastic is lowest cost while rimless is more delicate.
  • Frame measurements – Lens width, bridge width, temple length all factor into fit. Measure existing pair to help select online.
  • Style – Shape and design affect look and feel. Consider round, rectangular, cat eye and other options.
  • Adjustability – Heat and bend frames for a custom fit. Look for adjustable nose pads and temples.


Lenses affect vision quality, eye protection and cost. Important characteristics include:

  • Prescription – Strength of your correction impacts lens material options and thickness/weight.
  • Material – CR-39 plastic is most affordable. Polycarbonate and high index are thinner and lighter.
  • Treatments – Anti-reflective, UV protection, tints, scratch resistance help vision and eye health.
  • Type – Single vision, bifocal, progressive, reading glasses etc. Determine usage before selecting lens type.

Other Parts

Small touches like hinges and nose pads influence durability and comfort:

  • Lens packaging – Impact resistance is added by laminating lenses between layers of plastic or polycarbonate.
  • Nose pads – Adjustable rubber or silicone pads distribute weight for a secure fit.
  • Hinges – Sturdy metal or plastic hinges allow temples to fold easily without loosening over time.
  • Cleaning cloth – Microfiber cloth prevents scratching lenses while cleaning.

Seeing Clearly: Reviews of Top Online Glasses Retailers

We ordered prescription eyeglasses from a range of popular budget online retailers to compare quality, ordering experience and overall value. Here are detailed reviews of how the top brands stacked up:

Zenni Optical

With glasses starting at $6.95 including prescription lenses, Zenni Optical is the undisputed leader in budget eyewear. But how do these cheap glasses actually perform?


  • Simple single vision glasses from $6.95
  • Progressive no-line bifocals from $67.95
  • Prescription sunglasses from $29.95

Ordering Experience

  • Website is straightforward and easy to use
  • Huge selection with over 7,000 men’s, women’s and kids frames
  • My order arrived in 10 days

Frame Quality

  • Plastic frame is lightweight but feels flimsy and delicate
  • Metal hinges already show some wear after 3 weeks

Lens Quality

  • Lenses produce crisp, clear vision without distortion
  • Anti-reflective coating worthwhile upgrade over basic lenses


  • Frame shape and size options are lacking compared to other retailers
  • Thick rims and large lenses have an outdated, nerdy look

Verdict: Amazingly cheap but lens quality makes them worth it. Order multiple styles since frames won’t last forever.


California-based Eyebuydirect promises designer style frames for up to 70% off retail pricing. Can they deliver style and savings in one pair of glasses?


  • Glasses starting at $6 with basic lenses
  • Designer-inspired frames from $29
  • Extra cost for premium progressives, thinning etc.

Ordering Experience

  • Sleek, modern website with advanced filtering and search
  • Easy checkout and fast 7 day delivery

Frame Quality

  • Lightweight TR90 plastic frame feels sturdy
  • Spring hinges keep temples secure but still foldable

Lens Quality

  • Default plastic lenses prone to scratches
  • Upgrades like blue light filtering worth the price


  • Hundreds of on-trend frame styles at great prices
  • Larger selection than Zenni and other discount retailers

Verdict: Great prices on stylish frames but lenses require upgrades for best quality. Overall excellent value.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker made its name selling affordable designer eyewear online. But are their glasses worth the slightly higher prices?


  • Complete glasses starting at $95
  • Premium progressives top out around $320
  • Frames on average $50-$100 more than Zenni or Eyebuydirect

Ordering Experience

  • Slick website and app make shopping effortless
  • Virtual try-on uses face mapping to show frames on you
  • Ships quickly in 7-10 days

Frame Quality

  • High quality durable plastic and metal frames
  • Noticeably better build than cheap online brands

Lens Quality

  • Crystal clear optics and anti-reflective coating
  • Polycarbonate is standard for impact resistance


  • Timeless frame silhouettes in classic to trendy
  • Doesn’t have novelty shapes like round Harry Potter glasses

Verdict: The priciest of the budget retailers but delivers excellent quality matched with good style.


GlassesUSA delivers designer prescription glasses without the high cost. How do they compare to competitors on quality and value?


  • Single vision glasses starting at $38
  • Progressives from $174
  • Often runs buy one, get one free specials

Ordering Experience

  • Website cluttered compared to Warby Parker and others
  • Large selection of name brand and house frames
  • Order arrived in 8 days as advertised

Frame Quality

  • Ray-Ban branded frames identical quality to retail store
  • Thick plastic feels study and durable

Lens Quality

  • Default plastic lenses lacked anti-reflective coating
  • Vision was crisp but lenses showed more glare


  • Mix of functional frames good for relaxed office setting
  • More conservative styling than Eyebuydirect

Verdict: Quality lenses and frames but style selection trails some competitors. Worth it on BOGO sales or for name brand frames. specializes in reading glasses but also offers computer glasses, sunglasses and low vision aids starting at $20. Do their specialty products warrant the slight price increase?


  • Readers start at $20
  • Single vision glasses from $38
  • Computer glasses from $68

Ordering Experience

  • Simple website focused on reading glasses
  • Smaller selection of prescription frames
  • Order arrived in 6 days

Frame Quality

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  • Lightweight plastic frame but temples feel flimsy
  • Better suited for occasional wear than daily use

Lens Quality

  • Crisp focus when using for reading
  • Computer lenses help reduce eye fatigue


  • More limited in frame shapes and colors
  • Geared toward older consumers

Verdict: Good option for readers and computer glasses. Other retailers better choice for everyday prescription eyewear.

Buying Glasses Online – FAQs

Still have questions about the process of buying prescription glasses online? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Is my prescription information enough to order glasses online?

You need your latest sphere, cylinder, axis numbers for each eye along with pupillary distance (PD). Some online retailers can estimate PD if not on your prescription but measuring yourself is most accurate.

How do I pick the right frame size online?

Use an existing pair of glasses to measure lens width, bridge width, and temple length. Retailers also provide frame size calculators and guides on their websites. Order 2 sizes if between sizes or unsure.

Should I pay more for polycarbonate or high index lenses?

If you have a strong prescription, pay extra for high index or polycarbonate lenses. They are thinner and lighter while providing the same optical clarity. Also consider if added impact resistance is worth the upcharge based on your vision needs and active lifestyle.

Are cheaper eyeglasses lower quality?

Frames may feel more delicate but lenses can still be high quality, especially if you choose upgrades like anti-reflective coating. Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean longer lasting glasses. Take care of any eyeglasses properly and they can last years.

How easy is it to return and exchange glasses bought online?

Most online retailers have free and easy returns within 30 to 60 days of purchase. You pay to ship back then can exchange for a different frame, lens type or prescription. Read return policies closely before ordering.

Should I pay extra for premium progressive or bifocal lenses?

If you require multifocal lenses, it’s often worth paying more for premium progressives which provide a wider, smoother field of vision. Make sure retailer will let you exchange if you have adaptation issues with the multifocal lenses.

Conclusion: Should You Buy Cheap Glasses Online?

Shopping online for discounted prescription eyewear makes sense for many eyeglass wearers. The key is sticking with quality retailers that provide all the prescription details and lens options you need to see clearly. Frame quality and style selection varies greatly between discount providers. Trying on frames virtually can help but expect to exchange a few pairs to find your perfect fit and look. If choosing a lesser known site, test them first with an inexpensive pair of glasses before committing to pricier prescription sunnwear or computer glasses. While buying super cheap glasses online has risks, the savings often outweigh the small hassle of returns and exchanges. So don’t be afraid to take the plunge – with a few clicks you can be seeing clearly and saving big on your next pair of glasses.

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