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We explore what the various online outlets for glasses offer and how exactly their services work.
Today, the best and cheapest way to get your eyeglasses is actually directly through your computer. Although you’ll still need to visit an optometrist to get your glasses prescription, now you can save money and access a wider range of styles by ordering your glasses online. Many of today’s online eyeglass sites have virtual fitting tools that let you see how you look before you even order; others have generous return policies that allow you to spend some time with the frames, decide if you like them, and send them back free of charge if you’re unhappy with the look or fit. This takes a lot of the uncertainty out of online eyeglasses shopping, and helps to ensure you’ll get a pair you’re happy with. Here are the main things to look for when you shop for eyeglasses online.
Comparing the pricing when you buy eyeglasses online can be tricky. Some stores like Warby Parker include both frames and prescription lenses in their pricing, but others such as EyeBuyDirect and Goggles4U price frames and lenses separately.
Finding the lowest price also depends on what you want to buy. For example, if you’re just looking for basic low-cost frames with single-vision lenses and not extras like special tinting or coatings, you could be looking at paying as little as $6.95 from Zenni Optical or Goggles4U.
But, for that price, you’ll be getting very simple lenses and basic frames. It’s perfect if you’re worried about losing or breaking your glasses or want a spare pair to take on a trip, but if you want a range of designer styles you’ll be paying higher prices. Still, we’re not talking anything like what you’d pay in the store. BonLook sells handmade, statement eyewear that begins at $99.
The lowest-price store for single vision eyeglasses also might not have the best deals for progressive lenses or for eyeglasses with extras like coatings and tinting. For example, bifocals from EyeBuyDirect cost less – beginning at $35 – than the lowest-price bifocals from Goggles4U, which begin at almost $40, even though Goggles4U has a lower price for single-vision lenses.
One more question to consider when you compare pricing at different online eyeglass stores is whether or not your insurance is accepted. Glasses.com stands out for accepting plans from most providers and working with many local optometrists. Although the initial price of eyeglasses might be higher, once you factor in your insurance benefits you could find that you get cheaper glasses than anywhere else.
Types of Glasses
When you shop for eyeglasses online, you want to be able to order more than just reading glasses. Progressive lenses, bifocals, and multi-focals are available from most outlets, such as GlassesUSA. Most online eyeglass stores sell sunglasses, but stores like Zenni Optical and Coastal also sell ski goggles and swimming goggles with prescription lenses. Glasses.com includes safety glasses among its offerings and EyeBuyDirect allows you to buy computer glasses that are specially designed to reduce glare off the screen.
When you buy online, you should also check out what special tinting and coatings you can have added to your glasses. Blue, red and brown tinting, photo chromatic lenses, and ultra-violet protective coatings are among those on offer from e-retailers like 39DollarGlasses, Zenni Optical, and Felix Gray. 39DollarGlasses includes anti-scratch coatings as standard with its basic lenses, and Zenni Optical offers a fingerprint-resistant add-on.
Those who spend lots of time staring at a computer may want to consider lenses that combat digital eye strain. Felix Gray’s blue-light filtering glasses harness special lens technology to reduce screen-induced headaches and eye strain. Despite their practical use, these lenses come in trendy, modern frames that don’t compromise on style.
The biggest concern when buying glasses online is wondering what they’ll look like if you can’t try them on. Well, online eyeglass stores have come up with two different solutions to this problem. Most stores now offer virtual try-on. This means that you can upload a photo of yourself and then click on the page to see what you’d look like wearing the frames you’re considering. BonLook and Goggles4U both take this approach.
The other approach is to let you order frames to try on at home for free. Warby Parker made its fame with this setup. It allows you to choose up to 5 pairs of frames to wear at home for 5 days. You can ask your friends’ opinions and see how they feel on your face before choosing the pair you like best or sending them all back and trying different ones. There’s no charge for either shipping or returns.
EyeBuyDirect and GlassesUSA actually use a little bit of both solutions. Both sites offer virtual try-on, but then once you receive your glasses you have 14 and 30 days respectively to try them on at home and send them back for free, so that you can be sure that you really like them.
Shipping is one cost that you don’t have to pay when you get your eyeglasses in store. In some cases, shipping costs almost as much as the glasses do. But then again, many online eyeglass stores solve this issue by offering free shipping. Coastal and GlassesUSA both offer free shipping on all orders within the US, no matter how much your order costs.
Shipping times are also a concern, although you’d usually need to wait a couple of days before your glasses are ready when you order in a brick and mortar store, as well. You can usually pay more for expedited shipping to get your glasses as soon as the next working day. BonLook stands out for offering both free shipping on orders over $80 and fast shipping times of as little as 2 days.
Refunds and Returns
When you buy eyeglasses online, you want to know that it’s easy to return them if you don’t like them when you get the real thing. EyeBuyDirect offers free shipping and returns within 14 days, while GlassesUSA offers this for a period of 30 days. In addition to Warby Parker’s option to try on 5 frames for free for 5 days, you also get 30 days to return your prescription glasses for a full refund and can ask for a free replacement for scratched lenses within the first 12 months. EyeBuyDirect and GlassesUSA also allow each customer to request a one-off replacement within the first 12 months if your glasses get damaged.
Range of Styles
One last advantage to buying eyeglasses online is that you can choose from a far greater range of styles than your local optometrist carries. BonLook is a great source of high fashion eyeglasses for men and particularly for women. All of the glasses are handmade, high quality, and are made with great attention to style and trend. Glasses.com has hundreds of designer and non-designer styles for both adults and children, while Coastal sells one of the biggest ranges of men’s eyeglasses with special attention paid to fashion.
Buy Your Next Eyeglasses Online for Less
Buying eyeglasses online gives you access to more styles, a bigger range of extras like coatings and tinting, and most of all, lower prices for your eyewear. With many online eyeglasses stores offering free shipping and returns with no strings attached, you really have nothing to lose by giving it a try.