“cheapism helps you find the cheapest "best buys"” — lifehacker
In this review:
  1. Cheap Eyeglasses Websites
  2. Eyeglasses Website Reviews
  3. Cheap Eyeglasses Frames: Fit and Selection
  4. Eyeglasses Prices
  1. Buying Eyeglasses Online
  2. Online Eyewear Newcomers
  3. Discount Cheap Eyeglasses Features Comparison Table

Cheap Eyeglasses Buying Guide

For people who rely on corrective lenses to see their way through the world, the financial squeeze of new prescription glasses is an all too familiar sensation. Today's prescription eyewear averages upward of $300 a pair, and more for bifocals or progressive lenses.

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Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's Club sell glasses for significantly less than optometrists or chains like LensCrafters, and in recent years a slew of cheap eyeglasses websites have popped up, as well. For less than $50, eyeglass wearers can purchase cheap prescription spectacles of surprisingly good quality online.

Our top picks for cheap eyeglasses sites, Zenni Optical (starting at $7) and 39 Dollar Glasses (starting at $39), impress both users and expert bloggers with generally decent customer service and a high quality-to-price ratio. Eyeglasses sites Goggles 4 U (starting at $7) and Eye Buy Direct (starting at $7) also rate well overall; the former occasionally turns out lenses of sketchy quality but wins points for problem resolution. Eyeglass wearers with online buying experience say Optical 4 Less (starting at $15) is a suboptimal choice because customer service is less than reliable.

To order eyeglasses online, you'll need a copy of your prescription. If your eye doctor balks, remind the doctor that the Federal Trade Commission's Prescription Release Rule requires optometrists and ophthalmologists to give this information to patients. Make sure your pupillary distance (PD), a critical measurement not typically written down as part of your prescription, is included. As a backup plan, you can have someone else measure your PD using the eyeglasses websites' tools.

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You should also have an idea of what frame style suits you and what size best fits your face. Experts recommend trying on glasses at a brick-and-mortar store, then writing down style and size info or taking photos of yourself wearing those frames for reference. Alternatively, you can refer to an old pair of glasses that you like.

Once you have your information in hand, you're ready to shop online for eyeglasses. Sound easy? It is. However, there are risks involved and aspects of the online buying experience worth noting. While most customers are satisfied with their purchases overall, long lead times, inconsistent order tracking, and problematic customer service are issues that dog most of the cheap eyeglasses websites we researched.

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Still, the lure of affordable frames is an attractive proposition, and one that many frugal consumers find worth experimenting with. If all goes well, you will have procured prescription glasses for an incredible value. If things go south, at worst you're out a maximum $50 (for a basic prescription).

Important note: Purchasing glasses online should never replace regular visits to the eye doctor. First of all, prescriptions tend to change over time, and you need a current prescription in hand to successfully purchase a pair of eyeglasses. Additionally, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can test for eye diseases, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, which can cause permanent blindness if left untreated. And because some specialists offer free eye exams, expecting compensation through the purchase of eyewear, it's only fair to notify providers ahead of time that you'll be purchasing your eyeglasses elsewhere.

by Gina Briles (Google+ Profile)

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Best Cheap Eyeglasses

Zenni Optical

This online eyeglasses vendor is one of the cheapest around and popular with discount eyewear bloggers and the vast bulk of customers. Zenni Optical scores for overall value and user-friendliness.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

39 Dollar Glasses

Although this site is pricier than other cheap online eyewear vendors, experts like the workmanship, website functionality, product guarantee, and solid BBB accreditation. Some purchasers grouse about disorganized customer service and long shipping times.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap Eyeglasses

Goggles 4 U

Experts tout the customer service and quick problem resolution with Goggles 4 U and an unusual re-lensing option (new lenses for old frames), although reports of poorly crafted lenses occasionally surface in consumer reviews. Repeat purchasers qualify for discounts.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Eye Buy Direct

Experts rank U.S.-based Eye Buy Direct high on quality, although the anti-reflective coatings have been known to crack when exposed to hot water. Consumers generally regard the glasses as a good value but cite difficulty getting accurate tracking information on orders. The selection of glasses in the starting price range has improved, but the online vendor's BBB accreditation has disappeared.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

Optical 4 Less

Known for high-quality lenses, this Hong Kong-based company has been plagued recently by reports of evasive customer service. The only cheap eyeglasses retailer offering mineral glass lenses or a mirrored coating, it also boasts the widest selection of tints. Experts say that bifocals are too pricey.

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