How to Buy Glasses Online & Save Hundreds

How to Buy Glasses Online

My employer has a rather generous vision plan that covers $155 towards new eyeglass frames and 100% of the lenses through insurance provider VSP. With the new insurance, I was thinking I might actually be able to get away with simply paying the co-pay of $25. I was so excited! I may actually get to try on some glasses, in person, and see what they’d look like on my face. Wow, what a privilege!

My excitement quickly faded before my appointment as I started trying on glasses and looking at the little price tags on each of them: $300, $350, $400… things were not looking good. Sure, there were a few cheaply made or outdated frames that I could get for around $200, but the quality of these frames were not even close to being as good as the quality of the frame-less memory titanium, anti-reflective coated glasses that I had purchased online about 3 years earlier for under $40. Equivalent glasses were actually 10 times more at the local optometrist!

What You’ll Need to Buy Glasses Online

If you’re running into the same issues (and you will when you visit your local optometrist), here’s how you can go about buying your glasses online:

1. You’ll Need your Eyeglass Prescription

How to Buy Glasses OnlineIf your old eyeglass prescription still results in clear vision in your present lenses, then call up your optometrist to get your prescription.

The last time I was at my optometrist, for an eye exam, they printed out all of the prescription details for me, no questions asked. If they give you a hard time, kindly remind them that under FTC rules, eye care providers must provide eyeglass prescription copies at your request (or contact prescriptions).

Note that you will not be able to use a contact lens prescription (the two prescriptions are different). If your prescription is outdated, then you will have to go to an optometrist to get a new one. General eye exams are usually covered by your vision insurance, if you have it Check with your vision insurance provider to be certain.

Here are some prescription terms you’ll need to know when ordering online:

  • OD (Oculus Dexter): your right eye
  • OS (Oculus Sinister): your left eye
  • The Sph or Spherical correction: how near (-) or far (+) sighted you are. If you have ‘PL’, that means you are at zero.
  • Add: for bifocals
  • Cylinder and Axis: is for astigmatism, meaning that your eyeball is not perfectly spherical.

2. You’ll Need your Pupillary Distance

Pupillary Distance (PD) is the distance between your pupils, usually measured in millimeters. Pupillary distance generally falls between 54 and 68 mm. Optometrists will usually take this measurement during your exam, but if they don’t, then you can measure the distance yourself with a mirror and a ruler.

Most optometrists will not write this number on your prescription, because they know that it gives you the ability to shop online. Ask them to write this number in, if they haven’t. Or simply measure your PD by yourself (you could have family or a friend do it too) to avoid the hassle.

The image below represents an example of a pupillary distance of 62mm.

pupillary distance

3. Be Careful of Add-Ons

Eyeglass retailers online will often suck you in with extremely low advertised prices (i.e. ‘Complete set of glasses for only $9!’, however they have add-ons that really crank up the price – anti-reflective coating, anti-scratch, poly-carbonate lens, etc.

The best thing to do is to figure out exactly what you want, and then find out what 3 or 4 different online retailers would sell for that exact same model, so that you are comparing apples to apples. For instance, if you know you want a memory titanium frame with a slight tint and anti-reflective coating then shop around for that exact same pair elsewhere. Some include the add-ons and others don’t, so go with the final price, not the advertised price that gets you in.

4. Shopping for Glasses Online? You Need to Really Look Around for the Best Deal!

When shopping for glasses, don’t worry about the brand. A pair that I purchased under a generic brand was much better than any of the designer comparables that I saw at the optometrist. There are a few retailers that seem to have extremely competitive prices, that I’d recommend comparing to the others:

Buying Glasses Discussion:

  • Have you bought glasses online? Share your story and tips.
  • If you’re afraid to buy glasses online, why?
  • Where did you find the best pair of cheap glasses?

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