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Best places to buy prescription glasses online in 2019

Trying to figure out where to buy prescription glasses online? Here's the quick skinny on the top e-tailers out there.

The number of websites that sell prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses has proliferated over the past few years -- and it's not just Warby Parker. More and more people are figuring out the same thing about prescription eyeglasses that they learned about books 25 years ago: it's not only easy to buy them online, but it's a whole lot cheaper, too -- as in hundreds of dollars in savings. 

To that end, we've pulled together the six best online eyeglass vendors we've found. Keep in mind that all these services have been personally used by me or someone on CNET's staff. But before we dive in, note the following caveats, tips and prerequisites: 

  • You'll need to know your prescription and pupillary distance before you use any of these sites -- so make sure you get a hard copy the next time you get your eyes checked by an eye doctor. Once you have that, most of these sites will let you upload a picture of the prescription from your smartphone the first time you make a purchase. 
  • Most of the sites highlighted here offer some sort of discount for first-time customers. That means the first time you buy glasses can be the best deal, so it can pay to try several online retailers before buying glasses online.  
  • See How to buy glasses online and save hundreds of dollars for more tips.

Note that the services discussed here are independently chosen by our editors. CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.

Read more: Use your phone to check your vision

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Several CNET editors have bought their glasses on Warby Parker, which has a good selection of sharp-looking frames. (Somehow editors Dan Ackerman and Scott Stein independently ended up selecting the same frame.) You're going to pay more for a set of Warby Parker glasses -- around $150-$200 -- based on your prescription and type of lens, but the finished products tend to be a step up from what more budget-oriented sites offer. For instance, Warby has no trouble making progressive or light responsive (photochromic) lenses.

Notable site features: The company's app for iPhone X or later iPhone models -- sorry, there's no Android version yet -- allows you to try on various frames virtually (it works surprisingly well) and better yet, you can try up to five frames at home for five days for free. Once your five days are up, you place your box in the mail with the prepaid return label. Hopefully, you find at least one style that you like from among the five you picked for the home trial.

Warby also has physical stores in some locations around the country if you want to go in and try frames that way. Some of these locations also offer eye tests -- and that prescription can be used at Warby or elsewhere.

Warby Parker also has a "buy a pair, give a pair" program, so for every pair of glasses you purchase, the company designates a pair to someone in need, either for free or for "ultra-affordable prices." (See details.) 

Shipping times: According to Warby: "Single vision glasses take 7 to 10 business days to reach you from the time we have all of your order information. Sunglasses and progressives take 10 to 12 business days to reach you." (These estimates jibe with the experience of CNET editors who have used the service.)

David Carnoy/CNET

Austin, Texas-based Roka has only recently branched out into the online prescription business. Its marketing slogan is, "The most technically advanced eyewear that doesn't look technical," and its glasses are impressively light, durable and stylish looking. Like Warby Parker, these are at the higher-end of the online prescription eyeglasses spectrum, with prices of around $200 for a completed pair of prescription glasses, depending on some of the lens upgrades you might add. 

Roka started out making athletic glasses for runners, bikers and triathletes, and many of its prescription frames are bendable at the ends and have rubberized tracks that help you get a more secure fit. The frames also come with three sizes of grippy nose pads to ensure a better fit. They are among the most comfortable glasses I've worn -- and they really stay on your face.    

Notable site features: Like Warby, there's a home-trial program. You can try up to four frames at home for up to seven days. The box ships with a prepaid return label -- you just drop it off at a post office to send it back. 

Shipping times: Roka doesn't provide general estimates, and instead will give you a shipping estimate when individual orders are placed based on which shipping option you choose (next-day, second-day or ground). 

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Founded 10 years ago in Israel, GlassesUSA.com offers more affordable options than sites like Warby Parker and Roka, with full prescription glasses starting at $38. But it also features several premium brands, including Ray-Ban and Persol. Those frames list for more -- they start at $89 for basic completed RX glasses -- but discounts can bring them down in price. 

The one-stop shop offers a 65% discount off your first frames, as well as discounts on lens upgrades (photochromic, for instance), contact lenses and reading glasses. It also recently launched a landing page for flash sales on non-prescription sunglasses. And you can look for seasonal promotions around major holidays.   

Notable site features: A virtual "mirror" feature lets you upload your photo to the site and see what a pair of eyeglasses looks like on your face. And the company is upping the try-at-home ante. Instead of just sending you the frames, GlassesUSA will send you the frame with your actual prescription in it so you can truly try it out for up to 14 days -- though the feature is limited to certain frames and lens options. The site also offers a 100% money-back guarantee so you can return your glasses if you don't like what you ultimately get. And while we've spotted a few negative online reviews for GlassesUSA.com, the company seems to diligently follow up and respond to each one.  

Shipping times: Expect 7 to 10 days between ordering and arrival of GlassesUSA.com products, depending on types of glasses and the shipping option you choose

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

What do you do if you've already got a pair of frames you like but your prescription is old (or your lenses are scratched) and you just want to replace the lenses? Lensabl is one of the few sites that allows you to send in your own pair of frames and get a new prescription lens for them. Its motto is, "Your frames, our lenses," with prices starting at $77 for a basic pair of single-vision lenses. A pair of tinted sunglasses lenses start at $97. 

You upload your prescription online, pick the type of lens you want, and then Lensabl sends you a box with a prepaid return shipping label. You simply mail them your glasses in the box (shipping is free). First-time customers get 15% off.

This site is also a good option if you have an old pair of glasses that you want to turn into prescription sunglasses.

Notable site features: For $40, you can renew your prescription online. Not everybody qualifies to take the online eye exam -- you have to answer some questions to see if you qualify -- but if you do, Lensabl says, "All you need is your computer, smartphone and about 15 minutes of time." Your results will be reviewed by an eye doctor licensed in your state who will then issue you a new prescription via email.  

Shipping times: Lensabl pledges "about two weeks" turnaround time from when you ship your frames to when you'll receive them back.  

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Zenni has been around for awhile, and it's the first site I used to buy glasses online. It's more of a budget-minded site, and over the years, I got some nice deals on cheap glasses, particularly when Zenni was running its occasional three-for-two glasses sales. I've had both standard eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses made here and so has fellow editor David Katzmaier, who has since graduated to Warby Parker (he said, however, he would still buy prescription sunglasses at Zenni because they're cheap and decent enough).

Notable site features: There's a Frame Fit "mirror" feature that allows you to upload a photo and see the frames on your face, as well as new "virtual" try-on feature (powered by Ditto) that allows you to see the glasses on your face as you move around using your computer's webcam or your phone's camera. This is similar to the virtual try-on feature that Warby Parker offers.

Shipping times: "Your eyeglasses are delivered around two weeks from the time we receive your order," says Zenni. In my experience, that sometimes stretches out closer to three weeks.

 

Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

Coastal shares some similarities to Zenni in that it leads with low prices, a 40% discount for new customers and sporadic two-for-one deals around various holidays. It doesn't have any virtual-fit features, but there is an option to input the size of your current frames and the site will serve up options based on those measurements that will be a good fit for your face.

Coastal does offer some premium brand frames (Ray-Ban, Oakley and others), but that takes your price up to over $100 with lenses. 

Notable site features: Coastal has a philanthropic partnership with the Essilor Vision Foundation to improve the sight of people who can't afford glasses. Coastal says that "for every pair of glasses bought, we will donate a pair of glasses to someone in need."

Shipping times: Expect 10 to 14 days.

This story was originally published earlier.