The cat’s out of the bag — the glasses game is a total scam.
According to Vox, eyeglasses from your typical brick-and-mortar can come with a markup of nearly 1,000%.
The LA Times says eyewear is a “nearly monopolistic” industry worth a cool $100 billion.
The lion’s share of the glasses market is controlled by one company, Luxottica. They’re responsible for branded frames by everyone from Chanel to Versace to Ray-Ban. Oh, and they run the Sunglass Hut, Sears Optical, Lens Crafters, and more.
Luckily, there are plenty of online options that offer style, convenience, and best of all—aren’t $800.
Here are some of our top picks for going the direct-to-customer route for your next pair of frames and finally leaving Big Glasses behind.
8 excellent places to buy eyeglasses online
Before you buy
If you plan on ordering online, we recommend getting your eyes checked first. After that, ask your eye doctor for an updated copy of your prescription.
Some sites will ask you to submit a photo of your prescription while others just ask that you type it in manually. In any case, if you’re going to get new glasses, start fresh.
The second thing you’ll need to know is your pupillary distance or PD. Your PD represents, in millimeters, the distance between the center of your two pupils.
Oh, and if your doctor is shady about all this, there’s something called the Eyeglasses Rule (who knew?!). It states that your doctor must provide you with a prescription at the end of an exam.
Basically, the rule prevents your eye doctor from holding your prescription hostage and making you buy glasses from them.
Once you’ve got your prescription and PD in hand, you’re good to start shopping around.
Oh, and before you start freaking out about what happens if you make the wrong choice, most companies let you return frames and lenses that aren’t quite right.
1. Zenni Optical
Zenni Optical has a ton of frames, starting at $6.95 a pair. They’ve got everything from prescription lavender sunglasses to a lot of looks that you could also find on the rack at your local supermarket.
That said, they have regular glasses, “cool” glasses, and nondescript glasses, too. We like the price as well as the variety, but if you shop Zenni, be prepared to sort through hundreds of frames before finding “the one.”
Consider it an experience akin to shopping on eBay or hunting for gems at the local Goodwill or TJ Maxx.
2. Warby Parker
Warby Parker is the most recognizable name in the online glasses game. The online store has a decent-sized selection of modern, stylish frames, and glasses start at around $95 a pair.
Glasses come in narrow, medium, or wide fit, which is a specification you won’t necessarily find on every website. It can be difficult to gauge the fit by looking at the website.
The site allows you to try on five pairs at home, free of charge. All you need to do is pick out your top choices and they’ll mail you a set of prescription-less frames with a pre-paid shipping label for easy returns. From there, you can purchase the pair you liked best.
3. Eye Buy Direct
Eye Buy Direct hits a sweet spot. They offer a ton of BOGOs and discounts. Even when they’re not running some kind of promo, the most expensive pairs are only about $70.
Most frames are comparable in quality to Warby Parker, but cost a lot less and provide more options.
Unlike Zenni, most of the Eye Buy Direct frames are either fashion-forward or sort of neutral. — They’re perfect for the person who, say, accidentally throws their glasses away or leaves them in an Uber.
What we like about Eye Buy Direct is that there are tons of options, they’re cheap, and the quality is pretty decent for the price. That said, the brand doesn’t provide any warranties, nor do they offer a home try-on option.
4. Glasses USA
Glasses USA has been around for a while, at least a decade or so as far as we know. They’re not known for being cool or sustainable, but they’ve come a long way in recent years.
The site features name brands like RayBan, Versace, and Hilary Duff (who knew she had a glasses brand?) as well as a wide selection of unbranded frames in a variety of styles and sizes.
Unlike some of the other sites like Warby Parker or David Kind, this site feels more like a Lenscrafters. Like Zenni, there are some gems if you dig through the site.
Lookmatic is another D2C glasses company that has been around for a while. It was formerly known as Spex Club.
In any case, the price point and selection is pretty much in line with what you’d find at Warby Parker. The only real difference between the two brands is WP has way more options than Lookmatic, which doesn’t offer a ton of variety.
Still, if you’re a fan of acetate frames, this is a good bet. Glasses start around $100 and you can take advantage of at-home try-on if you’re so inclined.
6. David Kind
If Eye Buy Direct is the fast-fashion of eyewear, David Kind is something of an Everlane. It’s a millennial-friendly online store that caters to buyers that care about sustainability and quality.
David Kind falls on the more expensive side of the online spectrum. There aren’t any $6.95 frames here, but they guarantee a perfect fit and are still cheaper than what you’d find at a specialty glasses shop.
Glasses start at $350 and there’s a real emphasis on quality that you don’t necessarily see on some of these other sites.
If you’re used to paying for Ray-Bans from your local optometrist, the sticker shock won’t hurt so much. Plus, glasses come with a 10-year warranty and they’ll even file a claim with your insurance company for reimbursement.
7. Felix & Iris
We have to admit, we don’t love the look of the Felix & Iris website, but the glasses are priced fairly and they’ve got a decent selection of frames. While style is subjective, Felix & Iris doesn’t feel quite as hip as its competitors, regardless of price point. Warby Parker, Eye Buy Direct, and David Kind all have them beat in that regard.
Still, it might be worth looking through the site. Frames start at $119 and you may be able to get them reimbursed through your insurance company.
The brand will send you four pairs for at-home try on and it has a 30-day return policy. That said, the warranty isn’t great; it only covers factory defects for up to a year.
8. Fetch Eyewear
Fetch Eyewear is new on our radar, but the Portland-based glasses brand brings stylish frames at a reasonable price. Glasses start at $145 a pair, and the company gives all profits to local pet rescue, the Pixie Project.
Fetch also has the offer to “pick five” frames to try at home and the glasses come with a lifetime warranty.
In all, any of these online shops are a solid choice for the glasses-wearer looking for cool glasses at a reasonable price. The best part is, a reasonable price could be $300, $6.95, or somewhere in between.