According to the Vision Council of America, an estimated 75% of the worldwide adult population wear glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. If you’re one of these people, you don’t have to spend a lot to take care of your sight.
There are plenty of places to get cheap prescription glasses, sunglasses, and contacts, whether you’re ordering online or not.
Buying cheap prescription glasses, as opposed to designer frames, is a clear way to save money. But before you purchase your new eyeglasses, there are a few ways that you can save even more.
Check Your Insurance Coverage First
If you are still working and have health insurance at work, check to see what your benefits will cover. There’s a chance that your vision insurance will cover the full cost of your glasses, as well as eye exams. You may also be able to use funds from your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA) if your employer offers these.
Avoid Buying from the Optometrist’s Office or Boutique Opticians
Your eye doctor’s office likely has walls of glasses available for purchase. While there’s no harm in browsing the different frames to see what style best suits you, there is usually a significant mark up in prices if you purchase through them or from boutiques. You can easily find similar frames (if not the same ones) elsewhere for much less.
Skip the Unnecessary Add-Ons
Paying extra for add-ons like scratch-resistant coating or blue light coating might not be necessary. Polycarbonate lenses, for example, already have UV-protection and are more durable than plastic lenses. Anti-glare or anti-reflective coating is one of the few upgrades that comes recommended.
Only Replace Your Lenses
You don’t have to replace your frames and lenses every time your prescription changes. I’ve kept my eyecare costs down by only replacing the lenses and not the whole frames. The frames I wear all day, every day, were purchased over 10 years ago (and they were not cheap!). As my prescription changed, replacing the lenses cost me $100 – $150 every few years.
Get a Second Pair
Buying more than one pair of new glasses can work to your advantage as many eyewear stores offer promotions like buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO). Having a back-up pair of glasses is smart, but you could also get a pair of prescription sunglasses with these sorts of deals.
Buy Glasses Online
Online retailers can sell prescription glasses, contacts, and sunglasses at a much lower cost than most offline retailers can. They don’t have the same overhead costs (such as rent, bills, and wages for in-store staff) and often run their own manufacturing facilities, which means they can sell at lower prices.
Check Online for Deals
Even if you’re buying glasses in-store, be sure to check online for discounts or promotional deals. For example, LensCrafters offers up to 50% off for AAA, CAA, and AARP members, and Zenni Optical offers 10% discounts for first responders, military, and healthcare workers. \
You can also get offers by signing up for the company’s email list.
Cashback and coupon sites, including Honey, Swagbucks, and Rakuten, often partner with online retailers. You can easily find valid promo codes and earn cash-back on your purchase.
Buying Cheap Prescription Glasses Online
You can buy everything online these days, including prescription glasses. With more options and popular styles available, less pressure from salespeople, and the convenience of taking your time while shopping from home, it’s easy to see why people choose to buy online. Getting the same quality frames available from the optometrist’s office or major retailers at a lower price is also a clear advantage.
Before you can buy prescription glasses online, you need two things:
- a copy of your prescription
- your pupillary distance (the distance between your eyes)
Unlike purchasing in store, you can’t try glasses on when ordering them online. Although many sites offer virtual try-on tools to help you pick the right look, you will need proper measurements, too. This helps ensure your glasses are comfortable and fit so that you’re looking through the right spot on your prescription lenses. To measure your pupillary distance, you can ask your eye doctor, follow the guides available online, or look at your current glasses to see if the measurements are printed on one of the arms.
5 Best Places to Buy Cheap Glasses Online
There is no shortage of options for where to find cheap glasses online. But you do need to be careful. Sometimes the low price also means cheap quality. You’ll also want to double-check what’s covered by your out-of-network insurance policy.
It’s also important to be safe and check the return policy before you buy eyeglasses online. There’s no point in trying to save money taking care of yourself if you end up with something you don’t like or doesn’t fit that can’t be returned.
Here are the top 5 recommended places to shop for affordable, high-quality prescription eyeglasses online:
Offering everyday low prices and added discounts for students, veterans, referrals, and reward program members, you can get a great pair of glasses for an average of only $70 with EyeBuyDirect.
They offer a 14-day return policy for a one-time replacement or full refund – no questions asked. US residents can also get fast 2-day delivery on specific frames and prescriptions.
Price: Starting at $6
Shipping Cost: Free (for US orders over $99) or starting at $5.95
GlassesUSA has both discount glasses and name brand frames from designers including Gucci, Versace, Ray-Ban, Oakley, and Prada. With free shipping, free returns, and a 14-day full money back return policy, you can save quite a bit if you order glasses through them.
You can also sign up for their referral program and get an Amazon gift card for each friend you refer.
Price: Starting at $39 (or $19 for clearance items)
Shipping Cost: Free in the US and Canada
You can shop in-store or online with LensCrafters, making it an excellent choice for anyone who might be leery about ordering glasses online. Having the option to get help in person, if needed, can reduce your anxiety about buying the wrong glasses. However, they do have a free 30-day return policy for a full refund or replacement pair.
Price: Starting at $73
Shipping Cost: Free in the US
4. Warby Parker
Warby Parker is one of the few online eyewear retailers that offer a home try-on option. You can choose 5 pairs of select glasses to try at home for 5 days – shipped and returned for free. Otherwise, you can get a full refund or exchange within 30 days.
Price: Starting at $95
Shipping Cost: Free in the US and Canada
5. Zenni Optical
When my husband first needed glasses, we ordered 5 pairs with Zenni Optical for under $100 total. With over 6,000 frame styles to choose from, this was a cheap and easy way to try out a few different glasses at once. A lot of people use Zenni to order non-prescription designer eyeglasses to wear as accessories.
You really can’t tell the difference between his $8 cheap frames and my $850 designer glasses.
The biggest drawback is their return policy. Returns made within 30 days will be refunded at 50% or for a 100% store credit (excluding shipping costs).
Price: Starting at $6.95
Shipping Cost: Starting at $4.95
Buying Cheap Prescription Glasses Offline
You might prefer to shop in-store instead of buying glasses online, particularly if this is your first time wearing glasses or if you’ve had trouble finding the perfect fit in the past. Trained staff can help ensure you get the frames with the right measurements and help you pick the best frames for your face shape.
Certain prescriptions aren't available to be filled online. For example, progressive lenses require an exact fit that needs to be measured in-person to ensure you’re not damaging your vision.
Thankfully there are great options for buying cheap eyeglasses offline, too.
You can usually find prescription glasses for $100 – $200 with optical franchise retailers like LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Visionworks, and Hakim Optical (in Canada). These retailers often have sales and promotions, so be sure to take advantage of those as well.
Chain retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Loblaws also have vision centers. The prices, selection, and level of customer service will vary from store to store. But with prices for prescription glasses starting as low as $9.95 and the option of getting an eye exam on-site, this can be a convenient way to get affordable glasses.
If you need a new pair of prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, or reading glasses, there are plenty of affordable options. You can take care of your eye health, see clearer, and look good without overspending.
Amanda Kay, an Employment Specialist and founder of My Life, I Guess, strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes, and more. She focuses on what it’s like being in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and surviving unemployment while also offering advice and support for others in similar situations - including a free library of career & job search resources.