HOUSTON – Back to school usually means new glasses if your student needs them to see, but maybe you’re not comfortable shopping for frames and getting fitted during the pandemic.
There are a lot of online sellers of eyeglasses now. We wanted to find out if buying glasses online is a good idea for younger children and, if so, which online retailer has the lowest prices.
Are online prescription eyeglasses the same as what you get in a retail store?
Let’s talk first about the lenses since this is the most important part of prescription glasses. When you order glasses online, you have to type in your prescription from your eye doctor so the lenses can make made for you. Make sure you find out your pupillary distance from your ophthalmologist or optometrist. You will need this number.
In 2015, we ordered four pairs of glasses with prescription lenses from Zenni Optical and Eye Buy Direct. We took the glasses to professor of ophthalmology Dr. Robert Feldman at UT Health/ UT Physicians. He tested the accuracy of the lenses and found all four were made perfectly and matched the prescriptions we gave the companies.
Feldman said if you have a complicated prescription or a lot of astigmatisms, there is a greater chance of error ordering lenses online. When we asked him what has changed in the online glasses industry since our test five years ago, Feldman sees more of his patients using these services.
“It hasn’t changed a lot,” he said. “I think it’s gotten easier and a lot less expensive.”
How much can you save?
We shopped for the least expensive frames we could find online with the same prescription lenses, a stronger prescription that came with an upcharge from each seller.
Zenni Optical has more than 50 frames that are $10 and under. We picked a pair of tortoiseshell plastic frames for $6.95. After the cost of the lenses, and shipping and handling, our glasses would be $62.80.
At Eye Buy Direct, the $6 frames we selected came out to $96.90 shipped with the prescription lenses.
All frames with your prescription lenses at Warby Parker are $95. After the extra $30 for our specific lenses, the bill was $125. It’s also known for its’ free home try-on program where you pick any five frames, try them on at home and then send them back. If there is a Warby Parker store near you, you can order the glasses in-store and have them sent to your home. If you had a problem with the fit, you could take them into a local store for help.
Each store has its own refund and return policies but generally, what you don’t get ordering glasses online is the custom fitting. You sort of just have to hope for the best.
Are online eyeglass sellers a good fit for kids?
“The kids’ glasses are probably easier online than the adult glasses,” Feldman said, assuming adults are more likely to have a complicated prescription that requires bifocals or progressive lenses.
He says really small kids may need an in-person custom fitting to make sure the frames are comfortable.
“Because if they don’t fit right, they’re gonna be off in a minute and they’re gonna fall off and they’re gonna break, and they’re kids being kids,” Feldman explained.
There are even online sellers now like Topology Eyewear that use apps to scan your face and head to create custom frames just for you.