Best way to buy glasses: Online or in person?
You just received your eyeglasses prescription, so the next question is: Where to buy your eyeglasses?
Should you purchase your glasses from an optical store near you or buy eyeglasses online?
Where is the best place to buy eyeglasses? That depends on what's most important to you.
If convenience and cost are your primary concerns, buying glasses online might be your best choice.
If you have a strong or complex glasses prescription and you want a trained optician to guide you in the selection of lenses and frames, a traditional brick-and-mortar optical store might be a better option.
Let's walk through the process of buying eyeglasses online and in person:
Frame selection: Number and variety or personal service
Where and how to choose your eyeglasses frames?
Online retailers often have far more frames to choose from than the selection you find at an optical store. There is only so much shelf or wall space to showcase frames in a store, after all.
A vast selection of frames online can be a good thing if you don't want to miss out on the perfect style, but sifting through all of those options can either be fun or overwhelming.
Not sure where to begin in your search for a hip new look? What is your face shape? Some glasses styles look better on round, oval, diamond and other face shapes.
If you're shopping in an optical shop or vision center, your optician can guide you to the frames that might look best on your face shape. Do these frames look stodgy? Too bold? Just ask your optician.
If you're shopping for eyeglasses online from the comfort of your home or office, look for a style finder online to help you narrow your search. Then use a virtual try-on tool to see how your favorite glasses will look on your face.
Facial fit: Lenses and frames
Pupillary distance and lenses
Getting the best glasses for your vision needs starts with getting your pupillary distance right.
What is pupillary distance?
Your pupillary distance (PD) is an essential measurement because the optical center of each eyeglass lens must be positioned directly in front of the center of each pupil. An incorrect PD measurement could cause eye strain, blurred vision or even double vision.
At a brick-and-mortar eyeglasses store, your optician will measure your pupillary distance for you.
At online glasses stores, instructions will walk you through how to calculate your pupillary distance yourself. In some cases, your PD can be measured from a photo.
Worried you may have measured your pupillary distance incorrectly? Some online glasses stores have opticians standing by to help.
How do those frames fit on your face?
How will those snazzy new frames fit your face? Start with the pair you're currently wearing.
In a store, your optician will begin the fitting process by getting the measurements of your current frame.
At an online glasses store, videos and guides will walk you through finding the measurements of your current frames.
Once you've selected your frames, it's time to pick your lenses.
Lenses: What are your options?
After your eye exam, your eye doctor probably explained a bit about your prescription. He or she may have discussed your lenses options — such as progressive lenses or bifocals if you are over age 40 and need multifocal lenses.
If you are ordering your prescription glasses online, especially if you need only single-vision lenses, the process is pretty simple.
Once you've landed on the perfect frame, choose your lens type (single vision, progressive, bifocals, reading glasses or non-prescription), and select your lens material (plastic or polycarbonate, for example).
Then choose your lens option packages and add-ons (anti-reflective coating, for example)
If you need progressive lenses or other multifocal lenses, your eye doctor or optical shop may be the best place to order your lenses.
This is because multifocal lenses require very precise frame, lens and PD measurements and subtle adjustments to the frame so the different optical zones of the lenses are perfectly positioned for clear, comfortable vision at all distances.
Your eyeglasses prescription, which details the lenses you need, is just a starting point. There is an array of lens coatings that can further improve your vision and protect your eyesight.
Do you want photochromic lenses, such as Transitions, to help you adapt to light as you go from indoors to bright sunshine? Do you want lenses to filter blue light from your computer screen and digital devices?
Knowing what you want in your next pair of glasses will ensure you get the best eyeglasses for your vision needs.
Check online reviews and warranties
Before you shop for and buy your eyeglasses, check the reviews for your optical store, vision center or online glasses store.
Chances are that if other people are happy with the glasses they purchased, you will be too.
Check for price-match guarantees, too. And don't forget to use your vision insurance whether you purchase your glasses at a vision center, optical shop or online glasses store.
But what if something goes wrong? What if you're not happy with the fit of your glasses or you don't see as clearly as you expected?
Whether you buy your glasses online or in a store, they almost always come with a manufacturer's warranty that covers repairing or replacing your eyeglasses free of charge.
Getting the best eyeglasses for your vision needs
The best eyeglass lenses to correct your vision and the best-fitting frames will enable you to see better and comfortably.
Where is the best place to buy your eyeglasses? That depends on what matters most to you.
For personal service, your optician will guide you through picking your frames and lenses. If you have a simple eyeglasses prescription and a do-it-yourself mindset, you may save time and money buying your glasses online.
Wherever you choose to buy your glasses, the first step is to find an optician near you and schedule an exam to update your eyeglasses prescription. Take that step today.
Page published in March 2019
Page updated in February 2022