If you are concerned about ordering glasses online the for the first time, it's not uncommon to feel a bit strange about it. I know when I first bought my rimless glasses online I was nervous as hell. Many of the same concerns and questions I had now seem trivial though. Of course these are common questions people will always have when buying glasses online the first time.
Below I've outline some of the most common questions with answers that should reassure you if you are going to be buying glasses online.
How can these websites sell glasses so cheap?
Most of these companies that sell glasses online do not have the overhead of brick and mortar stores. They also sell at higher volumes so they can offer great discounts. Think of them as wholesale operations for glasses. That is not the only reason though.
Typically most of the major local vision and optical chains have an extremely high mark-up on frames and lenses. Many frames cost less than ten dollars to produce and poly-carbonate blank lenses are not that expensive either. Those lenses might only be a few dollars for each pair. So the mark-up on those $500+ glasses is thousands of percent.
While it is true there is a production cost to cutting the lenses to your specific prescription, do you think the person cutting your lenses is paid a lot of money and well trained? The answer is, No. Technicians that work in labs are usually paid hourly and many states in the United States do not require any special training or certification to work as a lenses cutter and fitter for glasses. You or I could go get a job today doing this if we wanted.
So it is simple, these online glasses websites do not have the high mark-ups and just offer similar glasses for a lot less money.
Are the glasses good quality?
Absolutely. You will be amazed at the quality of the frames and lenses you buy online and will wonder why you never did it before. Check out my SelectSpecs Review and review section to see the quality of the glasses you can buy online. These companies either source from the same factories that make the frames you see at your local optician or build their own like EyeBuyDirect and Coastal which are both owned by the French vision company Essilor. You'll be impressed by the glasses you buy online, I promise.
I do recommend that you stick with companies that we write about on OpticalOwl though. There are a lot of fly-by-night operations out on the net you shouldn't buy from.
What about sizing? Will they fit?
If you are worried about sizing it is a good idea to use the virtual try-on option that many glasses retailers provide on their website. This allows you to upload a picture of yourself and see how the glasses will roughly fit and look. While these are not perfect they are really helpful for figuring out what colors and frame styles work well with your face and what does not.
To take a picture for virtual try-on I recommend you have a friend do it against white background. You should face the camera directly and make sure that your head is not tilting to far high or low.
The other thing I'd recommend is checking your current frames for the sizing on them. If you take them off you will typically will see numbers on the left or right inner side of the arm like this “52 – 17 – 150. These are the sizing of the frame in millimeters (mm). The first number “52” is the width of the lens. The second number “17” is the bridge width” between lenses. The third number “150” is the arm length from the front to back. Obviously depending on your glasses these sizes will vary but if you want something that will fit it is a good idea to check these measurements on your current frames. I'd look for some frames to these.
In the past bought glasses online that were 10mm difference in the arm and lens size and it was fine. Most of the time the product pages will show you more sizing information too. Bridge size is a little harder thought as you don't want to go to big or small. If you have any other questions or trouble I'd ask the customer support or leave a questions below.
What about frame adjustments?
You can perform a lot of glasses and frame adjustments yourself. It is actually not that hard. If you have plastic, acetate, or rubber frames you can run them under hot water and make slight adjustment as needed. For traditional metal frames with nosepads it's best to lay them flat on a table and make adjustments while they are flat.
There are several guides on making frame adjustments yourself. You can Google to find them.
How do I measure my Pupilary Distance (PD)?
On top of your prescription you are going to need your pupilary distance (PD) to order glasses online. This a measurement of the distance between your pupils center-to-center in millimeters. You need this when getting any glasses prescription and most of the time opticians measure it before getting your lenses fitted.
Not having a PD measurement typically stops a lot of people because most eye doctors do not include this as part of the prescription information. Don't let it stop you as there are several ways you can do this.
You can look at a mirror straight with a ruler with a millimeter reading and place that under your pupils. Close your right eye and align the zero mark with the open eye, then open your left eye. Close your right and eye and try to read the line that goes to your pupil in your left eye. This should give you a good PD measurement and I would do it a few times to make sure.
The other way is to grab a friend or family member, buy some cheap reading glasses, and a sharpie. Put on the reading glasses and look straight at your friend and ask them to use the sharpie to mark where your pupils are. Take of the glasses and use a millimeter ruler to measure the distance in between.
If all of this sounds too complicated you can find a local optician to do to the PD measurement. Some charge and some do not. Before you leave your next eye doctor appointment ask them to give you your PD. Legally is it required that they give your full prescription information which includes your pupilary distance.
What if there is a problem with the glasses?
I can't speak for every single online glasses operation out there but typically if you have a problem you can send them back free-of-charge. Coastal and EyeBuyDirect have good return policies but you need to check where you are ordering from. Some companies have tighter return policies. I've personally never needed to send back any frames or glasses I've purchased online and have always been happy with my online glasses.
The most common problem I've seen is people inputting their prescription information incorrectly. I guess if you are buying glasses online and need them, this is not so surprising. 🙂 Make sure to enter the information correctly so that you do not get frames with the wrong prescription.