If you’re looking for the best place to buy glasses online or in a store, there are several ways you can go: optical chains, independent optometrists, optical departments in big-box stores or online-only sellers.
No matter which option you choose, the key thing to remember is this: Eyeglasses don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars! Over the past few months, I’ve been researching the prices and process of buying prescription glasses at a variety of popular retailers to see where you’ll get the best deal and the best customer experience.
In this article, I’ll take a close look at Zenni Optical, Costco Optical and other great places to buy glasses both online and in-store. Plus, I’ll tell you where you can get the cheapest eye exam, what you can expect to pay and what you’ll need to know before ordering glasses online.
The Best Place To Buy Glasses Online
Zenni’s prices start at around $12 for a basic frame with prescription lenses. That price includes shipping!
“The big knock on Zenni historically was lousy customer service, but they have improved in that area,” Clark says. “I’ve used them multiple times and never had a problem.”
But while both Clark and Consumer Reports believe that Zenni is among the best places to buy glasses online, it’s far from the only game in town.
The Best Place To Buy Glasses In-Store
If you’re more comfortable with seeing an eye doctor and ordering frames the traditional way, Costco Optical may be worth visiting.
Consumer Reports takes a look each year at eyeglass retailers and says Costco Optical is currently the #1 best place to buy glasses in America. According to Clark, this isn’t surprising.
“The customer service is extraordinary, much like you’d find at an independent doctor of optometry,” he says. “The big difference is how much money you save at Costco and the service after the sale. If you’re not happy, they give you your money back — unless state law prohibits it.”
In addition to Costco, a number of other optical centers are also ranked highly by Consumer Reports, including each of the retailers listed below. To see the full list of Consumer Reports’ rankings, you’ll need to subscribe. The current rate is $39 per year.
8 of the Best Places To Buy Glasses
Whether you prefer shopping online or in a store, my research shows that Costco Optical and Zenni Optical are two of the best places to buy glasses, though they aren’t the only retailers worth considering.
In fact, there are a lot of things to consider before you decide where to buy glasses. Some of the most important factors to think about when buying new glasses include the quality of frames and lenses, services, the total price, customer service and accessibility.
Based on these qualities and my recent research, here are eight of the best places to order eyeglasses:
Eye Exam Cost Starting Cost for Frames Starting Cost for Single-Vision Lenses Starting Cost for Progressive Lenses Best for:
Costco Optical $78 $50 $66 $130 Customer service and quality
Zenni Optical N/A $6.95 $0 $27.95 Cheapest glasses overall
Warby Parker $75 $95 $0 $295 Selection and style
EyeBuyDirect N/A $6 $6.95 $49 Picking out new glasses online
Sam's Club Optical $67 $59 $0 $120 Balance between prices and services
Walmart Vision Center $73 $9.31 $0 $50 Nearby in-person service
Target Optical $70 $39.98 $75 $200 Using vision insurance online
America's Best $50 $59.95 $0 $100 Cheapest eye exam
As you can see, some starting costs for single-vision lenses are $0. At these retailers, the cost of single-vision plastic lenses is included in the cost of the frames.
Below, you’ll find additional information on each retailer including details about the selection, how to shop for the best deals and how to place an order online.
Eye Exam Cost: $78 on average
Starting Cost for Glasses: $116
Best For: Customer service and quality
If you’re a Costco member, you can find great prices on frames and lenses at Costco Optical compared to independent eyeglass shops and doctors’ offices. Plus, the warehouse earned exceptional marks on price, follow-up service, quality of frames and lenses and more from Consumer Reports. And Costco Optical also gets Clark Howard’s stamp of approval.
While you do have to be a Costco member to purchase glasses or contacts there, anyone can get an eye exam and visit the eye doctor there. And Costco accepts most major insurance plans.
Of course, Costco doesn’t offer the lowest possible price for prescription glasses. You’ll find lower prices at online retailers such as Zenni and EyeBuyDirect. Still, the overall quality of the frames, lenses and buying experience may be worth the difference in price. If you’re more comfortable talking to a doctor and trying on frames in person, Costco is a great choice.
If you’re thinking about buying your next pair of glasses from Costco Optical, check out these four things to know.
Eye Exam Cost: N/A
Starting Cost for Glasses: $6.95
Best For: Cheapest glasses overall
Zenni Optical has proved to be an industry disrupter when it comes to buying prescription glasses. The online-only retailer offers the absolute lowest prices on plastic frames and includes the cost of single-vision plastic lenses in those prices. The cost of progressives lenses is equally surprising.
Despite the crazy low prices, Zenni Optical maintains a pretty great reputation. It’s ranked third on Consumer Reports’ list, and Zenni also comes with Clark’s recommendation.
You’ll find a huge selection of frame styles and lens features available at Zenni, and it’s easy to place an order online. Shipping costs just $4.95, and the company says you can expect your glasses to arrive in 2-3 weeks. (Team Clark members who have ordered from Zenni have received their glasses early every time.)
To read more about our experiences with Zenni Optical and learn how to place your first order, check out these six things to know.
Eye Exam Cost: $75 on average
Starting Cost for Glasses: $95
Best For: Selection and style
Warby Parker is a great option for buying glasses both online or in-store. You’ll find a huge selection of styles as well as competitive prices and fast, free shipping. Consumer Reports ranks them second, just behind Costco Optical.
If you aren’t sure which style of glasses you’d like, you can take Warby Parker’s style quiz. Warby Parker also allows you to select five frames to test out for five days at no cost if you’re shopping online. And when you buy a pair of eyeglasses from Warby Parker, the company will donate a pair of glasses to someone who needs them.
If there’s a Warby Parker location nearby, you can also visit in-person to try on and order glasses. Some locations offer eye exams for $75 on average. While the prices aren’t necessarily the cheapest available, the convenience and customer service may be worth the difference.
Before you decide where to buy your next set of glasses, check out these five things to know about Warby Parker.
Eye Exam Cost: N/A
Starting Cost for Glasses: $6
Best For: Picking out new glasses online
EyeBuyDirect is another one of the best places to buy glasses online. As long as you already have a valid prescription from your eye doctor, you can save a ton of money by shopping at EyeBuyDirect. Plus, like Warby Parker, for every pair that you buy, another pair is donated.
When you first visit the website, you can take the style quiz for some recommendations. As you browse available styles, you can also click on the small heart next to the ones you like so that you can easily compare choices later. For these reasons, shopping at EyeBuyDirect is a great way to get the competitive pricing of an in-house, online retailer while also picking out a new pair of frames you’ll love.
Don’t forget to check out available promotions on the website to get the most savings. Plus, students and veterans are eligible for an additional 20% off. New subscribers may also be eligible for a welcome bonus including a discount and free shipping on your first purchase.
For more ways to save, check out these five things to know before buying your glasses at EyeBuyDirect.
Sam’s Club Optical
Eye Exam Cost: $67 on average
Starting Cost for Glasses: $59
Best For: Balance between prices and services
According to Consumer Reports, Sam’s Club Optical ranks sixth among 33 eyeglass stores and received above-average scores in six out of seven categories including follow-up service, customer service and quality. I found that Sam’s Club Optical offered one of the cheapest average prices on eye exams as well as good prices on frames.
Like Costco, you’ll have to have a membership to buy glasses or contacts from Sam’s Club, but anyone can make an appointment with the eye doctor. You will have to visit your nearest Sam’s Club Optical location in person to order your glasses. Unfortunately, you can’t order prescription glasses online from Sam’s Club.
In fact, Sam’s Club doesn’t provide a lot of information online about its optical centers. While you’ll find great prices on frames and lenses in-store, you won’t be able to see the available selection or estimate the cost by shopping online.
If you’re thinking about buying your next pair of glasses from Sam’s Club Optical, here are five things to know before your first visit.
Walmart Vision Center
Eye Exam Cost: $73 on average
Starting Cost for Glasses: $9.31
Best For: Nearby in-person service
If you live near a Walmart Vision Center, this could be another good place to shop for glasses. You’ll find a huge selection of frame styles and colors at competitive prices, and they’re available both online or in-store.
Walmart Vision Center has been my primary optical center for a long time, and I’ve always had great experiences. Still, while Walmart offers low prices available on select frames, I know there are better prices on higher quality frames elsewhere.
If convenience is a major factor for you, you can still find a great deal at Walmart. Plus, the vision center accepts most major insurance plans for eye exams and in-store purchases.
To learn more about Walmart Vision Center, check out these five things to know before your first visit.
Eye Exam Cost: $70 on average
Starting Cost for Glasses: $79.95 for adults; $59 for kids
Best For: Using vision insurance online
Similar to Walmart Vision Center, Target Optical may be a convenient choice for you, and it offers a wide selection of styles and lens types.
While the prices aren’t necessarily the lowest available, you will find great deals on Target brands including A New Day, Goodfellow & Co. and Cat & Jack. Plus, RedCard holders are eligible for a 5% discount on Target Optical products.
My favorite thing about Target Optical is the ability to check your insurance benefits online. The company accepts more than 50 different insurance plans, and you can enter your personal and plan information to check your eligibility.
If you’re thinking about buying glasses from Target Optical, check out these five things to know.
America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses
Eye Exam Cost: $50
Starting Cost for Glasses: $59.95
Best For: Cheapest eye exam
America’s Best is another place to consider buying your next pair (or pairs) of glasses. While an eye exam is typically $50 and glasses start at $59.95 each, America’s Best offers a deal including two pairs of glasses and an eye exam for $59.95 total. That makes each pair of glasses $34.98 and the eye exam free!
Unfortunately, America’s Best is ranked 28th out of 33 on Consumer Reports’ survey and received below-average scores for both the quality of frames and lenses and policies. The retailer also has a considerable number of low scores from the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Affairs and Yelp.
If you’re looking for a great deal on simple prescription lenses in plastic frames or a cheap eye exam, America’s Best may be an option for you. However, if you listen to customer reviews, getting your eyes checked at Sam’s Club and buying your glasses at Zenni may leave you happier in the long-run.
Before you decide where to make your purchase, read these five things to know about America’s Best.
What To Know Before Buying Eyeglasses
The cheap prices from online retailers are certainly alluring. But if you plan on ordering from a site like Zenni Optical or EyeBuyDirect, you’ll first need to get your vision checked by an eye doctor to get an updated prescription.
You’ll also need to find out your pupillary distance (P.D.), which is the space between the centers of your pupils, expressed in millimeters. Certain frames will not work with certain P.D.s because the center of the lenses will either be too wide or too narrow. You need a fit that’s just right.
If your P.D. is already noted on your prescription, you are good to go. If it’s not noted, many doctors will provide this information upon request.
Know Your Rights
Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Eyeglass Rule, doctors must do the following for their patients:
- Your eye doctor must give you a prescription for glasses at the end of your exam.
- You can’t be required to pay an extra fee or sign a waiver in exchange for the prescription.
- You can’t be required to buy your glasses or contact lenses from the eye doctor to get your prescription.
- Note that for contact lenses, the FTC says your eye doctor must give you the prescription after your fitting, which may require more than one appointment.
In some states, your doctor is also required to give you your pupillary distance. You can always ask for this even if it isn’t included on your prescription. If all else fails and you have a doctor who is just not cooperating, you can follow Zenni’s guide or EyeBuyDirect’s guide on how to measure your P.D. at home.
Take Time To Comparison Shop
Before you decide where to buy your glasses, take the time to consider the following factors:
- The cost of an eye exam (if you need one)
- The cost of glasses (frames and lenses)
- The quality of the glasses
- Customer service and follow-up care
If you’re shopping online, you can look up the specs and prices of available glasses to compare. For in-store shopping, you might have to call your nearest location or visit in person to get an accurate estimate.
If you’re looking to get an eye exam, calling nearby locations is the best way to accurately compare prices. For a comparison beyond price, you can also look up the names of eye doctors in your area and search for patient reviews online. Online reviews may also be a good way to get an idea of the overall customer service experience and product quality.
Clark’s Advice for People Who Have Never Bought Glasses Online
When you order online, you shouldn’t expect much customer service after the sale. For example, there’s no one you can go to who’ll adjust the fit if the frames aren’t comfortable. So recognize that there are some trade-offs.
But again, you’ll usually pay a fraction of the price with online sellers versus traditional retailers.
Clark wears progressive lenses he bought online and says he’s never had a problem with ordering glasses this way. But if this is the first time you’re buying glasses online, you may have some reservations.
In that case, try this advice from Clark:
“I recommend a safe harbor until you’re comfortable. I want you to pay too much for your first pair buying them the traditional way to satisfy your fears. Then buy a second pair with a cheap online shop. Compare the two to see if the cheaper pair will work for you moving forward.”
Finding the best place to buy glasses can be tricky with so many options. Still, more options mean that you have a better chance of finding a great deal if you take the time to comparison shop.
If you’re a Costco member, you’ll find great prices, customer service and quality products at the warehouse. If you’re interested in the lowest possible prices and complete convenience, consider ordering online at Zenni Optical.
Warby Parker is a great place to check out both online and in-store for a huge selection and up-to-date styles. Plus, you can try out five pairs for five days completely free. For a similar online experience with even lower prices, check out EyeBuyDirect.
Sam’s Club members will find great deals there, and you don’t even have to be a member to take advantage of the affordable eye exam prices. If you aren’t close to a Sam’s Club location, you may still be able to find great prices at your nearest Walmart Vision Center or Target Optical.
Finally, if you’re looking for the lowest prices on an eye exam and two pairs of glasses, America’s Best will have a deal for you, but keep in mind that its ratings (on several sites) aren’t the best.
Before you decide where to buy your next pair of glasses, just remember that you’ll need an up-to-date prescription and your pupillary distance. Also, know that some glasses retailers are online-only while others are in-store only. If you have a preference on how to order your glasses, choose an optical center that works for you. Lastly, take the time to call your nearest optical centers for the most accurate quotes and to see if you can use your vision insurance to lower the total price.
Where do you buy your glasses? Do you shop online or in-store? Let us know in the comments below!