After an exhaustive 40 hours researching, ordering, wearing, testing, and returning glasses online over the past few months, we’ve found that EYECONIC is the best place to buy glasses online.
EYECONIC scored the highest on our 37-point inspection, in which we rated the experience of pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.
They stood out for their seamless, charming, and intuitive website and service, their product choice, return & exchange policy, ease of entering a prescription, as well as their virtual try-on tool which was easy, fun, and critically important in selecting the right frames for my face.
With 841 male and unisex frames, and brands both familiar and intriguing, I can say EYECONIC truly delivers on their company promise: “the ease you expect online, plus the human touch you don’t.”
The close runner-up was Warby Parker, with the edge going to EYECONIC due to a greater selection, a fantastic virtual try-on tool, and helpful reviews for their frames up front on the product page.
So keep reading my online eyeglasses review of the best stores on the web today, and learn everything you need to know before you order your next pair of frames.
The Top Eye Glass Stores Compared
Buy Glasses Online Buying Guide & How We Shortlisted
Clean Design & Easy to Navigate
The ideal glasses shopping experience online starts with and a cleanly designed and easily navigable home page. It shouldn’t be too crowded with information and imagery. Likely one to two great photographs and simple menu options.
It should be nice to look at so you know behind the website is a company that cares about style. In addition, the best online glasses sites will make it abundantly clear they offer free shipping and returns, likely in the banner across the top of the page.
Frames Are First
Once finding the menu item that suits you (Men’s Glasses for me), you should immediately see a selection grid of frames, a set of refined search tools, and some key information like a total number of frames available under your search criteria.
Great Photography to Help You Make Your Decision
You should also see more great photography and perhaps features styles. Once you select a frame to view, the product page should present first and foremost fantastic imagery and/or a great virtual try-on tool. That tool should be seamless to use for every frame on the site. You should be able to add the frame to your shopping cart and choose whether to keep shopping or check out.
Easy Checkout That Provides Useful Options
The process of checking out should include add-on or upgrade options for lenses and coatings, a dead simple and trustworthy way to upload your prescription, great shipping estimates and options, and quick payment with email confirmation. Throughout all of this, there should be friendly, helpful, and responsive customer service.
This was the essential step-by-step experience of EYECONIC.
To make our list, a website had to have these 4 features:
- Free shipping & returns
- Reasonable Try-On Period
- Full refunds
- Virtual Try-On Tool and/or Incredible Photography
With that in mind, we eliminated a bunch of online shops off the bat, like Zenni Optical and Frames Direct, even though they might be well known or come up on the first page of a Google search for “best place to buy eyeglasses online”.
Free Shipping & Returns
- Since you can’t try the glasses on in-store, they need to be shipped. So we made sure our top picks all offered free shipping and returns
- Reasonable Try-On Period
- It shouldn’t cost money to just try something on. These online shops have a business to run, and they might run it very well, but a 50% refund policy feels punitive and restrictive to the buyer. No one wants to be trapped by, or locked into, one online retailer just because they tried out a pair of glasses that didn’t work out.
Virtual Try-On Tool and/or Great Photography
- Additionally, if the site lacked a virtual try-on tool in combination with a lack of great photography (with models) for their frames, then they didn’t make the cut. With all that modern technology has to offer, a top website had to have a way to see what the glasses might look like on a customer’s actual face.
After those considerations, it really came down to two other major factors: Selection, and Design.
Selection & Design
15 out of the 40 total hours searching for the best places to buy glasses online was spent solely researching, evaluating, and comparing the facade of the websites. We considered each site on the basis of volume and diversity of frame selection. We evaluated for a wide volume and diversity of frame design and color in addition to the kinds of tools offered for the fitting process.
“15 out of the 40 total hours searching for the best places to buy glasses online was spent solely researching, evaluating, and comparing the facade of the websites.”
And because choosing and wearing a frame is a fashion choice, and not just about function, we spent another 5 hours evaluating the design of each site to get a sense of the company’s sense of style. A well-designed site signals that the people behind it care a great deal about communicating that they share an interest in well-designed and good looking things. That expertise instills trust and confidence in the shopper that they are buying well designed and stylish frames.
“We spent 35 hours subjecting each of these five sites to a 37-point inspection covering the experience…”
Once we had 10 websites that met all the above requirements, we then narrowed those down to the top five.
We spent 35 hours subjecting each of these five sites to a 37-point inspection covering the experience of pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase, including searching, sorting, comparing, ordering, wearing, and returning glasses from each one. We scored every site on a scale of 10 for selection, price, design, ease of use, customer service, product page design and function, checkout process, delivery estimates, delivery experience, and the return process– just to name a few of the 37 different aspects measured.
Hands-on Ordering and Testing with Each Store
Eyeconic – The Best Place to Buy Glasses Online
For a first-time glasses wearer or a veteran of the frame game, for budgets big and small, this is pound for pound the best online glasses retailer.
- The best thought-out site for the best online experience
- Great stylish frames with a range of affordable pricing
- The best virtual try-on tool on any glasses site
- Useful reviews
- Easy uploading of your prescription
- A fantastic self-serve process to generate pre-paid shipping labels for free returns
- Lack of product videos and photography with models
- Some of their selection is priced quite high
- Slightly inconvenient customer service hours for phone calls
- A somewhat longer lead time for shipping
A stand out feature is their virtual try-on tool. It’s simply the best out there and easily so. It took no time to open the tool and take a picture using my webcam.
The next thing I know, I can see every frame on my actual face in each product page. It worked seamlessly. There’s a dedicated section with pictures and detailed explanations related to buying glasses online.
The videos worked perfectly and educated me on a host of important topics, such as the different lenses available and their function. I love watching videos to learn things and this feature makes EYECONIC feel like they really are in-step with modern online behavior.
There’s just an abundance of information here (both video and text), but it’s all laid out in an organized and comfortable way. This adds to my experience of feeling like I am in trustworthy hands. The page is educational and fun at the same time.
I think this is an amazing resource for choosing the best glasses for your face and how you want to use them. Another nice feature I found on each page are product reviews. And while some other sites have them, no other site makes them so apparent and up front. Even if the reviews were unflattering. That signals to me that EYECONIC truly cares about their customers.
Lastly, when you add a frame to your cart, it nicely shows it in your bag and asks if you want to checkout. It doesn’t force you to another page. A nice touch.
The checkout process is seamless and they show clearly what step you’re on at any given point in the process. At one point, they have you choose if you’d like any optical enhancements such as anti-reflective coating or blue light protection (helps with tired eyes from staring at the computer).
They’re upgrades, but I really appreciate the option and feel the design of the checkout process places the option perfectly at my fingertips with pictures and explanations of each potential upgrade.
It was very easy to upload my prescription by using a photo of a written prescription from my doctor. If I had misplaced it, I could have EYECONIC just call my doctor, or I could add the prescription later after I’d found it. And the shipping methods are the best I encountered: Free shipping in 5-7 days. This makes it the best place to buy prescription eyeglasses.
They also have a great price-matching policy that users can take advantage of up to a full 30 days after purchase. While this is small, it’s all in the details, so I will briefly mention that in my opinion sites should, as a rule, let you be the one to check the box that signs you up for email marketing. I dislike having that box pre-checked for me as I go through the checkout process.
I appreciate the effort, including the nice touches asking me to share my new look on social media. While I like the overall effort here, I will say honestly that I don’t know what their tagline “Human-Savvy By Nature” means. But the glasses are clean, and the case is stylish and fun.
And best of all, the return process was the best I’ve seen. The website has a self-service feature for generating a pre-paid shipping label PDF, which I printed off, taped to the box, and sent off. I never had to even make one phone call or write one email. Thank you to EYECONIC for thinking that through.
Warby Parker – Best for Affordable Style
The best place for affordable style. Possibly the best-known name in online glasses shopping, and with good reason. If you already have a sense of what styles fit your face, but you’re budget sensitive and still want style, an easy ordering process, and you don’t mind seeing only one brand’s selection, then Warby Parker is a great place to shop.
- Stylish glasses, affordable pricing
- A streamlined experience from beginning to end
- In my opinion the best customer service in the industry
- Limited amount of information when it comes to fit
- No virtual try-on tools
- They only carry their own brand
- A limited amount of selection compared to other sites
Warby Parker states as part of their mission: “We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun.” And they certainly follow through on this statement, with one caveat. In their aim for simplicity, they’ve foregone some useful tools such as a virtual try-on, or the ability to upload your picture, in order to see the frames on your own face before checking out.
However, given that you can try up to five pairs of glasses – btw I would call these the most popular eyeglasses – on at home for free, Warby’s lack of technology on their website becomes less of an issue. And depending on how good the technology is (or isn’t — see my comments on GLASSES.COM virtual try-on tool below), it’s certainly arguable whether it’s more of a hassle to make that trip to mailbox to send back the frames you don’t want to keep.
Warby Parker carries only frames under their own brand, and understandably they can’t compete on raw volume for different kinds of frames. What they do have however is pretty impressive. They design their frames in-house with some top professionals and they look really nice on the product page.
The photos are fantastic and the design of the product page is clean, modern, and written with a literary and creative flair unmatched by any other site. Still, for those not buying into the Warby brand and simply looking for the best frame for their face and their budget from a brand-agnostic perspective, Warby falls short of other sites.
One area in particular where Warby stood out during my search was customer service. I had a question before I purchased and gave them a call. On only the second ring a lovely woman named Natalie, a native English speaker, picked up and welcomed me, almost as if I was calling my best friend.
She was casual, friendly, and helpful as can be. I cannot stress enough how much this endears me to a company. A live person picking up right away and helping me in the most friendly way possible will make me a customer for life.
One small negative is the way I was forced into my shopping cart after adding an item. I prefer a drop down from the cart icon in the top corner instead of being taken to my actual cart. Just my preference.
The purchase process could not be easier. I was walked through each step, clearly understanding where I was in the process at each point. I was able to upload a picture of my prescription with ease, and chose free shipping with a 7-10 day delivery estimate.
If I were to need any help, they offer customer service over the phone, live chat, or email, with native English speakers, from 9 am EST to 9 pm EST every day of the week. This is pretty much the gold standard of customer service in our review.
Warby doesn’t offer much in the way of discount eyeglasses online or coupon codes (despite offering this field), but it does have some of the most affordable frames on the market.
The email response time of Warby Parker is unbelievably fast. They clearly have invested a great deal into their customer service and it shows. I got an email the minute I placed my order. And though they quoted me 7-10 days for delivery, I somehow got my glasses in 6 days.
As with their site, the style of presentation with their packaging was also delightful and confident. There was a very nice “thank you” card and information about their charity program that is supported with each purchase.
Now, unfortunately, the lenses of my brand new, never-worn glasses were covered in a light dust. Thankfully, the dust was easy to get off and did no permanent damage. But I was still dismayed to see it on my new frames and it absolutely subtracted from my experience.
Returning glasses to Warby Parker was very easy. I sent one email with my order number and within minutes received a pre-paid shipping label in my inbox. Only EYECONIC was automated and slightly easier.
Aesthetically speaking, this site wins the design award. They offer some of the best-looking frames I’ve seen, on the best looking product pages around. Unfortunately, they have real work to do under the hood of this great-looking site.
- An amazing selection of high quality educational “how-to” videos
- Quick and free shipping
- The best packaging/presentation experience I encountered
- An extremely frustrating and essentially non-functioning virtual try-on tool,
- Some of the most expensive frames out of the sites I’ve looked at, with frames as high as $430 before adding the lens price
- An awkward checkout process
Hands down they have the best looking product pages I’ve seen. It’s likely the most amount of information and high definition pictures and even video, and given the amount there I am really impressed with how good the page looks. While not every page has video, and that inconsistency is a knock, there’s a lot that do and I think it’s not the result of any bias like other sites. Also, the right side of the page has the price and an “Add To Cart” button that actually follows you down the page. It’s these details that really make the difference sometimes.
Moving deeper into my Glasses.com review, I looked at the virtual try-on tool, which I was excited to to see, but unfortunately was a giant pain to try to use. First, you have to create an account to use it. Strike one. Second, you have to download an app (which has a one-star rating by the way) instead of using the computer you’re already on. Strike two.
After taking a long time to download over my private home network onto my iPhone 7 (which has no known operating issues), I opened it and went through all the steps, where right before showing the result, it crashed. I had to start over. Strike three, you’re out.
Now I’m using a model on their site that sort of looks like me but not really to guess at what the frames would look like on my face. So yeah, the virtual try-on tool was a giant waste of time and effort.
A couple honorable mentions:
- Each product page/frame has reviews. Although they are located in a row of tabs in the middle of the page and I would appreciate a more up-front or more obvious placement.
Entering the purchase or checkout funnel is slightly confusing because you don’t actually provide your prescription until after the process. This felt strange and uncomfortable for me, and I am a veteran online shopper.
In addition, in less than a second after I paid, and before I gave my prescription, a “take our survey” window popped up, covering the area where I was to choose the method of providing my prescription. I found that annoying.
They have a method where you can text a picture of your prescription as written by your doctor. And since I had never seen this unique method, I chose to try it out. While it ended up working, I would suggest they incorporate a few hand-holding text messages to enhance trust so they don’t feel as though something could be wrong.
It was quick and free shipping and the best packaging/presentation experience of the top 5. A detail I really enjoyed was the pull-tab to open the package. It may seem small, but I don’t want to have to look for a scissors or knife every time I get a package (I rarely know where my scissors are and honestly I get nervous opening things with a knife – old accident, long story). Bottom line, it’s thoughtful.
Also, I appreciate that my glasses are protected by extra packaging elements in the glasses case, like a protective sheet wrapped around the frames. This likely prevented an accumulation of dust on the lenses (see Warby Parker review) during packaging and shipping. They look perfect and fit the best out of all the others, which is ironic given the virtual try-on tool fiasco. There was a 30 day return policy from the day I received my glasses. And the return process requires a phone call, email, or live online chat to set up. I emailed twice to get my pre-paid shipping label emailed to me. Printing it out and shipping was easy, though I believe it should be self-service like EYECONIC.
If you favor utility over style when it comes to a store design, then this is the place for you.
- Friendly website
- A huge selection
- Some really unbelievably cheap prices
- Aesthetically unappealing site compared to the others
- Inconsistent customer service experience
- Unfortunately, they made a mistake with my prescription
While this site isn’t very pleasing to the eye, it’s packed with information and it all seems to be laid out as best it can be given that utility is the main concern. It kind of reminds me of Amazon.
So when it comes to functionality, I was pretty impressed with their virtual try-on tool. You can use your camera on your computer or upload one from Facebook. And while I think of a virtual try-on tool as something I can use in real-time, I still appreciate the tool they have on hand as it’s functional, easy to use, and allows me to see the frames on my actual face before purchasing. In addition, the product pages have great pictures and use models.
There’s also a “Virtual Optician”, or really more of a questionnaire, that will help to suss out the right frames for you based on your measurements, different frame features, or your personality. I tried the personality route and, though I typically don’t care for a questionnaire, it did give me some satisfying options at the end.
Other positive mentions include verified reviews, deep discounts, and lots of product videos, which I found to be a useful asset in the search for the right frame.
The purchase process was nothing special but nothing to rave about. I found it very strange and annoying that it forced me to put in my prescription before actually adding the frame to the cart. And if I added another frame I had to do it again. I thought it might remember my prescription, but I was wrong in my hopeful assumption.
Once in the cart and proceeding through the checkout process, it was very smooth from start to finish and I was never confused by any steps. The lens that is included with a purchase isn’t as good as the lens EYECONIC includes with their frames before any upgrades.
For example, the included lens at GlassesUSA doesn’t have any UV protection, a vital defense against sun damage. And what many people don’t know is that UV can penetrate clouds and haze, so on an overcast day when you think you don’t need your sunglasses, you should still have UV coating on your glasses for protection.
A final noteworthy positive I found during the purchase process is their 110% price match guarantee.
Unfortunately, this is where the experience with this site turned south. Their fulfillment process took quite a while, almost two weeks, and after going through three different phases, (confirmation of my prescription, fulfillment, and then another stage of quality assurance), I received my frames to find that the prescription they put in them was incorrect. I couldn’t even wear them. A quick side-note: the packaging and presentation was also underwhelming.
I was hoping for a good customer service experience, but can only report that it was probably the worst out of the bunch. Emailing with them about a return label proved pointless, as every reply kept referring me to their website. Once there, the site told me my order had already been returned. That was tough to believe considering the glasses were sitting right next to me.
So I had to call. And it gives me no pleasure to say that calling this company raised my blood pressure to levels my doctor would not approve of. We’re talking multiple, needless, pre-screen questions coming at you like misplaced stop signs. Then the wait music. All I have to say is that, sometimes, silence really is golden. I was transferred and put on hold twice. The first time I hung up after waiting for a full seven minutes. The second time I asked not to be put on hold or transferred, but they did it anyway and without warning.
When I did reach their “platinum club” manager, he could not have been a sweeter guy. He really wanted to help me, was apologetic, and offered me a big discount on another frame. While he was very nice and did all the right things, it was unfortunately too late. It was too much work to simply get a return label, which on other sites was either a self-service feature or a simple email. Of course, the pre-paid shipping label was easy to print and tape to the box I had received the glasses in, and I dropped it in the mailbox around the corner the next day.
Coastal – Best for Veteran Eye Shoppers
Best for veteran eyewear shoppers who know a lot about what they’re after. While Coastal scored the lowest on our assessment, they are still a valid option in the search for affordable, stylish glasses.
- A large selection of frames
- Some unique frames that you won’t find anywhere else
- A decent range of pricing
- And extremely convenient customer service hours
- An inconsistent presentation of different frames
- An overly minimal design scheme to the site
- Blatant design errors
- A lackluster functionality to the site as a whole, forcing the user to manually enter their prescription
- And a fitting tool that I couldn’t figure out
While the design of the site feels clean and modern, it also feels like a cheaper imitation of Warby Parker, with a lack of attention to detail, and a pretty blatant bias towards certain frames like their in-house line or the more expensive frames of other brands. Although there are 446 men’s frames alone, which is a quite a lot to choose from, Coastal seems to have an obvious bias in the order in which the user sees the glasses during a general search.
That bias extends to the actual product page for each frame. It seems that much more investment has gone into the product pages of certain frames, whereby those pages have wonderful descriptions, spectacular photography, and the use of models and graphics. While I certainly understand from a business perspective why this would be, it makes the shopping experience for the user frustrating. It also instills distrust in the user. Fairness and consistency are keys to a good online shopping experience. I want every product page treated equally. I don’t want to be sold specific glasses unless it’s because they specifically fit me.
The area where there should be high-quality photos, as seen on the page for the in-house brand, instead has only sparse text.
Which brings me to the MyFit tool, which I hate to say is pretty useless unless you know a lot about your glasses already. The tool wants to search by exact size, meaning the actual millimeter measurements. My first thought was this is interesting, but in practice, it’s not pulling up a range of frames that could fit, but exact matches. And for many searches (mine included) this yields zero matches. It’s odd how limiting the tool is, since most people don’t know the exact measurement of the glasses they need, and more to the point almost everyone can wear a range of sizes.
As for the rest of the pre-purchase experience, there were no videos, no reviews, and no virtual try-on tools. And I noticed a design error with text bleeding over into the wrong banner towards the bottom of almost every page. While this isn’t a big deal, I’ll honestly admit this kind of lack of attention to detail signals the wrong message to the user. Could it be a symptom of a larger problem in the company? Does it potentially decrease my trust in the quality of the product I’m receiving? If it were a physical retail store and some glasses were hanging incorrectly from the shelves in a sloppy way, I’d probably have a less than stellar impression of the place I’m browsing.
I’ll give Coastal this: it likely has the most convenient customer service hours I’ve seen with almost round-the-clock availability and a 24-48 hour email turnaround guarantee.
But their purchase process is the worst out of the top five stores we rated. To begin with, the design of the pages within the checkout process cause confusion in the user. Specifically, the pages have no indication that they continue below, and that you must scroll down to see more options. For example, I luckily scrolled down (almost on accident) to realize I had two more options for selecting the right tint for how I use my glasses.
It doesn’t look like I can scroll down, but…
My biggest pain point with an already less than great purchase process was being forced to manually enter my prescription instead of uploading a picture of it like every other site reviewed offers. This makes it easier to mess up because of human error on the part of someone (me) who is not a professional in this field and certainly not doing this on a regular basis. For example, I almost entered the wrong information and had to go back and check a few times. That was not enjoyable.
I do like however that I can enter my pupillary distance measurement, which is something all patients should get measured and use. Pupillary distance (PD) is the distance between the centers of the pupils in each eye. This measurement is used when preparing to make prescription eyeglasses. Positioning lenses correctly in relation to the center of the pupils is especially important for higher powered lenses.
Coastal offers free standard shipping with actual receipt of your frame to occur 6-7 days after the prescription is verified, produced, and assembled. This was a longer than average timeframe and an ambiguous one at that.
And when it came to actually receiving my glasses through the mail, I felt the packaging and presentation was given almost no effort. Nothing delightful or surprising or with character about the packaging.
And the lenses were covered in dust and dirt. On the positive side, they were the right prescription.
Finally, to return the glasses I had to call for a return label. I think companies should just include one in the box or at the very least allow the user to generate one on the website with self-service, like EYECONIC.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eye Glasses
If you spend a lot of time on the computer or any other screen, then consider a blue light protection lens, which can help protect your eyes from strain and injury. Most sites offer this upgrade for an extra charge. Depending on how you use your glasses (indoor, outdoor, sports, work) you will want to read up on lens options and what, if any, best suits you and your activities.
Pupillary distance (PD) is the distance between the centers of the pupils in each eye. This measurement is used when preparing to make prescription eyeglasses. Positioning lenses correctly in relation to the center of the pupils is especially important for higher powered lenses.
- Pupils should be near the center of the lens
- Lenses shouldn’t extend past the side of your face
- Eyebrows should not be inside the glasses
- When you smile, your cheeks don’t push the frames up
- Frames shouldn’t slide down your nose
How We Score and Ranked The Stores
Note: because this scoring system is long and fairly complicated we’ve decided to link the spreadsheet for your convenience (it’s too large to display on this website), which you can view here. That said, it was used by the author to evaluate each store on an objective level.
- Eye Buy Direct, (Date Unknown). How to Buy Prescription Glasses online. Retrieved from http://www.Eyebuydirect.com/guides/how-to-buy-prescription-eyeglasses-online
- Consumer Reports (12/29/2016). How to Avoid Being Gouged When Buying Eyeglasses. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/eyeglasses/buying-eyeglasses-avoid-being-gouged/
- Zeiss, (2/1/2012). Tips for buying eyeglass: how to find the correct glasses for you. https://www.zeiss.com/vision-care/en_us/better-vision/understanding-vision/trends-and-advice/tips-for-buying-eyeglass-how-to-find-the-correct-glasses-for-you.html