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Consumer Reports: Your guide to buying glasses online

Posted: 6:10 PM, Feb 01, 2017
Updated: 2017-02-01 23:26:41Z
Shopping for eyeglasses isn’t what it used to be. Sometimes it doesn’t even involve trying on the frames. Online retailers offer convenience and discount pricing, but there can be risks. Consumer Reports recently surveyed its readers and did its own eyeglass shopping to reveal advice on how to get great glasses at a great price.
 
A lot of people still buy glasses the traditional way, at the doctor’s office or at a local eyewear store.  Consumer Reports says you may get more attention there, but according to a survey of its readers you may also pay a lot more. Our readers paid an average of about $400 for frames and lenses at eye doctors and independent eyeglass shops. That’s about two to 3 times what readers paid shopping online. That’s before any reimbursement from insurance.
 
Consumer Reports readers evaluated six online retailers. Warby Parker sends five pairs of frames to try on at home—shipping is free both ways. It gets high marks for quality and selection. Warby Parker’s average price for frames and lenses --- $141. And Zenni Optical also did well overall -- Average price $69. It’s big drawback, you can only try on the frames virtually using a photo.
 
Consumer Reports recommend that you try on any frames you are considering purchasing online first. Just to make sure that they fit right and that the quality is good. A good strategy: find the frame you like in a brick and mortar store and then look for it online. Check out the warranty and return policies. You may have only 30 days for returns.
 
There are many eye care professionals who are skeptical about buying frames and lenses online.  In fact, the president of the American Optometric Association told Consumer Reports, "These are custom made devices. It's not like buying a box of cheerios."  She added that lenses should be checked to make sure the prescription is correct and the frames adjusted for fit."

If online eyewear shopping isn’t for you, Consumer Reports readers also evaluated dozens of brick and mortar retailers. Prices at discount stores like Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart are often less than at an eyeglass chain or doctor’s office. However the frame selection may be more limited. 

 
 
 
Complete ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website. Subscribe to CR.org.