Here is some advice on how to get cheap glasses online.

The majority of glasses nowadays, including your designer frames and industry-standard lenses, are cheaply manufactured in China. They’re marked up quite a bit domestically for significant profit, since people are now used to the prices and insurance companies are used to covering it. If you know your current prescription and pupillary distance (you can get both from your optometrist if needed), you can have your prescription filled online at a Chinese eyeglasses website. Prices are generally somewhere in the $40-$50 range before shipping. They are up to the same quality as any domestic pair and they have an incentive to provide the best possible product: even at these prices. They still make more profit than they do with selling glasses in China. As someone who used to spend $300/pair for essentially the same thing, the savings are significant.

Zenni Optical

Zennioptical and Goggles4u are pretty well-regarded and trusted for international glasses. There are a ton of websites that cater to North American and European Union buyers, but it’s best to stick to sites that have received Western coverage like these. I’d love to hear about other sites and people’s experiences with them. Even if you feel better using domestic sources for your primary glasses/glasses with specialized coatings, this is something to consider if you want a pair of prescription sunglasses or a cheap second pair for work.


If you are worried about right shape /color for your face, I will say that places like warbyparker and coastal actually let you try on frames at home. Warbyparker lets you select 5 frames from their website. They ship to you for free, you try them on, and then you ship them back for free. They are not as cheap as places like Zenni, but the quality is definitely better and they’re still generally cheaper than in-store.

Specal Glasses

Here is a list of a things to consider before getting glasses online:

1. Make sure you have a correct pupillary distance. If you put something off in there, you have a chance of inducing prism, which can cause the glasses to displace what you should be seeing (dangerous for driving or playing Jenga). Some places will charge, some won’t and some just won’t give it out. There can be legal ramifications if they give you a pupillary distance and something goes awry.

2. Try on a couple of glasses in person to see what size you like and are comfortable with. Granted you could have 4 different glasses all with the same size and each could fit you differently. If you find a pair you like online and have the opportunity to try it on in person before you order online, do it. My size is 55(possibly followed by a dash, a box, a circle) – 18. This means that each of my lenses is 55 mm across, and the distance from the inner most portion of my left to right lens is 18 mm long. A couple common measurements on glasses are the A: Lens width, B: Lens Depth, ED: Lens Diagonal Measurement, and DBL: The bridge measurement. The B measurement is incredibly important if you’re trying to get a multi-vision lens.

3. If you’re going to order a lined bifocal or a non-lined bifocal(progressive lens), don’t just type in a random number for “seg height.” A seg height refers to where they are going to put either the line for the reading portion of a lined bifocal (normally at or slightly below the lower eye lid, lower if a pair of glasses has a deep lens) or the “optical center(OC)” of a progressive lens (measured from the center of the pupil to the bottom of the lens). Too much for the lined bifocal can take up the entire lens. Not enough on the progressive measurement and you’re cutting off the reading portion of the lens altogether. Normally they have a minimum requirement of 17mm seg height for progressive lenses. This ensures you’re at least getting your full reading prescription. If you’re going for a progressive lens but the B measurement is too short, you’re going to have to switch frames. Also, if you’re taking a measurement on yourself (you have the frame but are getting lenses put in), measure from where you normally wear the glasses.

4. OD is your right eye, OS is your left eye. OU is both.

5. When you’re putting your prescription in online please CHECK that you’re are putting in exactly what is on your prescription. If you don’t have any numbers for Sphere but have numbers for Cyl and Axis, either put 0 or Plano(plain lens), and fill the rest of the prescription out as normal. If you have something in Sphere but nothing for Cyl or Axis, LEAVE THEM BLANK. A guess is not a good thing here. If you have prism correction, make sure you get the proper bases in there; up, down, in, and out.

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Advice, Fact List,

Last Update: April 25, 2016

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