Warby Parker has transformed how people think about buying glasses, but affordable alternatives exist for buying prescription eyeglasses online.
Bypass expensive, traditional eyeglass retailers and discover unique and affordable alternatives to Warby Parker with this guide, which reviews more than a dozen online options for prescription eyeglasses. From Brooklyn-based Classic Specs to Japan’s industry leader JINS to six dollar frames from Zenni Optical, compare startups and small businesses that make it easy for men and women to look sharp for less.In addition to this guide, we break down the options for alternatives to Warby Parker that also let you try on glasses at home in a separate post.
This post was updated February 1, 2019.
Introduction: Launched in a garage in Marin County, California in 2003, Zenni Optical was one of the first e-commerce brands to start selling prescription glasses online. Founders Tibor Láczay and Julia Zhen bought their own factory in China and focused on selling ultra-affordable eyewear to consumers coming online. Today, the company is increasingly focused on fashion lenses and offers hundreds of styles online.
Cost: Starting at $6.95 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Zenni doesn’t offer a try-on at home option, and only a limited return policy for reasons other than a manufacturing defect. From the website: “If you made a mistake during the order, or you just don’t like the glasses, you can return them for a 50% refund (excluding shipping) to the credit or debit card or PayPal account, or for a one-time-use 100% store credit (excluding shipping)”
Shipping: Starts at $4.95 for U.S. shipping
Why you should consider them: With over 1,600 frames to choose from, Zenni Optical offers something for everyone.
You should also know: Their less-than generous return policy is a disincentive to returning glasses, but their low prices cushion the blow.
Coupon: Get a $5 discount coupon off your next Zenni order via this link.
Introduction: Following success in venture capital, CEO Ron Hessel founded Eyebuydirect in 2005 to design, manufacture and sell its own line of complete prescription eyeglasses. The online retailer was an early adopter of social media and uses slick photos, customer reviews and detailed information about their products to stand out.
Cost: Starting at $6 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Eyebuydirect does not offer a try-at-home option, but offers a “14-Day Fit & Style guarantee,” which permits customers to request a return or exchange for any reason. If the return occurs within the 14 day period, the company will pay for return shipping.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping for orders over $99.
Why you should consider them: Their fantastic website offers one of the best filtering functions in the business, allowing customers to comb quickly through their stylish frames and pinpoint (for example) grey or blue rectangular frames with a lens width of between 48-51 millimeters and a lens height of 33-39 millimeters. Also, you can log in with Amazon or Facebook, saving you the hassle of having to remember another username and password, and they have terrific loyalty and referral programs for fans.
You should also know: Eyebuydirect does not offer a try-at-home program, and their 14-day guarantee window is a little tight.
Coupon: Save $10 off your first order of $50 or more: Follow this link and enter code IF2IQQ58XZ at checkout.
Introduction: Brooklyn-based founders Andrew Lipovsky and Richard Ray Ruiz launched Classic Specs at the Brooklyn Flea in 2010 to provide bold, classic frames online. The two are also the founders of eyeglasses innovator Eponym, which counts Classic Specs as one of its brands.
Cost: $89 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Classic Specs offers a home try-on kit that permits customers to try up to 5 pairs of glasses for 7 days at home. Customers can return eyeglasses within 30 days of delivery for a refund or exchange including free return shipping.
Shipping: Free shipping.
Why you should consider them: Classic Specs offers bold frames that you won’t find at certain other online shops and competitive pricing.
You should also know: A frustratingly-large number of frames are not available for Classic Specs’ home try on program, and an also-frustratingly large number of color options are sold out.
Introduction: Alessandro Lanaro of A+D Labs and online discounter Bluefly launched Eyefly in 2011 to provide affordable eyewear.
Cost: $94 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Eyefly does not offer a try-at-home option but provides free returns or exchanges, including free return shipping, within 30 days of purchase.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping.
Why you should consider them: Eyefly offers a small but striking collection of prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses.
You should also know: Eyefly’s selection is relatively small and they do not post full dimensions (like lens height) of their glasses online. Also, according to Racked, Eyefly used Warby Parker’s product photos in launching its similar business model.
Introduction: Angie and Randy Stocklin founded Indiana-based Felix and Iris in 2014 after gaining experience with Readers.com. The company originally aimed its messaging at consumers over-forty, but their frames will look good on faces of all ages.
Cost: $119 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Felix and Iris offers an at-home fit-kit allowing customers to try 4 frames at home. Felix and Iris offers a Fit Promise that permits customers to return or exchange glasses within 30 days for a refund and free return shipping.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping on all orders.
Why you should consider them: Felix and Iris’ frames stand out from the pack with unique color combinations and an array of color options for many of their frame styles. The company — like their frames — seems understated, like they’re not trying too hard.
You should also know: Read the fine print: the home fit kit needs to be returned within 5 days or the company will charge you for each of the 4 frames.
Introduction: Founded in 2001 by current CEO Hitoshi Tanaka, JINS is the largest eyewear brand in Japan. JINS entered the U.S. market in 2015 via a flagship store in San Francisco and also offers eyeglasses direct-to-American-consumers over the internet. Their claim to fame is the ability to produce prescription eyewear on the spot for retail customers via an in-store robot they call Kanna.
Cost: From $60-140 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: JINS does not offer a try-at-home program but maintains a 30 day return policy that permits customers to return or exchange eyeglasses with free return shipping.
Shipping: Free shipping for U.S. orders.
Why you should consider them: JINS offers a wide-variety of attractive frames with incredible color combinations. Plus you can tell your friends how you bought them from this innovative Japanese company that uses robots.
You should also know: For a Japanese company that uses robots in-store, their website is frustrating to navigate and lacks even the most basic size filters. Also, JINS specializes in wider lenses — most are 53 millimeters or larger across — which limits its appeal to those with smaller faces.
Introduction: Headquartered in Oceanside and rooted in the Southern California skate and surf scene, Raen is the creation of brothers Jeremy and Justin Heit and their friend Jordan Percy. Justin wanted to start a business from his teens, and used brands he admired as inspiration of the company that the men founded in 2008.
Cost: Glasses retail for around $140 and up, but for less on sale.
Try-on at home and return policies: Raen doesn’t feature a try-at-home option. Glasses are returnable within 30 days, but buyer is responsible for return shipping charges.
Shipping: Free 2 day shipping on orders over $150
Why you should consider them: Raen has been christened “one of the fledgling leaders in the eyewear game” and their updated takes on classic styles are sported by athletes, models, celebrities and fashionistas around the world.
You should also know: While they’re not the cheapest option on this list, sale prices on select frames bring down the cost to as low as $69 — a much more reasonable alternative to Warby Parker’s price point — and the glasses are manufactured by Carl Zeiss Vision, which has a reputation for quality.
Introduction: Founded in 2000 on Long Island, New York, Dr. Marc Weinstein leveraged his background with Macy’s Vision Express and that of his co-founder and fellow optometrist Dr. Lee Marlow to fulfill a mission that “everyone has the right to quality eyewear” through 39dollarglasses.com.
Cost: Starting at $39 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: 39dollarglasses.com does not offer a try-at-home option, but provides a “worry free guarantee” that permits a one-time exchange or store credit for up to 90 days after delivery of frames including return shipping. Customers can alternately request a full refund within 30 days of delivery minus return shipping.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping on select orders.
Why you should consider them: 39dollarglasses.com offers a wide variety of basic lenses and straightforward pricing, along with codes that bring prices down even lower. Also, the site helpfully provides dimensions for all of their glasses.
You should also know: While the website provides basic sort functions, it is clunky to navigate, doesn’t feature advanced sorting options by size and coupons pop up randomly.
Introduction: Evan Weisfeld and his optometrist father Steven founded Tortoise and Blonde in 2010 aiming for “high-quality, stylish prescription eyewear that was affordable for even the struggling college student.” Today, in addition to selling online, their frames are featured at several New York-area Urban Outfitters and in pop-up shops around the United States.
Cost: From $145 (some sale frames are as low as $65).
Try-on at home and return policies: Tortoise and Blonde does not offer a try-at-home option. Their website states that the company offers a 30 day return policy but that customers must contact the company within 14 days of receipt of your glasses, and that refunds are subject to a restocking fee of 25%. The company will “allow one exchange per pair of eyeglasses within the first 30 days of receiving your order.”
Shipping: Free shipping on orders over $95.
Why you should consider them: Tortoise and Blonde offers interesting, designer-worthy frames at competitive prices.
You should also know: Their complicated return policy puts them at a disadvantage to the no-hassle returns offered by several competitors.
Introduction: Larisa Ginzburg founded New York City-based Vint and York in 2012, “specializing in vintage inspired and retro eyeglasses and sunglasses” from the 1920s. She has since opened a boutique in New York to buy glasses in person.
Cost: From $109 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Vint and York does not offer a try-at-home program but provides a 15-day money-back guarantee.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping.
Why you should consider them: Vint and York offers a nice collection of stylishly-retro specs with ZEISS lenses and complimentary coating that other sites up-charge for.
You should also know: Filtering options on the website are limited and some of the fine print — particularly the dimensions of the frames — can be difficult to read.
Buying brand-name prescription eyeglasses online
In addition to the above options, a number of online e-commerce shops sell brand-name prescription eyewear. Check out Eyeconic and receive $20 off a complete pair of eyeglasses of $100 or more using this link and code EYE20. The company seamlessly connects your eyewear you buy online with your insurance coverage and doctor’s expertise (and provides for a complimentary frame adjustment or contact lens consultation).
One option for Made-in-America eyeglasses
At $300 and up, State Optical Co. isn’t exactly affordable, but co-founders Marc Franchi, Scott Shapiro and Jason Stanley have a great story to tell about their Chicago-area manufacturing and distribution operation. Unfortunately, the company does not sell directly from its website.
And then of course there is…
Introduction: Sick of paying “astronomical prices for uninspired frames,” Wharton classmates Neil Blumenthal, David Gilboa, Andy Hunt and Jeff Raider founded Warby Parker in 2010 to deliver attractive specs at straightforward prices.
While Warby Parker’s original claim to fame was their home try on program, they have also been a leader in transitioning physical retail to Brick and Mortar 2.0. They have aggressively opened showrooms in retail centers to enable customers to try in their frames in person.
Cost: $95 including single-vision lenses.
Try-on at home and return policies: Warby Parker’s home try-on program lets you choose 5 frames for 5 days with free shipping; or try as many as you’d like at one of their showrooms.
Shipping: Free U.S. shipping.
Why you should consider them: Warby Parker seamlessly combines affordability, online convenience and offline accessibility. Their try-at-home program and network of physical showrooms make it easy to get comfortable with buying a new pair of glasses online.
You should also know: Warby Parker doesn’t list a full range of dimensions online (e.g. lens height) so it’s difficult to compare their frames to a pair that you already like, though customer support will email you additional specifications like lens height if you ask. Also, Warby Parker’s swelling popularity means that it’s increasingly likely you’re going to spot people with the same glasses.
Who is missing from the directory? Add to the list in the comments section.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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