Sorry Warby Parker, These Are the 5 Best Places to Buy Cheap Glasses Online

best places to buy cheap glasses
Courtesy of Warby Parker
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A little over 12 years ago, four students joined forces to see if they could do something that had never been done before: Sell prescription glasses online. A couple years later, Warby Parker officially launched online and redefined how people buy glasses and frames.

But no brand can rest on its laurels, and now you can buy cheap glasses online from many brands eager to take Warby Parker’s place. In fact, the number of Warby Parker alternatives can make it difficult to choose the right company. There are so many different brands, frames and styles, and one mistake could mean waiting weeks for an exchange. If you’ve spent hours scrolling through endless options, you aren’t the only one.

But buying cheap glasses online doesn’t have to be a hassle (so long as you already have your prescription). Though there are many online glasses options out there, SPY rounded up the best places to buy cheap glasses online. To identify the best brands, we evaluated 14 online glasses retailers on price, variety, quality of styles and customer-friendly policies such as free returns.

In the end, only five retailers had the right mix of products and policies to recommend to our readers. Many of our picks for the best cheap glasses brands have a lot in common. For example, almost all cheap online glasses use plastic frames and lenses and many do not partner with insurance companies. That means no matter where you go, you’ll almost certainly have some kind of plastic glasses and you’ll probably need reimbursement from your insurance company.

Where Are the Best Places To Buy Cheap Glasses Online?

If we were choosing purely in terms of style, we’d have to go with Warby Parker. A number of SPY writers and editors are currently wearing Warby Parker glasses, and the brand has killer style combined with famous customer service. However, if price is a factor for you, a number of the best Warby Parker alternatives win out over the OG online prescription glasses company.

No matter which one you pick, all of these brands let you choose from hundreds of stylish frames with prescription lenses for under $100.

From the best Warby Parker alternatives to the original online eyewear brand, here are the best places to buy cheap glasses online. We even grabbed a few stylish options from each vendor in case you’re ready to buy.

  

1. EyeBuyDirect

BEST OVERALL

Sometimes choosing the best overall is an impossible task. This is not one of those occasions. When evaluated on criteria of price, variety and customer policies, EyeBuyDirect clearly stands a cut above other online glasses retailers. If you’re looking for the best place to buy glasses online, this is it.

The most expensive men’s frames and basic lenses cost $70, and the lenses include anti-scratch coating, anti-reflective coating and some UV protection for free. And the glasses ship for free, too. Those two facts on their own make EyeBuyDirect at least $20 cheaper than all of its competitors for equivalent frames and lenses.

But if you are looking to splurge, EyeBuyDirect also offers customization on all aspects of lenses for any frames on sale. That includes additional coatings to repel water and lessen smudges and dust, thinner lenses for higher prescriptions, multifocal lenses, blue light filters, polarized and tinted lenses for sunglasses and even photochromic treatments to automatically darken or lighten lenses for indoor and outdoor use. Also, did we mention these options are available on nearly 500 frame styles?

Going beyond price and customization, what really sold SPY on EyeBuyDirect were the qualities beyond the frames and lenses. The site is chock full of useful resources to help you figure out everything you need to know before buying, like a style quiz and a guide on how to read an eye prescription. And if you make a mistake and choose the wrong style or simply change your mind, you can sleep soundly knowing you can return the glasses within 14 days for a full refund.

Last but not least, EyeBuyDirect bolsters its social standing through its buy one, give one policy in which a pair of glasses is given to someone in need for every pair sold. Only Warby Parker offers the same pledge among major online glasses retailers.

Overall, SPY recommends EyeBuyDirect as the best place to buy cheap glasses online. Downsides include no try-before-you-buy policy and a narrow return window, but with the ability to try on glasses virtually and the fact the glasses can be returned for your money back, EyeBuyDirect is a low-risk option, especially for first-time buyers of glasses online.

For picks, we’ve got three great frames we think you’ll like.

First up, these rounded Theory frames are super cool. You can get them in small or medium, depending on the size of your face, as well as four different color patterns. Though we’ll never put down a classic tortoiseshell grame, we like the crystal clear translucent frames here, as they boast a haute couture confidence.

eye buy direct theory acetate frames in translucent Courtesy of EyeBuyDirect

The following square Sequence frames will work for almost any face shape and embody a classic, basic square design. While you can get them in a brownish charred quartz color or a more traditional-looking amber tortoise, we love the ocean tide color. The color has a sort of tortoiseshell pattern, but the colors shift from a beautiful not-too-blue dark blue to turquoise with shades of blue and light blue.

eye buy direct sequence frames in ocean tide Courtesy of EyeBuyDirect

Prefer a more retro look? These frame are exactly what you’d want in a pair of browline glasses: acetate on top with metal forming the rest of the frame for a cool vintage look. Thankfully, EyeBuyDirect doesn’t go wild on the colors because nothing beats a traditional black or brown tortoise with classic frames like these. You really can’t go wrong with either, though we personally prefer the brown tortoise.

eye buy direct identity frames in brown tortoise Courtesy of EyeBuyDirect

  

2. Zenni Optical

RUNNER UP

If you live in New York City, you’ve probably been wondering why Rashida Jones decided to do a subway ad for cheap glasses brand Zenni Optical. A short investigation yields obvious answers: Zenni Optical offers the cheapest, most stylish glasses online. The most expensive frames cost less than $50 — and that price includes basic prescription lenses. The least expensive men’s frames — and again, this includes the cost of basic prescription lenses, with anti-scratch coating & UV protection — cost just $6.95. Add in about $5 for shipping, and you’ve got a pair of prescription glasses for about the same cost as a few days of coffee.

In terms of price, range of styles and customer service, Zenni Optical is one of the top Warby Parker alternatives and one of the best places to buy cheap glasses online, full stop. With more than 800 men’s styles to choose from and even more customization than EyeBuyDirect, Zenni Optical would’ve been a clear winner, except for a few policy issues. Because Zenni Optical offers glasses at prices so low, its policies have to reflect the truth of tiny margins. That’s why you pay for shipping and that’s why Zenni cannot offer a 100% money-back guarantee on its glasses. If you have any issues, you can return your glasses within 30 days for 100% of your money or in-store credit.

Thankfully, Zenni Optical offers an excellent virtual try-on feature, so you will have some sense of how the glasses will look on your face, but buying from Zenni is more of a gamble on your money than places like Liingo and EyeBuyDirect due to the return policy. Regardless, we’ve still picked out a few snazzy pairs of glasses for your perusal.

First up are the cheapest aviators you’ve ever seen. What can we say about aviators that you don’t already know? Metal aviators are classic cool and gold looks great on these frames. What really makes these aviators from Zenni Optical great is the price. For under $7, you just can’t do any better for classic aviator frames, and if you’re not a fan of gold, you can pick these frames up in gray, silver or a very pink rose gold too.

zenni optical - best cheap glasses Courtesy of Zenni Optical

  

In a similar but not quite the same follow-up to classic aviators, these minimalist metal Sepulveda frames have an understated stylistic appeal. Less can be more and nothing is less (and more) than circular metal frames. Unfortunately, you can only get these frames in a gold metal, but the wire frames are thin, so the color doesn’t stand out too much.

buy cheap glasses online - zenni optical Courtesy of Zenni Optical

  

Finally, no glasses vendor could be great without basic square frames. And while we’re a sucker for that classic tortoise-shell look and the uber-trendy thin metal frames that are ubiquitous in 2020, we also love this colorful option. If you aren’t afraid of a little color, these blue square frames will give you a distinctive look that sets you apart from the crowd.

buy cheap glasses online - zenni optical Courtesy of Zenni Optical

  

3. Liingo Eyewear

CONTENDER

If EyeBuyDirect is the Home Depot of online glasses retailers, Liingo Eyewear is the local hardware store. What they do not offer in customization and variety of frames and lenses they make up for with excellent customer policies.

For one, like Warby Parker, Liingo offers a try-before-you-buy policy, so you can try five frames for five days at home, with free shipping and free returns, of course. That offering is also supported by an excellent virtual try-on, which combines a photo and a video to digitally apply the lenses to your face and show multiple angles of your face. Even better, the site will hold your virtual information while you browse and automatically load up your virtual try-on to every glasses page you visit.

But two things really distinguish Liingo from its competitors: low prices and fantastic shipping and exchange policies. Glasses and lenses can ship for as little as $79 and that includes a free anti-reflective, anti-scratch coating. Liingo also offers free shipping on all orders and free returns and exchanges for 60 days. That’s at least double the return period of every online glasses retailer SPY researched.

Of course, there are a few cons with Liingo. In terms of frames, it doesn’t offer nearly as many styles or varieties as its competitors, with fewer than 50 frame styles for men, if you don’t count color variations. Also, some additional lens customizations, like photochromic treatments, are not available, and sunglasses are offered as a separate product, in contrast to the top pick, which lets you choose polarized or tinted lenses for any frame.

But if you don’t mind the more narrow scope of styles and want the security blanket of a two-month return window, Liingo is the online glasses brand for you. We’ve found three stylish picks to get your search started.

Among the more unique frames we found, these hexagonal Rebel frames will subtly stand out in a crowd and not in the “look at my hot purple thick-framed fashion glasses” way. Hexagonal frames are one of the trendiest types of glasses right now. You can get these sleek but strong metal frames in gold, silver or bronze, but we tend to go for gold or bronze. The gold is a bit edgier while the bronze tends to blend a bit better.

buy cheap glasses online - liingo hexagonal frames Courtesy of Liingo

  

Though there are styles that are more out there, that doesn’t make the square Zander frames below any less cool or functional. You can go for them in jet black, maple tortoise or in the color we dig, grey horn. The grey horn color scheme fades between dark gray that’s almost black and a translucent gray for a cool but not overly attention-grabbing frame.

buy cheap glasses online Courtesy of Liingo

  

Somewhere between aviators and traditional rounded glasses you’ll find the metal Newport frames. They retain the basic functionality of rounded glasses with a little throwback cool from the browline bar courtesy of aviators. For a little extra style, each of the color patterns features one color on the frame and one on the temples, which really bring the style to the next level. We like these espresso frames with gold temples and the black frames with silver temples are pretty darn stylish too.

warby parker alternatives - liingo frames Courtesy of Liingo

  

4. GlassesUSA

BIGGEST SELECTION

Our top three picks for the best online prescription glasses offer enough cheap options for most people, but if you’re into cheap name brand glasses, there’s only one place to go: GlassesUSA.

Not only does GlassesUSA offer hundreds of its own cheaper glasses, but it also offers name brand frames from Ray-Ban, Persol, Gucci and Oakley. It also offers free shipping and free returns within 14 days and a lot of lens customization, similar to our other top picks.

Ultimately though, it’s not better than the top 3 at any one thing except featuring name brands. Zenni beats it on price, Liingo beats it on customer policies and EyeBuyDirect features better value for things like lens coatings and customizations. But if you want a one-stop-shop for generic cheaper glasses in addition to name brand glasses, GlassesUSA is where you want to spend your money. In any case, check out some of our picks below for inspiration.

If you haven’t picked up on it yet, we love square glasses like the Oceana frames from GlassesUSA. They just work for so many faces, whether the lenses are big or small, and basically define effortless good-looking glasses. These frames come in grey or a brown tortoise shell and both look great, but we almost always go for the tortoise shell.

GlassesUSA oceana acetate frames - buy cheap glasses online Courtesy of GlassesUSA

  

Looking for something a bit more hip? The Muse Geso glasses fit the bill. Though they’re more or less traditional acetate translucent rounded glasses, these glasses stand out for the inclusion of color only on the front of the frames for an appealing outline around the eyes. There are blue and purple translucent frame options with colors on the front, but we’d steer you toward the clear frames with black or tortoise shell outlines for an upgraded, stylish take on plain translucent frames.

GlassesUSA - buy cheap glasses online Courtesy of GlassesUSA

  

5. Warby Parker

MOST STYLISH FRAMES

Warby Parker may have been the OG online eyewear company, but now they’re just one of many places to buy cheap glasses online. In fact, many of the best Warby Parker alternatives now offer a better customer experience — and far better prices.

That being said, Warby Parker still offers excellent frames and a customer-friendly experience. With prescription glasses for men and women starting at $95, it’s still possible to get a stylish pair of long-lasting frames for under $100. And purely in terms of style, even the best Warby Parker alternatives struggle to compete with the original.

On top of that, Warby Parker makes it easy to try out a few different frames until you find the perfect fit, and we love everything about this brand’s stylish packaging. You can choose from a ton of hip frames, and there are options for every type of style and face shape. However, you can now find similarly stylish frames and comparable online experiences at a lower price point. But if you want to go with the OG of online glasses, check out our picks below.

Currently resting on the nose of your writer, these Bensen frames are great every-day glasses. They’re simple, well-made, don’t have too thick of frames and the square shape works for just about all faces. They don’t draw too much attention and just exemplify a solid, stylish pair of glasses. We like the greystone for its low-key look, but the whiskey tortoise and translucent crystal colors are great picks too.

warby parker bensen acetate frames in greystone Courtesy of Warby Parker

  

For the next pair, it’s an aviator. We know we gave you a great low-price aviator option from Zenni Optical, but Warby Parker absolutely nailed the rose gold color for its own aviator-style metal frame, the Raider. You can pick these frames up in a more traditional silver, but we’re not exaggerating when we say the rose gold was one of the coolest, best-looking takes on the color that we’ve seen on frames.

warby parker raider metal frames in rose gold Courtesy of Warby Parker

For the final pick, we have a Warby Parker staff pick. The Percey frames are a textbook example of solid round glasses. The acetate frames aren’t too thick or overbearing and the rounded lenses are just the right size, not too big and not too small. The best part for such a versatile frame is the number of colors Warby Parker offers. You can pick these frames up in nine different colors, all of which live up to Warby Parker’s design ideals. But if we had to pick one, we’re going for the yellow and brown striped sassafras color scheme. It’s sort of like a tortoise shell pattern but we think it’s more stylish but more wearable at the same time.

warby parker percey acetate frames - buy cheap glasses online Courtesy of Warby Parker

  

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