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If you’re one of the 164 million American adults that use some sort of vision correction (whether that’s contacts or good old-fashioned eyeglasses), you know the feeling of excitement that comes around once a year — and no, it’s not the holidays. It’s the time of year when you can pick out new frames!
Back in the day, it was simple: you went to your annual eye appointment, got your new prescription, and waltzed your way over to the optician’s office where you picked out your new pair of specs on the spot. But now, in a world filled with online glasses retailers and a rainbow of frame choices (literally), where is the best place to purchase your pair?
The answer isn’t so simple, because every shopper is different. But we can help you see the pros and cons of shopping for glasses in-store vs. online — keep reading to learn them!
The pros of shopping for glasses in-store
You’ll receive personalized service. Think of your optician as your personal stylist — but for your glasses. They’ll help you address all your needs and preferences to give you an experience an online retailer could never achieve. This is especially important if you have specialized prescription needs... or if you just can’t seem to make up your mind on a frame style. (We’ve been there!)
The quality of eyeglass frames available in person is well worth the in-store visit. Glasses purchased online may not last as long as those purchased at your local eye clinic. Though the lower price point might be an attractive option, the materials and fit of an $8 pair of glasses sold by an online retailer might not be as high quality as those you can purchase in person.
If you need progressive lenses or other specialized features, ordering glasses in person might be your best bet. That way you can take advantage of the personalized service and options you can get at an in-person eye clinic. Plus, some online retailers might not even have the capabilities to create such customized lenses in the first place.
You (might) be able to return your pair. If your glasses aren’t the right fit or style, most brick-and-mortar eye retailers have generous return policies that are flexible.
The cons of shopping for glasses in-store
You have a limited selection. Unless you’re going from store to store to find the right pair of glasses, you’re generally restricted to the pairs on display at your local optician’s office.
You might pay more for a premium designer brand. If you have vision insurance, you’ll receive an allowance each year for a new pair of frames and lenses. If your frame pick is over the allowance, you’ll pay the remainder. Your selection might be limited to designer brands that come with a high price tag. (But if that’s your thing, keep rockin’ it.)
It might take a while to receive your frames. Between ordering, shipping, and coming back to the store for any eyeglasses adjustments, you can’t exactly Amazon Prime your new pair. (But patience is a virtue, right?)
The pros of shopping for glasses online
It’s easy to shop around — and the selection is endless. There are so many styles to choose from online — from styles to colors to extras like blue light filters, you could truly spend an entire day (or longer) picking out the frame that fits you best. It’s all at your fingertips! If you want to get lost in the rabbit hole, here are a few of the best places to order glasses online:
You can buy multiple pairs relatively cheaply. Some retailers offer frames as low as $10, which is a steal for glasses. Grabbing a pair or two at a low price is a smart move if you’re the type that likes to keep a few in multiple places at once. But buyer beware: there are lots of options and “upgrades" in the checkout process that can take it from $10 to...a lot more.
It’s convenient. Many eye clinics are closed on the weekends, so this gives anyone with a packed schedule a chance to choose a pair they love on their own time. Even in the middle of the night!
Ordering is simple. All you have to do is pick your frame — which is probably the hardest part. Then, just upload a picture of or input your prescription and pupillary distance, and your new glasses will be here before you know it!
The cons of shopping for glasses online
It might be difficult to return glasses after your purchase. Be sure to check the return policy before you add to your cart.
You don’t get to try the glasses on before you buy. Though some retailers have a virtual try-on option, nothing compares to the real thing.
You’ll need to remember to get your pupillary distance (PD) measured when you’re at the eye doctor. This is the distance between the centers of both of your two pupils, and it’s best to get it measured by a trained professional (though online retailers do provide information on how to measure it yourself if you need the guidance). Ask your eye doctor to include this on your prescription so you don’t forget.
Some retailers might be out-of-network. Though you can still get a small amount back from your vision insurance provider (and if you don’t have vision insurance, click here for a free quote!), you won’t get back the full amount like you would when you take advantage of your insurance’s frame and lenses allowance benefit.
You’ll have to find an eye clinic that will perform free adjustments (if you need them). Keep in mind that some clinics might charge a fee or might not have the proper equipment to adjust your frames, depending on the materials they are made of.
Should you buy glasses in-store or online?
Like we said before, every shopper is different. If you started ordering your glasses online before it was cool and haven’t looked back since, keep doing you. But what we will recommend is that for any first-timers walking out of your eye appointment with a newfound need for eyeglasses, shop for your glasses in-store. Not only can you ask your optician as many questions as you want, but you’ll get a better idea of what to look for in a pair, and what style of frames best suit you.
One thing’s for sure no matter where you shop: make sure you understand your vision insurance benefits. From finding an in-network eye doctor to knowing your annual frame and lenses allowance, you can make the most out of your vision insurance (and save the most money) by taking the time to read up on your unique plan. (And for more tips on how to make the most of your vision insurance, click here!)
Your best-looking pair of glasses is one click — or visit to the eye clinic — away!