Mail-order Eyeglasses

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on March 06, 2023
3 min read

It's easy to buy things online: diapers, groceries, shoes, even medicine. But what if you need eyeglasses? You'll probably save time and maybe some money. But what about the quality, style, and fit?

The exact way you order glasses online depends on the website you use. The basic idea is first to choose the frame and color you'd like. Then choose features, such as the type of lenses. Some lenses are extra durable, which is good for people in certain jobs or who play sports. You can also order lenses with special coatings. Some are designed to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun.

The next step is to enter your prescription information -- the correction for each eye. Then, you'll enter the distance between your pupils -- the two black circles in the center of your eyes. This is to make sure the lenses are placed properly in the frame.

To make sure your glasses suit you, some companies let you upload a picture of yourself so you can see how the glasses will look on your face. Some give tips to help you choose the best frame for your needs and the shape of your face.

Like any online shopping, it's convenient to order glasses using your computer or another device. But there are also other benefits:

  • It's easy to shop around on different websites before you decide which one you like best.
  • You can get lots of information without having to drive to a store or office.
  • You get a wide choice of styles, colors, and extras.
  • You can save money. Consumer Reports found that shoppers saved as much as 40% by buying glasses online.


Here are the cons:

  • You don't get to try the glasses on or have someone help you in person.
  • It is hard to measure your own pupil distance, which you need to order your glasses. Some experts say it's like trying to cut your own hair.
  • It may be difficult to return the glasses.
  • A large study found about half the online glasses had the wrong prescription or other problems.
  • An incorrect prescription may give you blurred vision or make your eyes feel uncomfortable.
  • Especially with progressive glasses, there are other fitting measurements that need to be exact that are usually measured in person when you try on the frames.
  • Some websites may not take insurance.


Whether you get glasses from a local shop or the Internet, you need a current prescription. You can get one from an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye and vision care) or an optometrist (a healthcare professional with a degree in optometry). Some websites even let you take an eye test and get your prescription online, but this should not replace your normal checkup with an eye doctor.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is a large organization for eye doctors. It says going online for an eye test and prescription may be OK for people 18 to 39 who don't have any signs of eye disease. But an online test can't check eye health. An online prescription should not replace your annual eye health exam. The AAO doesn't recommend online tests if:

  • You're under 18.
  • You're 40 or older.
  • You know you have eye disease or poor eyesight.

No matter where you get them, here are some tips to help you buy quality, affordable eyeglasses:

  • You can save money by not looking for designer brands.
  • Check out large discount stores. Some have special deals on a second pair. That way, you'll have a backup.
  • Do a web search for the name of the seller. Add the word "complaint" or "review" and see what you learn.
  • Once you settle on glasses you like, search online to see if you can find the same ones at a better price.
  • Check out return policies. Some give you just 14 days to return; others give a year.
  • If you buy online, find out if shipping is included and who pays for return shipping.