In my early twenties, when I found out I needed glasses, I was secretly kind of excited. I had always wanted to wear them, but up until that point, I hadn't NEEDED them. Of course, I also didn't realize how expensive they were. Even with vision insurance, I've only ever had two pairs at a time. One pair of "regular" glasses, and a pair of prescription sunglasses. I'd get a new pair of every time my insurance allowed me to (or if I broke a pair).
A little over a month ago, I went for my regular optometrist visit, and I was kind of disappointed in her frame selection. I managed to find a pair of sunglasses I liked, but for my everyday frames nothing really jumped out at me. I decided to hold off on ordering the regular glasses. Then at some point during the day, I happened to see one of my flickr contacts with a new pair of specs that had been ordered online. Queue cheesy image of a light bulb illuminating over my head...
I immediately did a google search for online prescription glasses, and was instantly overwhelmed with links. After clicking around a bit, it occurred to me that someone may have already done a little research on this. I changed my google search a bit, and found exactly what I was looking for, an article on 43 Folders with everything I needed to know. If you're thinking about ordering glasses online, I definitely recommend starting there. All the info you need to collect in order to properly order your glasses is in there. This is where I figured out that for me, besides the style of the glasses, the other important factor was temple length. My old glasses had a temple length of 135. My old sunglasses had a temple length of 130. At some point in the middle of researching all this stuff, I realized that my sunglasses stayed where they were supposed to on my face better than my regular glasses did (they always slid down, giving me the undesirable granny glasses look). I used this number to help me narrow down my search for frames.
Within the 43 Folders article, a link to the blog Glassy Eyes is mentioned. In addition to having some discount codes for various online retailers, they have a forum that breaks down all the online prescription eyewear sites. This helped me narrow down my browsing to only two sites: Zenni Optical and Goggles4U.
Once you've narrowed down some frames you like, you're going to have to give them your prescription info, and then pick lenses. I've always had plastic, so that's what I went with. Both let you choose standard plastic lenses, or other thinner lenses. This seems to be where you can start to jack up the price of your glasses. The thinner lenses cost more, and depending on your prescription you may want to pay for that. I ended up ordering two pairs with thin lenses and the rest with just regular plastic lenses. My prescription is pretty weak though, so I didn't notice a huge difference between them and ultimately decided that I didn't need to pay extra for thinner lenses.
I ended up ordering 6 pairs of glasses total, three from each site. They're all pictured above and the info about each pair is below:
I ended up paying a little under $200 total for all 6 pairs! No insurance or anything. The thing is...sometimes it's hard to tell what you're getting. Pair A? I really like the shape, but you can see the little nose bump things through the lenses, and that bothered me. Goggles4U has a 360 degree view for some of their frames, which might help with things like that. The other pairs I'm pretty happy with. With all of them I tried to order temple lengths that were close to 130, and I think they all fit pretty well. Both sites have sections about how to order and explanations of all the terms for the different frame measurements. Again, temple length was important for me, but other things might be more important for you. I would definitely check you current glasses (or a pair of glasses that fit you well) for measurements and go from there.
There are definitely a lot of places on the interwebs to order glasses and out of all the ones I checked out, Zenni and Goggles4U seemed to have the largest selection. Here's some pros/cons I found with each site.
Flat shipping rate ($4.95), large selection, frames are broken out into categories (can make searching easier), sends out e-mail when they ship, can take a little bit longer to ship, frame prices can vary (though are still very reasonable), usually has different color options for particular styles
Free shipping!, fast shipping, can add frames to your "favorites" (requires you to have an account), can search by temple length, all the frames are $12.99, different lenses can drive up the total cost, can be harder to browse (color options for the same style aren't grouped together)
I would definitely order from either site again. It really depends on what frames they're offering at the time.
I can't say how they'd do with stronger or more complicated prescriptions, but I think for the price, it might be worth a shot. I think both sites offer return/exchange options, so even if they didn't work out, you could probably get another pair that did.
Unless I find another pair of frames that I HAVE to have, I don't know that I'll be ordering glasses from my optometrist ever again!
Oh, and just a warning. Ordering glasses can be a little bit addictive. I never intended to order 6 pairs of glasses, it just sort of happened. I kept finding frames I liked, and they're so cheap, why not order another pair? I've actually got one more pair on the way...but I think I might need to stop after that. Though they are slightly cheaper than shoes...I just need to find a good way to store them...