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Seeing the future: Online eyeglass retailers offer plenty of options

Posted February 14

Shopping for eyeglasses isn't what it used to be.

Sometimes, it doesn't even involve trying on the frames. Online retailers offer convenience and discount pricing, but there can be risks.

Consumer Reports recently surveyed its readers and did its own eyeglass shopping to reveal helpful advice on how to get good glasses at a great price.

Step one: Don't shop for glasses in person at a doctor's office or local store. You'll get more personal attention, but you're also likely to pay a lot more, Consumer Reports says.

"Our readers paid an average of about $400 for frames and lenses at eye doctors and independent eyeglass shops," Consumer Reports' Money Editor Margot Gilman said. "That's about two to three times what readers paid online. That's before any reimbursement from insurance."

Consumer Reports readers evaluated six online retailers in their survey.

Warby Parker sends five pairs of frames to try on at home, and shipping is free both ways. It gets high marks for quality and selection, and the average price for frames and lenses on Warby Parker is $141.

Zenni Optical also did well, with an average price of only $69. It's big drawback is that you can only try on frames virtually using a photo of yourself.

"We recommend that you try on any frames you are considering purchasing online first," Gilman said. "Just to make sure that they fit right and that the quality is good."

A good shopping strategy is to find the frame you like in a brick and mortar store and then look for it online. A caution, though: make sure to check out warranty and return policies. You may only have 30 days to make a return.

If online eyewear shopping isn't for you, Consumer Reports readers also checked out dozens of stores in person.

Prices at discount stores such as Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart are often less than at an eyeglass chain or doctor's office. However, the frame selection may be more limited.


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