Perfect Vision

By Kristen Castillo

December 15, 2014 5 min read

Buying new glasses is a chance to improve your vision and look stylish at the same time. Whether you're looking for prescription glasses or readers, there are many retailers to choose from, including eyeglass shops, drug stores, box stores, club stores and online retailers. Getting a good deal is a bonus, too.

Eyeglass frames typically last one to five years, and lenses sometimes need to be changed as soon as six months into a prescription, particularly in cases of cataracts or diabetes.

When it's time for new glasses, where's the best place to buy them?

*Getting Started

"A frame stylist once told me, 'Your face is a work of art; it deserves a great frame,'" says Dr. April Jasper, who emphasizes that consumers need to consider quality frames and lenses.

One big misconception is that all glasses are the same. "Frame quality can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another," says Jasper. "You can tell the difference in the quality of automobiles, in clothing and in most products. Frames are no different."

Similarly, all lenses are not the same, especially because technology changes fast.

"There are high-definition personalized lenses available today that make your vision clearer than anyone ever thought possible, and they make it clear while not feeling you are even wearing glasses," says Jasper. "You can buy 20-year-old technology with 20-year-old problems or today's technology with amazing optical quality."

*Drug Store Designs

Snagging specs at the drug store or a big-box store can be good for your wallet, but the glasses might not be good for your vision.

Optician Phyllis Lubarsky, owner of Outer Vision Inc., says glasses available over the counter "are simply magnifiers, and both the left and right are the same."

She warns that without guidance from an eye professional, consumers often buy glasses that are "too strong, which speeds up the process of the eyes requiring stronger and stronger prescriptions until they end up back at the optician or eye doctor, as they don't make them strong enough in OTC."

*Is Online OK?

Online retailers offer many deals, but they can have disadvantages.

"They sell older, less technologically advanced products for less than a brick-and-mortar store will sell newer, high-tech products that are personalized for each patient," says Jasper.

Lubarsky also reminds consumers that buying glasses online lacks customer service from eye experts.

"There is no professional to help and guide you in determining the right fit and correct measurements and what frames best suit your prescription," she says.

*Look for Sales

"Local stores run seasonal sales to urge shoppers to use up their savings," says Nancy Brenner, who blogs as the Garment District Diva. She recommends free "home try-on offers: from Warby Parker, "the destination eyewear shop which made it cool to wear glasses even if you have 20/20 vision."

*Consider Kids' Specs

If your face is small, you might get a deal and a good selection by shopping in the children's section of your local eyeglass retailer. Brenner scored kid glasses and raves the "prices are pint size, and you won't find the same pair on every face."

*Make Your Readers into Regulars

Love a store-bought pair of frames? Buy them for a bargain and then transform them into the real deal. One of Brenner's friends bought reading glasses at a local drug store and "then filled her prescription at her local eyewear store."

*Quality Matters

You'll get high style if you buy designer glasses, but that comes with hefty cost.

"When you go for a designer brand you will pay more as there are licensing fees that the manufacturer incurs," says Lubarsky.

No matter the frames, if you pay for quality, they'll typically last a long time.

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