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Online retailers of eyeglasses and contact lenses have changed the consumer landscape for people with vision correction needs, providing a wider range of options, more convenient delivery, and (sometimes) more affordable prices. Two major retailers in this space are New York-based Warby Parker and San Francisco-based Zenni Optical.
If you’re trying to decide whether to purchase your next set of eyeglasses or contacts from one of these two retailers, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll break down the difference between Warby Parker and Zenni Optical and help you decide which one is right for you.
Here’s a basic breakdown:
|Warby Parker||Zenni Optical|
|Basics||in-person and online retailer|
sells their own brand of glasses and contact lenses
sells major contact lens brands
|no-frills, direct-to-consumer online model with cheap eyeglasses|
|Product options||Frames: acetate and metal|
Lenses: sunglasses, single-vision, polycarbonate, bifocal, and high index (1.67 and 1.74)
Add-ons: blue-light-blocking lenses, light responsive lenses
Contacts: Acuvue, CooperVision, Bausch + Lomb, Alcon, Scout
|Frames: acetate, steel, titanium, and others|
Lenses: sunglasses, single-vision, bifocal, progressive, and high index (1.61, 1.67, and 1.74)
Add-ons: blue-light-blocking lenses
$110 for a 90-day supply (Scout contact lenses)
|Downsides||quality of high index lenses and contact lenses may not meet all needs||fewer customer service features|
high index lenses aren’t high quality for strong prescriptions
Since it started in 2010, Warby Parker has become known for offering a huge selection of their own eyeglasses at an affordable price.
They’re also known for their home try-on program, where customers are allowed to select up to five frames to try on at home over a 5-day period. Once you’ve decided which ones you want, you just send them all back and then select the pair you’d like to fill with your prescription.
Though all of their frames can be purchased online, Warby Parker also has 71 locations in 28 states in the United States.
Zenni Optical made a splash in 2003 with a rather uncharted direct-to-consumer model that cuts out the middleman and offers eyeglasses at low prices.
They keep their prices down, they don’t have any brick-and-mortar locations, and they keep the bells and whistles straightforward. That means no insurance or free shipping. It also means you can get a pair of glasses, depending on your prescription, for as little as $7.
Zenni Optical does offer a try-on feature you can use with your built-in camera, or a 3D try-on tool that you can use by uploading a video of yourself.
All of Warby Parker’s frames, of which there are over 100 styles, are made from either acetate, or metal, or a mixture of the two. Many of their frames can be turned into sunglasses or prescription sunglasses.
In terms of lenses, they offer polycarbonate lenses and bifocal lenses, and high index lenses of 1.67 and 1.74 strength. They also offer add-ons like blue-light-blocking lenses and light responsive lenses. They do not offer progressive lenses.
Their selection of daily, monthly, and biweekly contact lenses come from major brands like Acuvue, in addition to their own line of contact lenses, called Scout. Their daily lenses have a base curve of 8.4 millimeters (mm) and a diameter of 14.2 mm.
Zenni Optical’s extensive selection of over 6,000 frames includes materials like acetate, steel, and titanium. Most of their frames are available as sunglasses, and they also offer single vision, bifocal, progressive, and high index lenses.
They do throw in anti-scratch coating and UV protection for free and offer blue light protection starting at $16.95. Zenni Optical does not sell contact lenses.
Warby Parker is cheap, especially compared to what you pay in an optometrist’s office, but they are not the cheapest. You can expect to pay about $95 as a baseline for prescription eyeglasses, with the real bump in price coming from add-on features like high index lenses, the costs for which can range from $30 to $130.
If you then decide to add on other features like lenses for blue light protection or light responsiveness, you can expect to pay at least $200. That said, Warby Parker is somewhat unique in that it’s considered an in-network provider for vision plans through UnitedHealthcare and other select insurance providers.
Scout daily contacts cost $110 for a 90-day supply of two lenses, plus you’ll get a 6-day trial lens pack for $5 to start. Shipping on all of Warby Parker’s products, including their try-on program, is free.
The most basic option will set you back $6.95, but if you want higher end frames (which can run upwards of $50), add-ons such as blue light protection, or high index lenses, you can expect to pay a bit more.
Zenni Optical offers three types of high index lenses for people with prescriptions greater than + or – 4.25. Their 1.61 high index lenses cost an additional $19.95, 1.67 are an additional $34.95, and 1.74 costs $74.95.
Zenni does not accept insurance, but some insurance companies do offer reimbursement. Either way, Zenni Optical’s frames tend to run much cheaper than other retail options.
Warby Parker has a strong company reputation when it comes to balancing quality and design with affordability. They have a Trustpilot rating of 3.4 stars, with a range of customer service negatives and easy ordering positives.
Healthline editor Chelsea Logan liked the try-on feature but was disappointed that not all the colors of every style were available for home try-on. “I also liked that their site gives the measurements for each pair, so if you already have a pair you like, you can try to find something that’s a similar size,” she said. “I do feel like many of the frames are similar styles, though.”
Generally, their customer service across reviews was reported to be strong. Healthline editor Ruby Thompson reported that she had an “extra simple” return experience with Warby Parker.
Zenni Optical has a strong reputation for no fuss, no muss affordable online eyeglasses. Their Trustpilot rating is 4.6 stars, with many reviewers pleased with the straightforward and reasonable pricing, and top-notch customer service. Those few displeased Trustpilot reviewers were not happy with the 100-percent store credit return policy and what they described as poor customer service.
Healthline editor Roman Gokhman ordered from Zenni Optical and liked the ease of use of the platform and the expediency. “Even though the glasses are manufactured in China, and they messaged that they would likely be late, they still came on time,” he said.
If affordability is the most important element of your next eyeglass purchase, Zenni Optical might be the way to go. Though cheaper than the selection at an optometrist because of the reduction in overhead cost, Warby Parker still runs higher in price than Zenni Optical, generally.
However, if the ability to try on from home, the option to get in-person customer service, insurance coverage, and other nice-to-have features are important to you, then Warby Parker may be a better choice.
Johanna Sorrentino is a writer, editor, and wayfarer. Her appetite for empowering information and great storytelling is matched only by her appetite for cheese and chocolate. Learn more about her at johannasorrentino.com.