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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 differences 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
|Cost||• $95–$200 (glasses)|
• $110 for a 90-day supply (Scout contact lenses)
|• $6.95–$100 (glasses)|
|Who it’s best for||those seeking in-person and/or online shopping for both eyeglasses and contacts, especially those wanting designer frames without the designer price tag||people looking to spend less for eyeglasses, but still want a range of materials, styles, lenses, and add-ons to choose from|
|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 many locations throughout the United States. You can find the closest retail store to you on their website.
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. They also have 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, 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, 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 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 also available as sunglasses, and they offer single vision, bifocal, progressive, and high index lenses.
They do throw in anti-scratch coating and ultraviolet (UV) protection for free. Blue light protection is available starting at $16.95. Zenni Optical does not sell contact lenses.
Warby Parker is on the lower price end of eyewear retail, 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, as well as 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 upward 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 be more affordable than other retail options.
Though Warby Parker has some physical locations, for most people, ordering online is the easiest way to get a pair of their eyeglasses. Here are the steps to ordering your eyeglasses from their website:
- Go to Warby Parker’s website.
- Select “Browse Men” or “Browse Women.”
- Browse the various frame styles, and select the style you’d like to go with.
- Customize your purchase by selecting your frame width, lens type, and more to add your glasses to your cart.
- Check out as a guest or create an account.
- Add shipping information and delivery method.
- Add payment information.
- Review details and place your order.
Because online is the only way to purchase from Zenni, they have made browsing and selecting frames straightforward. Here are the steps to buying your next eyeglasses from Zenni:
- Go to Zenni Optical’s website.
- Choose the category of items that suits what you’re looking for.
- Select your desired frames.
- Select your desired lenses.
- Select any add-on options (if desired).
- During checkout, you’ll be given the option to sign in or create an account.
- Add your shipping and payment information.
- Review details and place your order.
Warby Parker has a reputation for balancing quality and design with affordability. They have a Trustpilot rating of just 2.7 stars, though, 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 was reported to be strong across reviews. 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, affordable online eyeglasses. Their Trustpilot rating is 4.6 stars, with many reviewers pleased with the straightforward, reasonable pricing, and top-notch customer service. Those few displeased Trustpilot reviewers were not happy with the 100% 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 fast turnaround.
“Even though the glasses are manufactured in China, and they messaged that they would likely be late, they still came on time,” he said.
Warby Parker pros
- Warby Parker keeps costs down by constructing all their eyeglasses in-house.
- Their home try-on feature allows you to see which frames fit best in the comfort of your own home.
- They offer customer service benefits, such as a 30-day return policy and free shipping.
- Their lens scratch guarantee program will replace lenses that get scratched in a customer’s first year of wearing them.
- You can order online or from one of their store locations.
- They are considered in-network for some insurance companies.
Zenni Optical pros
- Zenni Optical offers a much lower price range for those wanting affordable frames.
- Because they are online-only, their navigation is all about ease of use, with features like a digital ruler and try-on tools.
- They offer an extensive selection of frame styles and materials.
- Every pair of glasses includes an anti-scratch coating and UV protection for free.
Warby Parker cons
- They aren’t the most affordable online eyewear retailer.
- The virtual try-on feature only works if you download the app.
- They only sell their own brand of eyeglasses and don’t offer other brand names.
- Those with stronger prescriptions may not find the quality of their high index lenses suitable.
- Scout lenses have been reported to be less breathable than other contact lens brands.
Zenni Optical cons
- Zenni’s 30-day return policy only offers store credit or 50% cash back (or 100% cash back for manufacturing errors).
- Their selection does not include major brand names.
- The quality of their product, particularly their high index lenses, may not be up to standard.
- Shipping costs $4.95 and glasses are estimated to arrive in 7 to 14 business days.
- They do not accept insurance.
How long do Warby Parker and Zenni take to ship?
Zenni’s standard shipping times range from 7 to 14 business days, while express shipping takes 5 to 10 days. Meanwhile, Warby Parker’s standard shipping window is 5 to 7 days and express shipping takes 3-4 days.
How do you measure your pupillary distance?
Your pupillary distance (PD) is the space between the center of your pupils. The measurement can be easily taken at home by following these simple steps:
- Stand approximately 8 inches away from a mirror.
- Closing your right eye, line up the ruler’s 0 mm mark with the middle of your left pupil.
- Look straight ahead, then close your left eye and open your right eye.
- Whatever the millimeter line is that’s in the center of your right pupil is your PD.
Do Warby Parker and Zenni provide glasses cases?
Warby Parker and Zenni both offer basic complementary glasses cases with the purchase of a pair of frames. They also offer a variety of durable and decorative cases for purchase.
If affordability is the most important element of your next eyeglass purchase, Zenni might be the way to go. Though it tends to have lower prices than your local eye doctor’s office, Warby Parker still tends to be more expensive than Zenni.
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.