1. Study Up
It’s smart to research your choices, even before you have your eyes examined, so that you will know what to ask, understand your options better, and avoid being oversold on extras you don’t need.

There are many good online resources you can use to find information, including AllAboutVision.com, Eyeglasses.com, and LensesRx.com. Look for advice on choosing lenses, frames, and add-ons, such as anti-reflective coatings.

2. Talk to Your Eye Doctor
If your prescription is more than a year old, you’ll need a new eye exam, says James Wachter, an optometrist at Clarkson Eyecare in St. Louis. While at the doctor’s, ask for recommendations about which lenses and frames are right for you. For example, your ophthalmologist may recommend a certain type of progressive lens or a specific material for your lenses. Or he or she may advise you to avoid frames that can’t properly accommodate your prescription—rimless models that won’t look right with thick lenses, for instance, or frames that are too narrow to handle the multiple vision fields in progressive and other multifocal lenses.

Ask the doctor to measure what’s called your pupillary distance or PD (the distance between the center of each of your pupils) and include it on your prescription. You’ll need the PD (two for multifocal lenses) if you decide to order lenses online. Some eyewear websites give you instructions on how to measure it yourself, but Adam Gordon, O.D., a clinical associate professor of optometry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that a professional will be able to do it more accurately. At least five states—Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Massachusetts and New Mexico—require that doctors provide you with your PD. So when you book your exam, verify that your eye doctor will give it to you, advises Gordon. Some doctors charge extra for this service unless you’re ordering glasses from them. If your doctor won’t provide your PD or charges for it, consider going elsewhere. If you decide to pay for a PD measurement, Warby Parker will reimburse you up to $50 as long as you buy glasses from one of its outlets.

3. Explore Frames
If your doctor sells frames, start by trying on some from his or her selection. Make note of the brand, model, and size of the frames you like. Also record prices and details about the seller’s return policies and warranty. (You’ll need to know the cost of eyeglasses in order to comparison shop.)

The cost of eyeglasses can vary a lot by frame type

4. Compare Your Options
Once you’ve narrowed the frame choices, use a web search to find and price your favorite pairs, which in most cases you’re likely to find online. Get the prices on lenses, too, when considering the cost of eyeglasses, so that you can compare. One potential shortcut: If your eye exam was at Costco, Sam’s Club, or Walmart and you find a frame you like at the same store, our survey results suggest that you’ll likely be satisfied if you simply go ahead and order your lenses there. The same goes for Warby Parker if you have a simple, single-vision prescription. If you don’t, you can probably find less expensive lenses elsewhere.

5. Negotiate
If you find better prices as you search, call or visit the store where you originally discovered your favorite frames and ask it to match your lowest price. When looking for the best deal on the cost of eyeglasses, it’s only fair to give the store the chance to reduce its price, especially if the staff spent time answering your questions. It may be worth paying more to deal with a professional in person, especially if you’re ordering multifocal lenses or have a strong prescription. And it’s good to support a local business you may need for frame adjustments later on. Finally, if you’re haggle-averse, you’re not alone. Relatively few of our survey respondents tried negotiating for a discount. But of those who did, nearly half were successful, and more than a quarter of them saved $100 or more.

6. Divide and Conquer
If a single retailer doesn’t provide everything you need, consider splitting up the process. You might have your eyes examined at your doctor’s office, take advantage of the savings you can get buying frames online, and have the lenses made at Costco or Walmart, for example.

7. Don’t Pay for Add-ons That Don’t Add Up
In our reader survey, half the respondents said they paid extra for scratch-resistant coatings, and 22 percent shelled out for coatings that offer ultraviolet protection.

But all plastic lenses already have an anti-scratch coating on the front of the lens, says Karl Citek, an optometry professor at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. And most lenses nowadays completely protect wearers from harmful UV light from the sun without any add-ons. One more to skip: coatings that block blue light. The science connecting long-term exposure to blue light to damage to part of the retina is weak, says James Sheedy, Pacific University professor emeritus of optometry, who has studied the effect of blue light on the eyes. One add-on that he does say may be worth paying for is an anti-reflective coating. It reduces glare on the front and back of the lenses, making them easier to look through—especially at night—and also lets other people see your eyes better, he explains.

8. Consider Buying a Second Pair
It’s a good idea to order a backup in case your primary glasses break or are lost and you don’t want to be forced to pay extra to get another pair quickly.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.