The contact lens retailer that became a glasses retailer: A Coastal review

Where are the pictures?! Scroll down to find the full review unless you’d like to read up a bit on Coastal first!

Quick Notes:

  • Free AR & UV on lenses.
  • You can find glasses for under $20, but it takes a bit of work to find the “skip” buttons during the up-sell pages.
  • List a number of brand names but the 3/3 I checked last attempt were all “out of stock”.

A little history first:

Coastal was originally a contact lens retailer (and a fairly popular one at that) known as “Coastal Contacts” until they expanded into eyeglass offerings as well. They also had other arms / sister-sites in Canada, Australia, etc.

When they really became well-known was during the “first pair free” promotion they ran shortly after adding glasses to their contact lens offerings. I’m not clear as to how it was introduced in the US, but in Canada they started by offering free pairs in certain cities as time-limited offers. Eventually, it grew to the point where it was no longer time-limited – anyone could get a first pair for free. The first pair free program that ran over a number of years ended at the end of July/2014, though some other retailers have picked up on it as a method of customer acquisition.

Website, Ordering, and Value:

The Coastal site is clean and visually quite nice. I found navigation to require more clicks than it should, and some of the buttons weren’t in intuitive locations but those were fairly minor inconveniences. Information is provided without being overwhelming, and everything is pretty straightforward. They’ve fallen behind competitors a little when it comes to guidance about items (PD measurement is the standard ruler bit), and the step-by-step manner in which try try to sell you each option makes it a little less pleasant if you just want to see everything they offer and at what price. In many ways, they take the exact opposite approach that Zenni takes there.

One big plus for Coastal is the ability to go through most of the checkout process to find out your grand total (plus shipping if outside the US) before registering or providing any information… technically it’s all on the page that *asks* for your information but you can simply choose Country/Province to see what shipping options are available before you decide.

Value can be found, but you need to work at it to find the skip options. For example, currently you can get frames for $19 with free lenses (and free shipping too if you’re in the US). However when it comes time to choose the lens, you have to look for the tiny text link below the paid offerings to stick with the free lenses (which do not mention having a UV coating…. how in the world is no-UV in standard options becoming so prevalent!?).

And now to review glasses I ordered from Coastal…

Note: This took place in 2009. Also note that while other readers have not sent in Coastal reviews, so many people ordered from them during the old “first pair free” promo that you should be able to easily find a lot of genuine commentary and experiences across the web, particularly in some of the older “deals” forums.

Oct 23, 2009 – I looked through the “under $10” section of the Coastal website and found some frames for $9.95, including free standard lenses, an AR coating, and the standard anti-scratch and UV coatings. There was a “handling” charge of $0.69, and shipping to Canada was $9.95, bringing the grand total to $20.59.

Oct 23, 2009 – I received an email stating that the glasses had shipped, which included a tracking number.

Oct 26, 2009 – The glasses arrived. They had been shipped from the Coastal sister location here in Canada known as “Clearly Contacts”. You’ll notice 3 days is pretty quick compared to some of the other purchase reviews – part of this can be attributed to the glasses being shipped the same day (I ordered early morning and got the message that they’d shipped late afternoon), but most of the time is due to the fact that these were shipped from within Canada. In any case, ordering on Friday and getting them on Monday was a pleasant surprise.



The glasses clamshell case was loose inside the box. However, the case itself was very durable, and I’d be surprised if one managed to get damaged during shipping. Included inside the box was a coupon card, business card holder (although no business card inside), micro-fibre cloth, and a mini keychain screwdriver, along with the clamshell case containing the glasses. Opening the clamshell case revealed a cloth carry case with the glasses themselves inside. It may be worth noting that the micro-fibre cloth didn’t clean very well – it left smudges, so if you plan to use it to wipe your glasses, you may need to clean the cloth itself first.



(click on any of the thumbnails to see a larger version)

The box that came in the mail from Coastal The contents of the Coastal box, glasses and all.

First Impressions & Quality

The frames were extremely solid with a quality feel to them, and had hinged arms. Lenses seemed to be perfectly cut within the frame, and the anti-reflective coating was visible.

The AR coating reflected light as a green color, and the only obvious dirt was a tiny smudge in the center (along with a much larger fingerprint I accidently added with my finger when taking the glasses out of the carry case). Both washed off easily with a little soap and some cool water.

I ran the lenses through the “hot water test”, and they passed without issue.

Putting the glasses on, they didn’t need any adjustment – they fit very well.

Really, for under $10 (just over $20 shipped), it looks to be a really solid pair. The frames seem durable, lenses seem precisely cut, the AR coating passed the hot water test, and there’s really nothing I was able to find to nit-pick about.

Coastal glasses lens close up with a little AR color Costal glasses sitting on the table Coastal glasses on the microfibre cloth An overhead view of the glasses I received from Coastal

Final Thoughts

I have to say, I was really pleased with the purchase. The frames seemed so sturdy, and the lenses so well-cut, that I really expected the AR coating to fail the “hot water test” (I figured I’d used up my $10 worth of pleasantries). Yet it passed. I’d be impressed if they were $30 or $40, so you can imagine how thrilled I was that they were only $10.


Would I buy from Coastal again? Definitely. Fast shipping, quality frames, quality lenses, quality coatings, and a low price… it’s really tough to go wrong.

Would I recommend Coastal to others? Yes. Again, the same reasons as above. They’ve also got a selection of fashion/designer frames at a pretty low price, so they should fit a few price-ranges.

I would note that Canadians may want to check out both the ClearlyContacts (Canadian) and the Coastal (US) sites. I checked afterwards, and the frames I ordered from Coastal for $9.95 are $38 on the Clearly Contacts site. Since you can order from either, it may be worth checking to see who has the frames you’re looking for at a lower price.


Recommendations for 2019

Coastal remains a popular option for many. If you’re shrewd, you can currently find a pair of glasses for around $20 which puts them in a strong position there, though the lack of UV protection advertised makes those offerings someone concerning. Changing to a lens that does advertise UV can still result in a purchase of under $40, mind you.

The biggest downside is the relentless up-selling. It reminds me of GoDaddy’s website years ago with the million attempts to sell you something extra. That said, I obviously approach these sites with a desire to know “what do you have and how much”. Not everyone else does, so this may not bother others quite as much as it does me. However, be cautious, as it’s easy to get your total price skyrocketing rather quickly.

Overall they’re worth a look, though I’d tend to think of them them one of the under-$40 retailers instead of an under-$20, as their focus is clearly in the mid-high price range and they make a lot of effort to guide you towards the higher dollar amounts. Regardless, you can find Coastal at .


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