Eyeglasses are trendy, with scads of constantly changing styles offered by more than a hundred brands, ranging from ultra-luxe to Costco-practical.

But much of this variety is just an illusion: The U.S. eyewear market is dominated by EssilorLuxottica, an Italian mega-corp that not only manufactures millions of pairs of glasses annually, but also markets and sells them via thousands of retail stores it runs.

Want glasses or shades made by your favorite designer? They were probably made by EssilorLuxottica. It owns several brands outright, including Ray-Ban and Persol. And other designer specs are created by EssilorLuxottica via licensing agreements, which means if you buy frames marketed as Armani, Brooks Brothers, Burberry, Bulgari, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Oakley, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tiffany, Versace, and more, they were churned out in an EssilorLuxottica factory.

And, no, Marc Jacobs didn’t have a major part in how his company’s new models look; design houses usually just send sketches of new-season styles to optical companies so their in-house staff can riff on, say, Tiffany’s new pearl earrings or Ralph Lauren’s latest runway lineup.

But the eyewear giant doesn’t dominate just the manufacturing market. Though the name “EssilorLuxottica” doesn’t show up on their signs, when you head into For Eyes, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, optical departments at Target, or several others, you’re shopping at a space or store that the behemoth owns or controls. Oh, and EssilorLuxottica also is the world’s largest maker of prescription eyeglass lenses, makes contact lenses, and in recent years has bought up several vision insurance companies.

With one corporation controlling a large share of both the manufacture and the distribution of eyeglass frames and lenses, it’s tricky to figure out whether you’re getting a good deal or not. EssilorLuxottica frames can cost from about $300 to several thousand bucks per pair. Sure, some of these styles boast luxurious-looking details—a gold-tone Tory Burch “T” logo here, some Tiffany faux pearl trim there. But it’s hard to justify paying such hefty prices when you can buy a far less expensive model at Target that possibly was made in the same facility, and the manufacturing cost of both models probably was less than $5.

One way to assess value is to buy from a store that gets top ratings for advice. At these stores, staff can tell you whether those spendy shades might be worth the bucks, or if you’d do just as well with a no-name pair. And if you shop at a retailer that receives a low price comparison score, based on prices quoted to our undercover shoppers, you can be reasonably confident that the price you’ll pay for the same frames will be lower than elsewhere.

Several other companies seek to challenge EssilorLuxottica’s near monopoly. While most of these stores’ offerings are so different from their competitors’ that we can’t report price comparison scores for them, their prices and selection are good enough to deserve your consideration.

For example, for prices starting at $95, Warby Parker offers single-lens glasses with funky, fashionable frames. It began as an internet-only business that would (and still does) send out five free frames for customers to try on before ordering glasses. The company has since opened more than 100 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S.

SEE Eyewear also started out as an online-only company but now operates dozens of boutiques in the U.S. It’s a bit pricier than some retailers, but you get a lot of style for the money (the company bills itself as “Hip Without the Rip”). Each frame comes in a limited-edition run—usually, only a handful of each frame design is available in each of its stores. It charges between $200 and $400 for most models.

Costco carries a mix of its own frames and a few designer options (but offers fewer trendy colors and unusual shapes, compared to most other eyewear outlets). Its prices for frames start at around $40 and run up to about $200; add $80 for single-vision lenses and $210 for progressive lenses. It accepts most vision plans, has a virtual try-on tool on its website, and on-site optometrists are available at many of its stores. Note that an annual membership ($60) is required to purchase glasses.

Several online optical companies have joined the eyeglass market, angling to chip away at Big Eyewear. Founded the same year as Warby Parker, Brooklyn’s Classic:Specs hawks vintage-inspired frames (single-vision starting at $89, progressives $289 and up). Classic:Specs offers an online virtual try-on tool: Simply upload your photo to see yourself in its colorful acetate frames.

Other non-EssilorLuxottica online-only retailers that ship complete pairs of glasses (single-vision) for less than $200 for no-commitment at-home previews include CooperCrwn.com, LiingoEyewear.com, Lookmatic.com, Roka.com, SeeSawSeenEyewear.com, ShopCovry.com, and Vintandyork.com.

Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.