Online shopping makes life easier. There’s no doubt about that. But what about when it doesn’t? Depending on the retailer, returns can be a huge hassle, and some make it difficult for you to prove that an item was received in poor condition or wasn’t what you ordered.
With most purchases, the reward outweighs the risk. However, when online shopping, just because you can buy an item without leaving your home, doesn’t mean you should. Here are a few things that aren’t worth buying online.
There’s no way to tell if a car, or any vehicle, actually works unless you drive it. Since you can’t test drive a vehicle online, purchasing that way is risky. Also, most used car-buying advice tells you to have a mechanic look at the car before you buy it. There’s no way you can do that without having access to the car in-person.
Besides, what’s more fun than a test drive? How else will you know that you enjoy driving the car, that it is comfortable, and has the features you want? (See also: 5 Times You Can Score a Great Deal on a New Car)
With all of the places out there that treat animals terribly — think puppy mills and unlicensed breeders — buying online is a huge gamble. After all, if you don’t see where the animals were raised and get a clue as to how they were cared for, your sweet ball of fluff could arrive with a terrible and costly disease.
Plus, meeting a pet in-person helps you determine if their personality is a good fit for you and your family. The only way to find out about that is to see the animal before you buy or adopt. (See also: The 8 Best Pets for Frugal Animal Lovers)
3. Real estate
Buying any sort of property should be done in-person, even if you have to travel to see it. Unless you view the property, you’ll have no real idea of its condition. If you’ve seen any real estate photographs lately, you know that they can make a home or a piece of property look drastically better than it actually is.
Looking at property in-person also gives you a much better idea of its size, shape, and suitability for your life than you’ll get if you just look at it online.
4. Prescription medication
There are many reputable pharmacies that sell prescriptions at discounted rates, but there are also many that aren’t. While these may make some effort to get you the right drug at the right time, you won’t really know what you’re getting. And you won’t know if the place is inspected and regulated, either.
The only exception to this would be purchasing from an online pharmacy that you have access to through your doctor or insurance company. These are much more likely to be reputable, because they have to prove themselves to get that sort of professional affiliation.
5. Name brand knockoffs
It’s tempting to buy designer knockoffs online, but the truth is that it’s not worth it. Many of the sites that sell these items are not secure, or are located in countries where online security, overall, is lax. You can never know what might happen to your credit card information once it’s out there.
6. Large appliances
There are great deals on large appliances online, but what happens if it doesn’t work out? They can be impossible to repackage, and then you have to arrange (and sometimes pay for!) the item to be picked up again. Besides, who can tell if the color is actually going to match and be perfect for your home unless you see the item in-person first. Save yourself a massive potential headache and buy these in the store. (See also: 4 Questions to Ask Before Buying Refurbished Appliances)
This is similar to the discussion of large appliances, above. While it’s possible to get a great deal on an item when you purchase online, the potential return process makes the whole thing less desirable.
In addition, you need to make sure that your furniture is comfortable and that you like the materials. Unless you can sit on that couch or open and close the drawers on the dresser, you won’t know that until the item is delivered.
There are some mattress companies that only sell online. While some people swear by these products, it seems dubious to me. After all, we spend about ⅓ of our lives asleep! You need to know that you’ll be comfortable, and the best way to do that is to try out a mattress in a store, and then to check that it comes with a warranty. Most companies will take your mattress back for a certain number of days, so you can try it out first. If you do purchase a mattress online, confirm that it comes with a reasonable trial period.