15 things you should never buy online

ONLINE NEVER-BUYS

There is a lot to love about online shopping: saving time, better selection, quick access to reviews, and easy price comparison. Some items are always best bought via the web. Still, there are a handful of things that might be better to buy locally. Whether it's because more products can be found offline, a flesh-and-blood salesperson can offer useful insight, or there's a high risk of being scammed, here are 15 items that are probably better found at a bricks-and-mortar store.

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15 things to never buy online
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15 things to never buy online

FLOWERS

Procrastinators, beware of ordering that last-minute bouquet online. A local floral company is more likely to create a reasonably priced bouquet instead of a wilted-on-arrival arrangement that looks little like the online photo. Going local also can mean lower delivery costs because there's no middleman to pay. 

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BICYCLES

Saving money by buying a bike online can end up hurting more than your wallet. As Bike Radar notes, plunking down a lot of cash for something you haven't even ridden can result in a ride that's excruciatingly uncomfortable. Shipping boosts the chance that something will get damaged in transit, resulting in expensive repairs. Plus, it won't be as easy to get a fix under warranty. Often proof must be submitted that that the fix is necessary, then parts or the entire bike must be sent back. 

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SHOES

Online shoe shopping can be a gamble. Certain you're a solid size nine? There's still no telling if a particular shoe will fit. The Wall Street Journal reports that shoppers who always stick to the same size get a wonky fit 45 percent of the time. If online shoe buying is still tempting, make sure to buy from a retailer that offers free returns, such as Zappos. 

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PAINT

Getting anything other than a paint sample online could be a disappointment. Sherwin-Williams warns that computer screens will never be able to render colors with complete accuracy. Even if they did, the light in a room will alter perception of the color and possibly result in a trip to the store for more samples. 

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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

For beginners, the expertise of staffers at the local music shop could be indispensable for picking the right instrument. One guitar might feel awkward, while another could feel like custom-made. Using the internet to buy used instruments locally might work if an expert friend can check out the goods in person. 

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FURNITURE

It's tempting to go online for furniture, but proceed with caution. Being able to sit on cushions or mattresses, see how smoothly drawers pull out, or otherwise inspect a purchase isn't possible. Paying close attention to dimensions is the only way to make sure furniture fits your space. Also, that beautiful desk could end up at your front door with a gouge on the surface, which means either shipping it back or living with the defect. 

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NO-NAME CLOTHING

If your social media feeds have been full of oddly-named internet clothing retailers hawking trendy clothes at big discounts, be careful. Chances are the retailers are based in Asia, and the quality of the garments is often poor. Buzzfeed found that many of these sites are stealing images of clothing from more reputable retailers, then producing shoddily-constructed knock-offs. 

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PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

Trying to get your prescription for cheap online? It could be an Rx for trouble, warns the FDA. An unvetted retailer may sell drugs that haven't been approved, have the wrong active ingredient or the wrong mix of ingredients, or feature potentially harmful ingredients. If the price is too good to be true, the drugs probably aren't legit. Other red flags are a site that says it will sell prescription drugs without a prescription, or one that is short on contact information. 

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PETS

It might be hard to ignore that cute litter of cheap or free puppies that just popped up in your Facebook feed. But buying online might mean getting a dog from a puppy mill or inexperienced "backyard breeder" that could be prone to health or behavior problems. The ASPCA warns that scammers may erect elaborate websites to pose as legitimate pet rescues or sanctuaries. 

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COSMETICS

Makeup seems like an easy online purchase, but cosmetics are frequently counterfeited, and less-than-reputable sites may even send used or toxic products that can pose a health risk. If buying online, steer clear of third-party sellers, auction sites, or unfamiliar sites. When buying from a legitimate retailer, double-check whether or not cosmetics can be returned after being tried, too. 

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USED CARS

The list of online car-buying scams is long, and while most customers know to be wary on sites such as Craigslist, it's still possible to get burned buying on reputable platforms including Edmunds and Cars.com. Always be wary of prices that seem too good to be true, as well as sellers who won't speak offline or refuse pre-purchase inspections. It's also wise to check out escrow companies on your own instead of using links provided by the seller. 

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INSURANCE

Getting an insurance policy online may be fine for basic needs, but once a home, several cars, and other assets have been acquired, go directly to an agent. An agent can better assess your needs and bundle policies more cost-effectively than might be possible online. Very low online quotes can also mislead buyers who think they're getting a certain level of coverage that can turn out to be skimpy. 

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SMALL ITEMS

Think twice about getting that single tube of toothpaste or lip balm online. The purchase may not meet a site's free-shipping minimum. For instance, it's necessary to buy $35 worth of products to get free shipping at Walmart.com. Otherwise, expect to pay $5.99 in shipping to get that $1 lip balm. At Amazon plan to buy $25 worth of items to throw in a cheap "add-on item," or be a Prime member with access to Prime Pantry. Even then, Prime Pantry always has a $5.99 shipping charge.

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PRODUCE AND PERISHABLE GROCERIES

Still trekking to the grocery? So are 72 percent of shoppers who want to "physically see and choose" their food before buying it, according to a TimeTrade survey. While that might not be essential for things like cereal or granola bars, there is an art to picking perishables. 

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LARGE APPLIANCES

According to a Consumer Reports survey, only 11 percent of readers say they've bought a large appliance online. Risks include ease-of-use annoyances that might not be spotted without looking at a display model. Online buying also eliminates the chance to haggle with a salesperson for a better price. While shipping costs are typically reasonable, double-check the price of delivery from an e-retailer compared with buying locally. 

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