Things You Should Never Buy Online

Consumers spend more time bogged down with commitments and options than ever before. Brand accumulation has made selecting great products harder than ever, and with the eCommerce sector continuing to explode in size and prominence, it can be a far simpler choice to buy online. Just about anything can be found in the digital marketplace these days, with revenue of nearly $1 trillion combined and a total retail share of 15.6% of all sales in the United States.

Plenty of great purchasing opportunities exist on the other side of that screen, but there remain many goods that just don't make sense to buy online. Whether it be fragile items or illicit goods — which you shouldn't buy regardless, but certainly not in a digital marketplace where the paper trail created can act as explicit evidence of wrongdoing — there are many reasons to stick to the brick-and-mortar sales pipeline. Shopping for goods that are notoriously hard to judge through a computer screen like interior paint or bedding remain easily found in the real world just outside the door.

Fruits and vegetables

Online grocery delivery services have become a major boon to the consumer marketplace in recent years. Having your groceries delivered is a fantastic way to save a huge amount of time that would otherwise be poured into shopping tasks. Moreover, utilizing a grocery delivery service severely limits the impact of impulse buying and splurge purchases that grocery stores work hard to introduce into the experience.

There's one main caveat, however, when it comes to purchasing groceries online. Soft products like fruit and vegetables can be more easily damaged in transit when carried by someone who isn't the end user and therefore doesn't have a personal stake in the item. Canned goods, non-perishables, and things like toiletries don't often have any issues with the transportation segment of an online shopping experience. But produce can easily come out of the bag squashed or otherwise damaged beyond use. Another issue with this approach is the selection process. Shoppers can be discerning with their choice when picking out bananas, onions, or pears themselves. But when leaving this choice up to the grocery stores, shoppers can't always expect to get the biggest, juiciest, or freshest option on the shelf.


Paint is notoriously difficult to judge. That's why many people purchase sample-sized paint products or bring home swatches of color to tape onto their walls before taking the plunge and buying the buckets they'll need to coat their home. As a result, buying paint online can make the process even harder. If you're shopping at an outlet offering sample paints, waiting for delivery of the samples and then again for the full purchase can add significant time to your painting schedule. However, you may not always be able to take advantage of sample paints when shopping online, creating a situation in which you simply need to take a plunge and hope for the best.

While there are many great reasons to shop online for all kinds of goods, paint is best purchased in-store at a local outlet you trust. This way, you can talk to the experts about the kind of paint that will best suit your project. For instance, you may need guidance on whether to select water-based or oil-based paint as well as the appropriate kind of primer to use before adding color. Experts at a paint shop or hardware store can also help you dial in the appropriate volume to purchase so that you don't have to make repeat trips.

Cars, boats, and RVs

Large, expensive vehicles can often be found in online marketplaces. There's a thriving digital space for selling cars, boats, motorcycles, RVs, and many other kinds of recreational vehicles and those for commuter transportation. The prevalence of these kinds of ads can lead many to think that purchasing a car online is essentially the same as buying one in person. The reality is that online shopping isn't typically conducive to a good experience when seeking out a new car for recreational vehicles.

For one thing, most buyers will be looking for a vehicle that can be used right away. There certainly are buyers out there who want to take advantage of dramatic price drops on a vessel that needs a lot of work, and for them, the online marketplace may work just fine. Unfortunately for most buyers, the need to purchase a reliable vehicle that can get the job done now (or with some minor upgrades) makes viewing a vehicle personally to gauge its usefulness a necessity. Likewise, buying a vehicle in person means that you'll be looking at local listings. Therefore, the logistics of taking ownership are often virtually negligible. The same cannot be said for interstate purchases made via online platforms.

New cosmetics

Cosmetics are a product that falls into a bit of a gray area in this regard. Shoppers looking for great deals on products they know and trust already can take advantage of quality online retail offerings. However, someone purchasing cosmetics as a gift for a friend or relative, or a buyer looking to add something new to their skin care regimen should always shop in-store.

Visiting a brick-and-mortar retailer to explore cosmetics gives you the knowledge and experience of a sales team that works with these kinds of solutions every day. Shopping online for something you've never used before can be a bit of a gamble, especially when it comes to wellness and beauty products. Everyone's skin is different, so everyone will need something tailored to their own unique needs. Going it alone at an online retailer when seeking out something new is a great way to waste money on a product that just won't provide the effectiveness that it should.

Flooring: Carpets, hardwood, and tile

In the same way that buying paint online can result in added wait times, purchasing flooring from a digital outlet can limit the options available to you and make the buying process a whole lot murkier. While paint is typically mixed in-store and can be brought away directly after purchase, flooring may need to be ordered from a warehouse and shipped to the store or your home. In this regard, purchasing in-store may not save a whole lot of time, but what it lacks in speed this approach makes up for in options. Often, buyers will find a limited selection of color and style choices when looking through an online catalog. Generally speaking, this reality is reversed when talking about digital retailers but when it comes to flooring you're more likely to find an abundance of selections by visiting the showroom.

Shopping in-store also gives you the ability to lean on the expertise of salespeople who specialize in the industry. Much like many other aspects of life, everyone's flooring needs will be unique. One buyer might need durable laminate or vinyl flooring to keep up with the rigors of life with young children and pets while another wants exquisite tile or solid hardwood floors to complete an elegant living space devoid of these messiness-inducing considerations. No matter what kind of flooring you're looking at, buying in-store opens up a variety of additional points of assistance that can't be found digitally.

Workout supplements

Workout supplements might seem similar to prescription medication at first glance. Supplements are wellness products that are ingested to create a health benefit, after all. But the supplement marketplace is essentially totally unregulated. Manufacturers don't have to report to the FDA when introducing a new product and those products can be fabricated with virtually no oversight or safety testing. The shocking reality of the supplement industry is that numerous wellness goods found on the market have contained harmful additives, and a staggering number contain bacterial or fungal contamination. Another common practice is in supplementing products with additions that aren't listed in the ingredients. Amino spiking and the introduction of creatine into a protein powder can artificially raise the measured protein content, for instance, providing a less effective product for the same price.

For those who take supplements, the best way to find reliable products is to frequent a store that you trust in person. At your local outlet, you'll be able to discuss the specifics of your needs with the professional who can give advice and direct you to reputable manufacturers for consistent quality.


Pillows are a very personal product. Today, pillows come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and densities. One sleeper might prefer a big, soft pillow while another gets the best night's sleep after laying their head down on a small, dense item. In truth, the only way to pick out a pillow that will work for your sleeping habits and comfort needs is to stick your head on a few while browsing in a retail store. There's just no way to know if a pillow will give you what you need without testing it first. This goes for products that include additional technology for specialized fighters for enhanced comfort, too.

Moreover, the time it takes to explore a few pillow options standing in a store is truly minuscule. Identifying a pillow that will give you great comfort is a matter of feel, and you'll know almost right away whether a pillow is going to serve you well or not when you put your head on it. Instead of waiting for delivery times and potentially having to return that pillow that isn't comfortable (or eating the cost if you can't return it), just take a trip out to your local shop and explore your options in person.

Baby formula

Baby formula requires stringent production methods and careful storage standards to remain safe for consumption. During the manufacturing process, a consumer can't have any say but that changes later on when it comes time to buy the good.

Purchasing baby formula in a brick-and-mortar store allows you to select the package you want. This means choosing one with the latest expiration date, ignoring packages that might be stained or battered, and opting to purchase from a retailer that you know handles its products with care. The same control can't be exercised when purchasing online. Buying baby formula from a digital retailer takes all of this control out of your hands and forces you to trust the chain of custody, storage procedures, and selection processes of someone else. When it comes to the health and well-being of your baby, relinquishing control really isn't an option and should be avoided at all costs.

Wedding dresses (and bridesmaids' dresses, too)

Wedding gowns are a unique type of dress. You'll wear your wedding dress only once, and ideally, it will be the only wedding gown you ever put on. This means that getting your selection exactly right is incredibly important.

The last thing any bride-to-be should do is cheap out on the search for a great wedding dress. This doesn't mean that a wedding dress has to be incredibly expensive, but rather that the search for the perfect gown should be exhaustive and as uncompromising as possible. Picking out a wedding dress is an exciting process that can be made incredibly special if you take the time to surround yourself with loved ones who will give you their opinions and support. Notably, your wedding dress will live on in pictures for all time, so picking one that looks great and makes you feel comfortable and confident on your big day can make all the difference. Less important than the bride's dress but still worth mentioning are the gowns that bridesmaids will wear. As you go through options for bridesmaids' dresses, it's important to remember that these too will remain a central feature in the wedding photos taken on this special day.


Pets are a big no-no when it comes to purchasing online. The Better Business Bureau estimates that around 80% of all online pet advertisements are fraudulent. This means that the vast majority of listings are made with some ill intention at heart. Keep in mind that many sales in this marketplace are done in cash, and specialized breeds can easily sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The result is a particular vulnerability for prospective new pet owners that, sadly, thieves seemingly often try to exploit.

Moreover, pets aren't something that most people should buy anyway. Rescue organizations all around the country help find excellent homes for pets that have been forgotten about. Instead of purchasing a new puppy or kitten, it's a great idea to visit your local animal shelter or get in touch with a rescue organization in your area to consider adopting one instead. These groups are more than happy to match up great homes with loving animals in need of compassion. Rescue organizations charge less than breeders and help unite incredibly strong bonds between owners and their beloved pets. It's also worth noting that all animals will have their own unique personality. There's just no way to get to know a future pet without interacting with them in person; unfortunately, this just isn't possible for buyers (or adopters) who work solely through internet listings.

Musical instruments

For a true novice, buying an instrument online is a fine practice. Online retailers often stock a great variety of beginner instruments and with financing offers and bundle discounts, getting into playing can be fun and affordable at the same time. But introductory practice is really where the viability of online musical instrument sales ends. Even with entry-level instruments, there are many manufacturing processes that must be done by hand or are primarily human-driven. This means that every example of an instrument will have unique quirks. Whether a bass guitar or a tuba, every instrument is unique, offering an individualized playing experience.

For an intermediate or advanced player, there is no substitute for putting your hands on the instrument and giving it a test drive. Minute differences in the build quality can make monumental changes in the feel and playability of any particular item. It's just a reality that some instruments are better than others. One example of this uniqueness can be found in the weight of guitars. Two examples of the exact same model can weigh more than a pound apart from one another, and tiny differences in fret height can make for different ideal conditions in string action. Collectors and advanced players will want to explore the intricacies of an instrument before committing to a purchase, something that just can't be done when buying online.

Anything you can't return

Most purchases can be returned within a certain timeframe. However, this isn't always the case and some custom orders, digital download products, or clearance items are never eligible for a refund. With this in mind, it is almost always a bad idea to purchase things online that fall into this category. If you haven't seen the object in person, it's impossible to ensure that the size or build quality is what you expect, the color is exactly right, or the object's actual usefulness fits your expectations.

It's always a good idea to explore these types of goods in person before committing to buying them. That way you can minimize the potential of feeling like you've been cheated if the item arrives and doesn't meet your expectations in one way or another. To add insult to injury, furniture, decorations, and other purchases may be necessities that you'll have to buy a replacement for right away if the initial item doesn't meet your requirements, raising the total cost for the good even more.

A new home

It might seem obvious that buying a home without walking through it in person is often a bad idea. Real estate professionals will do their best to help make sense of a home that you're buying sight unseen if it can't be avoided. But nearly every professional in this industry would agree that evaluating a home in person is a necessity for ensuring that you're getting the most out of the home-buying process. This is because the home itself isn't the only thing a buyer will be purchasing. The experience that comes with the neighborhood, any ingrained structural or stylistic issues found in the home, and many other factors play a role in the decision to purchase one home over another.

By foregoing the process of evaluating a property in person, buyers relinquish their ability to explore many of the intangible features that make a home a great buy — or potentially reduce a property's value to an interested searcher. If even remotely possible, it's always a good idea to explore houses you're interested in physically. It can shed light on so many facets of the property that just don't present themselves in images, video, or third-party reports.