5 Products You Shouldn't Buy Online
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- There are two very good reasons why online retail sales consistently outgrow traditional every year: Shopping online is more convenient and typically much less expensive. For instance, consumer electronics from cameras to smartphones can usually be had for cheaper online, books used or new (or electronic) are usually priced more cheaply at Amazon(AMZN) than in a big bookstore and even shoes tend to be cheaper online now that most of the online shoe retailers offer free shipping.
"Whether it's a big online retailer or a smaller one, the reality is that most things are going to be a much better price online," says Ken Wisnefski, founder of WebiMax, an online marketing firm.
Most, but not all.
The convenience of ordering a product online and shipping it to your home comes at a cost, though, because you'll often have to pay shipping and handling fees that can wipe out any price advantage an online merchant might have. And while that's somewhat offset by a lack of sales tax for online-only merchants, states are increasingly passing laws aimed at collecting sales tax from such retailers. And even aside from these ancillary costs, there are a few classes of products that can be found at a lower price in a physical store for several reasons. We spoke to shopping experts to find out which products you should drive to the store to buy:
Really heavy things
Even when an online retailer wins out on price, the cost to ship it to your home might erase the price advantage, which is especially true of heavy items such as televisions.
"You'll see sites that have a good price, but they're trying to get it to the East Coast from Arizona, and a lot of the time ... it might be better to go to Best Buy (BBY) ," Wisnefski says.
That's not always the case, of course. Some sites offer free shipping if you meet a minimum purchase threshhold, and some big retailers will sell an item on their Web site and ship it for free to your local store for pickup.
Where you want to be careful, Wisnefski says, is when dealing with smaller online retailers you haven't heard of.
"Some of these smaller retailers entice you with price and then make their margins on shipping costs," he says, pointing to more obscure retailers who rise to the top of the Google(GOOG) Shopping tool with a low base price and an exorbitant shipping fee. If you do a search on Google for a model of TV and a retailer you've never heard of has the lowest base price, take a really close look at what it's charging for shipping. Chances are the final price is going to be higher than more established retailers, online or otherwise.