18 Things You Should Never Buy Before Seeing it in Person First

In our busy modern lives, the convenience of online shopping can be tempting, with its unparalleled choice and apparent good value. But buyer beware! While items like boxed toys and electronics might be safe purchases, many items should be viewed in person before you commit to a sale. Here are 18 items you should only buy after seeing them ‘in the flesh.’

Used Cars

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Any used vehicle has its own story to tell, and you cannot reliably predict exactly what you’re getting from the mileage, age, model, and photos. Consumer Reports advises checking any potential car purchase in person as well as by a professional mechanic; otherwise, you may face significant issues later on, like rust, engine damage, poor repairs, or other faults.

Dream Homes

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Buying a house is a life-changing decision and the most significant investment most of us will ever make, so don’t be fooled by glitzy photos or charming estate agents! Virtual tours alone cannot capture a property’s true ‘feel,’ including its spaciousness, condition, and location. Always schedule several viewings and employ a dedicated surveyor before taking the plunge.

Antique Furniture

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Homes & Gardens states that antique furniture can be a unique, beautiful, and environmentally friendly addition to any home, but avoid buying used examples online. Clever photography can easily mask water damage, wear and tear, structural weaknesses, and poor restoration. Seeing a piece in person is the only way to evaluate its true worth.

Custom-Made Clothing

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No amount of careful self-measuring can replace an in-person tailoring appointment. Clothing made remotely is unlikely to be a perfect fit, no matter how precise your measurements are. Try to find a seamstress or tailor within close proximity so you can attend fitting appointments and ensure the garment you’re investing in won’t disappoint.


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Adopting any pet is a long-term commitment, but dogs require the greatest care when selecting. Ensure the animal’s personality, size, coat, age, and requirements fit into your home, family, and lifestyle. Always check the dog’s health and living conditions before purchasing it to ensure you won’t be in for heartbreak or high vet bills later on.

Expensive Jewelry

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Never buy precious gems like diamonds online unless you know and trust the seller. Even if your purchase is genuine, stones can appear larger or more vibrant in photos, and the clarity and cut may be difficult to judge accurately. Visit reputable stores in person instead, and always get an independent appraisal before purchasing.

Musical Instruments

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Any musician knows that the sound and feel of an instrument are crucial for improvement, enjoyment, and performance. Online listings might showcase the cosmetic condition well but can’t capture the instrument’s sound and playability. Only buy instruments you can play in person before buying.


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Online art galleries offer convenience, but they cannot replicate the experience of viewing art in person. Artwork is very personal, and the way it will make you feel is hard to ascertain without seeing it in the flesh. A photograph cannot adequately portray the size, texture, brushstrokes, colors, and overall ‘feeling’ of a piece.


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Like all living purchases, cats and kittens should always be viewed in their current homes or shelters before paying the breeder or adoption fee. Only purchase healthy animals of the correct temperament and size for your family, and that is being offered by someone responsible and animal-focused.

Vintage Electronics

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Nostalgia might tempt you to purchase a classic record player or retro gaming console online, but functionality and condition are crucial. Inspect the item in person to check for cracks, missing parts, or potential electrical hazards. Testing it before buying ensures you’re not just purchasing a decorative piece but a functional treasure.

Handmade Crafts

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The unique beauty of handmade crafts often lies in their natural variability and individual imperfections, so it isn’t a good idea to order one based on an ‘example’ stock photo. Visit craft fairs or artisan shops instead—that way, you can hold and inspect your handmade item to assess whether its unique design and appearance suit you.

Luxury Fragrances

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Shloksha warns, “A significant hurdle in online perfume shopping is the inability to smell the fragrance before purchase. Descriptions and reviews can provide insights, but they can’t fully replicate the experience of physically testing a scent.” You run the risk of disappointment with counterfeit, diluted, poorly described, or short-lasting scents.

Custom-Made Eyewear

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The high cost of bespoke glasses and sunglasses can make online or used options tempting, but they are technically medical aids and should never be purchased like a simple fashion accessory. Always shop in-store to ensure that eyewear meets your needs in terms of vision, comfort, and suitability.


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Because workout outfits must be comfortable and practical, you need to try them on first. Online sizing charts can be misleading, and it’s notoriously difficult to assess the quality and suitability of fabric based on a photograph. Visiting a sporting goods store is the best way to ensure you buy workout gear that is breathable, comfortable, and suitable for your needs.

Flat-Pack Furniture

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We’re not saying you need to see the assembled individual item you’re purchasing, but you should see an example in the same style and color variation if possible. Photos can be misleading, and nothing can replace seeing an example product. It will also help guide you as a reference for assembly.

Exotic Plants

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The challenges of shipping such living things aside, online photos cannot adequately showcase a plant’s health, foliage color, and environmental requirements. Avoid cheaper alternatives online and visit your local nursery instead—you can inspect the plant for pests, diseases, and signs of poor health and get advice on its requirements and care schedule.


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Unless you are buying an identical product in the same shade from an official online retailer, we don’t recommend buying cosmetics online. Finding the perfect shade of foundation for your skin tone or the color of lipstick that suits you requires experimentation, and that can only be done in-store with a mirror in hand.


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Counterfeiting popular collectible items is big business, and sometimes, the seller doesn’t even know they have a fake on their hands. The only way to ensure authenticity is to check the item yourself by purchasing it from a local antique store, flea market, or collector’s convention. Don’t be afraid to take your magnifying glass along to check the tiniest detail!

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