Shopping online can save money and time... It can also end up taking up more of both. One of the surprising assumptions I think we make is that you will get the best price on an item online, rather than in the store. But, that's not necessarily true as I've often discovered...
This weekend we needed to get a bicycle for my husband so that we could go riding as a family. We shopped around at several different stores. I learned a lot in the process.
Here's what I learned:
1) The online price for a given store will not necessarily be the in-store price on the same item at the store. The price for my husband's bike was 25% less than the price online. That's a lot!
2) Bikes (especially for people who intend on riding a lot) should not be purchased online. Go to the store and make sure the frame will fit you. Different bike brands are sized differently for height. My husband initially thought he'd be a large size frame because of his height, but he actually fit better on a medium size frame in the bike we ended up getting him.
3) Go to a bike store and get sized. It's helpful to go to stores where people really ride and can tell you what you need to know about taking care of your bike.
4) Don't discount a brand of bike until you ride it. Chris was really surprised that after trying out nine different bikes, it was the one he expected to like least that fit our needs best. There are a lot of good brands of bikes out there. Giant, Trek, Specialized, GT, Raleigh, Kona, Diamondback... It's surprising to me how many different brands of bikes there are.
Right now (August/September) is when the new year's bikes are coming out, so sales are going on at various bike stores on the 2013 models. REI's sale starts on Friday. Performance Bike is having a sale now. EMS is having a sale on their bikes.
So, that's a little of what we learned... I'm going to choose to go to the store instead of buying online. I can get helpful information, a better price, and a better/easier policy to deal with returns. Both REI and Performance Bike stores will let you return a bike if it doesn't work out for you. And when it comes to bikes...they're not exactly easy to put in the mail if there's a problem...