Shopping online is a simple way to save time and money and free yourself from the hassles of traffic and parking, but certain purchases are easier to make online than others. Some folks don’t like to buy clothes online, since they can’t try them on, and buying rapidly perishable items, like milk or ice cream, for example, just makes no sense. Buying furniture online, however, is entirely practical.

Selecting accent pieces, tables and chairs, or even a bedroom set via the Web is a fantastic way to maximize selection and minimize cost, if you just remember a few simple things. Keep these items in mind, as you search for your new furnishings:

1. Images — Are there high resolution product images available for you to view? You’ll need something better than a 2″X3″ fuzzy blur, if you’re going to make a purchase decision online. If the webstore owner doesn’t care enough to post decent photos of his products, he probably doesn’t care much about his customers, either.

2. Materials — Everything looks like solid wood and real leather in a staged photo. Be sure to read the fine print and find out what the products are actually made of. And while you’re doing that, consider your intended use of the product–do you really want white leather upholstery in the family room, where the kids do their art projects and the pets sneak up on the couch when you’re gone?

3. Dimensions — Again, photos can be deceiving, especially when it comes to size. Check the product’s weight and dimensions on the website, so you don’t end up with “The Media Cabinet that Ate New York” in your living room. One trick is to take cardboard boxes and stack them up to the dimensions listed in the article description, so you can visualize exactly how the item will fit into your space.

4. Delivery — Clarify delivery details before you push that “Buy” button. Will you have to assemble the item? Will the shipper bring it inside, if it’s a heavy item, or leave it on the porch? How long before the product ships out? And make sure the vendor will provide you with a tracking number, so you can be at home to receive the item and not have it sitting outside your door in the rain.

5. Tax and Shipping Charges — For large purchases, sales tax and shipping charges are a big consideration. Make sure you take the store’s tax and shipping policies into account when shopping for these high-ticket items, as they could easily double the price. Many vendors pad shipping prices to make up for bargain product prices, while others compensate for higher product prices with low- or no-cost shipping deals.

6. Return Policies — Thinking about returns during the purchase process is a bit like fleshing out a pre-nuptial agreement during the engagement party, but you’re best off to know in advance what your options are if the honeymoon doesn’t last! Find out what the policy is when an item has factory defects, and see what your options are if you just don’t like it. Make sure you know the time frame for lodging complaints or changing your mind, and whether the clock starts ticking at purchase, upon shipping, or upon delivery. Also, check on who is responsible for return shipping in these different situations and whether there are re-stocking fees (common for high-end items).

An informed consumer is a happy consumer. As long as you know what the policies are you can’t be caught off guard, and you won’t face disappointment in your online furniture shopping experience.

Now that you know the tricks for online furniture hunting, come see the collection at Room2Eat Tables & Chairs, owned by author Maria B. Spicer. There you can find a new end table, living room table, dining room table or other fine furnishings.