When buying a hedgetrimmer online, is it normal practice for the machine to be assembled and tested before despatch? I ask this in case the warranty is invalidated.

Sally Drury discusses the pros and cons of buying products online and says warranty terms are key.

A: The situation regarding assembly and testing can vary between brands and online distributors. It is best to phone and check the details of the deal prior to placing your order.

You have probably found some very attractive prices on the internet, but there may be good reason for that. Perhaps the stock is old. It might not even be genuine - perhaps copied or cloned. Or they might have very low overheads because they do not have a salesroom, workshop or servicing staff. It is this aspect that makes me feel much more comfortable buying through a local dealer.

If you have a good local dealer, you will find that they are usually able to repair items, service and sharpen them as required, supply spares and possibly even offer training. There may be extras thrown in, such as goggles or gloves, and you can usually watch a demonstration or try kit before you buy. I firmly believe that it is worth investing in a good relationship with a good dealer.

However, there are some very good web shops that offer real deals and excellent prices that are too good to miss. You will find many dealerships and distributors have a web shop. Perhaps you have done business with one in the past and know you can trust them. Your local dealer may even have a click-and-collect service. But whatever the circumstance, make sure you discuss the warranty with them before you order.

It is worth noting that if you are interested in any STIHL kit the company currently has restrictions on the supply of its products online so if you are to purchase a STIHL product online, say through MowDirect, you need to show that you have experience of a similar type of product, are a professional or certified user, aware of the safety issues relating to that type of product and you are confident that you are ordering the correct one for your needs.

Once the company is happy that you tick the boxes, the product is fully prepared ready for use prior to dispatch. If you do not meet the required criteria, then you can still order the goods online but you will be required to pick them up from the showroom, where you will be given instructions on the product's use, maintenance and safety.

Email your questions to sally.drury@haymarket.com

Sally Drury has been reporting on product developments and testing kit for 29 years. The advice given in this helpline is independent.

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