Vape Shopping: Online vs. Brick & Mortar

A look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying online vs. buying in a store.


The great conundrum

Your vape budget hands have been itching lately for something new. With all of the vape deals posted daily to our site and others, does it even pay to buy from your local stores anymore? Hold on…

When it comes to buying vape stuff, at some point you’ll be confronted with this dilemma: do you buy online or go to your local brick and mortar? There are a lot of factors that may go into that decision. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of buying online vs. going to a vape shop to figure out which is best for you.




Each day more people are turning to the internet to make their daily purchases, and not just vapers. The advantage? For starters, you get a much wider selection. It’s easy to browse from site to site, comparing prices and products instantly. It’s also easier to find a deal online than in a shop, and the prices are generally lower — sometimes a lot lower.

Whether you vape or not, we’ve probably all had a bad experience with pushy salesmen who are only helpful when it comes to taking your money. I recall spending $80 on my first mech mod, only to find it a few weeks later online for less than $30. Talk about a markup!

Those days are over. Granted, you might get an automated chat pop-up from a sales associate but you can easily just “X” them out. Imagine you could do that to salesmen or better yet those annoying survey people at the mall? When shopping online, there is a lot less pressure to buy.

Last but not least, the whole concept of “vape mail” is just plain fun. Ordering online is like buying your future-self a present. What better gift than a new tank, some juice or that dope new vape mod you’ve been eyeing lately? Vape mail brings the joy of Christmas morning all year round.

Pros of buying online

  • Wider range of choices
  • Easier to find a deal
  • It’s all about the vape mail
  • No pressure to buy
  • Always open



Even with all those advantages, many people still prefer to buy their vapor products at their local shops. Why? Let’s look at some of the disadvantages of buying online before jumping to any conclusions as to which one is better.

I mentioned that online shops generally are going to sell their products with a lower retail markup due to the lower overhead costs of running an online shop. However, I didn’t say anything about shipping fees which can bump you right back up to full price.

Not to mention the waiting. Yeah, vape mail is fun, but there are certain times where you need something sooner rather than later. You might even need it right now. If you run out of juice or break your only tank, you’ve got a problem!

Plus, sometimes you just want to talk face-to-face with a knowledgeable person and ask them specific questions that pertain to your vaping lifestyle, to make the most educated purchase possible. Unfortunately, you don’t get that type of feedback when shopping on the web. In fact, you are often limited to specs and pictures (if there aren’t any “reviews” at the shop online), so it’s often difficult to know what you really want.

Even worse is that if you need to return something, it’s a lot of trouble to send it and wait for the new product. You’re playing the waiting game again. Vape mail’s not that much fun having to go through it a second time for the same purchase. Good vape shops just exchange it for you on the spot, which is impossible to do via the internet.

Cons of buying online

  • Shipping costs
  • The waiting game
  • No face-to-face assistance
  • Inconvenient return policies
  • Limited to pictures and specs

Brick and Mortar



Now that we’ve looked at buying online, let’s dive into the wild world of brick and mortar. But first stop for a minute and just appreciate how just under ten years ago, there was no such thing as a “vape shop”. I remember first learning about them from my brother; it was a new concept to me.

“Wait, they have entire stores that sell nothing but vapor products?!”

Vape shops aren’t just stores, they also function as a homebase for members of the community. It’s a place where vapers can meet, hang out, and talk about anything and everything vaping. It’s where you find out about upcoming vape events, advocacy issues, and of course new products. It’s also the front line in helping smokers make the switch. What’s more inspirational than watching a customer come in a smoker and leave a vaper? Nothing!

Vape shops also allow you to receive instant feedback from the staff and other vapers, and the ability to see the products up close and handle them in person. Many shops will let you try out all of their juice before buying — a huge benefit and a big money saver!

Some vape shops don’t even call themselves shops, but rather vape lounges, where customers are encouraged to bring their own food and drink, watch tv and relax. One of the best things about buying in store is the instant gratification. Sure, you might pay a few extra dollars, but you’re actually paying for the convenience factor. Gimme gimme gimme, I want it now!

Maybe the best part about buying from a shop is supporting a local business. Of course we only recommend supporting those that exercise good business tactics, and to avoid the shops that are not doing things right. Ask if they’re supporting a trade association and what they know about the deeming rule. Eventually the market will decide who gets to stay in business if we take this approach, so it’s important to steer clear of shops with shady owners and employees. Shop at ones that support our industry and community.


  • Able to handle products
  • Instant feedback
  • Community
  • Convenience
  • Supporting (good) local businesses



Aside from the con artists just mentioned, there are a few other cons associated with buying from brick and mortars. The price may be a deciding factor. If the price tag in the store is only a few dollars more than what it would cost online when you factor in shipping, it’s sometimes just worth giving that extra money to a shop you support instead of giving it to UPS.

However, if you’re looking at a 200 percent markup, you may be better off taking your business elsewhere. Not to mention having to deal with salesmen breathing down your neck or using unethical sales tactics. The only thing worse than that is a salesperson who doesn’t know the first thing about vaping and is willing to sell you a hybrid mech/subtank combo.

“I give you special deal, best tank, best mod, 40-amp battery, just give me your money now.”
-Anonymous fictional shop employee

Aside from the price, when you buy in store, you are limited to what the shop physically has. This could mean that they have that atty you wanted, but not in the right color, or the juice you were looking forward to at the wrong nic level. So now you either have to settle with a pink Goon, or wait until they get them in black, for example.

Another thing to note is that most shops are open for very specific hours whereas online shops are 24/7. This also comes into play when you need to return a product within a specific window of time. If the shop hours conflict with your work schedule, that is going to be annoying.


  • Higher prices
  • Limited store hours
  • Sometimes unknowledgeable employees
  • Limited selection
  • Often stricter return policies
  • Upselling/sales tactics

Twisted 420 comedy skit about buying online vs. brick and mortar


So which route is better? At the end of the day, there’s really no right answer. It depends on your situation and what you prefer to deal with. Both buying choices have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it really comes down to personal preference.

I personally prefer to buy my juice in vape shops near me. There I can sample flavors and talk to other people about new products. Vape shops are great places to discover new products. My favorite part about buying from brick and mortars is the feeling that you are actually contributing to a local business that’s in it for the right reasons. When I see a shop that values helping people transition off cigarettes over profit, they get my money.

However, when it comes down to buying a mod or tank that I have been researching, I can usually wait it out and buy online, especially since I have plenty of stuff to vape in the meantime. Another reason why I sometimes buy from online shops is to take advantage of pre-order sales. It feels good being the first to own a hot new product, especially when you get a great deal on it. Of course, if you’re not first to own something, you might find out that it sucks and save some cash.

Where do YOU go for your vape purchases? Online, vape shops or both? Why? We want to hear about it, leave us a comment below…

Dave Kriegel
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dave has always had a passion for helping people quit smoking. As a former smoker himself, he knew how hard it could be. As soon as he learned about vaping, he instantly became obsessed with it and helped many people stop smoking. Vaping360 has given Dave a platform to do this on a much larger scale, by educating the public about the wonders of vaping. When Dave is not writing he is either listening to music, performing it, or cruising around on his Penny board.

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Another advantage of buying from a brick and mortar vs. online is regionality…. When I say that, there are some flavors in the US (or other countries) that you won’t find online, because they seem to be more regional. Like a brick and mortar near my place sells a Horchata flavor, where it’s either very rare to find online if you can at all.

And yeah like they said when going into a brick and mortar, you can actually handle some of the products to see how they feel before you buy it (which after you feel it, if you would like it cheaper you can always buy online. So it’s a both have the good and bad points of course like this article states.


I buy some stuff from stores, some online. I try juice by overpaying in a store. If I like it, I’ll find it online. Sometimes with mods I’ll buy in store. I’ve had returns where that helped greatly. If I know I’m going to like a mod or atty, I’ll buy online. Find a comfortable medium and try to support your local shop while still saving money online.

Jeanette Girosky

It’s thought processes like this that are going to kill the vaping industry. Maybe that $80 mod was marked up from $30 because it was in a state like PA, where they instituted a 40% additional floor tax on all your inventory. Maybe that mod was marked up because now all of a sudden to sell the ejuice you love, they had to pay state taxes and licensing fees to become a tobacco manufacturer. And maybe they have to pay rent and other assorted overhead so you can walk in to an actual store and complain how no one supports your online purchase. And maybe they have to mark that mod up so they can hire me, the employee, listen to you whine about how expensive they are compared to online while I hand you your coils you forgot to order with a smile on my face, while you bless our store with your few magical dollars.


Brick and Mortars really need to step it up. The days of $110 Rx200’s and $25 for a 15ml bottle of juice are over. I work in the cycling industry and I have to really bring it to the customer and watch my prices because otherwise they will purchase everything online and watch a Youtube video on how to install it.


This is what is going to kill our industry? Wow. Here I thought it was going to be the FDA.

Jeanette Girosky

If only it were that simple. When you remove the brick and mortar from the equation, it makes it very simple to pass laws because ‘who is it effecting, really’? A bunch of kids chasing clouds buying stuff online? Or people who have invested in their community? Were it not for the fact that our state lost expected tax revenue from the insane floor tax they passed (40%) that caused a bunch of shops to close and people to lose jobs, and were it not for the fact that business owners showed up en mass at the state capitol, we wouldn’t even be getting a second look as an industry that got screwed over, in our state. Local politics matter. You as a consumer, and where you choose to purchase, matters.

There is a place for online sales….hey….someone might not have a shop in their area, I get that. And we all want a bargain….myself included. But it’s kind of like shopping at Walmart and wondering why everything is made in China. If you’re not willing to pay the extra dollar…well…of course they are going to look for ways to reduce prices. I don’t think the USA will ever be able to compete (an American made mod, one can dream)…but if that is the case, I am going to try and keep as much of our money at home as I can, and support the guy on the corner where it is doing the most good…economically and politically. Peace.


All valid points, Jeanette. But this article is not necessarily in contrast to that sentiment.

I took exception with the notion that being upset at an over-charge is detrimental to our industry. That’s simply unfair to the consumer that needs to make good purchasing decisions for their own lives.

Some shops DO over charge wildly and do unethical things, not because of some taxes or something the government is doing, some do it because their customers don’t know any better. I’ve seen it (honestly) too many times, most of which predate these recent vape-specific regulations, taxes, laws and whatnot.

I will and do support locally — and it should be encouraged (like Dave did in this article), but when a shop is selling clones as if they are the original, or selling kanthal for $5 per foot, they will get called out like any other business. Being a vape shop should be autmatic protection against taking advantage of a customer. That is what Dave was talking about in that one line about an $80 mechanical mod he overpaid by $50.

Jeanette Girosky

I misunderstood some points of your article and I just felt the costs absorbed by shops where overlooked.And yes, there are some unscrupulous business owners out there. I didn’t mean to paint them all with some naivety brush.

I’m glad you support local and I absolutely agree with you about clones and the fact that the shop should be THE place to go where you can trust a purchase.

It’s hard though sometimes….I am not the owner but an employee. I answer the phone daily to sometimes abusive callers because the price is not what they found online. And people come in all the time with gear they have bought on ebay (and sometimes from other shops!) and get mad at me when I tell them there is nothing I can do!

It’s really incredible what people expect just because you are a shop. I always, always do what I can to educate folks….but yeah…..sometimes I really have to force that smile.Peace.