Would buying gold and silver online be a better way to do it? - You wouldn't know whether an online dealer is reputable or not, would you? Check the Better Business Bureau, check with independent sources from Internet, family and friends. If they've only been in business a short time, be extra wary, but even established dealers have been known to have problems.
One of the several questions you should be considering is if you want to keep it yourself or have the dealer keep it for you. If you're extra cautious and want to ensure your yellow metal is actually in your hands instead of a piece of paper saying it's in a vault somewhere, you may be paying a premium for shipping and insurance. This is actually another reason to purchase small quantities a bit by bit over a certain period of time. Then there's safety deposit rental if your bank doesn't provide one for free.