Home » Mattress Buying Guide

Mattress Buying Guide

 

Introduction

The mattress industry has experienced sweeping changes in recent years. Once largely confined to brick-and-mortar stores and showrooms, many mattress brands today place greater emphasis on online sales. These include newer ‘Bed in a Box’ brands like Tuft & Needle, Casper, and Purple that sell and ship mattresses directly to customers, as well as companies with decades of brick-and-mortar experience like Simmons Beautyrest, Serta, and Tempur-Pedic. Additionally, online retailers like Amazon.com have also left a large footprint on the industry. The mattresses themselves have evolved, as well. Coil-based innerspring mattresses were an industry standard for nearly a century, but many customers today find the comfort and support they need in memory foam, latex, and hybrid models.

Despite these innovations, buying a mattress can still be a confusing process for shoppers. Product descriptions often contain misleading claims and marketing jargon about various mattress qualities, which can lead to buyer’s remorse. Deliveries, return and exchange policies, sleep trials, and warranty terms are other potential pain points. This guide will look at the key considerations to make when choosing a new mattress, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of different mattress types.  

What Makes a Mattress Good for You?

First, let’s discuss basic mattress construction. All mattresses are constructed with the following three components:

  • Cover: Often made from cotton or polyester, the cover is a fabric layer that protects the mattress from stains and wear and tear. Some covers can be removed using zippers when they need to be laundered, while others are non-removable. Cover compositions vary between models regardless of mattress type.
  • Comfort layer: The comfort layer (or comfort system) is the topmost portion of the mattress, and is mostly composed of padding and cushioning materials. Mattresses typically feature at least one layer of polyfoam or memory foam in the comfort layer. Other models may have layers of latex and/or miniature steel coils (also called microcoils) in the comfort system.
  • Support core: The support core (the bottom-most layers) stabilizes the mattress, helps prevent sagging, and provides support for sleepers. The makeup of the support core will vary between mattress types. Innersprings and hybrids contain steel coils in the support core; memory foam and latex mattress usually contain high-density polyfoam; airbeds contain individualized air chambers; and waterbeds contain individualized water chambers.

Before settling on a mattress type, brand, or model, it’s important to determine which factors are most important to you (and your sleep partner, if applicable). These considerations include:

  • Size: The six standard mattress sizes are (smallest to largest): Twin, Twin Extra Long, Full/Double, Queen, King, and California King. Additional options include Split sizes, which feature two sections of identical length that fit together in the middle; and Short sizes, which are usually three to five inches shorter than standard sizes. Your height, the dimensions of your bedroom, and whether or not you share a bed with someone should all play a role in your size choice. Generally speaking, Twin and Full/Double sizes are designed for one person, and Queen and King sizes are big enough to fit two people. For more details, please visit our Mattress Size Guide.
  • Firmness: How firm a mattress feels is linked to its comfort layer (or comfort system). Some sleepers prefer mattresses that are exceptionally firm, while others like surfaces that are exceptionally soft. In most cases, firmness preference comes down to two factors. The first is bodyweight; people who weigh less than average are typically more comfortable on mattresses that are less firm, while those who are overweight feel more comfortable on firmer mattresses. The second is sleep position; the experience of a side-sleeper will often vary from that of a back- or stomach-sleeper. When looking at firmness, be sure to take both your weight and preferred sleep position into account. If you share a bed with someone that has different firmness preferences, then a ‘dual firmness’ mattress may be the best option; these feature different firmness levels on each side of the bed.
  • Conforming: Some mattresses are designed to conform to sleeper’s bodies, forming a cradle-like impression that helps align the spine and alleviate pressure. Conforming is directly linked to firmness; firmer mattresses conform little, while less firm mattresses sink deeply and conform closely.
  • Support: The construction of a mattress support core will depend on the type (see below). Support cores are designed to push against the sleeper’s body and help align their spine without sagging beneath them. Support and firmness are often used synonymously, but this is technically incorrect since a mattress can be adequately or inadequately supportive regardless of the firmness rating.
  • Durability: The average mattress will perform for seven years, but some may sag or show indentations in the sleep surface long before that. These can create an inconsistent sleep surface, and may lead to added pain or pressure.
  • Temperature Neutrality: Many individuals become warm or hot while sleeping. Some mattress materials, such as foam or latex, can act as ‘temperature traps’ by retaining body heat and causing excessive warmth. As a result, many hot sleepers find these mattresses uncomfortable. Other mattress types, such as innersprings, tend to sleep cooler. If you tend to sleep hot, then temperature neutrality should factor into your decision.
  • Motion Isolation: Many couples struggle with sleep disturbance whenever their partner gets out of bed or shifts positions. Mattresses made of foam or latex are designed to isolate motion to certain areas of the sleep surface. This can cut down on sleep disturbance to a significant degree. Innersprings, on the other hand, offer little to no motion isolation.
  • Noise: Mattresses with metal components often squeak when sleepers get on or off, while all-foam and latex models are virtually silent in most cases. As with motion isolation, a no-noise mattress can cut down on sleep disturbances.
  • Edge Support: Some mattresses are reinforced at the edges where people tend to sit, which cuts down on sagging and helps maintain a consistent sleep surface. Unreinforced mattresses often sag at these places, resulting in an inconsistent sleep surface.
  • Sex: This is a key concern for many mattress shoppers. How suitable a mattress is for sex is tied to the responsiveness of its sleep surface. Mattresses that respond quickly to a sleeper’s body are bouncier and, usually, better for sex than surfaces that respond slowly.

Next, let’s look at one more key consideration when buying a mattress: cost.

What Should You Expect to Pay for a Mattress?

A new mattress will represent a significant investment for the vast majority of shoppers. Prices for a Queen-size mattress range from less than $100 to more than $4,000. Determine a suitable mattress budget for you and your family, with a little wiggle room if possible. But realistically, you should expect to spend at least $800 on a new, high-quality mattress. For a detailed price comparison of the major mattress types, please check out the table at the bottom of the next section.

In addition to the sticker price, here are a few more cost factors to consider when buying a new mattress:

  • Foundations: Many online and brick-and-mortar mattress sellers allow customers to purchase a foundation with their new mattress, often at a lower rate than if both items are purchased separately. Foundation prices vary by brand and type, but you should expect to pay at least $150.
  • Shipping: A large number of online mattress sellers offer free delivery within the continental U.S. using UPS, FedEx, and other third-party courier services. Customers who live in Alaska, Hawaii, overseas U.S. territories, or outside the U.S. should expect to pay at least $100 for a mattress delivery. Shipping costs for mattress sellers that do not offer free delivery often start at $100, as well.
  • White Glove Delivery: White Glove Delivery refers to mattress deliveries that include in-home assembly by company personnel and packaging waste removal. Costs for this option vary, but most incur an additional charge of roughly $100.
  • Old Mattress Removal: If White Glove Delivery is offered, then the customer may be able to arrange for their old mattress to be removed. This service generally incurs an additional charge of $50 or so on top of the White Glove Delivery costs.
  • Mattress Returns: Most mattress brands offer sleep trials that last at least 30 to 90 nights in length; customers can return their mattress before the trial ends in exchange for a full or partial refund. In addition to returns, customers may also be able to exchange their mattress for a model of a different size or firmness rating. In most cases, the customer will be required to cover shipping and handling costs associated with mattress returns or exchanges ― even if a ‘full refund’ is guaranteed. Reading the fine print is critical.

Lastly, let’s discuss mattress warranties. Virtually every major mattress brand offers a warranty for the models they sell; they guarantee that, if the mattress is found to be defective, the company will cover some or all of the costs associated with repairing or replacing it. Most mattress warranties range from 10 to 25 years in length. Every warranty is different, so here are a few important details to look for:

  • Total Warranty Length: Most industry experts agree that mattresses should be replaced every seven to eight years (see below for more information on mattress replacement). Make sure you’re not paying more for a 20- or 25-year warranty when a 10-year warranty will suffice in most cases.
  • Nonprorated vs. Prorated: This is where warranties can get tricky. Nonprorated warranty coverage means that the manufacturer will cover most or all costs associated with replacing a defective mattress. Prorated coverage means that the mattress owner must pay a percentage of the original mattress price, based on how long they’ve owned it. Warranties that are entirely or mostly nonprorated tend to save customers much more money in the long run than warranties that are mostly nonprorated.
  • Hidden Fees: In most cases, mattress owners must cover shipping and handling costs associated with mattress repairs or replacements; this detail is often buried in the fine print.
  • What’s Covered and Not Covered: Most mattress warranties cover sagging and indentations in the sleep surface that measure to a certain depth, as well as other issues like protruding coils or defective cover zippers. However, they will not cover changes to the owner’s comfort preferences, as well as physical damage that occurs due to owner misuse, improper cleaning, or inadequate foundational support. Knowing what is and isn’t covered under your mattress warranty can save you time and money.

Types of mattresses

Now that we’ve looked at the most important buying factors, let’s look at how mattresses are constructed and go over the seven most common mattress types.

Innerspring: The innerspring mattress has been manufactured and sold in the U.S. for more than 100 years. Innersprings continue to be a dominant force in the industry, largely due to their relatively low price-point and high availability; according to recent estimates, innersprings account for roughly 60% to 70% of mattresses sold today.

Structure: Innersprings get their name from their support cores, which are made of steel coils designed to withstand sleeper weight. Innersprings are usually made with at least one layer of polyfoam in the comfort system. They may also contain memory foam or latex, but mattresses with at least two inches of these materials in the comfort system and coil-based support cores are technically considered hybrids (see below).

Generally, innerspring mattresses feature one of the following four coil types: bonnell, offset, continuous-wire, or pocketed. These coils vary in terms of shape and average mattress price, as well as gauge, or wire thickness. Gauge is linked to mattress durability, and measured on a scale of 18 (thinnest) to 12 (thickest). Another factor is ‘coil count’, although most industry experts agree that coil count does not affect mattress feel or performance as much as coil gauge or comfort system construction. The table below includes specifications for each type of coil.

Coil Type Coil Shape Average Wire Gauge Average Coil Count Price Point
Bonnell Hourglass with Rounded Ends 12 to 18 300 to 600 Low
Offset Hourglass with Straightened Ends 12 to 15 600 to 2,000 Medium
Continuous Wire Straight Line 15 to 18 400 to 800 Low
Pocketed Spiral with Fabric Casing 17 to 18 800 to 1,200 High


Performance
:

  • Innersprings offer more edge support than other mattress types, which helps maintain a consistent sleep surface.
  • Innerspring mattresses are highly responsive; as a result, they tend to be the best mattresses for sex.
  • Innersprings tend to be less durable than other mattress types; most customers notice sagging or indentations within three to four years of the original purchase, and need to replace their mattress within six years.
  • Most innersprings offer little to no motion isolation, and many can be loud due to their metallic components.
  • Innersprings offer little to no body conforming or pressure relief for sleepers compared to other mattress types (particularly memory foam and latex models).
  • Innersprings tend to retain less body heat than other mattress types, and sleep cooler as a result; this can be beneficial for those who tend to sleep hot or warm.

Price: Innersprings are usually priced lower than most mattress types. The average Queen-size innerspring model costs between $800 and $1,100.

Memory Foam: Also known as viscoelastic foam, memory foam is a type of polyfoam engineered to conform closely to sleeper’s bodies. The material was first developed by NASA engineers, and is designed to conform closely, align the spine, and alleviate pressure points throughout the body. Although memory foam beds trail innersprings in terms of total sales, they score higher than innersprings in most customer satisfaction surveys.

Construction: In order to qualify as a memory foam mattress, the bed must feature at least two inches of memory foam in the comfort system. Many also have at least one standard polyfoam layer, as well. The support core is almost always constructed from high-density polyfoam in order to adequately support sleepers and prevent sagging. Common types of memory foam used in mattresses include:

  • Standard memory foam: The material is polyurethane-based, and has not been treated or infused with any special components.
  • Plant-based memory foam: The memory foam is created using a combination of polyurethane foam and botanical agents. The foam is made with an open-cell structure, which can make the material cooler and more breathable.
  • Gel memory foam: The memory foam is infused with gel particles designed to make the material cooler, although sleepers report comparable heat retention between gel memory foam and standard memory foam.
  • Copper-infused memory foam: The memory foam is lined with copper wiring designed to aid in pain and pressure relief, since copper is known to improve circulation.

Memory foam mattresses are available in a wide range of firmness levels to accommodate sleepers with different preferences. Firmness in memory foam mattresses is linked to a measurement known as indentation load deflection, or ILD, which notes how much weight is needed to compress the surface of a mattress by 25%. Most memory foam mattresses sold today have an ILD rating that falls between 8 and 21; the table below features a more detailed breakdown.

 

ILD Range Feel Sleeper Experience Ideal Sleeper
8 to 10 Extremely Soft Most sleepers will sink deeply into the mattress and experience significant contouring. Back or side sleepers Sleepers with below-average weights (less than 130 lbs)
11 to 15 Very Soft Most sleepers experience some sinking and conforming. Side sleepers Sleepers with average weights (130 to 230 lbs)
16 to 21 Soft to Medium Most sleepers sink very little (if at all) and experience minimal Back sleepers Sleepers with above-average weights (more than 230 lbs)

Foam density is another consideration with memory foam mattresses. Density is measured in pounds per square inch, and refers to how much weight a certain portion of a mattress can bear. The density of memory foam is linked to how supportive the mattress feels, how quickly it retains shape, and how effectively it minimizes and isolates motion. Generally speaking, foam density is graded using the following three categories:

 

Grade Density Qualities
Low 3.9 lbs per cubic foot and lower Retains shape very quickly Minimal contouring Good motion isolation
Medium 4.0 to 5.9 lbs per cubic foot Retains shape somewhat slowly Good contouring Very good motion isolation
High 6.0 pounds per cubic foot and higher Retains shape very slowly Very good contouring Excellent motion isolation


Performance
:

  • Memory foam conforms closer than other mattress materials, and is a popular choice among people with back and shoulder pain.
  • Memory foam mattresses are fairly durable, and the average memory foam mattress will perform for at least six to seven years (which is on par with the industry average).
  • Memory foam usually offers excellent motion isolation, and most models are virtually silent.
  • Memory foam tends to retain high amounts of body heat and sleep relatively hot. temperature neutrality is a top complaint among memory foam sleepers.
  • Memory foam is somewhat unresponsive, and memory foam beds may not be as good for sex as other mattress types.

Price: Memory foam mattress prices vary sharply by brand. The average memory foam mattress model costs between $1,000 and $1,500.

Latex: Latex is a natural substance extracted from rubber trees. In mattresses, latex can be processed one of two ways. The Dunlop process yields dense, bottom-heavy latex; and the Talalay process yields lighter, more homogenous latex. Some mattress manufacturers use natural or organic latex, while others use synthetic latex, or natural latex treated with chemical components. The industry uses the following benchmarks to differentiate between different latex mattresses:

 

Type of Latex Mattress Other Trade Names Percentage of Natural/Synthetic Latex in the Mattress
Organic Latex USDA-certified organic 100% natural
Natural Latex All-latex, pure latex At least 95% natural latex
No more than 5% synthetic latex
Blended Latex Latex hybrid At least 30% natural latex
No more than 70% synthetic latex
Synthetic Latex Latex foam, manmade latex 0% natural latex


Construction
: In order to qualify as a latex mattress, the bed must feature at least two inches of Dunlop and/or Talalay latex in the comfort system. Most latex models have support cores made of high-density polyfoam, though some may feature high-density Dunlop latex instead; Talalay latex is rarely used in support cores.

Like memory foam, the firmness of latex is measured using ILD ― though the scale is different between the two materials. ILD for latex is measured as follows:

 

ILD Range Feel Qualities Ideal Sleeper
21 and lower Soft to Very Soft Most sleepers sink deeply and experience close contouring. Back or side sleepers
Sleepers with below-average weights (less than 130 lbs)
22 to 31 Medium Most sleepers sink very little and experience some contouring. Side sleepers
Sleepers with average weights (130 to 230 lbs)
32 and higher Firm Most sleepers experience do not sink at all and do not experience any contouring. Back sleepers
Sleepers with above-average weights (more than 230 lbs)


Performance
:

  • Latex mattresses are among the most durable models sold today; the average latex bed will perform for at least seven to eight years.
  • Latex sleeps somewhat cool, making it a good choice for people who are dissatisfied with innersprings but sleep too hot on memory foam.
  • Latex mattresses are not very responsive, making them less-than-ideal for sex.
  • Poor edge support is a common complaint with latex mattresses.
  • Organic and natural latex mattresses carry a unique drawback: sleepers with latex allergies may not be able to sleep on them.

Price: Latex mattresses frequently have relatively high price-points. The average cost of a latex mattress falls between $1,500 and $2,000.

Hybrid: Hybrid mattresses balance the support and responsiveness of innersprings and the conforming comfort of latex and memory foam models. They are fairly new to the mattress industry, but have proven quite popular among sleepers and tend to earn higher customer satisfaction scores than traditional innersprings.

Construction: Technically, a mattress is only a hybrid if it has at least two inches of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort system and a pocketed coil support core. The term ‘hybrid mattress’ is often misused. For example, many mattresses are sold as hybrids because they contain memory foam and latex, but do not feature a pocketed coil support system.

A large number of hybrid mattresses are made with pillow tops, or extra padding layers in the comfort system. Pillow tops are designed to increase the conforming and pressure-relieving abilities of the mattress.

Because hybrid mattresses contain foam/latex and coil components, customers can use ILD, density, and coil gauge to compare different models.

Performance:

  • Many sleepers find hybrids to be a suitable compromise between innersprings and foam/latex mattresses; hybrids fall between these two mattress types in most performance categories, including conforming, temperature neutrality, motion isolation, and edge support.
  • Pocketed coils tend to have the highest (thinnest) gauge, making hybrids less durable than other mattress types; the average hybrid model will perform for six years.
  • Hybrid mattresses with pillow top layers are not as durable as non-pillow-top mattresses, and often sag prematurely. Pillow tops also tend to sleep hotter, and some sleepers complain of unwanted back pain after sleeping on them.

Price:  Hybrid mattresses tend to be much more expensive than innerspring and memory foam models. The average price of a hybrid mattress falls between $1,600 and $2,000.

Mixed Foam: A mixed foam mattress includes both standard polyfoam and memory foam components, and is often considered a less expensive alternative to all-memory-foam models.

Construction: Mixed foam refers to mattresses with at least two inches of both memory foam and standard polyfoam in the comfort system. Like memory foam mattresses, mixed-foam models usually have support cores made of high-density polyfoam. By definition, a mixed-foam mattress does not contain any coils or other metal components.

Performance:

  • Mixed-foam mattresses offer some motion isolation, and most models are fairly silent.
  • Mixed-foam mattresses tend to be more responsive than memory foam or latex models, making them somewhat better for sex.
  • Polyfoam does not conform as closely as memory foam, and may actually increase back pain and pressure in some sleepers
  • Polyfoam tends to degrade rather quickly, resulting in premature sagging and indentations.

Price: Mixed-foam mattresses are usually a low-cost option for shoppers who do not want to pay for memory foam or latex. The average price of a mixed-foam mattress will usually fall between $600 to $900.

Airbeds: Airbeds feature adjustable air chambers, and are popular among consumers because they offer customizable support. They tend to be somewhat rare, so limited availability may be an issue.

Construction: Airbeds get their name from individualized air chambers located in the support core. Models sold today have at least two chambers, and some feature up to six. The comfort system is typically thin, and usually consists of polyfoam and/or memory foam layers. Nearly all airbed mattresses sold today feature electrical outlets to power the adjustable controls. Some newer models can be toggled using wireless apps, while others feature buttons or levers that adjust the mattress settings.

Performance:

  • Airbeds are more prone to malfunctions due to their electrical components. However, they are designed to be repaired by the owners themselves using replacement parts. As a result, they tend to perform for at least seven to eight years.
  • Adjustable controls allow airbed sleepers to pinpoint the ideal support settings.
  • Temperature neutrality can be an issue with airbeds because they tend to sleep somewhat cold.
  • Some airbeds are designed to self-adjust based on changes in weight, temperature, and other factors. Shifting settings during the night often results in sleep disruption.

Price: Airbeds are among the most expensive mattresses sold today. The average airbed has a price-point ranging from $2,000 to $2,400.

Waterbeds: Waterbeds were a popular fad in the 1970s and 1980s, but some mattress companies continue to manufacture and sell them. Like airbeds, they tend to be rare ― and most major mattress brands do not currently carry them.

Construction: Generally speaking, two types of waterbeds are available. Soft-sided waterbeds (like conventional mattresses) feature an individualized water chamber beneath a standard comfort layer. Hard-sided waterbeds, on the other hand, have water chambers held within a wooden frame, and are usually attached to a platform.

Performance:

  • Most waterbeds offer the same conforming abilities as foam or latex mattresses, and sleepers often feel less back pain and pressure.
  • Like airbeds, waterbeds are often designed for in-home repairs and can last for seven to eight years or longer if owners maintain them properly.
  • Waterbeds tend to make some noise, but are usually quieter than innersprings or hybrids.
  • Waterbeds tend to sleep relatively cold.
  • As expected, waterbeds are prone to leaks if the surface if scratched or torn.
  • The rippling surface of a waterbed is not normally conducive to motion isolation.

Price: Waterbeds are also among the cheapest mattress models sold today. The average waterbed is priced between $200 and $500.

A detailed summary of the seven main mattress types is found in the table below.

 

Category Innerspring Memory Foam Latex Hybrid Mixed Foam Airbed Waterbed
Average Price $800 to $1,100 $1,000 to $1,500 $1,500 to $2,000 $1,600 to $2,000 $600 to $900 $2,000 to $2,400 $200 to $500
Comfort/Conforming Poor to Fair Very Good to Excellent Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Fair to Good Good to Very Good Good to Very Good
Support Good to Very Good Fair to Good Fair to Good Good to Very Good Fair to Good Very Good to Excellent Fair to Good
Durability Poor to Fair Good to Very Good Very Good to Excellent Fair to Good Poor to Fair Good to Very Good Fair to Good
Temp. Neutrality Good to Very Good Poor to Fair Poor to Fair Poor to Fair Poor to Fair Fair to Good Fair to Good
Motion Isolation Poor to Fair Very Good to Excellent Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Good to Very Good Fair to Good Poor to Fair
Noise Poor to Fair Very Good to Excellent Very Good to Excellent Good to Very Good Very Good to Excellent Poor to Fair Poor to Fair
Edge Support Good to Very Good Poor to Fair Poor to Fair Fair to Good Poor to Fair Fair to Good Fair to Good
Sex Very Good to Excellent Poor to Fair Fair to Good Good to Very Good Fair to Good Fair to Good Fair to Good
Customer Satisfaction (Out of 10) 6.5 7.8 8.0 7.7 6.9 7.7 7.0


When Should You Replace a Mattress?

Most industry experts agree that you should replace your mattress after seven years of consistent use, regardless of your warranty length. However, depending on the mattress type, you may need to buy a new model sooner than that. The table below lists average lifespans for the seven mattress types discussed above.

Mattress Type Average Lifespan
Innerspring 6 years
Memory Foam 6 to 7 years
Latex 7 to 8 years
Hybrid 6.5 years
Mixed Foam Less than 6 years
Airbed 7 to 8 years
Waterbed 6 years

Additionally, here are a few other factors to help you determine if it’s time to replace your current mattress:

  • Sagging and Indentations: All mattresses will eventually sag or show indentations in the sleep surface; this is considered standard wear and tear. However, divots that measure more than three-quarters of an inch can affect how the mattress feels. For this reason, many mattress warranties include a ‘sagging and indentation depth’ measurement (typically one inch); divots that measure deeper than this benchmark are considered a mattress defect, and the brand will repair or replace the mattress.
  • Pressure Points: If you experience increased back pressure on your current mattress, then this may mean the comfort layer is starting to deteriorate; as a result, some parts of your body will experience more pressure. You may be able to mitigate some of this pressure by switching sleep positions or adding a topper for extra padding, but pressure is often the first sign that it’s time to buy a new mattress.
  • Back Pain: Back pain often results from sagging and indentations in the sleep surface; most sleepers say they experience pain on mattresses with sags or indentations measuring one inch or deeper. Switching to a different firmness level may reduce pain, as well, since our bodies change over time and require different surfaces to feel comfortable.

If your current mattress seems ready for a replacement and is still covered under its original warranty, then you may be able to replace it for a lower price than you’d pay for buying a new model. However, it’s important to note that replacement mattresses are typically covered under the same warranty as the original model ― and if you experience issues with the replacement down the road, it may no longer be covered under the warranty. 

Mattress Myths

The mattress industry is rife with misinformation and misleading jargon. Next, let’s dispel a few ‘myths’ you’re likely to encounter when comparing different brands and models.

  1. ‘Coil count matters’: Many innerspring and hybrid models include ‘coil count’ in their specs, and some brands will claim that higher coil counts mean the mattress is more comfortable, supportive, and durable. This is not necessarily true since coils only affect how a mattress feels and performs up to a point. The feel of a mattress with 1,000 coils, for instance, will feel about the same as a mattress with 2,000 coils.
  2. ‘Gel foam sleeps cooler’: Many mattresses made with specialty gel-infused memory foam are advertised as more temperature-neutral than their standard memory foam counterparts. However, customer satisfaction surveys indicate comparable experiences for both mattress materials ― and generally speaking, they both sleep relatively warm.
  3. ‘Special lumbar support alleviates back pain’: Some models are sold with ‘special lumbar’ support that allegedly cuts down on back pain.
  4. ‘Thickness matters’: Some brands emphasize overall model height, claiming that taller mattresses are more comfortable and supportive. However, the thickness and specifications of individual layers affect mattress comfort and support to a much greater degree.
  5. ‘You need a box spring/foundation to go with your new mattress’: You will often have the option of buying a matching box spring or foundation to go with your new mattress, but ― unless specifically stated in the warranty ― you do not necessarily need one.
  6. ‘One size fits all’: Most customers will be satisfied with a mattress that is at least 10 inches thick and has a firmness rating of Medium Firm. However, every sleeper has different preferences based on firmness/comfort and support, as well as motion isolation, temperature neutrality, and other performance factors. Don’t be fooled into thinking a particular mattress will be satisfactory for every single sleeper ― this is a complete fallacy.
  7. ‘Testing out a mattress in a store is sufficient for choosing the right model’: Laying on different mattresses for a few minutes apiece can help guide your decision, but ultimately there is no way to ensure a particular model is right for you without sleeping on it consistently for several nights in a row. For this reason, consider brands that offer sleep trials and free returns for unsatisfied customers instead.
  8. ‘Comparison shopping is easy in stores’: Most mattress lines are marketed differently across the country, and some may be sold under different names than those listed online. Visiting brick-and-mortar stores may be helpful for comparing different brands and models ― but it can also cause more confusion.

 

Where Should I Buy a Mattress

Now that we’ve discussed mattress performance, price, types, and shopping myths, let’s conclude by comparing pros and cons of different places to buy your new mattress.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores: Physical locations where you can test out and buy new mattresses include the following:

  • Specialty Stores: Also known as showrooms, these are stores operated exclusively by individual mattress companies. They typically feature a selection of current models to test out ― though in some cases, customers cannot actually purchase their mattress directly from a showroom; they may need to do so on the company’s website instead.
  • Big Box Retailers: This term refers to retail stores that often occupy large, box-shaped buildings. Examples include Wal-Mart, Target, and Ikea.
  • Mattress Retailers: Unlike bix box retailers, mattress retailers exclusively sell mattresses and bedding accessories. These locations are not operated by one particular brand, and often feature a wide selection of brands and models. Some examples include Sleep Country USA, Mattress Firm, and Mattress 1 One.
  • Department Stores: These are similar to mattress retailers, only their inventory extends beyond mattresses and bedding to include other home furnishings, as well as clothing. Department stores that sell mattresses include Macy’s, Ashley Furniture HomeStore, and JCPenney.

Pros:

  • Customers can test out beds in person at most showrooms, mattress retailers, and furniture stores.
  • Sales staff can be a reliable and helpful source of information
  • Big box retailers and some mattress retailers tend to have lower price-points than mattress brands.
  • In some cases, customers will be able to negotiate prices to some degree.

Cons:

  • Comparison shopping can be tricky, if not downright impossible.
  • Sales staff may put pressure on customers.
  • Returns are often pricey and difficult to negotiate.
  • Some stores (including many big box retailers) do not allow customers to test out mattresses.
  • Obtaining specifications for mattresses can be difficult.

Online: You can shop for mattresses online using the following websites:

  • Mattress Brand Sites: The vast majority of mattress brands allow customers to purchase mattresses on their website and coordinate home deliveries.
  • Big Box Retailers: Wal-Mart, Ikea, and other big box retailers allow customers to shop for mattresses online, as well as in stores.
  • Online-only Retailers: Customers can shop for mattresses using retailers that are exclusively based online, such as Amazon.com.
  • Online Marketplaces: Mattresses are widely available on online marketplaces like Craigslist and Overstock.com.

Pros:

  • Shopping online is inherently more convenient and less time-consuming than brick-and-mortar shopping.
  • Online mattress sellers are typically more transparent when it comes to mattress specifications.
  • Many mattress companies feature customer service chat windows for those who have questions about particular models.
  • Sleep trials are more common with online mattress purchases than brick-and-mortar purchases, and mattress returns and refunds are more easily negotiated.
  • Free shipping is often included with online mattress orders, whereas most brick-and-mortar stores will charge customers for home delivery.

Cons:

  • Testing out mattresses usually isn’t possible for online orders without purchasing a model and trying it out as part of a sleep trial.
  • Shipping can be somewhat expensive for customers who live outside the continental U.S., and in-home assembly is rarely an option for these individuals.
  • Online marketplaces like Craigslist and Overstock.com are generally regarded as less-than-ideal places to buy mattresses. The models are often used, which means the purchaser is not eligible for a warranty. In many cases, mattresses purchased on these sites are in worse condition than advertised. A good rule-of-thumb: treat Craigslist, Overstock.com, and other online marketplace sites as a last resort when buying a mattress.

The bottom line: whether you purchase your mattress online or in a physical store, customer service and support goes a long way. Does the staff answer your questions clearly without using marketing jargon? What is the company’s shipping policy? How long is the sleep trial? Asking these questions and others can help you decide the best place to buy your mattress.