The Definitive Guide to Buying a Mattress
Shopping for a mattress has never been easier if you’re armed with this info.
Replacing your mattress can be exhausting. Navigating the stores and websites, debating between foam and springs, and determining how much to spend can leave you feeling like you need a good nap.
Instead, skip the stress and follow these tips from Lexie Sachs, Senior Textiles Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, that will help you navigate the world of mattresses.
Where to Shop for a Mattress
Laying down in the store isn’t the only way to go anymore. New mattress-in-a-box companies have won over thousands of customers with convenient shipping and free trial periods. Online mattress buying has seen a serious boom, but it’s not right for everyone. Here’s what you need to know.
Shop in the store if.
Go the traditional route ifyouwant a greater variety and to feel them before buying.In a mattress store, you should never pay full price. Always shop the sales, and don’t be afraid to negotiate with the salesperson. Most stores will also offer removal of your existing mattress. The downside is it can feel overwhelming and it’s harder to compare prices to know if you’re getting a good deal. A big mistake is rushing the decision by quickly lying down on many different mattresses to find the one that feels best. If you’re going to invest in a mattress,take the time to recline for a while (at least 10 minutes)and make sure you don’t feel any pressure or pain.
Shop online if.
This newer route offers agreat alternative if you have trouble making decisions, since there are fewer options. Plus, you can shop from home!These mattresses generally arrive in a box at your doorstep within a few days and include free shipping and a money-back guarantee (even if you simply don’t like the mattress!) so there’s minimal risk. Online, the price is usually final, but it doesn’t include markups for being sold at a physical store. The downsides are that you typically have to set it up yourself and deal with getting rid of your old mattress.
Either way, always ask about the return policy.Not happy with your pick? You may get a partial refund if you bought it in a store, but online companies often arrange to pick it up for a local charity and will give back 100% of your money. Make sure you can test out a new mattress for a month risk-free; that way, you can get used to it before making a decision.
The Best Mattresses You Can Buy Online
The name Casper is synonymous with "mattress-in-a-box." Itsfour foam layers range from soft to firmto offer comfort and support, which our testers loved (especially the under-40 crowd). There’s both a less expensive version (with less layers) and a pricier one (with more).
Tuft & Needle was priced lowest among its competitors, but still stands out as atop mattress on Amazon. This simple model has two layers of foam: a firm, support layer on the bottom and a cushy, cooling layer on top. Our panel particularly liked the friendly customer service.
Unsure if you need a soft or firm option? This foam style gives you both: Justflip the mattress to change the support level. It has copper built-in to help keep you cool and avoid the overheating that is typically associated with memory foam.
Fill out a survey about your sleep habits, andHelix builds a "custom" mattress for youwith layers of foam, latex, and microcoils. They can even personalize each side, so you and your sleeping partner don’t have to fight about which mattress to get.
How to Choose Your Perfect Mattress
There are three common types of mattresses:innerspring, foam, and adjustable. There’s no one "right" material to choose, but in general, side sleepers need a softer mattress, stomach sleepers need a firm one, and back sleepers fall somewhere in between. Beyond the types of mattresses and firmness, you’ll need to think about a few other factors. From sleep style to negotiating with a bedfellow, here’s what to look for based on your needs:
If you like a bed with bounce
Traditional innerspring styleshave that familiar bouncy feel and may be firmer. Interconnected coils are extra-durable, but individual "pocketed" coils, each covered with fabric, reduce the ripple effect that happens when someone on one side of the bed moves.
If you prefer a firmer base
Memory foam optionshave less spring and offer more pressure relief. To determine quality, look at the density and thickness of the foam, which will determine how deep you’ll sink. The newer, online mattresses generally use several different layers of foam, with heavier ones on the bottom for support and lighter, cooler kinds on the top for comfort.
If you want a plush top
Innerspring mattressestypically have either a fiberfill or foam outer layer, covered in quilted ticking. But even if you want an uber-plush feel, don’t be swayed by a thick-looking pillowtop as it can compress over time. It’s often best to choose a firmer, well-quilted mattress, and then cover it with a replaceable mattress topper.
If you like to change it up
Consider anair-filled mattress, like Sleep Number, which has a remote that controls how much air is inside. Two side-by-side chambers allow you and your partner to customize the mattress firmness separately. There are also foam mattresses (like the ones from Layla) with soft and firm sides, so you can just flip it over as needed, and modular designs that let you move around the springs on the inside.
If you sleep on your side
You’ll want a surface that will support your body weight, and conform to your shape.Innerspringsmay have more pressure relief than some foam or latex mattresses, but asoft foam mattressor one with built-in pressure relief points around the shoulders and hips can work for side sleepers, too
If you sleep on your stomach
The last thing a stomach-sleeper probably wants is an enveloping memory foam — it would feel smothering! Instead, a firmer bed will provide the best support. Consider afirm foam, dense innerspring, or air-filled mattress.
If you sleep on your back
You’ll wantsomething in the middle— a surface that supports, but has some give so your spine is kept in a healthy alignment. You’ll find happiness with any of the mattress types, but you should do your best princess-and-the-pea impression to see what feels best to you.
If your partner tosses and turns all night
Consider aninnerspring mattress with pocketed coils, or memory foam, latex, or a dual-chamber air-filled mattress. Medium-firm picks will all have good "motion isolation." But remember, these models could actually be less comfortable on the body of a restless sleeper, as there’s little forgiveness against one’s movements.
If you and your partner’s preferences don’t match
Theair-filled mattresses with dual chamberscan help, or check out the online mattress company Helix. Each person can fill out a questionnaire and have a side customized based on the responses.
If you sleep hot
Manufacturers can get carried away with claims about cooling properties, especially when you consider all the layers (protectors, toppers, sheets, and so on) that go on top of the mattress. That said,foam or latexcan hold in body heat, especially if they’re very soft and a lot of your body sinks in. Newer technology helps alleviate this issue and you can always accessorize your bed with toppers and sheets that offer cooling benefits.
If you have allergies
Foam and latexare both inherently antimicrobial and resistant to dust mites and mold. If you opt for innerspring or air topped with fiberfill, be sure to encase it in an allergen-resistant cover to keep irritants at bay.
If you have back pain
Memory foam and/or latexis best for those with back pain since it molds to your body for support.
If you’re concerned about chemicals
Look forfoams certified by CertiPUR-USas well as certifications for other materials like GOLS for latex or Oeko-Tex for other fabrics to feel more confident about your purchase.
If you can’t decide what matters most
Some savvy manufacturers make ahybrid-style mattressthat combines the buoyancy of an innerspring core with the motion isolation of memory foam. It’s a best-of-both-worlds option that can satisfy many partner disputes and sleeping styles.
7 Ways to Buy a Better Mattress
You spend a third of your life in bed, so why settle for a mattress that leaves you cranky or in pain? Here’s how to find the right one.
O sleep! O gentle sleep! . . . The promise of a sound and peaceful rest has inspired people to wax poetic for centuries. The trouble is, assembling the dreamiest combination of mattress and pillow is something closer to a nightmare for a lot of consumers. And there are plenty of reasons why.
For starters, if you want to replace your old mattress with the same brand—as 1 in 5 respondents to our new survey of nearly 62,000 Consumer Reports subscribers has done—you probably won’t be able to get the same model. That’s because manufacturers regularly discontinue or rename their products. Names and claims on mattresses range from the ethereal to the incomprehensible. Salespeople invariably hint at nocturnal disappointment unless you buy the priciest pick in the place. And trying to approximate the intimacy of sleep by lying down on a mattress in a fluorescent-lit public space can be awkward at best.
On the plus side, mattress makers are experimenting with new methods of construction, rearranging the layers of foam as well as the placement of coils in innerspring models in a bid to improve comfort. Meanwhile, savvy online retailers are trying to improve the shopping experience by removing the store from the equation altogether. And they’re doing a good job: The highest satisfaction scores from our survey went to two of the newer mattress brands in America—online outfits Casper and Tuft & Needle. They’ll ship a foam bed-in-a-box to your front door for a very competitive price. As for performance, Casper took the top overall score among foam mattresses.
Innersprings, however, are still the most common type of mattress sold, although that seems ripe for consumer reconsideration. In our survey, 65 percent of respondents said they were highly satisfied with innersprings, vs. 75 percent of memory foam owners and 80 percent of adjustable-air owners. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. And adjustable air mattresses, such as those sold at Sleep Number stores, rate very well in both our mattress tests and reader survey, especially among those who report neck pain, back pain, sleep apnea, and other health problems.
Whether you already have an idea of what you want or are starting from scratch, we think you should give your mattress choice at least as much consideration as a new car. True, it’s only a fraction of the price, but you spend nearly a third of your life in a prone position, so making the wrong choice has consequences. “If your mattress is uncomfortable, it could disturb your sleep, exacerbate orthopedic problems, or possibly have a negative impact on your long-term health,” says Michael H. Bonnet, Ph.D., a neurology professor and sleep expert at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
That’s why we put every model we purchase through rigorous tests utilizing actual people as well as use sophisticated equipment to measure support and firmness. These machines pummel and abuse the mattresses to gauge how they’ll hold up over time. Then we tear them apart to expose what’s inside—springs, layers of foam, gel-infused foam—to determine which materials improve performance. This year, we’ve introduced some methodology improvements, including a way to matchmake a mattress for you and your honey.
Here, seven steps to shopping for, choosing, and buying a mattress you’ll love, and that loves you back:
Step 1: Learn Lessons From Your Old Bed
Do you twist and turn and grit your teeth trying to find your mattress’ sweet spot? Do you wake up feeling drained or achy? Do you find that, curiously, you sleep better in a hotel? If not, you will eventually. “Younger people can sleep just fine on almost any surface, including a piece of plywood,” says Bonnet. “We all become lighter sleepers as we age, and pain and other medical problems make this worse.”
There’s no set rule for when to replace a mattress—we test them to approximate eight to 10 years of use—but there are some telltale signs that you should. Some you can plainly see, such as rips, divots, or stains (your old dog is sleeping with you, isn’t he?). Others you can feel, for example if your hips and shoulders now sink deeply into the mattress. Still other signs you can’t see at all: Your mattress and bedding provide an ideal environment for dust mites that can trigger allergies or even asthma. So if you wake up sniffling every morning, your mattress may be to blame.
You can use other observations to guide your choice in something new. If you feel lumps or sharp points, that could indicate damage to the inside of your mattress, so look for a model with a high durability score in our ratings. If you and your partner wake each other up while tossing and turning, look for a high stabilization rating.
Step 2: Master the Mattress Store
If it seems like mattress showrooms are on every block these days, that’s because they are. There are more than 12,000 bed and specialty mattress stores nationwide, and the number is growing. If you can’t find something you like at Mattress Firm, you can wander next door to Sleepy’s (which, by the way, is now owned by Mattress Firm).
Not that having more choice helps, given how fruitless it is to compare a mattress sold at one store with one sold at another. A “Blissful Featherweight” here may be nothing like the “Delightful Featherlite” there. And because manufacturers’ descriptions of firmness are so fanciful and sometimes fact-free, we suggest ignoring them altogether and instead checking our mattress ratings. Firmness is now presented on a handy scale from 1 to 10.
As awkward as it can be, we stand by our longtime advice to try before you buy—meaning, kick off your shoes and lie down on a prospective pick for at least 15 minutes in the position you usually sleep in. In our survey, nearly 20,000 readers bought a mattress in the last three years. Among those who tried it out in the store, the more time they spent testing it before buying, the higher their satisfaction: 77 percent of respondents who spent more than 15 minutes were especially happy with their purchase. Fewer than 1 in 5 people actually do that, our survey shows, though 28 percent do lie down for a few minutes.
If you want to minimize some of the weirdness of publicly test-driving a mattress, consider visiting one of the more well-regarded mattress or furniture specialty stores in our survey. The Original Mattress Factory was the top-rated store, followed by several regional chains, including Nebraska Furniture Mart, Havertys, Jordan’s Furniture, and Bob’s Discount Furniture.
Macy’s, a traditional department store, received only middling scores for price and selection. Costco—where you can’t try a mattress in the store because they’re standing upright—got a top mark for price but fared poorly on selection. That might be just fine, given that the warehouse club makes one of our top-rated mattresses, the Novaform 14” Serafina Pearl Gel. And it may be a sign of where the market is heading that 57 percent of readers who bought a mattress from Costco did so online.
Step 3: Consider Buying Online
For those who want the ultimate convenience of buying online and skipping retail stores altogether, there are more options than ever before. Startups like Casper and Tuft & Needle are getting a lot of attention for their high-performing bed-in-a-box foam mattresses, but the fact is that you can buy almost any mattress online, innersprings included.
It might seem risky to buy a mattress without trying it, but consider that Amazon, which sells all types of mattresses, topped our retailer ratings among all sellers. It’s excellent on price as well as on-time delivery. The limitation is that should you want to try a mattress in a store before purchasing it online—a practice known as showrooming—you wouldn’t be able to. That’s because you won’t find the mattress you tried at, say, Ethan Allen on Amazon because it’s exclusive to that store.
You can try the mattress in the flesh but then buy it virtually, although you might need to stick to that retailer’s website.
If you have no qualms about buying a mattress sight unseen, try a bed-in-a-box. The foam mattresses are compressed, packed into a box less than 4 feet tall, and delivered to your doorstep by UPS or FedEx. These foam mattresses can be heavy—100 pounds or more for a queen-size—so you may need a friend to help you move it to an upstairs bedroom. Once you get it there, carefully slice open the packaging to let the mattress return to its original shape; it’s actually fun to watch.
When buying a mattress online, don’t assume you can’t haggle—you can, and you may actually do better because you can maintain a true poker face when you’re virtual. Open the chat window, and when the customer-service rep responds, start the bidding.
Online? Where’s The Best Place To Purchase A New Bed?
So, you’ve decided that it’s time to invest in a brand new mattress. Whether you’ve been researching for hours (maybe even days) or you just started, most people end up asking this question:
Where’s the best store or place (online or otherwise) to buy a bed?
Should youbuy onlineor go with a brick and mortar option (hint: it’s an easy decision)? If you’re worried about trying the mattress first, return policies, purchasing online might scare you off at first.
But don’t let it!
Let’s just revealour opinion right now(meant for those of you who weren’t going to read the entire article anyways – hehe). Do yourself a favor andbuy your mattress ONLINE!
Most online beds ship compressed in a box (easy for delivery), come with an industry standard 100-night trial (free returns if you don’t like it) and provide HUGE cash savings when compared to a brick and mortar store.
Not sure where to start?Read our comprehensive mattress buyer’s guide(updated for 2020). It makes it easy to find the perfect bed for your needs.
When Should you Buy a New Box Spring/Foundation?
Updated March 27, 2020
Does your New Mattress Need a New Box Spring?
When shopping for a new mattress, you may be considering whether you should buy a new box spring (foundation) as well. Or, you may wonder if it would help to replace your box spring periodically regardless of a new mattress.
It’s not always necessary to replace your box spring every time you replace your mattress, but it’s probably a good idea to do so. Box springs usually last around 10 years, which is a slightly longer lifespan than a mattress. If it has any major defects like broken slats or noticeable sagging, it won’t provide adequate support and you will need a new one. Worn-out box springs can cause your new mattress to sag sooner and create discomfort.
You should buy a new box spring if:
You do not have a box spring or platform bed appropriate for your mattress
Your current box spring has broken slats
Your current box spring has noticeable sagging
You’ve had your current box spring for more than 10 years
Purpose of a Box Spring
A box spring (also known as a foundation) is a wooden frame that uses either springs or metal rods to provide a supportive base for the mattress. The box spring should be the same size as the mattress that sits on top of it. It ensures that there is a flat, solid surface to act as a base, reducing sagging and extending the lifespan of the mattress. Box springs also absorb shock to reduce wear on the mattress itself. Box springs will raise the height of the mattress. If you prefer a lower total bed height, low-profile box springs give more options.
Setting Up Your Box Spring
In a complete bed set, box springs are typically placed on a bed frame that connects to the headboard and footboard. It’s also common to see mattresses and box springs used together without a complete bed frame. Those who don’t feel the need to have a decorative looking bed can simply place their box spring on the floor or on casters, with the mattress on top.
Most manufacturers require you to support your mattress with a box spring to file a warranty claim. There are exceptions if the mattress has approved box spring alternatives. One example is mattresses that work with a platform bed. Since platform beds feature either wooden slats or a deck, the mattress shouldn’t need the added support of a box spring. Adjustable bases are another possible option.
Have More Questions About Buying a Box Spring?
If you’re unsure whether you should buy a box spring with your new mattress, or you have questions about a certain box spring, give us a call at 1-800-455-1052. One of our friendly mattress experts will be happy to assist you further.
Learn more about different types of mattresses:
Do I Need A Box Spring for My New Mattress?
When purchasing a new mattress it’s important to know if you need a new box spring as well. Why?Because box springs have changed in the past decade and new box springs really don’t act as a spring. Instead, they act basically like a slat system that helps keep the bed elevated making it easier to get in and out of. Below is a picture of an older box spring for illustration purposes.
As you can see in the picture these heavy gauge wires were designed to have some give so that they would collapse slightly as you laid down on your mattress. The effect would be having a little more bounce and spring to your mattress. The old box springs were designed to work with the spring systems and this was taken into account.
Today, there are so many different types of mattresses that it doesn’t make sense to sell these types of box springs. Below is a picture of a more modern box spring.
Modern box springs are basically wooden slats made into a box which also has a cover. You can buy these on Amazon for under $200 and they come in a box. They don’t take long to setup and will give your mattress the support it needs.
However, you really don’t need a box spring with a mattress. Some companies prefer that you put your mattress on slats or a box spring to help the mattress breathe but it’s certainly not necessary. For a little more you can buy an entire bed with a slat system from Zinus. Here’s my review of the Zinus platform bed which is very sturdy and will arrive in a box as well.
If you are wondering if you need a box spring or not, a good rule of thumb is that if the box spring is older than 10 years, it probably needs replacing. You can also tell just by pushing on it. If it is springy, they get rid of it.
I would not feel obligated to buy the box spring from the same company where you bought your mattress either. There is a perception that if you don’t, you will void your warranty. Make sure this is really the case though before you commit to buying a new box spring. Chances are you can find a better price on Amazon or you may just want to go with a slat system instead.