Consumer Reports, the largest product review publication, just announced their mattress ratings and buying guide for 2013. The free, online version of the guide includes an overview of the main mattress types, top-selling brands, and tips for buying a mattress. One interesting note is their tests found several mattresses below $1,000 that performed well, often just as good as higher-end, more expensive brands. In this article, we’ll look at some of the findings in the Consumer Reports guide and offer additional tips on getting a good deal on your next mattress purchase.
Consumer Reports 2013 Mattress Buying Guide
The full version will be available in Consumer Reports’ May edition, though some insight is available on the online edition and from a recent press release. In addition to shopping tips, the online guide offers free basic information on mattress types and the five biggest brands in the industry.
Consumer Reports’ Mattress Types
- Innerspring – Still considered the “standard” mattress type, these are found to be cheaper and offer reasonable levels of comfort. Cons mentioned include motion transfer from side to side.
- Memory Foam – The most prominent specialty mattress type, memory foam is noted for offering superior pain relief and contouring support. Cons mentioned include heat, odor, and difficulty moving. CR combines latex mattresses in this category as well.
- Gel-Infused – Gel infused mattresses (both spring and foam) are noted for their claims of cooler sleep, however CR notes that other mattresses appeared to be just as breathable.
Top-Selling Mattress Brands
- Serta. Types: Innerspring, Memory Foam, Gel. Queen Size Price Range: $200-3000.
- Sealy. Types: Innerspring, Memory Foam, Gel, Latex. Queen Size Price Range: $500-4000.
- Simmons. Types: Innerspring, Memory Foam, Gel, Latex. Queen Size Price Range: $500-6000.
- Tempurpedic. Types: Memory Foam. Queen Size Price Range: $1200-6000.
Results from Consumer Reports’ Mattress Comparison
CR tested 12 models from the top 5 brands, plus Ikea and Costco. Though the full results aren’t yet released, here’s a preview:
- Simmons performance varied most. One of it’s Beautyrest Glover Park models stood out as a top pick among innersprings, however its Comfortpedic Loft Crestwood Luxury Plush scored lowest overall for foam mattresses.
- The Tempurpedic Simplicity and Costco memory foam tied yielded quite similar ratings even though the latter is $300 cheaper. This comparison seems fairly accurate as both models use similar materials and lower density foam.
- 40% of CR’s subscribers reported buyer’s remorse.
The preliminary release states that finding a mattress under $1000 is indeed possible, and that an expensive mattress doesn’t always equal satisfaction. Keep reading to see how you can avoid getting a dud, and still save money when buying a mattress.
Mattress Buying Tips from Consumer Reports & Best Mattress Reviews
Shoppers are often overwhelmed with the plethora of choices available, including the same bed from a single manufacturer with multiple rebranded names. This can make comparison shopping for a new mattress very difficult, as confused consumers are pressured into making purchases of expensive mattress brands they know very little about.
In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, we have compiled the main points from Consumer Reports’ buying guide and from our own research into buying a mattress to help consumers make knowledgeable comparisons and wiser purchases.
Whether you are buying at a brick-and-mortar location or online, you should do your research. You’re more likely to end up satisfied if you take advantage of the enormous amount of information and customer reviews on the internet. Learn from the mistakes of others rather than making your own. If you notice a company has many complaints on a single issue or product, there is probably something wrong.
If you have a health condition that may be affected by the type of mattress you purchase, talk to your doctor and see what he or she recommends. While your doctor is not likely a sleep expert, he or she will know your specific issues and will be able to help you avoid causing any harm to yourself.
Testing a Mattress
Consumer Reports recommends the standard 15 minute showroom test when mattress shopping. However, a recent study from Research Triangle International showed that it proves difficult to judge comfort level by a short test while awake, as our bodies react to firmness levels differently during sleep. What’s more, a recent survey discussed in our article, Buying a Mattress Online vs In Stores, showed overall satisfaction was actually significantly higher for people that bought mattresses online without prior testing.
Why might that be? Well, shoppers who buy online certainly face less sales pressure, and also have more time to research their purchase. Comparison shopping, other people’s reviews, and access to objective information online can help people determine which bed will meet their needs. Plus, people who buy online spend less, which also likely contributes to purchase satisfaction.
Interestingly enough, CR’s own data says 75% of people thought testing a mattress out in a showroom was important for satisfaction, though a full 40% expressed regret with their choice.
When you are testing or shopping for a mattress, remember to get the input from the people who will be using it. It may sound like common sense, but many people buy mattresses as gifts or without consulting their partner. If you are getting a gift for someone, make sure you understand the company’s return policy. You want to be able to get your money back if you need to return it.
Check Return and Warranty Information
CR offers good tips on interpreting warranties and trial information. They discuss the difference between full and limited warranties, and how to ensure your bed remains covered – use a fully supportive foundation and don’t remove the manufacturer tag.
Also addressed are trial periods, in which CR mentions that shoppers should look for at least 30 days. We agree with this, as it takes time for a person to adjust to a new bed. They mention that some local stores often charge restocking and delivery fees which can be quite costly. Some retailers like Sears and online shops like memory foam mattress retailer Amerisleep.com offer 90 day trials with no restocking fees. Many consumers have felt that 30 days is simply not enough time for them to get to know a mattress, so try to get an extended trial period if you can.
Shop Smart to Save
CR reminds shoppers that they can often bargain with mattress retailers for better deals, by getting price matches, coupon discounts, and mattress disposal or delivery perks. Other tips include waiting for sales and holidays where big discounts can be seen on innersprings. Sales featuring as much as 50% off run frequently, however it is important to not be suckered into a “sale” featuring false markdowns as they attempt to lure customers with their “lower” prices. Though specialty mattresses often have set prices, occasionally retailers will offer special discounts or closeout models at lower prices.
Another money-saving tip includes not buying a new foundation when your existing one is still in good shape. While many people often buy in matching sets, the design is usually covered in bedding. If your foundation still offers firm support and doesn’t show wear, then keep it. They do note that foam mattresses require a solid-type foundation (hard on top versus springs), and that some brands require the matching base for warranty protection, however.
We would also offer that where you shop plays a big role in how much you spend. Showrooms and retail stores have high markups because they typically have commissioned staff and high expenses. In contrast, online retailers often keep overhead lower and thus tend to have lower prices.
For example, we compared three mattresses to show readers that you can save on cost and often get better quality, too, by looking online. The chart below compares two memory foam mattresses from the CR article, Tempurpedic Simplicity and Costco Novaform Serafina, plus an online option, the Americana memory foam mattress from Amerisleep.com.
|Tempurpedic Simplicity||Costco/Novaform Serafina||Amerisleep Americana|
|Memory Foam Density:||2.5 lbs||3.0 lbs||4.5 lbs|
|Inches of Memory Foam:||2"||2.5"||3"|
|Trial Period:||90 days||90 days||90 days|
|Warranty:||25 years||20 years||20 years|
|Average Owner Rating:||3.5 /5 stars||4.1 /5 stars||4.6 /5 stars|
In the Consumer Reports mattress buying guide video, their expert shopper recommended never paying more than 50% for a new mattress. While this may be true with retail stores and mattress showrooms, online stores can differ since pricing tends to be lower to begin with. Often, you don’t have an opportunity to haggle unless you call to speak with a representative but you may get lucky with online coupon codes and holiday sales.
Knowing When To Replace Your Mattress
CR recommends replacing a mattress that is older than 7-10 years or shows signs of wear and aging. This includes sagging, lumps and broken down edges. If your mattress still offers good support but is perhaps too firm, a topper might offer a cheaper solution.
You may have heard that mattresses double in weight every 7-8 years as a result of accumulating skin cells, dust mites and oils. There haven’t been any scientific studies done to determine exactly how much the average mattress increases in weight over time, but according to Ohio State University, 100,000 to 10 million dust mites are in the average old mattress. Scientists who have remarked on the topic seem to think think that mattresses will gain weight, but would not double in that short amount of time.
While the number of bugs in your mattress may be good motivation for purchasing a bed, poor mattress performance and the desire for better sleep drives most people to the decision. New sleeping systems increase sleep quality and reduce back discomfort, according to a 28 day study done by Oklahoma State University researchers. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be time for a new bed.
Overall, the fact remains that is important to do diligent research when making a big purchase like a mattress. Knowing your options and what to look for is a good start, and the internet offers many tools for prospective shoppers. The Consumer Reports guide offers good insights and valuable perspective on mattresses to help consumers begin their search.