Is your dread of mattress shopping holding you back from getting better sleep on a new bed? If so, you’re not alone.
According to the Better Sleep Council, many Americans report mattress shopping hesitation, causing them to put off new purchases. The key frustrations BSC’s study revealed include not knowing when to replace, how much to pay or what to look for in a mattress. Many were also uncomfortable testing beds in public, and were confused by the multitude of options.
While the mattress industry would appreciate people buying more beds, there are real reasons that delaying replacement is a bad idea. Primarily, sticking with an old mattress can actually affect your sleep quality, and in turn your health. According to an Oklahoma State University study, people who swapped their old mattresses (average age 9.5 years) for a new one reported both increased comfort (by 71%) and better sleep quality (by 62%).
But, if the thought of mattress shopping makes you anxious, we’ve put together a helpful guide explaining how to shop for a mattress without the stress. These steps outline what to look for and how to approach buying a new bed with the goal of getting the best deal and a mattress you’ll be happy with for the next several years.
Stress-Less Guide to Mattress Shopping
With BSC’s findings in mind, we put together a step-by-step article to guide you through the mattress process. Though it looks like a lot of information, you’ll find helpful insider tips and resources throughout all designed to reduce confusion and make buying a new bed less stressful.
Step 1: Determine if your mattress needs to be replaced.
The average mattress is designed to last around 8-10 years, despite trends of long warranties. Not all mattresses are created equally though, and the lifespan of a bed will depend on the quality of materials, usage, and other factors as well.
We previously compared mattress types by durability in an in-depth article, and here’s the summary table from that article:
|Natural Latex||86%||12 yrs||<5%||$1500-2500|
|High Density Memory Foam||80%||10 yrs||7%||$2000-4000|
|Softside Waterbeds||80%||10 yrs||8%||$800-1500|
|Blended Latex||75%||10 yrs||8%||$1000-1500|
|Hardside Waterbeds||78%||10 yrs||10%||$100-500|
|Med Density Memory Foam||81%||8 yrs||10%||$600-1500|
|Latex Over Foam||80%||8 yrs||10%||$400-1000|
|Pocket Coil||74%||8 yrs||20%||$900-2000|
|Continuous Coil||71%||7 yrs||18%||$700-1500|
|Offset Coil||70%||6 yrs||25%||$800-2000|
|Low Density Memory Foam||80%||5 yrs||20%||$200-800|
|Bonnell Coil||68%||5 yrs||30%||$400-1000|
Ultimately, if your bed is older than 8-10 years, you feel pain in the morning, you sleep better at hotels, or you’re finding it hard to get comfortable at night, it’s likely time to replace it.
Step 2: Outline your preferences and goals.
If you’ve determined it’s time to replace your mattress, start the shopping process by making note of what you are looking for and what you want to explore when you shop. Having clear preferences and goals before you start shopping makes it easier to narrow selections and easier to communicate with salespeople as well.
Grab a notepad and outline the following (be sure to include your partner if applicable). Keep your notes handy for when you start browsing beds.
If you are replacing a mattress, measure your current one so you know the right size. If you are buying a new furniture set, see which size will work best for your comfort and space. Knowing what size you want will be helpful for estimating price.
What I Like About Past Beds:
What do you like most about your current or past mattresses? What features or specifications have you found most comfortable?
What I Don’t Like About Past Beds:
What do you find yourself disliking about your current or previous beds? What would you change about your current mattress? Is there anything you specifically want to avoid?
Is there anything related to your bed that keeps you up at night? Such as pressure points, partner’s movements, heat, allergies etc?
How do you generally like your mattress to feel? Firm as the floor, soft as a cloud, slightly plush, medium, etc?
What things are absolutely essential for your next mattress?
What would you like or prefer to have if you can find it or if it fits into your budget?
How much can you reasonably afford to spend? Are you interested in financing? Will you be using a credit card? If you are paying interest, don’t forget to factor this into the costs. The average mattress costs about $1000 to $2000, but there many options in all price ranges.
Step 3: Explore the market.
After you have a general idea of what you are looking for in a mattress, the next step is to get a general idea of what’s out there. If you haven’t bought a bed in 10 years, there are a lot of materials, brands, and technologies that will be new to you.
In this phase, don’t commit to buying yet. Start by learning about the different mattress types to see which ones interest you. The primary categories today are innersprings, memory foam, and latex. You may find it helpful to visit some mattress or department stores to get a feel for different materials and firmness levels. Note that brands will have slight differences, so different brands of the same mattress type can feel quite different.
If you aren’t comfortable testing beds in public or stores near you don’t carry the beds or brands you’re interested in, than the internet can be a helpful resource as well. You can find many forums, review websites, blogs, industry magazines and other sources that provide mattress information.
Step 4: Do some research.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the market and have an idea of the type of mattress you are most interested in, it’s time to begin looking at brands and individual mattress models.
Don’t feel compelled to stick with a name brand just because, as many of the biggest brands have only average satisfaction ratings. Big names can also make it difficult to compare and get information about their beds, and prices can also be inflated.
At this stage, you should be looking for beds within your budget that meet your ‘must-have’ criteria. You’ll want to gather information about specifications, warranties, returns, and look at owner reviews as well.
This is the area where many people experience confusion and frustration with mattress shopping. There are many opinions about what makes the best mattress and which materials are best, and it’s difficult to find an unbiased perspective. In truth, it really comes down to personal comfort preferences.
For example, high-density memory foam might be most durable, but more people prefer the feel of medium-density foam. Companies can also refuse to provide specification information, which makes it hard to compare the value of the bed.
Below, we’ll outline the key things to look for and compare for each mattress type. Each type will have it’s own pros and cons you’ll want to consider.
- Coil Type: How the coils are shaped and set. Main options are bonnell, offset, continuous, and individual/pocket coils. Bonnell coils and continuous coils are more affordable but bonnell have shorter lifespans and continuous offer poor motion isolation. Offset and pocket coils offer better support and motion isolation, but tend to more expensive.
- Coil Gauge: The thickness of the coil wire. Ranges from 12-16. Higher numbers mean thinner/softer springs.
- Coil Count: The number of coils within the mattress. Higher coils may provide more support and contouring capabilities, to an extent. Average for a queen bed is 700-750.
- Comfort Layers: The thickness, type and quality of the foam and padding layers can make a difference in how the bed feels and how long it resists impressions. Memory foam and latex comfort layers typically receive better ratings, but are also usually more expensive than poly foam and fiber layers.
Memory Foam Beds
- Memory Foam Density: The weight per cubic foot of the memory foam. Ranges from low (under 3.5 lbs), to medium (3.5-5.0 bs) to high (over 5lbs). Lower densities are less likely to feel hot and may be easier to move on, but high densities are more durable and better at pressure point relief.
- Core Density: The weight of one cubic foot of core foam. The core layer supports the memory foam. Core densities tend be 1.5-1.8 lbs (lower density) or 2.0-2.5 lbs (high-density). Higher density cores provide greater support and impression resistance.
- Memory Foam Type: Can be traditional temperature-sensitive memory foam, gel foam, plant-based foam, or other variations. Read our comparison here for more.
- Layer Construction: How the layers are arranged. See how thick the memory foam and core are, if there are any additional foam layers, and if there are any other materials in the bed.
- Latex Foam Type: How the foam is manufactured. Latex foam can be using either the Dunlop or Talalay process. Dunlop is more affordable and often more eco-friendly, but Talalay may be more consistent. Read more about pros and cons here.
- Latex Composition: What the latex foam is made of. Latex foam can be made from natural or synthetic latex, or a blend of the two. Natural is more expensive, and is often preferred by those seeking to avoid chemicals. Always ask the percentage, as even blended latex can sometimes be called ‘natural’ .
- Layer Construction: How the layers are arranged. Ask about the thickness of each layer, whether or not there any additional foams or padding materials used.
When you are looking at warranty information, the key things to look for include full-coverage versus pro-rated terms, what’s covered, and if there are any conditions.
Full-coverage or full-replacement warranty means that the manufacturer is guaranteeing that they will repair/replace defects at their expense during that time. They may not cover shipping or labor expenses though, so that’s something to check for. A good-quality spring or foam mattress will usually have about 10 years of full-coverage warranty.
Pro-rated coverage means the manufacturer will cover a portion of the cost of repair/replacement, based on the length of ownership. The longer you’ve owned the mattress, the less they’ll pay. This can be a little complicated, but the warranty policy should spell out the terms clearly for you. Many beds have 5-10 years or more of pro-rated coverage which follows the full-coverage period.
The warranty policy will also describe what is covered, which is very important. Most mattress warranties focus on sagging, and will state the policy covers sagging over a certain depth. Spring mattresses usually cover sagging of 1.5” or so, while good-quality foam mattresses may cover impressions of 1” or less.
Mattress warranties often exclude slight softening or certain components like covers. Some warranties may also state conditions that you must follow or risk voiding the warranty, such as using a certain type of foundation, leaving tags attached, or that the mattress must be free of stains.
Always ask how long you have to return the mattress if you don’t like it and what the return process entails. How many days do you have to decide? Do you have to keep the mattress for a specific amount of time first? What fees are involved? Are there any conditions or exclusions to the policy?
Step 5: Narrow the candidates.
Based on the research you conducted, begin narrowing the potential mattress candidates. Rule out ones that don’t match your must-have checklist or that did not seem comfortable. You might also want to out ones that seem to offer below average quality for the price, or that have policies you don’t find favorable.
Another helpful resource for comparing and researching mattresses are owner reviews. Once you have brands and specific beds in mind, always try to find reviews to see what people have to say about the bed and company.
People will often point out pros and cons, and describe their experience. While personal preferences will vary, reviews can offer useful insight that can help you narrow down your selection.
Helpful places to look for reviews include brand websites, retailer websites, consumer review websites (Viewpoints, ResellerRatings, SleepLikeTheDead, etc), and private blogs and forums. Look at the both the overall rating average, the percent of people who recommend the bed, and individual positive and negative reviews to see what people say.
Step 6: Identify the best values.
The next step is to take what you’ve learned during your research phase and pick out the mattresses that offer the best fits for your needs and the best overall value (quality and price versus competition).
One helpful way to to do this is to keep an organized list or spreadsheet of information about beds you are considering as you research. List the quality specifications, warranties and returns, comfort notes, reviews, price, and other relevant factors. Narrow your list down to one to three beds that you believe would be a good match in terms of comfort, quality, and guarantees.
For example, below is a memory foam mattress brand comparison we did previously. When you do your own research, you can collect similar details as you go to make comparing your options easier when you are ready to buy. Having all the facts organized together makes it easier to spot the better values.
|Brand||Serta iComfort||Amerisleep||BedInABox||Comfort Dreams||Spa Sensations||Novaform|
|Density||3.0 lb||4.5lb||3.0 lb||2.5-4.0 lb||3.0 lb||3.0 lb|
|Warranty||25 years (15 full)||20 years (10 full)||20 years (10 full)||5 yr limited||5 yr limited||20 years (10 full)|
|Trial||120 days||90 days||120 days||None||90 days||Open|
|Owner Rating||4.3 / 5||4.6 / 5||4.6 / 5||4.5 / 5||4.5 / 5||4.0 / 5|
Step 7: Choose Your New Mattress
Once you’ve identified the best potential option based on comfort, quality and price, all that’s left is to buy the bed. Compare multiple retailers (if possible) to see who offers the best value. You can call or visit shops and compare online as well. Ask the retailer if they have any special offers to sweeten the deal, as many mattress retailers expect some negotiation to earn your business. Major holidays are also popular sale times for mattresses.
When negotiating the deal, ask about delivery fees and timeframes so you know what to expect. It’s a good idea to keep your old mattress until you’re sure you like the new one, and to use a mattress protector as well to avoid stains. File away your paperwork and receipts in a safe place as well just in case.
Ultimately, buying a new bed is just like any other larger purchase. It doesn’t have to be a huge hassle if you go in with a plan and spend a little time researching before diving in. If you aren’t getting good sleep, don’t put off or be intimidated by mattress shopping. There are many brands and mattress types out there which can seem overwhelming at first, but it is also easier than ever to buy a mattress with the power of online resources and reviews at your fingertips.
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