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Mattress Buyer’s Guide

If you’re lucky, you’ll spend a third of your life on a mattress. Whether you get in all your hours or not, a quality mattress can make the difference between deep, restorative sleep, and tossing and turning all night.


We’re likely preaching to the choir. But quality sleep is one of the best things you can buy with your money. Getting enough and the right quality of sleep makes a huge difference for a variety of mental and physical health outcomes. We need deep restorative sleep. And without it, it’s important to do whatever you can to get back on track with sleep.


If you haven’t bought a mattress in a while and have just started to look around, you’ve likely been in for a surprise. In recent years a whole host of companies have brought great innovation to the mattress industry. Mattress-in-a-box companies offer generous return policies and ship a trial mattress to your door. New and better materials populate the likes of memory foam or hybrid mattresses. And a wide range of eco-friendly and organic mattresses have hit the market.


Here at BestChoiceReviews, we’ve reviewed many types of mattresses. And while we know that the process of buying a mattress can be both frustrating and intimidating, we’re here to help prepare you for your mattress shopping journey.


In this guide we’ll look at the following questions and scenarios:


Don’t see your questions answered in the topics in this guide? Be sure to check out some of BestChoiceReview’s additional mattress FAQs:


When To Buy a New Mattress

First and foremost, you’ve got to decide whether you want or need a new mattress. If you’re here, chances are you have a hunch that a new mattress is imminent. So when should you pull the trigger on a new purchase?


You can get used to anything. But chances are if you’ve answered yes to any of the following questions, a new mattress should at least be in the short-term plans.


Questions to Determine When To Buy a New Mattress:


  • Is your mattress just plain old?


      • Even if your mattress has a 10-year warranty, most mattresses are truly only built to maintain optimal specifications for 7-8 years. And that’s with a good brand. Even if you’re still sleeping alright, a mattress that’s older than 8 years old is most likely eroding the quality of your sleep in some form or another.


  • Is your mattress falling apart of deformed?


      • The layers of any modern mattress rely on one another. Deformation within a mattress is a sign that some element within the fabric of your mattress is eroding. If you’ve got sagging, dips, or indentations in your mattress, this is the case. Flipping your mattress can prolong the inevitable for a bit. But at some deformation of your mattress will lead to less than optimal support and even the releasing of fumes that are unhealthy.


  • Are you in pain while or after you sleep?


      • Besides being a sign that something is physically wrong, pain erodes the quality of your sleep and the day that follows drastically. If you’re in pain while trying to sleep, this is a definite sign that you should be looking for a new mattress.


  • Are you just ready to upgrade your sleeping arrangement?


      • Maybe you have new kids, or a new partner. Maybe you just want more room. Mattresses can greatly enhance a large portion of your life. And yet many people buy new cars more often than new mattresses. Buying a new mattress just for the sake of it doesn’t have to be splurging. It’s an investment in your happiness and health.


  • Are you worried about how your sleep affects your health?


    • You should be! Well, perhaps worry is an overstatement. But optimizing your sleep lays the foundation for health in many other areas. Poor sleep is directly related to both mental and physical health. When you don’t have enough sleep, you’re more prone to accidents (driving and otherwise). Your attention, concentration, and ability to learn all suffer when you’re sleep deprived. Chronic sleep loss has been linked to a variety of heart issues including stroke, heart attack, and irregular heartbeats. Furthermore, lack of sleep is very clearly linked with depression. If a mattress is all that’s standing in your way, keep on reading for your health!

Ready to find the right mattress for you? Check out BestChoiceReviews’ rankings prepared by our knowledgeable research staff:

Comparing Mattress Types

As sleep science and construction methods have advanced, so too have mattresses. Today there are more types, sizes, and price ranges of mattresses than ever before. This can be overwhelming. Below we’ll work through a primer on some of the most common mattress types of today.


The Big Four Construction Methods For Mattresses


While there are some organic mattresses made out of alternative materials, the following four categories of mattresses will likely encompass every mattress type you’ll see in stores and online.


Foam Mattress are constructed with polyurethane and — at times — latex. Some latex foam mattresses are organic. Though foam mattresses come in all the typical firmness levels (ultra-plush, plush, medium, firm, and extra-firm), they are defined by a characteristic feeling of “sinking into the mattress yet feeling supported.” These mattresses adjust to your body shape and conform more than other mattress types. Historically, foam mattresses have been associated with “sleeping hot.” But a range of new technologies and construction methods have minimized this problem for many foam mattresses.


Innerspring Mattresses have been the most popular mattress types for the last 100 years or so. These mattresses feature various layouts of steel coils within the mattress. Often other layers provide padding around the steel coils. This mattress type is the most likely to need box springs to provide an additional base to the mattress. Known for “springiness” and the ability to find an ultra-firm mattress, you’ve likely tried an innerspring mattress or two in your lifetime. One of the downsides for some innerspring mattresses is that they have more motion transfer than other mattress types. This means that on some innerspring mattresses one sleeping partner can feel another sleeping partner move around during the night.


Hybrid Mattresses feature both foam and innerspring layers. If you’ve enjoyed a foam mattress in the past and want a little additional support, or you want less motion transfer and more “plush” than a past innerspring mattress, a hybrid mattress could be your best bet. As with foam mattresses, hybrid mattresses come made from a variety of materials, some eco-friendly or organic, and some not.


Adjustable Air Mattresses are less common than they once were. But you will still see this mattress type, particularly in beds that advertise their ability to adjust settings for each partner. Multiple top layers are often composed of foam. An electric pump can inflate or deflate mattress portions that in some models can be customized based on the side of the bed as well as the top, middle, or bottom of your body.


Major Size Categories For Mattresses

A vast majority of mattress sizes have been standardized. While some mattresses are predominantly marketed for children, dorm rooms, or for specialty beds like trundles, the main mattress sizes and dimensions are listed below.


  • Twin (or Single) Bed Mattress: 38″ x 75″
  • Twin XL Bed Mattress: 38″ x 80″
  • Full (or Double) Bed Mattress: 54” x 75”
  • Full XL Bed Mattress: 54″ x 80″
  • Queen Bed Mattress: 60″ x 80″
  • King Bed Mattress: 72″ x 84″
  • California King Bed Mattress: 76″ x 80″


One aspect that does vary between mattress makers and even within brands is that of the height of mattresses, as well as what sort of base will properly support a mattress. Mattress “pocket” depths inside of beds can range from 8” to 18,” leading to very different visual feels as well as differences in practical concerns like moving or changing the sheets on a bed.


Price Range Categories For Mattresses

Price ranges for mattresses have stayed relatively stable for several decades. The emergence of new manufacturing methods, as well as mattress-in-a-box companies has changed this.


In traditional mattress shopping and stores, a large portion of the price of a mattress is in-store markup to cover rent, sales costs, and so forth. Mattress-in-a-box companies bypass all this price padding and share some of the savings with you. This development has definitely disrupted the cost for getting a mid to high-tier mattress. Though it is a very different buying experience.


It’s common to expect to pay close to $1,000 for an upper to mid-tier queen-sized mattress. But what about the other price points?


Price Ranges for Low-End, Middle, and High-End Mattresses by Type

  • Innerspring: <$700 / $700-$1,200 / $1,200+
  • Foam: <$600 / $600-$1,200 / $1,200+
  • Latex: <$1,500 / $1,500-$2,500 / $2,500+
  • Hybrid: <$1,200 / $1,200-$2,000 / $2,000+
  • Air Mattress: <$1,500 / $1,500-$2,500 / $2,500+


Now that we’ve outline a few of the general mattress categories (you likely already have some favorites, or are looking to try something new), let’s look at some of the qualities that matter most in mattress shopping.


Ready to find the right mattress for you? Check out BestChoiceReviews’ rankings prepared by our knowledgeable research staff:


Mattress Qualities That Matter

Today there are more mattress options than ever. If you’re approaching the mid-tier price range for a type of mattress, you likely won’t have to compromise in any of the qualities that matter most in mattresses. Below we’ll work through some qualities you should look out for the most.


Longevity is crucial in any large purchase. And especially one that can disrupt your daily life if it ages prematurely. The average mattress shopper begins their search weeks before their purchase. This process is often triggered by a failing mattress. And in the ensuing days, you likely aren’t getting the best night’s sleep.


While many mattress brands offer 10 year limited warranties, these can mean many different things. Be sure to look for reviews of customers who have had a mattress for several years or have tried to utilize their warranty.


Comfort is of course a must. There are many styles of sleepers, and many different needs as far as allergies, sleeping hot or cold, movement, and preferred firmness levels. If you don’t already have a clue what “style” of sleeper or what your needs are, try to pay attention over the next few nights. Even if you are eventually going to buy your mattress online, go into stores and try out mattresses of different styles.


Keep in mind that it often takes the body time to adjust to a new mattress. It’s not uncommon for a new mattress to be uncomfortable for a few nights as your body adjusts, even if it’s a good choice. With this said, you want an “out” if discomfort doesn’t go away within the first few days of owning a new mattress. Be sure to select brands that offer returns of your mattress (or exchanges for a different firmness level) within a set number of days. This is a common practice among mattress-in-a-box producers.


Health concerns are potentially the most important consideration when choosing a mattress. While quality sleep is a health issue, mattress-specific health issues can range from choosing a mattress that aids or provokes an injury, choosing a mattress you are allergic to, choosing a mattress that “off-gasses” harmful fumes, or choosing a mattress that does not allow you safe exit or entry on and off the mattress.


Other considerations that matter include finding a mattress that provides enough space for your needs, that you sleeping partner also enjoys, and that fulfills other practical concerns like a bunk, dorm, or trundle bed mattress.


Tips for Shopping Around

Mattresses are important purchases. Shop smart to avoid many of the most common mistakes and pitfalls.


Look for stores with generous return policies. Many stores only offer returns for defects in manufacturing. Be sure an in-person store has a “comfort return” policy or something similar. For mattress-in-a-box producers online, be sure they will allow you to return for any reason within a set amount of time. Double check policies in reviews online.


Avoid pillow top display models. Pillow tops can add a short-term “plusheness” to a mattress, yet tend to degrade over time. Try out just the mattress in the store.


First try in-person, then look online. Even though most online mattress-in-a-box retailers do offer free returns, it’s still a hassle to unpack and repack a mattress just to “try it out.” At the very least try mattresses that are similar to the one you plan on buying. In store you can get measurements like the firmness level you prefer and what materials you like, even if you do eventually buy online.


Beware that some mattresses are signature. Big box chains like Macy’s often provide signature lines of mattresses through large mattress firms. You often can’t get the exact same mattresses online or from another store. If you really like a signature mattress, just be aware that you may have to buy it from the location in which you originally tried the mattress out.


Mattress stores show off their higher-end wares. If you like a mattress but it’s beyond your price point, ask for a lower price point alternative. All mattress stores have stock that’s not in the showroom. And most mattress stores will pull out other mattress varieties to let you try them out.


Box springs are interchangeable. If you’re buying an innerspring mattress, mattress stores will try to pair your mattress with a new set of box springs. Box springs don’t matter nearly as much as mattresses in regards to comfort. Ask if you can substitute for other box springs of the same size.


Long warranties aren’t everything. While you want your mattress to last a long time (and many mattress models will), many defects show up within the first year of owning a mattress. Mattress makers that know when defects show up in their products may add an extra long warranty knowing it doesn’t matter. Be sure to check reviews to see when other owners begin having trouble with their mattresses.


With a mattress comes a pillow. Sleep on your new mattress for a night, and note whether your old pillow is too tall or short. As you change firmnesses between mattresses, you’ll need a new pillow to properly support your new head and neck position.


Avoid sales, at first. If you’re in a brick and mortar mattress store and looking for plenty of service, avoid sales (at first). A number of studies have shown that customers get much less one-on-one attention and quality service when sales are going on. Start on a non-sales day and finish your shopping on a sales day.


Look for expertise. Specialty mattress stores — that don’t sell any other forms of goods — have been found to provide the best service and the most knowledgeable mattress staff in a range of surveys. If you need some professional input, avoid the big box stores that sell other goods as well.

Traditional Mattress Stores Versus Mattress-in-a-box Makers

If you’re regularly served any sort of ads, you’ve likely seen a number of the “rising stars” of mattress-in-a-box companies. This new business model for mattress sales has taken off. But for those who haven’t bought a mattress in a few years, buying a mattress before you try it can be a strange affair.


So what are mattress-in-a-box producers? Even if their offerings vary by a good bit, they often share the following characteristics:

  • Few or no physical showrooms
  • A 30-day risk-free return policy (minimum)
  • Free shipping, returns, and exchanges within a certain amount of time
  • Mattress shipped to your front door


Mattress-in-a-box makers try to make their offerings seem risk-free. Some things you’ll need to know, however, are that some of these producers won’t accept returns before a certain number of nights, return policies don’t apply when mattresses are bought through a third party, and you must keep your mattress in perfect condition to exchange or return.


While most mattress-in-a-box retailers are still in business because their exchange systems work, you should make sure to read third-party reviews on whoever you are thinking of buying a mattress from. Some of the most common complaints about not dealing with a physical store location involve many hoops to jump through in mailing a mattress for an exchange, having to drop mattresses off to donate if you don’t want them, as well as issues with the delivery of the mattress in the first place.


All that is not to say that mattress-in-a-box solutions aren’t great choices. Hundreds of thousands of satisfied have used mattress-in-a-box companies. There are just some trade-offs for those used to the established brick and mortar mattress store.


Some key considerations when choosing how to buy your mattress:

  • Brick and mortar mattress stores allow you to try out a mattress before buying
  • Brick and mortar stores often deliver more quickly
  • Brick and mortar stores have (at times) knowledgeable staff
  • Brick and mortar stores may try to upsell you in store
  • Many brick and mortar stores have a longer history of quality goods and services
  • Mattress-in-a-box retailers are often less expensive
  • Mattress-in-a-box retailers don’t require you to leave your home to buy
  • Mattress-in-a-box retailers provide “risk-free” buying


Still have more questions? Be sure to check out some of our mattress FAQs written by the knowledgeable staff at BestChoiceReviews:


Ready to find the right mattress for you? Check out BestChoiceReviews’ rankings prepared by our knowledgeable research staff: