12 Tips for Buying a Great Mattress at the Right Price

Here’s how to get through the maze of options and find the best mattress for a good night’s sleep.

So, you need a new mattress. Experts advise replacing mattresses every seven to 10 years. If you’re not sleeping well, swap yours out in five to 10 years, Prevention Magazine says.

There is no one perfect mattress, only the one that works best for you. Spend enough time trying out products that you know what feels great to you.

The Better Sleep Council, an industry group, lists 10 mattress types. But let’s simplify this. Good Housekeeping breaks it down into four main types:

Innerspring. You may have grown up sleeping on an innerspring mattress. It typically is the least expensive mattress type. It also is the most common, having been around the longest.

Support in an innerspring mattress comes from wire coils, which also account for the familiar mattress bounce. Salespeople may say that the number of coils matters. It doesn’t, Elizabeth Mayhew writes in The Washington Post.

What does matter is the gauge (thickness) of the wire: The lower the number, the heavier the wire. For example, 12-gauge wire is heavier than 14-gauge. Heavier gauge coils make a firmer mattress. Thinner coils produce a springier mattress.

Memory foam. Memory foam isn’t springy. Its heat sensitivity makes it conform to your body, making it a good choice for people who are in pain.

It can take time to grow accustomed to this different feel, though. What’s more, foam products differ one from the other. Density is important to a firm base.

Latex and gel. Latex mattresses have a firmness similar to memory foam but springier. Latex is sold as a hypoallergenic product.

Also, some mattresses have a layer of moldable, flexible gel that’s supposed to make the bed breathe and feel cooler. In its comparisons, however, Consumer Reports found gel made no significant difference.

Air core. Adjustable-air mattress let you control your mattress’s firmness by adding air or deflating it. These mattresses often contain layers of additional material, too.

Even though shopping for a mattress can feel confusing — with all the types, costs, whistles and bells — it’s worth spending some time to shop thoughtfully. Here’s what to know:

1. Shop in stores, at least to start

You may eventually buy a mattress online. But because mattress preferences are so personal, no amount of online research can substitute for the experience of trying out mattresses in a store.

After zeroing in on what you want, do some comparison shopping online.

2. Find the mattress you want before it’s on sale

Mattress shopping during a sale can be frustrating and difficult if you haven’t done your research first. Stores are crowded. Salespeople are busy and distracted. Take your time finding the mattress you like and then pounce on a sale price.

3. Try bedding specialty stores

Often, salespeople in stores specializing in bedding may be most attentive, Consumer Reports found, citing Sleepy’s and 1-800-Mattress, where staff were “more attentive and sometimes more willing to bargain.” CR researchers found shopping in department stores less satisfying.

4. Be skeptical of pillow-tops

Mattresses with pillow-top layers can give you a false comfort reading because they can flatten quickly after purchase, Good Housekeeping says. Another downside: Pillow-tops are thicker, requiring the purchase of new “high-profile” or “deep-pocket” sheets.

5. Bring your partner

Don’t delegate your mattress shopping to someone else. If two of you will be sharing the mattress, both of you should test the options in stores.

6. Don’t buy sales hype

Consumer Reports cautions against being sucked into paying lots for fancy features, saying that years of testing have shown that all but the cheapest are sturdy.

7. Ask about products not on the sales floor

Stores tend to use their display space for higher-end products. If you find something you like, ask if you can see a lower-end model.

8. Don’t be swayed by a long warranty

Most manufacturers’ defects are evident within the first year, according to Good Housekeeping. After that much time passes, defects are difficult to prove anyway.

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