7 Tips for Buying a Great Mattress at the Right Price

relaxing in bed
Photo by Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock.com

So, you need a new mattress. Conventional wisdom says a mattress will typically last about eight to 10 years. But your comfort and sleep quality are the best indicators of whether it’s time for a new mattress. Some studies show that a good quality mattress might last 15 years, according to The Spruce, a comparison shopping site.

The Sleep Foundation explains how to shop based on your needs and preferences. One key to happiness with a new mattress is taking the time to try out various types and products, so you get an idea of what feels great to you.

Because a mattress is a personal item and used ones are likely to be contaminated with bedbugs and dust mites, don’t buy a used mattress if you can avoid it, as we explain in “Never Buy These 12 Things at a Thrift Store.”

Here are four common mattress types.

Innerspring

You may have grown up sleeping on an innerspring mattress, and these still are the most common type.

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, but that’s not necessarily so, say WebMD’s experts. Most innerspring mattresses today have individually encased coils. You definitely won’t need more than 390 coils, regardless of what a salesperson tells you.

What does matter is the gauge (thickness) of the wire in the coils: 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. Look for coils with a gauge of 13 to 15, advises The Wirecutter, at The New York Times.

Hybrid

Hybrid mattresses are innerspring mattresses that incorporate cushioning features — foam, gel or a cushy pillow top, for example.

Air mattress

Air mattresses use chambers filled with air instead of coils, topped by a foam layer, says WebMD.

You can find a sophisticated type of air mattress meant for couples that allows each person to set the firmness level of their side of the mattress by adding air or deflating it — good for sleeping partners who have distinctly different needs.

Latex

Latex is a “springier” type of foam, says The Wirecutter, in a deep dive on mattress shopping. The feel is described as something between an innerspring and a memory foam mattress.

Expect firm, bouncy support, as WebMD puts it. In fact, says The Spruce, some users consider latex too firm.

Uncertain if a latex mattress is for you? Buying a latex mattress topper lets you try out this type without a big outlay.

Memory foam

Unlike innerspring and latex mattresses, memory foam beds aren’t springy. Rather, they absorb movement, which means you are less likely to be disturbed by a restless partner.

Memory foam was developed by NASA in the 1970s. It conforms to the body’s heat and weight, making it a good choice for people who suffer back pain, for example.

Some users swear by memory foam. Others complain that it makes them sleep hot. Some manufacturers incorporate gel into their products to counter this issue. Consumer Reports’ mattress buying guide finds that innerspring mattresses with gel do sleep somewhat cooler. But gel-infused foam mattresses did not offer a cooler sleeping experience.

Mattress shopping tips

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.

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. Some guides urge shoppers to spend at least 15 minutes on a mattress to test it, bringing your own pillow to the store to simulate your home experience.

After zeroing in on the type you like, you can do some comparison shopping online. Amazon and Costco.com are two major online sources for mattresses.

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, what with the crowds and busy salespeople. Take the time to find the mattress you like, and then pounce on a sale price.

3. Note the mattress height

Measure the height of your current mattress and shop for a new mattress of the same height if you want to use the fitted sheets you currently own.

4. 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.

5. Don’t buy sales hype

If you are a budget shopper, don’t feel you must pay lots for fancy features. Consumer Reports, which says it tests mattress in conditions simulating eight to 10 years of wear, says:

“Great mattresses at fair prices can be found at warehouse clubs and through online retailers.”

6. Look for a liberal return policy

Buy from a store that offers “comfort returns,” meaning that you can return the mattress if you’re unhappy for any reason, though you may need to pay a fee. Before buying, understand exactly what a warranty covers and how the return policy works.

7. Bargain

Mattress retailers may take generous markups, leaving room for you to bargain, and you should — even during a sale. If you can’t get a lower price, ask for non-monetary perks, like new pillows or bedding thrown in.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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