It can be daunting to understand the differences in various beds and determine which one to buy, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that knowledge is power when it comes to having best mattress buying experience. As with any major purchase, you want to do as much research as possible before settling on a product. Considering nearly one-third of your life will be spent in bed and that you will likely keep your mattress 5-10 years or more, it is well worth your time. Here are some of the most helpful and important tips anyone can put to use when hunting for the best mattress.
Most people will decide to replace a mattress when it is close to ten years old. A good rule of thumb is to replace it if you begin waking up with aches and pains or if there are visible dips or damage. These can exacerbate alignment problems in the spine as well as irritating pressure points in the hips and shoulders. Once a decision to replace an existing set has been made, follow these tips so you can learn how to have the best mattress buying experience.
Arm yourself with research and information before shopping. Understanding the different types of mattresses available and benefits they provide helps ensure you don’t make an unwise purchase. Like many other products, mattress technology also changes every year. Take a look around before committing, as some of the newer options may be better suited to your preferences than a copy of your old bed.
1) Take inventory of your preferences and needs.
Determine whether you (and your partner if applicable) prefer a soft, medium or firm mattress. Medium to medium-firm models tend to be most popular, and some studies have shown the medium firmness may be the best mattress for pain relief.
- Firmness can vary considerably across brands and bed types.
- If you are unsure, take a non-committal trip to a large showroom for the purpose of testing firmnesses and identifying which ones you prefer.
- If you and your partner have different preferences, consider option for a mattress type than can accommodate both of you.
Know the size of mattress you will be buying, as this affects cost and options. If you like your current size and just want to replace it, measure the length and width in inches and compare this with standard sizing charts. If they don’t match a traditional size (waterbeds, for example) keep the dimensions handy when shopping to determine availability. If you want to upgrade to a bigger bed, learn the differences and identify the best mattress size for your needs.
- Twin – 38-39″ x 75″
- Full – 54″ x 75″
- Queen – 60″ x 80″
- King – 76″ x 80″
- Cal King – 72″ x 84″
2) Identify the best mattress type.
Know about the main types of mattress construction, and see which type of mattress is recommended for any problems you or a partner may be suffering. Here is an overview of the leading mattress types to start your research:
- Innerspring/Coil: These are the “traditional” types of beds which feature internal spring support systems covered in layers of foam and/or fiber batting. While still the most common type of bed, spring mattresses tend rate lowest among owners, especially on issues like pain relief and durability. Popular brands include Sealy, Simmons and Serta.
- Memory Foam: This is the “space-age” foam you’ve likely heard about by now, famous for properties like contouring to a sleeper’s body and limiting motion transfer. Memory foam beds are constructed without springs, and tend rate among the top 2 types in reviews. This memory foam mattress comparison from the Best Mattress Brand blog identifies leading brands as Amerisleep, Tempurpedic, and Serta iComfort (each specializing in slightly different variations).
- Latex: Latex foam has been around for decades, but only recently has this type of mattress became more widely available and affordable. Latex rates in the top tier of reviews alongside memory foam, differentiated by excellent durability, eco-friendlieness, and good pain relief, though synthetic latex may not perform as well as all-natural. Our comparison of latex mattress brands yielded Astrabeds, Savvy Rest, and Habitat Furnishings as a few of the best mattress brands for natural options.
- Water Beds: Fairly self-explanatory, waterbeds use water for support and can come in hardside or softside versions. Modern versions rate well, and may feature special toppers or inner layers to achieve various effects. Leading brands include Boyd, Innomax, and American National.
3) Learn about brands and read reviews.
Once you’ve narrowed down one or two mattress types, you’ll want to research the options within these categories. Search online to learn about brands that sell the type of mattress and see what stands out to you. Check owner reviews to see what others have to say as well about service, comfort, durability, etc.
An excellent way to keep track of all of this information is to use a spreadsheet or small notebook to jot down the brand, pros and cons, price, rating, and other information that will be helpful to have on hand while shopping and comparing. This will help keep your search for the best mattress organized and streamlined.
Shopping Checklist for Getting the Best Mattress
After conducting basic research into types and brands, you will be prepared to begin shopping for the best mattress.
1) Be involved and take your time.
Salespeople can be pushy, but remember this is a major purchase so don’t allow yourself to be pressed into buying immediately. Take your time and, if applicable, discuss options with your partner. Actively ask questions and make sure what you’re being told is accurate. Compare your options before making a final decision – as nothing is more upsetting to splurge and then see a better deal elsewhere, or end up disappointed with a big purchase.
2) Meticulously compare your options.
Remember that list you started while researching? Keep it going and make notes as you shop. Do you like the selection? Do the beds seem comfortable? Do the salespeople seem forthcoming and approachable? How do the policies and pricing compare to other similar options on your list?
Brand name mattresses often charge more for the name, while comparable but less-known mattresses may be available for much less. Ultimately, quality construction, comfort and durability are far more important than a label. This is why it is important to research and know the differences between coil counts, foam density, or cover fabrics, for example. When you compare beds to find the best mattress, look at what is “below the covers” so to speak, that is what is actually inside the mattress and what you are actually getting for the price.
3) Narrow down your selections.
Consulting your notes and experiences, check off the brands that don’t offer good values or didn’t match your expectations. Narrow down your choices to a few favorites so you can start getting serious. Once you have a few solid candidates, take a second look at reviews and online information to see if you can get further insight. Reviews are not always fool-proof or accurate, but can be helpful in outlining the good and bad aspects of ownership.
4) Ask the important questions.
Next, you will want to consult the retailers, websites, or salespeople on your top choices and ask the important questions that every mattress shopper should know. Always be sure to cross check the information with what is available online and elsewhere (salespeople are human, and they can make errors).
- How does your warranty work? Know the length of the warranty and how claims are handled, including proration and at what point coverage kicks in. Most brands have certain accepted levels of sagging or wear that must be surpassed before a claim can be filed. Ask about any specific restrictions or limitations.
- What happens if I don’t like the bed? Make sure you thoroughly understand the return policy. Ask exactly how many days you have to return the bed, when the trial period starts, and what the return process entails. Who do you contact? How do you ship it back? Are there any restocking or return fees? How much might you expect to pay for return shipping?
- What type of fire barrier does the mattress use? Chemicals used to achieve fire safety laws can be downright nasty, or fairly innocuous. If chemicals or clean living are important to you, this is definitely something you will want to ask.
- How does it compare to XXXX? Ask retailers how other mattresses you are considering compare to theirs’, and why you should consider their mattress instead. Not only do you get help comparing, you can also see how the retailer handles the question and maybe even score a better deal in the process.
- Most importantly, ask about specifics. If you are buying a memory foam bed, these might include foam density, core density, cover type, ingredients etc. If you are buying a latex mattress, these might include percentage of natural latex, customizability etc. Learn about which factors are most predictive of quality and comfort for a given mattress type – these are what you want to ask about.
5) Understand differences of trying in-store versus in-home.
While the best prices and selection are generally available online, many consumers still desire to “test drive” a mattress in the showroom for peace of mind, whether ultimately buying online or in stores. Trying mattresses in stores can be helpful for getting a feel for what’s out there and when changing to a new mattress type. However, it doesn’t guarantee happiness. About 40% of shoppers still have buyers remorse, and studies have indicated that for most people, a 15 minute showroom trial does not approximate how bed a will feel during eight hours of sleep. Trying a bed in the comfort of your own home for several nights is the only real way to tell whether you’ve found the best mattress. Here are the average satisfaction ratings of people who bought in showroom/retail store versus those who bought online. Interestingly enough, online shoppers report higher overall satisfaction, likely due to greater selection, value, etc.
Online vs In Stores: Which Yields the Best Mattress?
|Type||Bought at Showroom||Bought Online|
|Memory Foam||80% satisfied||82% satisfied|
|Latex||65% satisfied||84% satisfied|
|Innerspring||60% satisfied||64% satisfied|
|Overall||71% satisfied||78% satisfied|
Thus, whether you are able to try a bed in a showroom or not, the most important thing is to ensure you can return it if you do not like it. Make sure you can actually return (not just exchange) the mattress in case the retailer has no other suitable options (though retailers may offer more favorable terms if you do exchange). You should have a minimum of 30 days to test the bed, as it can take time for your body adjust, especially with new materials. Most showrooms will charge fees to return and/or pickup a bed, and most online retailers will require you to ship the mattress back at your expense.
After you find the best mattress and make the leap, there are still a couple of useful tips that can improve your buying experience and limit any issues down the road.
1) Know what to expect upon delivery.
When you are making your purchase, be sure to get the full scoop on how the bed will be delivered, when you should expect it, and what you should do if there is an issue. Beds that are shipped via freight may require delivery appointments with the buyer present. Those shipped via courier may not even require a signature. When you do get the new bed, always inspect the packing carefully before signing or opening. Make sure there is no obvious damage and that the invoice and labeling correspond to what you ordered. It is helpful to know in advance what to do in case there is an issue, as it can make the process smoother for all involved.
2) Use a mattress cover until you are 100% sure you found the best mattress.
This is important! Most retailers have exclusions on returning soiled or dirty mattresses, and accidents can put you out of a lot of money if you end up disliking the bed. Use a water proof cover to eliminate the issue and avoid smoking in the room or having pets on the bed. Once you know you like the mattress or the trial period has passed, feel free to remove it, though they do help keep your mattress clean and healthy. Also – never remove the mattress tags. They may be required for warranty claims down the road.
3) Keep contact details and receipts on file.
Once your purchase is complete, keep a file in your records or on your computer with the retailer’s contact information, a copy of the recipe, as well as the brand/warranty information that came with the bed.
Shopping for a bed doesn’t have to be an ordeal, but it also shouldn’t be a flippant decision. This is one of the most used products in your home and one you will likely spend a pretty on. Incorporate these tips and suggestions into your shopping process and you should come out ahead. Ultimately, taking a few evenings to research and compare options can make all the difference between getting the best mattress or the worst.