How to Buy a Mattress

What I know about how to buy a mattress I’ve learned from the best: Insiders who have retired from the sleep product industry and have been willing to share what they know.

CONFUSION FACTOR. It is impossible to compare by make and model from one store to another. No wonder mattress retailers are so quick to promise that if you can find the same mattress at a lower price they’ll give it to you for free. They know that will never happen because no other store carries that exact mattress.

photo credit:

photo credit:

SHOP BY LEVEL. Each mattress manufacturer makes “levels” of mattresses for the stores that sell their brand: Very cheap, decent cheap, good and best. That’s not what they call them, but you can tell by the pricing within each manufacturer’s line of products.

PRICE MATTERS. A very cheap mattress is about 10 percent materials (foam, steel, padding) and 90 percent air. A mid-level mattress is about 40 percent materials and so on. The more material, the better the product and the higher the price. A high-quality mattress will be 90 percent materials which means it will be the heaviest of those you try to lift. Go ahead, lift the corner of a mattress. If it’s light as a feather you can be sure it is a very cheap, low quality mattress.

WEIGHT MATTERS. The heavier the person(s) who will be sleeping on the mattress, the heavier you want the mattress to be. You spend 30 percent of your life on your mattress. It makes a lot of sense to spend twice the price of a cheap mattress to have it last four times as long.

NO PILLOW TOP. A pillow top mattress is a normal mattress with a layer of extra padding on top. The pillow top will wear out and flatten down long before the actual mattress begins to show a dent. But it is attached permanently. You’ll pay at least $150 more for a pillow top (double that if it has a pillow top on both sides). Buy a great mattress pad instead. Then throw it away when it mashes down and buy a new one. Using this technique, you will have a mattress that lasts many years longer.

TAKE A NAP. Once you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three, get comfortable for at least 15 minutes on each of the beds you are considering. Do not be shy about taking a short nap on the beds you are considering. Do not make a decision based on the way it looks or by sitting on it for 30 seconds.

NEGOTIATE. At the very least you should get free delivery and removal of your old mattress as part of the deal you make in a mattress or department store. And at the most? You could get a price reduction, a mattress cover, sheets and pillows too.

Remember the first rule of negotiating: Always ask for more than you’re willing to accept. That way when your opponent comes back and agrees to only some of your counter offer, both of you have the opportunity to come out winners.

Question: How old is the mattress you sleep on every night? 

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23 replies
  1. Dan
    Dan says:

    My wife and I were looking over choices at one of the stores, and as I recall, they happened to have a few mattress floor models labeled with pretty low prices. We ended up spending within our budget and getting a heavy mattress (yeah!) that was originally 2-3 times as much. It has been very comfortable for about 5 years so far.

  2. Jean
    Jean says:

    The BEST money that we have EVER spent was on our Sleep Number bed. We have had it for at least 10 years. We each have our side set to what we like. I no longer wake up with back pain. We have never regretted spending a bit more for this bed! We won’t have to replace it like a regular mattress.. LOVE it!!!!

    • kaetra
      kaetra says:

      I’m giving serious consideration to getting a Sleep Number bed to replace my 18 year old Sealy Posturepedic (which is finally needing replaced after all this time). I didn’t realize the Sleep Numbers had been around for 10 years already.

      • Jean
        Jean says:

        Sleep Numbers have been around even longer than the 10 years.They also have a trial period.(From their website: “If you are not completely satisfied after a full 100 nights sleeping on your bed, simply call us toll-free within 100 days of delivery to authorize its return. Upon receipt, we’ll reimburse the full purchase price less your shipping or Home Delivery and Setup fees. You pay return shipping. ” When we purchased ours, it was just 30 days. It definitely gives you time to play around with the settings to figure out what is best for you. We both thought that ours would be set at the firmest, as we had always had a very firm mattress. However, we found that our perfect setting is much lower, as it conforms to each of us. I recommend it all the time.

  3. Ann
    Ann says:

    We purchased a natural rubber mattress and slat bed from Lifekind about 15 years ago. It’s still like new. It doesn’t need to be flipped, it doesn’t get saggy, it repels dustmites. It wasn’t cheap, but when you don’t have to purchase another mattress for decades, it’s well worth the up front cost. Plus, it’s one of the most comfortable mattresses I’ve ever slept on. We use a removable pillow top from the same company. It can easily be flipped and aired out, if needed. Ten years in, it doesn’t have indentations or any other problems. Also, the mattress absorbs movement like the temperpedic kind, so your partner’s tossing and turning won’t shake the whole bed. I highly recommend Lifekind mattresses.

  4. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    We were in the market for a new mattress last year. I really liked going to to compare brands/materials and we made our decision on buying a memory foam mattress from Costco (their return policy is fanastic!), and we are still loving our mattress (spent $450). It doesn’t shake so much so when I go to bed late at night, I don’t wake up my husband.

    • debra
      debra says:

      I just read in Consumer Reports that Costco’s Foam Mattress is the best one to buy! I sent for CR 2014 products which are best buys. We also need a new mattress but I am waiting to see what Consumer Reports says. Hope this helps!

      • Sebastian Singh
        Sebastian Singh says:

        You can going to to compare sleep number bed and tempurpedic bed.

  5. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    It pays to buy the best mattress and the best shoes one can afford…and then some. We spend 2/3 of our life in shoes and 1/3 on a mattress…spend the money! We bought a Stearns and Foster, with a pillow top, and I regret the pillow top. I didn’t want it but husband did so it’s what we bought. I flip my mattress twice a year and it’s a bear to flip…king size and weighs a ton but it helps keep the mattress in great shape. I need to buy a double mattress/box springs for a guest bed and am going for inexpensive as it’ll only be used a few times each year. That’s where I’m saving money.

  6. Patricia Stroup
    Patricia Stroup says:

    We bought 3 new mattresses within 6 years…two sets were very expensive…pillow top…had indentations within a couple of years…hated. it. We then got on sale at a very good store a top of the line matress that was on box springs that raised the head and feet of the mattress by control. That mattress lasted about 2 years…we then bought the cheapest one we could find and decided we’d throw it away after a year and just replace our mattresses every year or so. Then a very good friend recommended a Temperpedic…We’ve had that mattress for 6 years and it is just like we bought it yesterday. It was about the same price of the first pillowtop mattress we bought….I recommend Temperpedic…Our bed is kingsize.

    The best reason for getting the boxsprings that allows you to raise the head and feet.of the makes changing the sheets the easiest chore I have. I raise the head and feet…the fitted sheet comes right off….I replace the bottom sheet with a clean one. Lower the head. Put on the bottom sheet, lower the feet section…and voila . The sheets are changed. No pulling to get the fitted sheet on….For people over 50…this is the only way to go…

  7. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Ours is perhaps 5 years old. It’s a solid latex mattress and we paid around $1000. We got the low profile box spring because our 4-poster bed is so tall. We’ll use it for another couple of years and then leave it behind when we move across the country. We like it a lot but it is squeaky when either of us moves.

  8. flowerfriend
    flowerfriend says:

    We spent over $2000 on one that we thought was top of the line and a reputable brand. After a year, it started to sag in the middle and made a hump when we sleep. It has been over 3 years and they refuse to honor the warrenty! They said that that hump needs to be at least 1.5″ without laying on the bed. Right now it is about 1″ according to their standards. We are uncomfortable, cranky every morning, and have to live with it and we don’t have money to spend on a new mattress. Plus it is not that old. Just be careful of this!

    • quiltmaker49
      quiltmaker49 says:

      I had EXACTLY the same experience only mine started sagging in less than a year. Both the retailer and the manufacturer refuse to honor the warranty. They say my sag is only 1 1/4″. I wake up with a backache every morning. Like you, I can’t afford to replace it because of what I paid for it. For the record, it’s a Sealy Posturepedic and I purchased it at Ashley Furniture.

  9. macy
    macy says:

    Where I live, there is a non-profit group called “Industries for the Blind”. They have the best value – price and quality for goo quality mattresses than anywhere else in the area including Costco or Sams. This group provides mattresses to all of the state universities, prisons, etc. They offer firm and extra firm AND your money goes to a great cause. I bought my mattress and box springs about 7 yrs ago and they are still like new. I paid 400.00 total for a set – ex-firm.

  10. Christy
    Christy says:

    My queen mattress is 15 years old and I paid only $300.00 for it brand new 15 years ago at a very well known mattress store. I bought what I could afford at the time and got what I paid for. It hasn’t held up well and is long overdue to be replaced. I bought a nice down alternative topper for it from JCPenney’s and it is liveable until I can save up the money to pay cash for a
    high-quality mattress.

  11. DRC
    DRC says:

    You forgot to mention that a lot of mattress manufactures will use used mattress materials to make their new mattresses with. I knew a man who sold mattresses to stores. He told me that they reuse a lot of the box spring and other parts etc. So people end up buying a used mattress with new components. Someone looking to purchase a mattress should inquire if ALL parts are brand new. Who wants to fork out a lot of money for used materials? Lots of the name brands do this and it is very common.

    • Celia
      Celia says:

      I work for a mattress manufacturer. On occasion a bedding inspector will come in unannounced. If we had used products in our factory, they can shut us down or at the very least we would receive major fines. Yes, there are some manufacturers that are making mattresses with used products but they are taking a huge risk. It is against the law to sell a mattress with used products. I am proud to say we do not manufacture mattresses with used products.

  12. April
    April says:

    Our mattress was my husbands parents and I know that he has had it since he moved out 13 years ago! I assume they had it for at least 10 before that. It was in decent shape until it went through the potty training and illnesses of 3 kids. We also adopted a puppy last year who chewed a large hole in one side so we are unable to flip it over any longer. Needless to say we are in the process of trying to find an affordable quality mattress. Preferably a King this time (our current one is a queen and our family has outgrown it!) Thank you for this post. I found a king for $400 online that we were considering but after your post I guess we should try to save up a bit more for one of the mid level mattresses.


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