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.

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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
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  1. 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.

  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. 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.

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