This is What You Need to Know About Buying a Mattress

If you want to drive yourself nuts, go shopping for a new mattress. You’ll hear dozens of theories on coils, fabrics, stuffing, foam density and warranties.

What I know about buying a mattress I’ve learned from the best: Insiders now retired from the sleep product industry.


All of the major brands—Simmons, Serta, Sealy, etc., make decent mattresses but if you’re planning to go from one chain store to the next comparing prices, forget it. The major brands change the names of the same mattress for each of the stores so it is impossible to compare by make and model.


Each company makes “levels” of mattresses: Very cheap, decently 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. Expect several models in each price level.


You get what you pay for in a mattress. A very cheap mattress is about 10% materials (foam, steel, padding) and 90% air. A mid-level mattress is about 40% materials and so on. The more material, the better the product and the higher the price. A high-quality mattress will be up to 90% materials, and therefore the heaviest. You can lift a mattress to determine its quality.


The heavier the sleeper the heavier by weight you want the mattress to be. You will do just fine with a lightweight mattress in a guest room that is seldom used, or for your 50-pound child. But for heavy adults, opt for the heaviest mattress you can afford.


Once you’ve narrowed your selection to two or three, take a nap. Spend at least 15 minutes on each of the beds you are considering. Comfort is key here so don’t make a hasty decision.


Make sure there is at least a 30-day trial period. This is a deal-breaker and you should absolutely not purchase a bed without this guarantee, no matter what else they are offering. If it’s returnable during the trial period, keep shopping. Most beds require a few weeks of sleep to break-and discover how they will feel long-term. Don’t give up right away on a bed after a few bad nights. Your body has to adjust to the new bed.

What happens returned, used mattresses?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, federal law requires that any mattress containing used stuffing or other materials must bear a tag or label stating this information. If labeling and processing requirements are met, used mattresses can be resold. However, not all states require labels, and the state requirements for used mattresses tend to vary.

Some states allow recovered old mattresses to be sold when they have new ticking or fabric and after they have been sanitized or disinfected. In other states, only the springs can be reused. When purchasing a mattress, make certain that there is a visible tag or label, and read the content information carefully prior to purchase.


Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club carry a limited choice of name-brand mattress sets in all sizes. Typically they’re top of the line at cut-rate prices. But you won’t have a salesman to consult (perhaps that’s a good thing), you won’t be able to take a nap, either. However, I can say from personal experience both Costco and Sam’s make wise choices and they have generous return/refund policies. Trust them and you’ll knock $100s from the cost of your mattress.


There’s a new trend toward low-priced, high-comfort mattresses that you order online and show up on the doorstep rolled up in a box that is lightweight enough to easily maneuver up a narrow staircase. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it is the new wave. Thousands and thousands of very happy customers can’t all be wrong.

Companies like Tuft & Needle, Leesa and Casper are getting thousands of rave reviews. All three of these companies have a 100-night guarantee with a free return for full refund, no questions asked. Given the customer feedback plus amazingly low prices, I think it’s worth considering a mattress you can’t test in a store—but only if you have nothing to lose for trying and you will carry through with a no-hassle return if it’s just not right for you.

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7 replies
  1. x_ray_tech
    x_ray_tech says:

    What do they do with all those “returned” “used” mattresses!! How do we know we are not purchasing (at full price) a mattress that has been used, maybe by many previous buyers, for 3 months by each one of them and by who knows who/what weight and hygiene types?! If you tell me they are returned to the store and somehow disinfected or sanitized before reselling them, how is that claim monitored/held accountable?

  2. Emily Booth
    Emily Booth says:

    I purchased my current mattress, a high end Sealy, from Sears 7 years ago according to an article on mattresses by Consumer Union Report. This article went into detail about how mattresses were made, the number of coils to look for, etc. etc. Consumer Union Reports no longer provides this kind of detailed information. With my info in hand, I called a major nationwide department store. The salesman refused to answer my questions over the phone. I next called Sears. Voila! All questions answered. I went in person to the store to try out the mattress. I have been very happy with my purchase.

  3. Bookworm
    Bookworm says:

    We’ve had our Sleep Number for 13 years, and it’s still as good as new. Since my husband prefers a hard mattress and I have to have a soft one, it’s perfect for us. Before we bought it, we tried a soft mattress and a hard one, and one of us didn’t get much sleep during that period!

  4. D.L.
    D.L. says:

    We LOVE LOVE our mattress. We’ve had it 2 years. It’s a split king Sleep Science Ara 13″ memory foam from Costco. I was a bit apprehensive buying a mattress sight unseen, online. But Costco has a wonderful return policy. The 1st mattress we bought, started to sag (a different brand that they don’t even sell anymore). Costco came back and got, no questions asked. This one is $2499! Set and delivery free. Raises and has massage!!! It is AWESOME. I can not say how much I love a good nights sleep with no aches and pains in the morning.

  5. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    We have had our Tuft & Needle Queen size mattress for about 2 or 3 years now. It is still like new and we use it every night. We are not light people 160 lbs and 200 lbs and there are no dips or lumps in it at all. The cover has stayed white and nice. We bought the 10 inch deep model and we love it. It is so soft to the feel yet firm. I am planning to buy another one of these for my guest room. We had a Sleep Number bed which was over priced at 3.5 times more than what we paid for the Tuft & Needle. It was mostly constructed of dark gray foam the got some dark spots that looked like mold. It kind of scared us when we were taking it apart to get rid of it. The bottom frame (box spring replacement) was all molded plastic that did not stay together that well and it creeked. After about 10 years the pump did not keep one of the baffles inflated. I am not sure how they are constructed now but I will never again pay that price for a mattress that is not useable after it gets to 8 or 10 years.

  6. Pam Ruprecht
    Pam Ruprecht says:

    What is your opinion on Sleep Number beds? We bit the bullet for one & do love ours. Also your opinion on ads now promoting to by a new mattress every 8 years….


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