Buying Guide – How to Shop for a High-Value Mattress
Buying a new mattress represents a significant financial investment for most shoppers. Mattresses sold today are typically priced between $800 and $1,500, but some models may cost up to $4,000 or more. However, many high-quality mattresses are available at much lower price-points.
This page will look at available mattresses that are a bang for your buck — high-quality materials and top-rated performance at a relatively low price-point. To compile our lists, we relied on product knowledge, brand reputation, and customer ratings generated from thousands of authentic mattress reviews. We’ve broken up our models into three price range categories:
- $500 or less
- $501 to $1,000
- $1,001 to $2,000
Furthermore, each price range is divided into mattresses that are primarily sold online, and those that are primarily sold in brick-and-mortar stores.
Below you will find detailed descriptions of all mattress models we have selected for these price ranges. But first, let’s discuss some considerations shoppers should make when searching for low-priced mattresses, as well as expected costs for different mattress types.
Important Factors for Choosing an Affordable Mattress
Finding a mattress that suits your sleep needs and preferences requires a great deal of product research, as there are many factors to consider in addition to price.
First, let’s look at mattress construction and performance factors that can help inform your mattress-buying decisions.
Firmness: Firmness refers to how soft or firm the materials in the topmost comfort layer feel beneath a sleeper’s body. There is no ‘correct’ firmness rating. Some sleepers prefer the more rigid surface of medium-firm or firm mattresses, while others feel most comfortable on a mattress rated as soft, medium-soft, or medium.
Knowing your preferred firmness level is key to finding the right mattress model, and we recommend testing out several different options. Some mattress models are available in multiple firmness ratings to accommodate shoppers with different options. Additionally, a handful of manufacturers offer ‘dual-firmness’ mattresses for couples with differing firmness preferences.
Support/Less Pain: Naturally, the supportiveness of a mattress is directly tied to its support core, or the components located beneath the comfort layer. The most supportive mattresses maintain a level surface that helps keep the sleeper’s spine straight. Mattresses that sag in the middle offer the least support, and can cause undue amounts of back, neck, and shoulder pain.
Conforming/Pressure Relief: Mattresses made of materials like memory foam and latex are designed to form cradle-shaped impressions around sleeper’s bodies. This contoured feel can alleviate pressure points along the spine, particularly in side-sleepers.
Other mattress types, such as innersprings, do not conform as closely, and may not provide the same level of pressure relief. If you tend to experience pressure, then a close-conforming mattress may your best option.
Durability: The average mattress will perform for up to seven years before it needs to be replaced. Some mattress types, such as innersprings and memory foam models, are associated with shorter lifespans, and tend to develop sagging and indentations in the sleep surface after a few years of use.
Other mattress types, like latex and airbed models, can perform for eight years or longer if properly maintained. Company history also plays a role in estimating the lifespan of a mattress; some models are touted for longevity, but since their manufacturer has only been in business for a couple of years, it’s impossible to know just how long they will actually perform.
Edge Support: Innersprings and hybrids are often reinforced with high-density polyfoam around the perimeter of the support core. This helps prevent sinkage at the edges of the mattress where people tend to sit or get out of/into bed. Mattresses made from foam or latex are rarely reinforced, and tend to offer little to no edge support.
Motion Isolation: Mattresses made of foam or latex often absorb movement and isolate it to confined areas of the sleep surface. This can cut down on nighttime disruptions whenever someone gets out of bed or shifts positions, and may be beneficial for couples who sleep together.
Innersprings and hybrids, by comparison, absorb and isolate motion to a much lesser extent.
Temperature Neutrality: Some mattress materials — most notable memory foam — can be ‘heat traps’, absorbing high levels of body heat from sleepers and causing them to feel uncomfortably warm during the night.
Other mattress types, such as innersprings, usually sleep much cooler. If you tend to sleep hot or warm, then temperature neutrality should be a key consideration.
Responsiveness/Sex: Mattresses with responsive surfaces, including innersprings and some hybrids, tend to be bouncier and, as a result, better for sex. Memory foam and latex mattresses respond much more slowly. This can cause a sinking sensation during sex that some couples liken to ‘fighting the mattress’.
Noise: Innersprings and hybrids tend to be fairly noisy due to their metal parts, and airbeds with electric components may produce noise as well. Memory foam and latex mattresses, on the other hand, are virtually silent when bearing weight.
Additionally, here are two individual body type and sleep preference factors that can help you determine which mattress is best for you:
Sleep Position: People who sleep on their back tend to be the most flexible when it comes to mattress selection. This position naturally aligns the spine and distributes weight equally. Other positions require more scrutiny. Side-sleeping, for instance, is not conducive to spinal alignment. As a result, side-sleepers require mattresses that offer enhanced support for the neck, shoulders, back, and hips. Otherwise, they tend to develop pressure points.
Stomach-sleepers, on the other hand, tend to sink more deeply into their mattress. These sleepers require a mattress that is firm enough to keep their spine aligned, but also soft enough to provide a comfortable cushion for their chest and stomach.
Body Weight: People who weigh between 130 and 230 pounds are considered to have an average weight. Those with average and below-average weights tend to feel most comfortable on mattresses rated between soft and medium. Anything firmer may not offer enough conforming and pressure relief.
People with above-average weights may feel more comfortable on mattresses rated medium-firm or higher. Soft sleep surfaces may not provide enough support for their heavier frames, and this can lead to added pain and pressure.
Mattress Types and Costs
The price-point of a mattress is usually — but not always — linked to the mattress type. Generally speaking, innersprings and foam/memory foam models tend to be much cheaper than latex, hybrid, or airbed options. This section features a breakdown of pricing factors for each of these different mattress types.
Innersprings are the most widely sold mattresses today, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all industry sales. They get their name from the steel springs used in their support cores.
Comfort layer: Most innersprings have one to two layers of polyfoam in the comfort layer. Some may also feature memory foam or latex, but any mattress with more than two inches of these materials is technically considered a hybrid.
Support core: The support core will be constructed with a layer of steel springs evenly spaced to distribute sleeper weight, and often a base polyfoam layer as well. These coils are measured using gauge, or thickness; the lower (or thicker) the gauge, the longer the overall lifespan. Four types of coils are used in today’s innersprings:
- Bonnell coils are hourglass-shaped. The gauge is variable; some are high, or thin, while others are low, or thick.
- Offset coils are also hourglass-shaped, but at least one end is hinged for enhanced weight support. Offset coils tend to be lower-gauge.
- Continuous wire coils are arranged in straight lines. They tend to be medium- or high-gauge.
- Pocketed coils are spiral-shaped and encased in fabric. These coils are typically found in hybrids, and tend to be high-gauge.
Price factors: Coil type tends to play a role in innerspring pricing; bonnell and continuous wire coils are usually found in cheaper models, while offset and pocketed coils tend to be found in pricier models. Coil gauge can also play a role, since lower-gauge coils often last longer than higher-gauge ones.
Coil count may also be used to justify higher prices, but there is little correlation between high coil counts and high customer satisfaction (or the inverse, low coil counts and low satisfaction ratings).
Average price: The average queen-size innerspring costs between $900 and $1,100.
Memory foam mattresses have become a popular mattress choice in recent years. Also known as viscoelastic polyfoam, memory foam conforms closely to sleeper’s bodies for enhanced spinal alignment and pressure relief. Over time sleepers form semi-permanent impressions in the sleep surface for a contoured fit, hence the name ‘memory’ foam.
Comfort layer: The comfort layer must include one layer of standard or specialty memory foam. Specialty memory foam includes gel memory foam, plant-based memory foam, and copper-infused memory foam. Polyfoam layers may be present in the comfort system, as well.
Support core: In most cases, the support core will be constructed from high-density polyfoam. This material is used to properly support the sleeper’s weight, as memory foam is not as supportive and would sink too deeply on its own.
Pricing factors: Foam density can be a cost factor. This refers to how much weight the mattress can support, and is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). Memory foam density falls into three categories:
- Low-density memory foam measures 3.9 PCF or lower. It retains its original shape quickly and does not offer as much motion isolation or pressure relief. As a result, it is normally found in less expensive mattresses.
- Medium-density memory foam measures 4 PCF to 5.9 PCF. It retains it shape somewhat slowly, and provides moderate motion isolation and pressure relief.
- High-density memory foam retains measures 6 PCF and higher. It retains its shape quite slowly, but conforms closely for targeted pressure relief and excellent motion isolation. High-density foam is often found in expensive mattress models.
Average price: The average queen-size memory foam mattress costs between $900 and $1,200.
Latex is a natural substance extracted from the rubber tree. Some mattresses primarily feature natural latex, while others feature high concentrations of synthetic latex, which is made from petrochemicals. The latex used in mattresses conforms closely for targeted pressure relief, making it comparable to memory foam. Latex mattresses are among the most durable mattresses sold today, with an average lifespan of eight years.
Comfort layer: A mattress must have at least two inches of latex to qualify as a true latex mattress. These models may also have polyfoam layers, but many only have latex in the comfort system. The latex used in mattresses is made via two different processes:
- The Dunlop process requires the latex to be stirred, molded, and stem-baked. The material tends to be heterogeneous, with sediment gathering at the bottom and a lighter, frothier material rising to the top. As a result, it can be somewhat bottom-heavy.
- The Talalay process requires the latex to be vacuum-sealed, frozen, and baked. It is softer, lighter, and more homogenous than Dunlop latex.
Support core: The support core of a latex mattress may be made of latex, as well. In most cases, it will be Dunlop latex, which tends to be more supportive than Talalay latex. If the support core is not made of latex, then it is usually made of high-density polyfoam.
Pricing factors: Generally speaking, Talalay latex is more expensive than Dunlop latex. In addition, latex mattresses fall into one of three types based on how much natural/synthetic latex is used:
- Natural latex features at least 95% natural latex, but chemicals are needed to create the latex foam.
- Blended latex features at least 30% natural latex.
- Synthetic latex features 100% manmade latex with no natural components.
Average price: The average latex mattress costs between $1,600 and $2,000.
The term ‘hybrid‘ refers to mattresses with at least two layers of latex and/or memory foam in the comfort system and a coil-based support core, which is usually pocketed coils. Many sleepers feel that hybrids represent the ‘best of both worlds’ between innersprings and foam or latex models.
Comfort layer: As stated above, the comfort system must have at least two inches of latex and/or memory foam. Polyfoam layers may also be present, as well as microcoils.
Support core: Nearly all true hybrids sold today have pocketed coil support cores. They may also feature base polyfoam layers.
Price factors: Hybrids with multiple memory foam and/or latex layers tend to be priced much higher than those that meet the bare minimum for the comfort layer requirement. Pillow top models have extra padding at the sleep surface, and this too can drive up the price-point. However, pillow tops are also associated with shorter lifespans and sleeping hot.
Average price: The average hybrid mattress costs between $1,600 and $2,000.
Airbeds are designed with individual air chambers in the support core. Most feature adjustable controls that owners can use to change the feel of their sleep surface; these controls may be manual, remote-controlled, and/or programmable using smart apps. Airbeds are fairly rare and tend to be expensive, but they can last for eight years or longer if properly maintained.
Comfort layer: The comfort layer of an airbed is usually constructed with at least one layer of polyfoam, although some high-end options feature memory foam or latex.
Support core: Airbeds sold today have at least two air chambers, but some may have up to six or more.
Pricing factors: A general rule-of-thumb: the better the technology, the more expensive the airbed. Models with remote or smart-app controls tend to be the priciest, whereas those with manual controls may be cheaper.
The number of air chambers can also affect the price, since a higher number of individual chambers usually means the comfort is more isolated to different areas of the sleeper’s body.
Average price: The average airbed costs between $2,000 and $2,400.