Tuck Mattress Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Mattress

Last updated on

Consumers are increasingly relying on online resources to find information about mattresses, from online review sites to industry resources such as Tuck. Given that you’re reading this right now, you are part of this growing trend!

A word of caution: Many online review sites are run by affiliates (i.e. the site owners receive a commission for every sale they refer from the mattress brands they recommend). Conversely, our goal at Tuck is to provide comprehensive – and unbiased – information on mattresses, sleep health, and more. Our mattress reviews are based on data from 95,000 verified customer experiences and over 800 sources, and we don’t receive an affiliate commission/payouts from any of these brands.

These trends in the mattress industry have led to a more educated marketplace that’s not afraid to replace their mattress as soon as it stops being supportive, rather than waiting until the oft-quoted warranty milestones of 10 or 15 years.

According to a 2016 study by the Better Sleep Council, consumers are now replacing mattresses every 8.9 years, a significant drop from 10.3 years cited a decade ago. This number is much closer to the Better Sleep Council’s recommendation that you replace a mattress every 5 to 7 years.

Younger consumers buy new mattresses even more frequently, whether that’s due to life changes such as graduation or marriage, a higher expectation that consumer products have a regular replacement cycle similar to smartphones, or more awareness thanks to the mattress industry’s foray into social media. Online direct-to-consumer companies have also driven these higher mattress replacement cycles through their aggressive marketing tactics, such as retargeting ads, podcast sponsorships, and direct mail advertisements.

Fortunately for consumers, these trends all contribute to the higher likelihood of making a good investment and purchasing the “right” mattress, whatever that looks like for you. There’s more information, more competition, and more options than ever. In this guide, we’ll help you wade through it all so you can focus on what matters. We’ll answer your questions about when it’s time to replace your mattress, what types of mattresses and retailers are out there, and how to see through the myths and find a mattress worth its value.

When Is It Time to Replace a Mattress?

Perhaps the most important question to answer before you purchase a new mattress is: when is it time to replace your old one?

Ideally, you replace your mattress when it stops providing adequate support, but how do you know when that is?

Take a look at your mattress. Do you recognize any of these tell-tale signs that it’s time to replace your mattress?

1. It’s older than 7 years.

The general rule of thumb is that you should replace your mattress every 8 or 9 years. This number will vary based on your own body type and how often you use the mattress. Different mattress types last longer or shorter than others. For example, if you have a latex mattress, you can expect it to last longer than an innerspring mattress.

If it’s been so long you can’t even remember when you bought your mattress, that’s definitely a sign it may be time to replace it.

2. You wake up with aches and pains, or toss and turn during the night.

If you’re waking up with sore muscles or back pain, either your mattress has deteriorated over time, or it never provided the support or pressure point relief your body needs.

Everyone moves around while they’re sleeping, but if you notice you’re doing this so often to the point that you’re waking up in the middle of the night and it’s impacting your sleep, that’s a sign your mattress has lost support. You might be roused by a squeaky box spring, the discomfort of rolling into a valley in the middle of the bed, or a mattress that’s become too soft.

3. Your mattress shows physical signs of deterioration, such as sagging, body impressions, or stains.

If you’re clearly seeing signs of age with your mattress, it’s time to replace it.

One of the most common reasons people choose to replace their mattress is because it’s started to sag in the middle. When this happens, your body naturally rolls into the sunken-in portion of the mattress. Unfortunately, this section provides the least support, so you’ll wake up often or with aches and pains. If you share a bed with a partner, sagging creates the additional issue of the two of you falling together into the valley. Sagging also leads to a hotter, less comfortable sleep because you’re surrounded by more of the mattress.

Sagging is more common with innerspring mattresses. Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, will develop body impressions over time. A good foam mattress should spring back once you’re out of the bed. If it’s keeping the impression when you’re not in the bed, this is a sign that the foams have aged and the mattress needs to be replaced.

4. Your body has changed.

If you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight since you purchased your last mattress, you may need a thicker or thinner mattress to get adequate support for your body type.

Similarly, if you’ve recently been diagnosed with sleep apnea, developed a medical condition, or underwent surgery or an accident, your doctor may advise you to get a different mattress type.

5. You want to upgrade to a better mattress.

Sometimes, you don’t have to replace your mattress; you just want to.

Whether you got a raise at work, are moving in with someone, or want to enjoy a more luxurious, restful sleep, you deserve it. Two-thirds of consumers agree that spending more for a higher-quality mattress is reasonable, considering how much time we spend in bed.

What Types of Mattresses Are Available?

There are several different mattress types you can choose from. Price ranges are based on averages for queen-size beds. For more details on individual mattress types, retailers, and pricing, check out our mattress comparison tool.

Innerspring Mattresses

Construction: Innerspring mattresses have a support core consisting of steel coils, topped by a 2-inch or thinner comfort layer made of polyfoam or memory foam.

Firmness: Varies from soft to very firm based on the coil system and density of coils.

Price: $800 to $1,200

Pros:

  • Superior edge support
  • Variety of firmness options
  • Coil support core makes them better suited for sex
  • Innerspring mattresses still make up the lion’s share of mattress purchases, thanks to their wide availability and history in the market.

Cons:

  • Prone to sagging after a handful of years
  • The coil core can create noise and motion transfer issues

Best for: Combination sleepers, or those looking for a traditional mattress style.

Hybrid Mattresses

Construction: Hybrid mattresses combine a pocketed coil support core found in innerspring mattresses with additional comfort layers of visco elastic, polyfoam, or latex on top. Whereas the comfort layers on innerspring mattress are typically 2 inches or less, hybrid mattresses have at least 3 inches of foam comfort layers on top. Hybrid mattresses may also refer to latex hybrid mattresses, which use organic latex or synthetic latex in either the support or comfort layers.

Firmness: Varies from soft to very firm depending on the density of the coil support core and the number and type of foam comfort layers on top.

Price: $600 to $4,000

Pros:

  • Similar support and contour ability to a memory foam mattress, without the tendency to trap heat
  • Comparable edge support to an innerspring mattress
  • Better motion isolation

Cons:

  • Prone to sagging, so they don’t last as long as a memory foam bed
  • Heavier and more difficult to move

Best for: Back and stomach sleepers, or those looking for the traditional bounciness of an innerspring with the contouring, enveloping feeling of a memory foam bed. 10% of people sleep on a hybrid mattress.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Construction: Memory foam mattress are made of visco elastic foam with a polyfoam support core.

Firmness: Memory foam mattresses come in a variety of firmness options.

Memory foamPounds per cubic footWhat you need to know
Low-density3 lbsLow-density foam takes the longest to warm up and soften. Less foam makes it a more affordable option, but also less durable, so you may need to replace the mattress sooner than later.
Medium-density4-5 lbsSoft, sinkable experience with added durability. Reasonable cost, although not quite as supportive long-term as high-density. Most popular option.
High-density6 lbs or moreThe most durable, supportive, and expensive option on the market. These provide the squishiest feel and respond quickest to body heat, allowing them to mold to your body and provide relief for back pain sufferers.

Price: $155 to $4,000

Pros:

  • Much longer lifespan than traditional innerspring mattresses.
  • Best motion isolation and conforming experience of any bed on the market.

Cons:

  • Retain heat
  • More difficult to move and have sex on.

Best for: Top-rated for all sleeping positions. Especially outstanding pressure point relief for side sleepers.

Latex Mattresses

Construction: Latex mattresses, also known as all-latex or natural latex mattresses, are constructed entirely of foam made of organic latex from rubber trees. They have a unique bounciness while still being able to contour to the body. Latex hybrid mattresses contain synthetic latex in addition to organic latex, and are covered in the above section for Hybrid Mattresses.

Firmness: Varies from soft to firm. Latex mattresses are made with either Dunlop latex (which has a firmer feel) or Talalay latex (which has a softer feel).

Price: $850 to $2,400

Pros:

  • Extremely dense and durable
  • Organic and very resistant to mold, dust mites, and bacteria
  • Customizable (e.g. foam layers can be switched out for ideal firmness)

Cons:

  • Generally the most expensive type of mattress
  • Less available in stores and typically need to be purchased online
  • Strong off-gassing smell that can last up to a month

Best for: side, back, or combination sleepers, anyone with allergies, or eco-minded consumers.

Airbeds

Construction: Airbeds use air for support. The air is contained in a vinyl or rubber foam chamber, topped by comfort layers of polyfoam or visco elastic foam.

Firmness: Airbed mattresses are manually adjusted for ideal firmness using an electric pump, a benefit unique to airbeds. However, these beds can sag to varying extents based on fluctuating factors, including your weight, sleeping position, room temperature, and mattress quality.

Price: $500 and $4,000

Pros:

  • Different components can be switched out and replaced when they break down, allowing for a longer lifespan
  • Light and easy to maneuver
  • Can come in “split” varieties, so couples can adjust their sides of the bed to their individual preferences

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Parts are prone to break down
  • Replacement costs can add up over the years

Best for: couples with different firmness needs, or sleepers who want to be able to adjust the bed’s firmness.

Waterbeds

Construction: Waterbeds use water as the primary means of support, and come in hard- and soft-sided varieties. The hard-sided version holds the water chamber inside a wood frame, while the soft-sided version holds the water within a foam frame.

Firmness: Similar to airbeds, firmness can be adjusted by adding or removing water to suit the sleeper’s needs.

Price: $50 to $1,800

Pros:

  • Allergy-resistant
  • Superior temperature regulation

Cons:

  • Extremely heavy when filled, so difficult to move and adjust

Best for: side sleepers, or for anyone seeking the unique feel of floating on water. Only about 3% of people sleep on a waterbed.

Mattress TypeAvg. Customer Satisfaction RatingPrice Range (Queen Size)HeightFirmnessWarranty
Innerspring68$159 – $49996 – 18 inches3 – 81 – 25 years
Hybrid71.5$312 – $75905 – 20 inches4 – 810 – 20 years
Foam73$150 – $37005 – 14 inches2 – 81- 25 years
Latex76$750 – $58426 – 15 inches3 – 810 – 25 years
Airbed79.5$700 – $35008 – 15 inchesVariable2 – 25 years

What Do I Really Need to Look for When Buying a New Mattress?

When you’re researching online or evaluating mattress at the store, you’re likely to see a fair amount of industry lingo. Let’s review some of these terms and how they may impact your purchasing decision.

Firmness

In the mattress industry, firmness refers to how the bed feels when you first lie down on it and whether there is any “give.” You will sink deeper into a soft mattress, and feel like you’re floating on top of a very firm mattress.

Conventional wisdom has been that a super-firm mattress is best for back pain, although science hasn’t found evidence for that. In reality, the ideal mattress firmness for you depends on your sleeping position, your weight, and additional physical factors or ailments such as back pain.

Review the chart below for your ideal firmness based on your sleeping position. A few notes:

  • The firmness numbers provided are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extra firm.
  • Adjust up or down a number based on whether you weigh more than 230 pounds or less than 130 pounds, respectively.
  • If you have chronic back pain, choose a mattress that’s soft to medium firm if you sleep on your side (3 to 6), medium to more firm if you sleep on your stomach (4 to 7), or medium firm if you sleep on your back (5 to 6).
Sleeping PositionFirmness
SideFirmness for side sleepers
BackFirmness for Back and Stomach
StomachFirmness for Back and Stomach
CombinationFirmness for side sleepers

Spine alignment while sleepingSupport

Support is often confused with firmness, although they’re two different things.

Support refers to how well the mattress keeps your spine in alignment throughout the night. When you sleep, it is of utmost importance that your spine, from your neck to your hips, is aligned. This allows your muscles to relax and recover from the day, so you can sleep peacefully and wake up well-rested without any aches or pains.

Temperature Regulation

Higher quality sleep is correlated with cooler temperatures, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Some mattresses, especially memory foam mattresses, tend to trap heat more than others since they’re enveloping your body.

If you tend to sleep hot already, you may want to keep this in mind as you select your next mattress.

Motion Isolation

Motion isolation describes how well the mattress absorbs, or isolates, the movement of persons or pets in the bed. Mattresses with excellent motion isolation, such as memory foam or hybrid mattresses, absorb movement so that the other sleepers in the bed won’t notice the other person moving about or getting in and out of bed.

If you sleep with another person or pet(s), motion isolation may be an important factor for you.

Edge Support

If you’ve ever been sleeping and felt less comfortable the closer you slept to the edge, or literally rolled off the bed, you’ve slept on a mattress with poor edge support.

Mattresses provide edge support through a variety of means, including foam encasement, steel rod, or lower gauge coils around the edge of the bed. Mattress that use foam or coils for edge support provide a more consistent sleep surface across the bed, so you don’t a notice a distinct change in feel the way you might with steel rods. Innerspring and hybrid mattresses provide better edge support than memory foam mattresses.

If you sleep with another person, or sit on the edge of your bed often, you’ll want to get a mattress with good edge support.

Mattress Myths

There are several myths about mattresses out there – don’t be fooled! Below we debunk eight of the most common ones.

1. Coil count matters.

This one is tricky. Just because a mattress has more coils doesn’t necessarily mean it’s higher quality, since the coils could be thinner. What ultimately matters is if the bed is providing adequate support for you – not how many coils it contains.

2. Gel foam sleeps much cooler than regular memory foam.

Gel is often marketed as a “cooling factor” in both mattresses and pillows. In multiple tests, Consumer Reports has found that gel does not in fact correlate with a cooler sleep experience.

3. Special lumbar support helps alleviate back pain.

This is another common marketing ploy. There’s no evidence to back up this claim. Instead, consult with your doctor about the best mattress for your back pain.

4. Size (height) matters.

Similar to coil count, marketers and salespeople often point out the thickness of a mattress in an attempt to convince the purchaser that bigger always means better. This is an especially common tactic at brick-and-mortar mattress retailers.

Most mattresses come in a size that’s between 6 to 15 inches. A mattress that’s 8 to 10 inches thick should suit most people of average weight just fine. If you’re heavier, you’ll want to treat 10 inches as a minimum, and if you’re thinner, you can go with a shorter mattress (it may be cheaper, too).

5. You need a box spring to go along with that new mattress.

If you already have a box spring that’s in good shape, you don’t need to get a new one, unless you’re switching from an innerspring to a memory foam or airbed (or vice versa). If you don’t care about the height of your mattress, and your bed frame provides adequate support for the mattress to lie flat, you may not need one at all.

6. One size fits all.

While it’s true that the majority of consumers will be happy with your garden variety mattress that’s 10 inches high and medium firm, a mattress does cost a significant amount of money, so it’s important to educate yourself on what will really make the best mattress for you.

The best way to do that is by understanding the components of a mattress that will make it a supportive fit for you as an individual: What type of mattress is it? Are the materials high-quality and built to last? Did you buy it from a trusted seller with positive reviews?

7. Laying on a mattress for 5 minutes in a showroom is enough to test support and quality.

Actually, it can take up to 30 days for you to really know how a mattress will feel in the long run. This is why it’s important to buy a mattress with a minimum trial period of at least 30 days. After sleeping on the mattress overnight for a month, you’ll be able to accurately assess whether that mattress is a good fit for you. Give it some time to break in!

8. Comparison shopping is easy in stores.

A store with multiple mattress brands is really just that – an individual store with a selection of brands. Mattress are unique from many consumer products in that it is extremely common for major brands to rename models (and change pricing) based on very minor material changes. Two mattress could be nearly identical, but one has an extra quarter-inch of fabric, so they get different model names and pricing. This makes it more difficult for consumers to truly comparison shop and forces you to buy from a particular chain or store.

There are so many mattress brands out there, and increasing options available online, that the idea of comparison shopping in a brick-and-mortar store has long been a myth. With online retailers having comparable or better trial periods than in-store brands, there’s no need to limit yourself to shopping at a physical store. 

Buying a Mattress In Store vs. Online

Buying a mattress can be overwhelming. It’s a sizable monetary investment, and you’re committing to a purchase that will last you several years. Fortunately, mattress options abound online and in the retail world.

Buying a Mattress In Store

There are four main categories of brick-and-mortar stores that sell mattresses:

Mattress specialty storeMattress Specialty Stores: The inventory at these stores is dedicated to mattresses and mattress accessories. They range from local mom-and-pop shops to national chains like Mattress Firm. Mattress specialty stores typically have the most extensive collections, and because they focus on mattresses alone, their salespeople tend to be more knowledgeable. You’ll be able to negotiate on price with the larger chains, but not as much with the smaller shops, which will probably have a lower price tag to begin with.

Big Box Retailers: Stores like Costco fall in this category. Like their regular merchandise, these stores will offer the best deals and lowest prices on mattresses that are most in-line with the pricing you see online. However, they tend to have very few out on display and available for trying in-store, and they’re extremely unlikely to have a dedicated sales representative who can knowledgeably answer your questions.

Furniture Stores: National furniture store chains like Ashley Furniture HomeStore often have a mattress section in-store to make it convenient for you to purchase a mattress along with your new bedroom set. When bundled with other furniture purchases, you may be able to score a very good deal on a mattress, but you’ll likely have less to choose from than a mattress specialty store and the salespeople won’t be as knowledgeable.

Department Stores: Large department stores like JCPenney and Macy’s typically offer a large mattress collection in-store. However, they also tend to markup their prices the most, so see if you can get them to price-match or simply try the mattress there and purchase elsewhere. The salesperson is likely to be more knowledgeable than what you’d find in a big box retailer or furniture store, but not as much as someone at a mattress specialty store.

Pros of Purchasing a Mattress In Store:

Mattresses You Can Test In Person: The biggest advantage brick-and-mortar retailers offer over online stores is that you can try a mattress in-store. While the five minutes you spent lying on the mattress in the store is by no means representative of what it will feel like to sleep on the bed night after night, it does allow you to instantly tell whether certain bed types are not for you (maybe a latex bed is too springy, or a waterbed feels weird) and narrow your options significantly.

Helpful Salespeople: At a mattress store, you can get your questions answered in real time by a salesperson, although some are more helpful than others (mattress specialty stores and department stores typically have the most expert staff).

Price Negotiation: While department stores have high markup, they often offer a price-match guarantee, and you may be able to get your salesperson at a furniture store or mattress specialty store to lower the price or throw in some extras like pillows. Big box retailers will have the lowest pricing of all in-store options.

Cons of Purchasing a Mattress In Store:

While there are advantages to buying your mattress at a store, there are also significant disadvantages when compared to purchasing a mattress online. For example:

No Comparison Shopping: If you want to compare prices, you’ll have to physically drive to another store or make a phone call.

Unhelpful Salespeople: At worst, salespeople can be pushy and untrustworthy. At best, their knowledge varies from store to store and the person who happens to be helping you that day.

Difficult Returns: Returns are often pricey and more difficult than with online sellers. Plus, brick-and-mortar stores typically have shorter trial periods than online retailers (30 days vs. 100 days).

Lack of Transparency: Mattress retailers are less transparent than their online counterparts. It’s difficult to get detailed specs and information about the different components within each bed, and department stores are known for obscuring the “real” price of a bed.

Inability to Test Mattresses in Store: While most stores allow you to test or lie on a mattress while shopping, that’s not always the case. Big box retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club don’t allow this. Sometimes it can feel awkward to test a mattress in a store, especially on a busy day when there are a lot of other shoppers milling around.

Buying a Mattress Online

Mattress shopping online

Given the rise of online mattress brands such as Casper and Tuft and Needle, it’s no surprise that over a quarter of consumers now consider purchasing their mattress online.

Pros of Buying a Mattress Online:

Better Pricing: Online retailers are able to offer lower prices generally because they have fewer overhead expenses than retail stores. Plus, many of them offer free shipping to make the price comparable or better than what you’ll find in-store.

Convenience: You can shop from your home, your cell phone, or whenever and wherever. Comparison shopping is easy with search engines and the ability to quickly click between websites.

Longer Sleep Trials and Easy Returns: Many online mattress brands have trial periods with 100 day minimums, as opposed to the 30 days you’ll find in store. If you end up deciding the mattress isn’t right for you, many online sellers offer free returns and will come pick up the mattress from you.

Transparency: Online retailers clearly outline the specs of a mattress and often have dedicated sections on their websites to explain the construction of the mattress in detail.

Customer Service: Many stores offer customer service via live chat, phone, and/or email.

Cons of Buying a Mattress Online:

No Try Before You Buy: The main downfall of buying a mattress online is that you can’t test the mattress beforehand. However, these sellers make up for it with longer trial periods and free return policies, and some have showrooms. If you decide to purchase a mattress online, make sure you’re comfortable with the sleep trial, fully understand the ins and outs of the return policy, and are able to reach customer service.

Mattress Prices

Mattress pricing varies from store to store and depends on the type of mattress you buy.

Below we outline what you can expect to get for the following price ranges, using queen beds as an example:

$0-200: You’ll have a variety to choose from in this price range (foam, innerspring, hybrid), but the mattress will be lower-quality with a thickness of about 6 to 8 inches. These mattresses use cheaper materials and aren’t built to last as long, often designed for temporary or limited use. You’ll have an easier time finding a cheap mattress online than in-store.

$200-400: Mattresses in this price range will be of better quality, with heights in the recommended 8 to 10 range. However, they still use cheaper materials and have shorter lifespans. Warranties are also still quite short, with many lasting just for 1 year. You’ll have a better time finding these mattresses online.

$400-600: In this price range, you’ll still have a variety of foam, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses to choose from. They’ll use higher quality materials and offer standard warranties of 10+ years, but still be limited in firmness options.

$600-1000: At this price point, you’re in the ballpark for your average mattress. You can expect standard warranties up to 15-25 years, a range of firmness and height options, and wide availability both in stores and online. Foam, hybrid, and innerspring mattresses will be of higher quality, and you’ll start to see latex and airbeds at this price point, but they’ll be of lower quality than average mattresses of those types.

$1000-2000: These mattresses are a cut above your average foam, hybrid, and innerspring mattresses. You’ll see longer trial periods, more online-exclusive brands, and a larger variety available in-store and online. You can find affordable, but good quality, latex and airbed mattresses at this price range. Mattresses will often have minimum heights of 10 inches.

$2000-5000: These price tags indicate you’re looking at a high-end mattress. You’ll be able to find a high-quality mattress of any type, with varying firmness options, standard warranties, and heights starting at 10 inches. It’s important to note that the customer satisfaction is not normally higher for these mattresses than for mattresses in the previous price range (see chart below), although these offer more customization and higher-quality materials that may be important to some consumers.

$5000+: At this point, you are designing your dream mattress, perfectly suited for you and/or your sleeping partner. You can customize the firmness of each side of the bed, decide how many layers and which types of material you want to make up the bed, and get a custom height and width for your mattress.

Mattress CostAverage Customer Satisfaction Rating
$0 – $20065
$200 – $40069
$400 – $60070
$600 – $100072.5
$1000 – $200073.5
$2000 – $500070.5
$5000+Unavailable

Key Takeaways

The most important thing to look for in a mattress is that it supports your spinal alignment. Support will depend on firmness, your sleeping position, and mattress type.

Make sure you think the mattress is comfortable! Is it too firm, or not firm enough? How does it feel in-store, or after 30 days of use? This is subjective and up to you, so be sure to take up as much of the trial period as possible before making a decision to return.

Quality of construction and materials affect how long you can expect the mattress to last and be supportive. If you’re buying an innerspring mattress, pocketed coils are better than other options (bonnell, offset, and continuous).

You can find the most transparency and the best pricing online, whether you’re purchasing an online-exclusive brand or not.

Speaking of price, you should expect to spend at least $750 for a quality mattress that will last between 8-10 years, assuming you use it daily.

Unless you know exactly what you like, don’t limit yourself to purchasing only in-store. Remember that online retailers offer free shipping, much longer trial periods, and free returns.

If you purchase in store, don’t be afraid to negotiate and see if you can lower the price, get them to price-match another store or online seller, or throw in some additional items like pillows or a box spring.

Take a look at our comprehensive mattress information to narrow down your list and to find more information about the company and mattress lines you are interested in. We break down the pricing, consumer satisfaction ratings, mattress types, availability, and much more.

Reach out to the Tuck sleep community if you’d like specific recommendations, help or additional information and we’d be glad to assist you!

Popular Reads
Stages of Sleep and Sleep Cycles

Usually sleepers pass through five stages: 1, 2, 3, 4 ...

Parent’s Guide to Healthy Sleep

Every child needs good sleep for healthy development, growth, and ...

Mattress Reviews and Comparisons 2017 – Unbiased Sleep Product Database

The research team at Tuck has put together the most ...