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Mattress Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Bed

Finding a new mattress can be a confusing, frustrating process. Choosing a mattress based on material composition, price, and other factors requires extensive product research — no easy task, considering hundreds of brands and retailers offer new mattresses online and in brick-and-mortar stores.

This guide will explore the following:

  • Signs it may be time to replace your mattress
  • Similarities and differences between memory foam, latex, innerspring, hybrid, and airbed mattresses
  • Key performance and purchasing factors to consider
  • Potential places to find a new, high-quality mattress
  • Common myths about mattress buying and performance
  • A final checklist for mattress shoppers

When Should You Replace Your Mattress?

You should consider buying a new mattress if:

  • The mattress is older than seven years
  • You toss and turn or wake up with aches and pains
  • The mattress has significant sagging or deep indentations
  • Your body has changed since you bought the mattress
  • You want an upgrade

A lot of factors affect the lifespan of a mattress. Some mattress types, such as latex and airbed mattresses, are more durable than others and less susceptible to wear and tear. Sleep habits are another consideration, as a mattress that is used night after night will deteriorate quicker than one that is used less frequently. However, the general rule of thumb is that you should replace your mattress every seven years — regardless of how long the bed is covered under warranty.

Some mattresses provide better overall support than others, regardless of their age. If you wake up in pain or begin to develop pressure points that didn’t previously bother you, then you should consider replacing your current mattress — even if it is fairly new.

All mattresses are prone to sagging in the sleep surface after enough use. Indentations may also develop in places where sleeper’s have higher concentrations of weight. Excessive sagging and deep indentations both undermine mattress support, and can cause discomfort for sleepers.

Excessive weight gain or loss can change how your mattress feels, since factors like preferred firmness and support often depend on body weight. Medical diagnoses are another point to consider, especially for sleep disorders that affect certain individuals more disproportionately. For example, sleep apnea primarily affects back sleepers (since they are more prone to snoring); a mattress designed for back sleepers may no longer be suitable if the owner has been diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Whether you want to replace the mattress you’ve used since college or a more expensive bed seems more suitable than your current model — sometimes it’s good to upgrade your mattress even if it’s not needed. Not surprisingly, roughly two-thirds of mattress owners report higher satisfaction rates after replacing their old mattress with a more expensive model.

How to Choose a New Mattress

When it comes to choosing a new mattress, there are two types of things you must consider: (1) what type of sleeper you are, and (2) the basic qualities of mattresses available on the market. By considering your unique sleeping qualities within the context of what types mattresses are available, you’ll be able to narrow your options significantly.

Please note that although we’ve found that certain mattress types tend work better with certain types of sleepers, mattress preference is ultimately subjective. Consequently, we recommend going to a local store and trying different mattress types before purchasing online.

What type of sleeper are you?

Sleeping Position

Everyone has their favorite position to sleep in. Different positions have different support requirements, so your ideal mattress will depend on whether you are a side, back, stomach, or combination sleeper.

In general, stomach and back sleepers prefer firmer, less conforming mattresses while softer or conforming mattresses are perfect for supporting side sleepers.

Weight

Heavier sleepers tend to sleep hotter (see below) and experience more sinkage on soft mattresses than their lighter peers. Most lighter sleepers tend to choose softer mattresses while heavier sleepers prefer firmer options. Supportive, less-conforming mattresses like innerspring and hybrid choices are also popular among heavy sleepers.

If you have a different preference than what is suggested for your weight group, make sure your mattress provides adequate support. For example, a heavier side-sleeper might choose a latex or foam mattress to avoid problems with pressure points. This is perfectly fine so long as it provides support and is not too difficult to move on.

Do you sleep cool or hot?

Some mattresses sleep warmer than others. For example, soft, conforming mattresses allow less airflow around your body and trap more heat than firmer options. Mattress material can also retain heat, like foam mattresses with solid support cores.

If temperature regulation is an important factor for you, consider choosing a hybrid or innerspring mattress style. These allow for more air circulation and sleep considerably cooler.

Mattress Qualities to Consider

Material

Five material types make up the bulk of mattresses on the market. These include:

MATERIAL DESCRIPTION
Innerspring Steel coils support a comfort layer of polyfoam
Foam Either pure polyfoam or a combination of supportive polyfoam and memory foam
Latex Latex or high-density polyfoam support core with a natural or synthetic latex comfort layer
Hybrid 2+ inches of memory foam or latex for comfort and pocketed coils for support
Airbed Air chambers are inflated or deflated to reach the desired firmness

To learn more about these materials, see the What Types of Mattresses Are Available? section below.

Size

Most mattresses are available in six standard sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full/Double, Queen, King, and California King. Some models come in additional sizes (such as Full XL or Short Queen). They may also be available in ‘split’ Queen, King, or California sizes, which include two separate mattresses that can be pushed together or separated.

Mattress Size Dimensions Comfortably Fits
Twin 38” x 75” 1 person
Twin XL 38” x 80” 1 person
Full/Double 54” x 75” 1 person with a pet, 2 adults, no pets
Queen 60” x 80” 1 person with a pet, 2 adults, no pets
King 76” x 80” 1 adult with pet(s) or child(ren), 2 adults with a large pet or child
California King 72” x 84” 1 adult with multiple pets or children, 2 adults with multiple pets or children

Firmness

Mattress firmness preferences are often tied to two factors: sleep position and sleeper weight. Those who sleep on their side typically prefer softer mattresses, while back and stomach sleepers tend to feel most comfortable on ‘medium firm’ or firmer mattresses. In terms of weight, lighter individuals (less than 130 pounds) may require softer mattresses in order to experience more conforming and pressure relief; heavier individuals (more than 230 pounds), on the other hand, often need firmer mattresses to prevent excessive sinkage. For couples with contrasting firmness preferences, a dual-firmness mattress with different firmness settings on each side may be the most suitable option.

SCALE RATING FIRMNESS LEVEL CHARACTERISTICS
1 Extra Soft The sleep surface will sink very deeply and conform closely
2-3 Soft The sleep surface sinks and conforms to a significant extent
4 Medium Soft The surface sinks somewhat and conforms fairly closely
5 Medium The surface does not sink much and will conform to a noticeable extent
6 Medium Firm The surface sinks very little and conforms to a moderate extent
7-8 Firm The surface remains even with little to no sinking; conforming is minimal
9-10 Extra Firm No sinkage and little to no conforming
WEIGHT GROUP WEIGHT RANGE TYPICAL NEEDS AND PREFERENCES IDEAL FIRMNESS SETTINGS FOR MOST
Light Less than 130 lbs. This weight group tends to prefer softer mattresses that conform very closely ‘Soft’ (2-3)
‘Medium Soft (4)
‘Medium’ (5)
Average 130 to 230 lbs. This weight group often prefers beds that offer a balance of soft padding and firm support ‘Medium Soft’ (4)
‘Medium’ (5)
‘Medium Firm’ (6)
Heavy More than 230 lbs. This weight group usually prefers firmer beds with strong support and minimal conforming ‘Medium Firm’ (6)
‘Firm’ (7-8)
‘Extra Firm’ (9)

Thickness

Most mattresses measure at least 10 inches (10?) in height, though mattress thickness varies from less than five inches (5?) to more than 15 inches (15?). Your body weight may affect your preferred thickness. Lighter individuals may prefer shorter beds, whereas heavier people tend to feel more comfortable on thicker beds.

How Much Should You Spend on a New Mattress?

Mattress types vary significantly in terms of price-point. Generally speaking, foam and innerspring models have lower prices than latex, hybrid, and airbed models. However, this varies significantly by brand and model. The graph below lists the average price for different types of Queen-size  mattresses.

Mattress Performance Factors

When our research team reviews a mattress, we focus on nine performance factors. By using these to judge mattress quality, we are able to gain a well-rounded perspective on each mattress’s benefits and drawbacks.

Category Criteria
Category

Durability

Criteria

Durability refers to how long a mattress will continue to perform throughout prolonged use. The average mattress will perform without excessive deterioration for seven years before it should be replaced.

Category

Motion Isolation

Criteria

Movement in bed creates motion transfer that may be felt across the rest of the mattress; for couples, this can cause sleep disruptions whenever someone gets into or out of bed or shifts positions. Mattresses with softer, more adaptive comfort layers minimize motion transfer and isolate it to smaller areas of the sleep surface. This can reduce the risk of nighttime disruptions for sleep partners.

Category

Conforming

Criteria

Some mattresses conform closely to the sleeper’s body to help align the spine and prevent pressure points from developing, while others offer little to no conforming. How closely a mattress conforms is linked to its comfort layer, or the cover and topmost layer(s); models with thicker comfort layers made of memory foam and/or latex tend to offer the best conforming.

Category

Sex

Criteria

Mattresses that are bouncier and more responsive tend to be better for sex. Mattresses that are not responsive may cause couples to sink too deeply, which can negatively affect sex.

Category

Temperature Neutrality

Criteria

Some beds absorb and trap body heat more than others. This causes sleepers to feel warmer than usual, potentially disrupting sleep.

Category

Off-gassing

Criteria

Virtually all mattresses emit harmless off-gassing particles when they are new, but only foam and to a lesser extent latex carry an unpleasant odor. In most cases, off-gassing smells dissipate in a matter of days (especially when the mattress is kept in a well-ventilated room). However, some models produce excessively strong odors that can persist for much longer.

Category

Edge Support

Criteria

All mattresses are prone to sinkage at the edges of the bed where people tend to sit when they get up from or into bed. Mattresses with good edge support exhibit less sinkage when weight is applied to the the sides of the bed.

Category

Noise

Criteria

This category refers to the degree to which a mattress makes noise when a sleeper moves around on it. Noisy mattresses can often be detrimental to couples, as one sleeper’s movements can more easily wake up the other sleeper.

Category

Support

Criteria

When discussing mattresses, support refers to the bed’s ability to provide a flat, even surface that helps align the spine and pelvis, and does not sink beneath heavier areas of the body.

What Types of Mattresses Are Available?

Next, let’s look at the most common mattress types. Every mattress on the market is unique, but the vast majority of models fall into one of the following five categories.

Foam Mattresses

Construction: These are all-foam mattresses. The comfort system features at least one layer of polyfoam and/or memory foam, while the support core is almost always made from high-density polyfoam.
Factors to consider: Use the following factors to determine which foam mattress is most suitable for you.

  • Type of foam. Memory foam conforms closer than polyfoam to help align the sleeper’s spine and alleviate pressure points.
  • Foam density. This refers to how well the mattress will support your body weight, and is measured in pounds per cubic foot (PCF). Low-density foam tends to degrade quickly, but medium- and high-density foams have a reasonable lifespan.
  • Indentation load deflection (ILD). ILD specifically refers to how much weight is needed to compress the sleep surface by four inches (4″). The higher the ILD, the firmer the mattress; most foams range in ILD from 8 to 21.  

Average Lifespan: 7 years
Average Price (Queen): $1,044.16

Pros
  • Low average price-point and wide availability
  • Close conforming and above-average pain and pressure relief
  • Good motion isolation
  • No noise
Cons
  • High off-gassing (odor) potential
  • Sleeps hot for some
  • Susceptible to early sagging and indentations
  • Weak edge support

Latex Mattresses

Construction: The comfort layer features at least one layer of latex, a substance extracted from the sap of rubber trees; the latex may be mostly natural or synthetic. The support core may also be made from latex or, alternatively, high-density polyfoam (similar to foam/memory foam mattresses).

Factors to Consider: Use the following factors to determine which latex mattress is most suitable for you.

  • Latex processing method. Two processes are used to produce latex used in mattresses. The Dunlop process results in more sediment on the bottom and fluffier foam on top; Dunlop latex is more bottom-heavy as a result, and often used in support cores. The Talalay process results in a more homogenous mixture of light, frothy foam; Talalay latex is often used in comfort layers. However, either latex process may be used for any given layer of the mattress — and this may affect how it feels.
  • Indentation load deflection (ILD). Like foam mattresses, latex mattresses are often assigned ILD scores. The scale is slightly different for latex; an ILD rating of 16 or below is considered the softest, while a rating of 39 or higher is considered the firmest.

Average Lifespan: 8.5 years
Average Price (Queen): $1,970.51

Pros
  • Longer-than-average lifespan
  • Notable conforming with some pain and pressure relief
  • Good motion isolation and no noise
  • Sleeps cooler than foam
Cons
  • High average price-point
  • Off-gassing (odor) potential
  • Weak edge support
  • Quite heavy and difficult to move

Innerspring Mattresses

Construction: Most innerspring mattresses have one or two layers of polyfoam in the comfort system. The support core features evenly spaced steel coils, as well as a base polyfoam layer in most cases.
Factors to Consider: Use the following factors to determine which innerspring mattress is most suitable for you.

  • Coil type. There are four coil types commonly used in innerspring mattresses.
    Coil Type Description
    Bonnell coils Hourglass-shaped and normally found in cheaper innersprings.
    Offset coils Hourglass-shaped (like bonnell coils), but their bottom is straightened to create a hinging effect for more even support. They are more durable than other mattress coils, and usually found in more expensive models.
    Continuous wire coils These coils form rows of single steel wires that are joined at the sides to create a hinging motion (similar to offset coils). These coils are durable, but the mattresses do not conform as closely as other innersprings.
    Pocketed coils Usually found in hybrids, but some innersprings feature them as well. Each coil is wrapped in fabric or cloth. This minimizes noise and reduces more motion transfer than other innerspring coils.
  • Coil gauge. The gauge, or thickness, of innerspring coils can be used to determine how durable the mattress is. Gauge is measured on a scale of 12 (thickest) to 18 (thinnest). Pocketed coils are usually the highest-gauge and offset coils are the lowest; bonnell and continuous wire coils tend to vary in terms of gauge.
  • Pitch. This refers to the angle of the coils in relation to the sleep surface, and can be used to determine how firm the mattress feels.
  • Coil count. Coil count is tricky because it may not necessarily affect mattress comfort or longevity. The innersprings with coil counts ranging from 600 to 1,000 have the highest satisfaction ratings, but models with more than 1,000 coils are not linked to increased levels of comfort, support, or performance.

Average Lifespan: 5.5 years
Average Price (Queen): $1,037.97

Pros
  • Low average price-point and wide availability
  • More responsive and better for sex
  • Sleeps cooler due to better airflow in support core
  • Strong edge support
Cons
  • Below-average lifespan
  • Minimal conforming and pressure relief
  • High noise potential
  • Little to no motion isolation

Hybrid Mattresses

Construction: By definition, a true hybrid is constructed with at least two inches (2″) of memory foam and/or latex in the comfort system and a pocketed coil support core. Other models may be listed as hybrids, but this label is technically inaccurate.
Factors to Consider: Use the following factors to determine which hybrid mattress is most suitable for you.

  • Density. This is an important consideration for mattresses with polyfoam or memory foam layers.
  • Indentation load deflection (ILD). This is an important consideration for all hybrids, but keep in mind that ILD scales for foam and latex are different.
  • Gauge. Most pocketed coils are high-gauge (thin), but specifications and longevity expectations vary by model.
  • Coil count. As with innersprings, coil count is good to note but may not play a significant role in mattress comfort, support, or performance.

Average Lifespan: 6 years
Average Price (Queen): $2,076.70

Pros
  • Closer conforming and more pain/pressure relief than innersprings
  • Better-than-average motion isolation
  • Good responsiveness for sex
  • Strong edge support
Cons
  • High average price-point
  • Shorter-than-average lifespan
  • Odor and heat retention issues in memory foam models
  • Noise potential

Airbed Mattresses

Construction: Most airbeds either have thin foam comfort layers or no comfort layer at all. The support core features at least two individual air chambers that can be inflated or deflated to adjust mattress firmness and support.
Factors to Consider: Use the following factors to determine which airbed mattress is most suitable for you.

  • Customization range. All airbeds offer adjustable firmness and support to some degree, but certain models offer a wider range of options than others. The number of air chambers can affect customization level; most airbeds have two to four chambers, but have more.
  • Controls. Most airbeds made today are designed for remote controls, but some models may need to be manually adjusted.
  • Trench. Many airbed owners report a noticeable trench bisecting the center of the bed, which can compromise support and cause discomfort; some models have wider/deeper trenches compared to others.

Average Lifespan: 8 years
Average Price (Queen): $2,282.75

Pros
  • Long lifespan when maintained
  • Customizable firmness and support
  • Close conforming and above-average pain and pressure relief
  • Suitable for all sleep positions and sleeper body types
Cons
  • High average price-point and low availability
  • Susceptible to breakdowns and malfunctions with costly repairs
  • Sleeps too hot or too cool for some
  • High noise potential

Mattress Type Comparison

The table below summarizes the key differences and similarities between the five mattress types described above.

TYPE CONSTRUCTION PROS CONS
Foam HD polyfoam support core with a memory foam comfort layer – Affordable
– Motion isolation
– Conforms closely
– More likely to have off-gassing/odor issues
– Heat-retaining
– Can be difficult to move on
Latex HD polyfoam, latex, or coil support for a latex comfort layer – Durable
– Natural latex is available
– Conforms to the body
– More expensive, less available
– Can have an odor
– Poor support at the edges
Innerspring A coil support core (offset, pocketed, continuous or bonnel) with a memory foam or polyfoam comfort layer – Popular and widely available
– Supportive
– Wide range of firmness options
– Shorter lifespan
– Poor motion isolation
– Springs can become noisy over time
Hybrid A pocketed coil support core and thick comfort layer of memory foam, polyfoam, or unique materials – Conforms and supports well
– Wide range of firmness options
– Good temperature regulation
– More expensive than almost all other options
– Heavy
– Off-gassing can be an issue
Airbed Adjustable air chambers; any comfort layer is usually polyfoam or memory foam – Easy to adjust to your needs
– Can relieve muscle pain
– Split-bed options available
– The most expensive mattress type
– Costly to repair
– Noisier than other mattresses

Important Buying Considerations for Mattress Shoppers

Once you’ve settled on a mattress type, the next steps are purchasing and ordering your new bed. All mattress brands and retailers have different policies, so it’s important to inquire about the following points prior to placing your order:

Shipping and Delivery

  • Where can mattresses be shipped? Many mattress brands offer free shipping in the contiguous U.S., but customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and overseas U.S. territories must pay extra shipping charges. A small number of mattress companies offer free shipping anywhere in the U.S. In some cases, all customers in the U.S.  must pay a delivery fee.
  • What is the wait time for a mattress delivery? Brands that offer free delivery typically ship mattresses through third-party courier services like UPS or FedEx; the expected wait time is three to seven business days in most cases, but will be longer for remote locations or addresses outside the contiguous U.S. Expedited delivery may be available for an extra charge as well.
  • Do mattress brands offer in-home assembly? Some brands offer a service known as ‘White Glove delivery,’ which includes in-home mattress assembly and packaging waste disposal. This service may be offered for free, but in most cases it costs at least $100 on top of the purchase price.
  • Can you get your old mattress removed? Old mattress removal may be available from mattress companies that deliver with their own couriers, but brands that use UPS or FedEx rarely offer this option.

Sleep Trial and Returns

  • What is a sleep trial? The vast majority of mattress brands and retailers offer ‘sleep trials,’ which allow customers to test out the mattress for a certain length of time and return the bed for a refund if they are dissatisfied.
  • How long do sleep trials last? The average sleep trial spans 90 nights in length, but this varies from brand to brand and trials may range from 30 to 365 nights. A small number of mattress sellers offer lifetime returns, which invalidates the need for a dedicated sleep trial
  • Can you return the mattress at any point during the sleep trial? Mattress owners typically need at least 30 nights before the bed adjusts to their bodies. For this reason, many sleep trials include a mandatory break-in period of 30 nights or longer; customers will not be able to return the mattress for a refund until this period elapses.
  • Are exchanges available with sleep trials? In addition to returns, some sleep trials offer exchanges. Customers may exchange their mattress for a model of a different construction, size, firmness, or a combination of the three.
  • Is returning a mattress free? Returns may be completely free, but in some cases purchasers need to pay a return fee and/or cover the shipping and handling costs of the return.
  • What happens to returned mattresses? Returned mattresses are rarely resold or reused. Most brands will either recycle used mattresses or donate them to charity.  

Warranty

  • How long do mattress warranties last? With few exceptions, mattresses sold today come with some sort of product warranty. Most mattress warranties span at least 10 years in length. However, this may range from one or two years to lifetime coverage.
  • What is covered under a mattress warranty? Mattress warranties protect against certain defects, such as excessive sagging/indentations or manufacturing flaws in the mattress layers or cover. Warranties never cover normal wear and tear, physical damage, or changes in the owner’s mattress preferences.
  • Can the mattress warranty be voided? Most warranties stipulate that coverage will be voided if the mattress is not used with a proper support system. The exact specifications will be listed to ensure owners know how to support their mattress.
  • How much do defective mattress repairs and replacements cost? A key provision of mattress warranties is nonprorated vs. prorated coverage. During the nonprorated period, owners may repair or replace a defective mattress at little to no charge. During the prorated period, owners must pay a percentage of the original mattress price in order to repair or replace a defective model. Prorated charges typically increase with each successive year. Most 10-year warranties are entirely nonprorated; longer warranties tend to include nonprorated and prorated coverage.
  • What does ‘limited warranty’ mean? Most mattress warranties are limited, meaning the coverage exclusively extends to the original owner provided they bought the mattress from the manufacturer or an authorized brand retailer. Anyone who buys or acquires the mattress from the original owner or a non-authorized retailer will not qualify for warranty coverage.

Where Can You Buy a New Mattress?

In today’s marketplace, mattress shoppers can choose from a wide range of buying venues. Those who wish to purchase a mattress online can choose from the following two options:

  • The mattress manufacturer's website
  • Online retailers

Buying a mattress directly from the source often results in the most savings, and many mattress brand websites feature live chat tools that allow shoppers to communicate directly with customer service personnel. Buying a mattress from the brand also ensures a full sleep trial and warranty coverage.

Retail sites like Amazon.com carry a wide selection of mattresses, including mattresses from other brands and models that are exclusive to the site. Mattress prices may be lower, or at least on par with the brand’s listed price-point. However, customers may not qualify for the brand’s full sleep trial if they order through these sites; Amazon.com, for instance, offers a standard 30-night sleep trial in these instances. Ordering through these sites usually does not affect warranty coverage as long as the site is an authorized retailer, but shoppers should still inquire to ensure they receive coverage.

Pros/Cons of Buying a Mattress Online

  • Lower prices
  • Convenient ordering/no pick-up required
  • Full sleep trial and warranty coverage
  • Access to detailed product specs and customer service personnel
  • No testing mattress before buying
  • Shipping fees for some
  • Limited delivery outside contiguous U.S.
  • Potentially long wait times

Additionally, mattress shoppers may find a bed at the following brick-and-mortar locations:

  • Mattress specialty stores
  • Big box retailers
  • Furniture and department stores

These large brick-and-mortar establishments typically carry the widest selection of mattress models and bedding materials. They may be privately owned stores or part of larger chains. If you visit a chain-based specialty store, you may be able to negotiate the price of a new mattress to some extent. Mattress specialty stores often offer delivery and in-home assembly services.

Retail chains like Costco, Walmart, and Target often carry a limited supply of mattresses on hand. Some allow shoppers to purchase a mattress on the company’s website and then pick it up at the nearest store location. Others offer mattress delivery services. Big box retailers are unlikely to provide dedicated sales staff that specialize in mattresses.

Like big box retailers, larger furniture and department store chains may carry a small selection of mattresses in brick-and-mortar locations. They may or may not have dedicated sales staff that specialize in mattress sales, depending on the chain.

Pros/Cons of Buying a Mattress in a Store

  • Testing mattress before buying
  • Knowledgeable sales staff
  • Potential price negotiation
  • No shipping fees
  • Higher prices
  • Less convenient
  • Difficult returns
  • Less transparent regarding mattress specs

Common Mattress Myths

Now let’s dispel some widespread myths about mattress performance and purchasing.

  1. The best mattresses accommodate everyone. No mattress will be suitable for every sleeper. Factors like firmness preference, sleep position, and sleeper weight ensure that everyone experiences mattresses differently. Rather than searching for a ‘universal’ mattress, focus your search on a bed that meets your individual needs and preferences.
  2. Lying on a mattress in a store is the best way to choose. You’ll need at least 30 consecutive nights to break in most mattresses. The way a model feels in a store may be much different than the way it feels one month after purchasing.
  3. Coil count is important. While coil counts of 600 to 1,000 are linked to the highest levels of customer satisfaction, there are more effective ways to evaluate innersprings and hybrids — namely the comfort layer materials and thickness, coil type, and coil gauge.
  4. Gel foams sleep cooler than standard foams. Gel-infused polyfoam and memory foam layers may sleep somewhat cooler, but overall gel beads and swirls have a minimal effect on the temperature neutrality of a mattress.
  5. People with back pain need mattresses with lumbar support. Like coil count and gel foam, ‘lumbar support’ is a common marketing ploy in mattress sales. Beds may be advertised with lumbar support, but these models do not have higher satisfaction ratings among sleepers with back pain; in some cases, the ratings are worse than those for beds without lumbar support.
  6. The label says ‘hybrid,’ so it must be a hybrid. As we’ve established, a true hybrid features at least two inches (2″) of memory foam/latex in the comfort layer and a pocketed coil support core. Many mattresses are labeled as hybrids even though they don’t meet this criteria. Examples include ‘springless hybrids,’ which feature a mix of foam and latex, and innersprings with memory foam comfort layers and non-pocketed coils. Experimental mattress designs are often dubbed hybrids, as well.
  7. A mattress with a longer warranty must have a longer lifespan. While a mattress warranty may extend 20 years or longer, don’t be fooled into thinking a lengthier warranty equates to better durability. The average mattress needs to be replaced every seven years, regardless of its warranty.
  8. You need a new box spring. Many mattress sellers offer box spring bundles, which allow customers to purchase both items at a discounted rate, and some will imply that only their box spring is suitable for the mattress. However, any box spring in good shape or better will suffice — unless you are switching to a different mattress type; for example, an airbed requires a different foundation than an innerspring.
  9. Mattresses made of latex last forever. Latex mattresses have an average lifespan of eight and a half years, the longest among all mattress types. However, they are still susceptible to the same wear and tear as other mattresses and will eventually deteriorate.
  10. More expensive mattresses are better. Never assume a mattress that costs thousands of dollars is of higher quality than one that costs a few hundred. Keep an eye on price-point averages for different mattress types and make a purchasing decision based on your individual budget.

Final Shopping Checklist

Lastly, let’s recap all of the important considerations we’ve covered in this guide. When choosing a new mattress, be sure to take the following questions into account:

  • Is your mattress more than seven years old? If so, it may be due for a replacement.
  • Do you toss and turn due to discomfort or wake up with aches and pains? This may be due to an older, sagging mattress.
  • Does your mattress have deep sagging or indentations in its sleep surface? Sagging and indentations deeper than one inch (1″) tend to compromise support and cause discomfort to the greatest extent.
  • Have you gained or lost a significant amount of weight since buying your last mattress? Your current weight may cause the mattress to feel differently.
  • What type of mattress do you want to buy? The five most common mattress types are foam, latex, innerspring, hybrid, and airbed models.
  • What is the average lifespan of the mattress type(s) you prefer? Average lifespan ranges from five and a half years (innerspring) to eight and a half years (latex), but the average mattress needs to be replaced every seven years.
  • What is the average price-point of the mattress type(s) you prefer? Foam and innerspring mattresses are much more affordable on average than latex, hybrid, or airbed models.
  • How much do you (and your partner) weigh? Your weight may play a role in firmness and thickness preferences.
  • What is your preferred sleep position? Your ideal mattress material, firmness, and thickness settings may depend on whether you are a side, back, stomach, or combination sleeper.
  • What is your ideal firmness setting, and does it differ from your partner’s? Most people prefer ‘medium’ or ‘medium firm,’ but be sure to take your weight into account. If you and your partner have different preferences, then a ‘dual-firmness’ bed might be the best option.
  • What mattress size and thickness do you need? A Twin, Twin XL, or Full/Double is suitable for single sleepers, while Queen, King, and California sizes are better for couples. In terms of height, lighter people may feel more comfortable on a thinner bed and heavier people may prefer a thicker bed; mattresses measuring nine to 12 inches (9-12″) have the highest customer satisfaction ratings.
  • Do you sleep hot? If you tend to get too warm during the night, then a foam, latex, or airbed mattress may be uncomfortably hot. Airbeds also sleep too cool for some. Innersprings and hybrids offer the best temperature neutrality.
  • Do you share a bed with someone? If so, then a mattress that produces little noise and isolates motion transfer (such as a foam or latex model) will be more suitable than louder beds that don’t absorb transfer (such as hybrids or innersprings).
  • Are you sensitive to smell? Most mattresses produce some off-gassing, but models with foam layers are linked to the strongest and most persistent odors.
  • Will you need to move the mattress on your own? All mattresses are relatively heavy and should be rotated once or twice per year in order to preserve the sleep surface. Foam, innerspring, and airbeds all average roughly 80 pounds or less in a Queen size, while latex and hybrid models average more than 100 pounds. Keep these weights in mind if you’ll be rotating the bed on your own. 
  • Is trying out the mattress important to you? Lying on a mattress in a store for a few minutes will not be very helpful, but this is important to some shoppers — and it is virtually impossible when buying from online-only brands.
  • Is the mattress you want available through online retailers? If yes, then compare prices to get the best deal — but beware that you may not qualify for the brand’s full sleep trial.
  • Do you live outside the contiguous U.S.? Shoppers in Alaska, Hawaii, and overseas U.S. territories must often may extra shipping charges, and some mattress brands won’t deliver to these locations. A brick-and-mortar mattress purchase may be the only option for some people outside the lower 48 states.
  • Does the mattress brand/retailer offer a sleep trial? Most sleep trials are at least 90 nights in length, but be sure to read the fine print — some last as little as two to three weeks.
  • Does the sleep trial include a mandatory break-in period? Some trials require purchasers to test out the bed for at least 30 nights before they qualify for a refund, while others allow returns at any time.
  • Is a full refund issued for returns? In some cases, the customer will incur a return charge and/or be required to cover shipping and handling costs of mailing the mattress.  
  • Are mattress exchanges allowed? Some brands allow customers to exchange their mattress for another model, size, or firmness setting. However, the replacement mattress may not be subject to the same trial and return policy as the original.
  • How long does the warranty coverage last? Most mattress warranties extend at least 10 years in length.
  • Is the warranty entirely nonprorated? A 10-year nonprorated warranty is considered the best option for mattress buyers because it will cover the product for its entire lifespan without the owner paying prorated charges for repairs or replacements.

Specialty Mattresses

There are two major categories of specialty mattresses: those made of unique materials, and those meant for unique purposes. While some specialty mattresses have similar purchase criteria to conventional mattresses, some require further research. Follow the links to read our buyer’s guides for each category.

Organic Mattresses

If buying natural products is important to you, consider choosing an organic mattress. While no mattress is 100% organic, green options ranging from 60-90% natural/organic are available. However, they tend to be more expensive and have a smaller selection of options. For extra peace of mind, choose a mattress with green certifications.

Smart Mattresses

App-based controls and sleep tracking technology make smart mattresses a cutting-edge ally in the search for healthy sleep. While expensive, these advanced mattresses can monitor and score your sleep health, then adjust to offer comfort and support. If these features appeal to you, most smart mattress manufacturers offer 90 or 100-night trials.

Air Mattresses

While they sound similar, air mattresses are very different than airbeds. Air mattresses are meant to be temporary solutions rather than full-time beds like airbeds. However, they make an excellent choice for guests, camping, and other situations. Choosing the right air mattress is important, with a range of models and many factors to consider.

Crib Mattresses

Babies and young toddlers have unique sleep needs, making crib mattresses an essential yet potentially confusing purchase. Follow our crib mattress buying guide to learn more about what to consider when making your choice, then read our reviews to learn which crib mattresses we recommend.

Flippable Mattresses

Most mattresses are now one-sided, with a comfort layer that is meant to always stay on top. However, if two-sided mattresses appeal you, there are high-quality flippable options available. These are rarely more expensive than one-sided versions while offering versatility and an improved lifespan. They also make a good choice for sleepers with varying firmness needs, as each side generally has a different firmness level.

RV Mattresses

Choosing the right mattress for your RV’s sleep space can be headache-inducing. While almost all mattress types can be used, the best RV mattresses we’ve found are memory foam or innerspring. Both specialized RV mattresses and ordinary mattresses with a low profile can be a good fit.

Dog Beds

Pets deserve a good night’s rest just like everyone else. Choose the right dog bed by focusing on both your dog’s needs (support for physical problems, size, softness, warmth) and your desires (anti-odor capabilities, aesthetics, waterproofing). Some options can be expensive, but budget-minded dog guardians can find excellent choices under $100.

Questions?

We understand that shopping for a new mattress can be confusing and frustrating at times. If you have any questions about mattress buying, please shoot us an email and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Additional Tuck Resources

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