Welcome to an ultimate mattress buying guide. It explains everything you should be thinking about when you’re getting a new mattress.
Getting a new mattress can be an intimate but also an intimidating experience. I mean you are spending a thousand dollars or more on a brand new bed that you’ll be using for seven or more years and maybe even sharing with a loved one. There could be some nervousness and some confusion.
You’re probably like me and you hate wasting money and time, you hate feeling bamboozled by marketing rhetoric and all that hubbub and you want to get the right product the first time.
That’s why we have this ultimate mattress buying guide because we think a lot of people need these tips.
If you do find it helpful and you get something out of it, make sure to consider sharing this article with friends or family that you also think will enjoy it.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
Do You Really Need a New Mattress?
Let’s start by talking about how you decide whether or not you need a new mattress. There’s no sense in spending money to get a brand new bed when you might not actually need it.
I think for a lot of people a mattress topper might actually be the most economical thing to do. But really there are three indicators that you need a new bed.
Age of Mattress
The first of which is just the age of the mattress. Typically people get a new bed between year 7 and year 12. If you’re in that range, you probably should be looking for a new bed. But that really just depends on your pain tolerance and your budget. I think for most people, it’s around year 10.
Most mattresses are only really constructed and tested for 10 years. So you should probably be thinking about a new mattress around the time period of its suggested useful life and that’s between 7 and 12 years.
Number two is sagging or body impressions. Most people should be rotating their beds between 2 and 4 times per year but a lot of people don’t do that and they end up with either a huge crater in the center of the bed because that’s where they’re sleeping or they get one side that wears much more quickly than the other.
Sagging or Impressions
If your mattress is sagging or has a body impression when no weight is on it of about a half an inch to maybe an inch and a quarter, you should be thinking about a new bed because you’re basically sleeping on a compromised mattress.
The other thing that’s important with this one is your mattress foundation. You need to get one that’s solid, doesn’t have any give to it and this is really important to meet the criteria for your mattresses warranty. A lot of people probably have a mattress that was just fine but they put it on a foundation that doesn’t really meet the criteria for their warranty. That means that they need a new bed and they can’t access that warranty. So just be mindful of that.
Aches and Pains
And number three is pain. If you’re experiencing low back pain, upper back pain, pain resulting from your sciatica or with your hips, you might want to think about getting an entirely new mattress. It might be the bed that’s actually making things worse.
You should definitely consult your physician and your chiropractor so that you can figure out the right bed for your particular situation.
Types of Beds
When you do start shopping for a mattress, there are really two types of beds that you’ll encounter.
Number one all-foam beds. As the name states, these are entirely made of foam. They are typically more affordable to make, they’re typically lighter. That’s why you see so many bed in a box companies out there because it’s more affordable to make the bed. It’s lighter so they can ship it in a box via FedEx or UPS and then they can also offer completely free returns.
That’s why so many people are trying them and that’s why so many brands are out there because it makes sense for both the customer and the brand.
You will usually see polyurethane foam, mostly as a support core, memory foam, latex foam or some sort of proprietary foam on the bed. There are some big name brands that utilize a lot of these foams.
The other type is a hybrid bed and this is really combining two types of material that are dissimilar. You might see coils and foam or coils and gel or gel and foam or air and foam. You’re gonna see two different types of materials combined together in a mattress. These can be great. There’s a lot of people that absolutely love these beds.
Now just because you get an all-foam bed or a hybrid bed, that doesn’t really say anything about the firmness profile of the bed. It really just says something about its construction.
We categorize firmness into five different categories:
- medium soft
- medium firm
That’s the best way to do it. Otherwise it gets a little convoluted with all these different beds on a scale. You’ll generally see between soft and firm.
If you’re a strict side sleeper, you’re probably gonna want a little bit softer of a mattress, just to allow nice pressure relief for your shoulders and your hips in particular.
This however is more of an art than a science because everybody is different and firmness is a little bit subjective.
If you are petite, you can basically choose any bed you want, but if you want to sleep strictly on your side and you want good pressure relief, you probably need a little bit softer of a bed. A big dude, on the other hand, puts a lot more stress on a bed. He can get away with a little bit firmer of a mattress.
Back or Stomach Sleepers
These are similar in terms of the firmness that you want. You’re generally gonna be looking for a little bit firmer of the bed. You want to keep your hips and your spine in proper alignment. If it’s too soft your hips are gonna sag down. Again this varies by person and by your weight, but in general think firm.
Young ladies, for example, sleeping on your stomach, you probably want a little bit softer than what a guy needs, for some obvious reasons.
For combination sleepers, you rotate positions at night. I think a lot of people do this. This might be the most popular category. You need kind of an interesting mattress. You need one that’s soft, but not too soft, one that provides pressure relief but not too much. You basically need to play to your dominant sleeping position.
I sleep mostly on my side, so I want a little bit more pressure relief, but I still want the bed to be supportive so I can rotate on my stomach or my back.
This one is a little bit harder to please because you’re trying to match two people up. You have to worry about weight, size, sleeping preferences, sleeping positions. It can be a little bit harder to figure out. For example, my wife is petite, I am not. She sleeps hot, I sleep cool. And that’s not even counting the fact that we sleep in different sleeping positions.
You really have four options here:
- You can get a split king or Cal king bed where each side is different and custom to each partner.
- You can let your wife choose because she’s always right.
- You can get a custom bed.
- You can make some compromises hopefully. You pretty close and that way each of you gets what you want.
Weight & Size
I alluded to your weight earlier and this is really key when you’re choosing a new mattress. Lighter individuals can get away with anything, That’s why so many bed in box companies are really popular because young professionals, college students, people in their 30s, they can pretty much sleep on any mattress they want as long as they’re under 250 pounds.
If you’re over 250 pounds, you need to be a little bit more selective with your mattress. The list of beds you can choose from is narrowed.
I think a lot of people that are a little bit heavier think they’re gonna spend a ton of money on a brand-new bed. There are some really affordable great beds that are specifically designed for people that are a little bit heavier. Just know that when you are heavier, you’re putting more stress on the bed and you’re probably looking for something with coils and extra support.
Budget & Price
The last thing is your budget but that’s obviously up to you. But the one thing I would add is that don’t be so concentrated on the price. Just because a mattress is more affordable, doesn’t make it bad. Just because a bed is really expensive, doesn’t make it the best one ever.
Focus on your sleeper type, the firmness you want and the material preferences that you have. And be a little bit more flexible with your budget. Both up and down.
The best way to get a good price is to call ahead and get a quote it. But if you don’t call ahead there are ways to have the salesman lower their price. First determine which mattress you like, express your interest in the mattress to the salesperson. Say something like “I really like it, how much is it?”
And when they give you the price, first of all flinch and you say “oh my god, that’s way too high, I mean I can’t believe it’s that expensive. I really love it, but I just don’t have the money.” And you start walking out the door. In most cases, they will lower the price if you’re walking out the door.
When buying a mattress in the store, you are going to test a bunch of different mattresses lying on each for a minute or so. However, both expensive, high-quality and cheaper, lower-quality mattresses have about the same level of comfort in the store. You end up buying a cheap mattress and take it home. But it’s going to start to shift and sag a lot faster then an expensive one.
One of the big red flags you should watch out for is when a mattress store says they will let you try mattress free for 30 days before you decide if you want to buy it. Beware of stores like that because some people that do try those mattresses out will return them. Where do you think they go? They don’t get incinerated. They go back into stock for someone else to purchase.
A lot of advertisements have these big bold prices, a really low bait-and-switch price. Just know that those mattresses are so low in quality that they’re devised to get you off of them and onto something more expensive.
All the mattresses in those stores generally had a 100% markup and the owner had a strict rule that you shouldn’t go below an 86 percent markup, which is pretty high. There were competitors with a 25% markup, which is an ethical markup.
A lot of what salespersons pushing don’t actually matter. Mattress quilting is one of the most common scams. You probably like nice things, but what are you doing at home? Covering it with sheets and blankets.
A salesperson may tell you that they have a special “no-flip” mattress. Most people know that mattresses need to be flipped on a regular basis so they wear evenly. But almost all mattresses are no-flip these days. You don’t need to flip them.
Mattresses with a green sticker are very expensive, but some of those green labels mean nothing. For example, some labels claim a mattress is made with organic materials. The problem is there are no guidelines regarding how organic it has to be. It could be only a tiny percentage.
Some salesmen are going to try to convince you to pay extra for warranty. In most cases, that warranty covers what’s inside the mattress. Warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear or the outside of the mattress.
There’s another trick to be aware of. Some materials, like memory foam, soften in warmer temperatures. For this reason, some stores will keep their showrooms warm.
Mattress Buying Mistakes
1. Buying without testing. It can be a hassle going into a store and testing a mattress laying on the bed. But because you’re investing a lot of money into a mattress where you spend 1/3 of your life sleeping, you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. So always test out the mattress.
2. Testing out the mattress without laying on it. Don’t finger test or sitting down. It is not going to give you a full affect of how the mattress is going to respond to your body. Why this is a mistake? Because all your weight is being focused in one place. It is going to feel a lot firmer, a lot less supportive. When you’re actually laying on it, your body weight gets distributed across the whole surface of the mattress.
3. Not testing in your sleep position. You need to test how you sleep. If you are a side sleeper, you need to test the mattress on your side. Don’t test it by just laying on your back.
4. Buying a mattress based on another person’s mattress experience. Everybody’s body is different. We have different pressure points, we sleep in different positions. You want to get a feel for the mattress. If your friend is a back sleeper and your a side sleeper, you’re going to have different needs.
5. Being suckered into outlandish sales. For example, a typical mattress store will say 50% off this weekend only and a mattress that costs $2,000 this weekend is only a thousand bucks. They never meant to sell it to you at $2,000. They always wanted to sell it at the lower price.
Wear loose comfortable clothing when you walk in a mattress store. Make sure the clothes you’re wearing are loose and comfortable so you can feel the mattress underneath you. If you’re wearing a jacket, a coat or a suit, they’re gonna be too stiff and you’re not gonna be able to feel the actual comfort of the mattress. So wear loose comfortable clothing so you can have a better experience testing out the mattresses.
Find your comfort level. A big mistake people make with mattress shopping is they try too many mattresses and they end up confused. If you know that you like a medium, focus only on the mediums. If you find you like the firms, you could just focus on the firms. Doing this is gonna make it so much easier when you’re testing out mattresses to pinpoint the exact comfort level for you.
We know that comfort is the most important thing when shopping for a new mattress. However, comfort is not the only thing when buying a new mattress. Anybody could make a mattress feel comfortable that lasts a year or two, but after that it starts to breakdown and losses its comfort.
You want a mattress to to feel comfortable on day one, as it does on year 10. The quality of the materials determines how long it’s gonna hold that feel. The better quality materials, the longer the mattress is gonna hold the fill and be comfortable for you. Know the density of the foam, know the type of foam that’s being used, if they use latex, if they use memory foam, if they use poly foam or if it’s an innerspring or connected coil or pocketed coil.
All those can determine the quality of the mattress, the durability of the mattress and the feel that you’re looking for. So know the quality of the materials in your mattress.
That’s it for our mattress buying guide. I hope you found it helpful.