How to Buy a Mattress

From mattress sizes, materials, and mattress life to test-driving, shopping tips, and how to find a deal—your guide to finding the right mattress.

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A good bed affects your sleep, which in turn affects your health, so a good mattress is a worthy investment—and one you should spend a bit of time researching. As a general rule, it’s wise to buy the highest quality you can afford. Mattresses can be difficult to judge in a showroom under the eye of a sales person, so do your product research beforehand if you are going to visit one. And as mattresses vary from model to model—even within lines of the same brand—be prepared to test a few in person if you’re ordering the traditional box spring and mattress set. When it comes to the newer mattress-in-a-box models that you can order online, they generally don’t have showrooms but instead offer a trial period.

Shopping for a mattress

When to Buy

Most experts say the best time to buy is when you need one, as a good mattress can affect your health, however, for the budget-conscious waiting just a few months can make a difference of hundreds of dollars. The best time to buy a mattress from a showroom store is in late winter/early spring, when they’re making room for new models and product lines. Mattress-in-a-box sales can happen any time, but generally look for the bests deals on holiday weekends like President’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day—or online holidays like Amazon Prime Day and even Black Friday.

Research

Whatever type of mattress you’re looking to buy, the first place to start is online. Read a few reviews for mattresses within your price range. Consumer Reports and other test-drive sites are a great place to start, but so are customer reviews on the manufacturers’ sites and on sites like Amazon. Make note of major points of criticism, and bring these up with any sales people you connect with. You should come away from this research with a firm idea of the general price range you’re shopping for.

Comfort test

It’s ideal to check out any mattress that you’re considering in person. If you’re shopping in a store, do not feel embarrassed about slipping off your shoes and lying down on several mattresses. Salespeople are used to this. Spend a few minutes on each side and on your back or stomach if you’re a stomach sleeper.

Trial period

Some mattresses are only available online, so how do you test them out? Many manufacturers will let you test drive for free for a month; others may offer a full refund on your purchase within a month if you’re not satisfied. Thirty days should definitely be enough time. According to Consumer Reports, purchasers rarely change the opinion formed after the first night.

Getting a deal

Mattress-in-a-box deals can be found year round. When doing your research type in the model name plus words like “coupon” or “free shipping.” Take a screenshot of your favorites to take with you if you are shopping in stores. Some stores will be willing to price match. If you’re purchasing online, use the chat-bot if there is one to ask about price matching.

Warranties

Warranties can range from 10 to 25 years. Many cover only manufacturing defects such as loose coils or unraveled stitching and may be prorated over time. Be aware that some sellers require you to purchase a mattress cover and/or box spring or it voids the warranty.

Return policies

While the mattress-in-a-box sellers generally have good trial period and returns policies, do read the fine print. Should you need to return it, would there be a restocking fee? Shipping fee? Know exactly how long you have.

Mattress-in-a-Box Deals

Mattress Sizes

The most common size mattress sold in the United States is the queen. At 60 inches wide by 80 inches long, a queen-size mattress fits well in an average size master bedroom, which is approximately 10 x 10 feet. If you sleep with a partner, a queen-size mattress allows each sleeper extra space, so no weight is ever concentrated in the center of the mattress, where it could cause wear to the coil springs. A queen offers plenty of space for couples, but if you prefer extra space to roll around in and your room is large enough, consider a king, at 76 x 80 inches, or even a California king, at 72 x 84 inches. A full or double, at 53 x 75, can be an option for singles who like a lot of room or for couples when room space is at a premium. Twin mattresses, at 38 x 75, are generally purchased for children’s rooms or guest rooms.

Foam Cushioning

Most manufacturers use polyurethane, latex, or layers of both to create their cushioning. High quality latex foam cushioning is longer lasting (loses resiliency slower) than polyurethane foam cushioning. Memory foam, a relatively newer product, is pliable and conforms to the body at rest, then springs back to its original shape when you get up. One selling point of memory foam that’s particularly attractive to couples: memory foam moves slowly and quietly, so you’re less likely to disturb your partner if you toss and turn. However, it can be too warm for those who sleep hot.

Springs and Thickness

Extra-thick mattresses require extra-long coil springs–not simply short springs that have been stretched—and this is generally reflected in the cost. Coils are important, otherwise your mattress will lose resiliency quickly. Often the number of springs in a mattress can be an indication of quality, but not always. Better models tend to have 600 to 1,000 coils. Thick mattress padding is not really an indicator of durability, though it can affect comfort.

Extending Mattress Life

A quality mattress can last up to 10 years with the right care, according to Michael Magnuson, CEO of goodbed.com, an independent mattress review website. Here are some tips to keep your bed looking and feeling like new.

Vacuum regularly

Vacuuming keeps your mattress fresh, clean, and free of allergens. It gets rid of all the dust mites, dead skin debris, and dirt that will collect and nest in your bed over time.

Turn the mattress

This balances out wear and tear. If you have a one-sided pillow-top mattress rotate it 180 degrees. If you have a two-sided mattress, flip it regularly.

Invest in a padded mattress cover

A mattress cover serves the dual function of preventing stains while preserving the shape of your mattress top.

Mattress Cover Deals

About that box spring

Traditional mattresses are sold in sets with a box spring. If your current box spring is in good shape, you could buy just a new mattress and save a hundred dollars or so. But it may void the warranty, so read the fine print. Many modern-style platform beds are designed with wooden slats that provide support to the mattress without a box spring. Whatever you choose, adequate mattress support is key to your mattress’s longevity—and your comfort.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest