If you’re dreading a trip to Mattress Firm or Macy’s, keep in mind that you have more options than ever before: specialty and department stores are no longer the default destination for mattress purchases. Large mattresses at fair prices can be found in warehouse clubs and through online retailers, and competition is only becoming more intense.
We tried queen-size mattresses (60 inches wide by 80 inches long) because they are the most common size purchased. (For your reference, the other standard dimensions are king, 76×80 inches; California king, 72×84; full, or double, 53×75; and twin, 38×75.)
We subject each mattress to a battery of tests, including running a nearly 310-pound roller over each 30,000 times to simulate eight to 10 years of use.
And while our scientific ratings for help are a good indicator of how well you may be sleeping on a mattress, we also provide ratings for comfort and satisfaction that come from people who have actually lived with these mattresses—for up to 10 years in some cases. Our new comfort and owner satisfaction ratings are based on recent survey data on the experiences of CR members with more than 74,000 mattresses purchased in the last decade. We asked members to rate the comfort of their mattress and used the data to generate ratings by Mattress Brand and type. Owner satisfaction is based on a member’s overall judgment of factors such as firmness/softness, value, sleep quality and more.
If you are shopping for a new mattress, you could be overwhelmed by the variety of options and prices, ranging from too low-to-believe to astronomical. But there’s good news: our years of testing have shown that, whichever type you choose, you only need to spend around 1 1,000 for a comfortable, supportive mattress. Here are the main types you will see:
Although many manufacturers use polyurethane to create their foam layers, some might use latex as well and we note which mattresses have latex in our features tab. Some mattresses include both. The memory foam softens when you lie on it and is soon molded to your body. Once you get up, it returns to its original form. Some foam mattresses require some effort to change position.
These traditional mattresses are composed of steel coils in various configurations. Hybrids have one or more layers of foam on top of the springs. Variations may include special layers of cushioning, such as a pillow layer or infused gel. Changing positions is usually easy, but on some models, especially those that don’t have many layers of foam, your sleep partner may feel an annoying bounce when you do.
Adjustable air mattresses
You can inflate this type of mattress to your desired firmness using an electric pump connected to the bed. These usually include additional layers of foam on top. Most also allow you to inflate individual halves to different companies to suit each sleep partner. But if you want to adjust the bed at night, know that pumps can be noisy.
Common claims that have not been maintained in our tests:
The More Coils, The Better
The best internal spring models we tested have 600 to 1,000 coils. But even if one mattress has more coils than another, the coils could be made of thinner gauge metal. You’ll also hear about coil variations like Bonnell (hourglass type), continuous wire, and individually bagged Springs. None of them is inherently superior.
The Gel provides a fresher sleep
More than half of our innerspring mattresses (noted in our mattress ratings) have a gel-infused foam layer that is claimed to provide a cooling effect, though it’s worth noting that 10 percent of mattresses with a gel-infused layer still retain heat. Overall, our tests have shown that gel-containing innerspring mattresses tend to sleep a little cooler, but the opposite was true with gel-infused foam beds.
Forget About Comparative Shopping
If you like a mattress in one store and order something similar elsewhere, you’ll likely be directed to a mattress of the same brand that claims to have the same construction, components and firmness. Mattress manufacturers offer a few lines nationwide, but when those brands are sold through major chains like Macy’s or Mattress Firm, they are usually exclusive to those chains. And manufacturers do not publish a directory of comparable mattresses. Therefore, use our ratings as a guide and insist on the precise make and model that got good results in our tests.
Mattress shopping tips
If possible, lie on any mattress you are considering. Wear loose clothing and shoes that you can take off. Make yourself comfortable and scare away the seller if you feel pressured. Sellers should expect their time to be taken. Spend at least 5 or 10 minutes on each side and on your back (also your stomach, if that’s a preferred sleeping position). Panelists who took beds home during a month-long trial rarely changed the opinion they formed after the first night. Shopping online or at a warehouse club? Testing is not usually an option, so checking the return policies before buying is very important.
Check return policies
#Make sure the store offers a full refund or credit for another mattress. Return periods, often called “comfort guarantees”, range from a couple of weeks to 120 days. Some retailers, including Macy’s and Sears, charge a 15 percent restocking fee. Some sellers offer free pick-up if you want a refund or exchange, but otherwise you will have to pay for it, or take the mattress to the store. Macy’s, for example, charges a pick-up fee of 8 85. And you will be responsible for any damage.
Try to bargain
Once you have settled on a model, try to lower the price. Many businesses, such as warehouse clubs, have fixed prices and do not move. But for retailers who trade, particularly specialty chains, large margins allow them to lower prices by 50 percent or more during their frequent sales. Our recommendation: at any time of the year, insist on a sale price you’ve seen for the mattress you know you want, and don’t be afraid to leave if you feel like you’re getting a raw deal. While it’s a little harder to trade online, there are still ways to save. Also, of those who tried to haggle online, slightly more members (66 percent to 60 percent) were successful in getting a discount than in-store.
Do not be intimidated to buy a box spring
You may not need it. If your box spring is not broken and still structurally sound, consider putting it away and saving money (about queen 150 to queen 300 for a queen size). One caveat: Some brands require you to purchase your box spring to receive full warranty coverage. Many foam manufacturers recommend a platform base or wooden foundation from strong slats.
Understand the warranty
It can range from 10 to 25 years and covers only manufacturing defects such as sagging and loose or broken coil wires. Coverage is prorated frequently, which means it decreases over time.
The day of delivery
Never accept delivery without inspecting the mattress (and box spring, if you buy one) for stains and other damage. Also make sure the mattress has a label that says “brand new material” before sending the driver on his way. If it is not there, refuse delivery. And keep it afterwards in case you have to file a warranty claim in the future. If you bought a mattress in a box, inspect the mattress as soon as you unroll it. Call customer service immediately if something seems to be wrong with the mattress or if it is dirty. Take some photos with your smartphone in case the customer service representative asks for proof of the damage.