Mattress Buying Guide 2019
There are so many factors to consider when you choose a new mattress for yourself these days. There are so many different materials to choose from, you can buy mattresses online that come in a box. It can be a bit overwhelming knowing quite where to start! The prices and quality of mattresses can vary wildly, and the most expensive one isn’t necessarily the best and most comfortable.
I’ve created this handy Mattress Buying Guide (2019) to bring you up to date information on what you need to know:
- choosing the type of mattress
- where to buy your mattress
- what you need to know before you purchase your mattress
A lot of these topics require more in-depth analysis and discussion so where it’s helpful, I have linked throughout this article to other articles that you will enjoy reading in your quest to find the best new mattress for you.
What type of mattress?
There are four main types of mattresses on the market these days. These include the traditional innerspring mattress we all grew up with, memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses, and hybrid mattresses. I’ll work through each mattress type, briefly explaining the materials used.
These are the traditional mattress we are all used to. They use springs as the support layer, with a quilted cushion or pillow top. There are different types of springs, but the only important two you need to be able to distinguish between is innersprings or pocket springs. Pocket springs are where each spring is individually wrapped in fabric, as shown in the comparison picture. Pocket spring technology is better for reducing motion transfer between people and providing individualized support.
If you are interested in learning more about the types of springs, The Mattress Underground team have written an excellent article covering this topic in great depth.
Memory foam mattress sales have really exploded recently, and they are one of the most popular “mattress in a box” options. Memory foam mattresses are generally constructed from a high density foam support layer, with one or several layers of memory foam on top as the comfort layer. Memory foam is designed to soften with pressure or heat, which is what gives that slight “sinking in” or moulding feel when you lie on it.
Good memory foam should feel comfortable to lie on, and relieve pressure points by moulding around them, while supporting the rest of the body at the same time. The foam should be responsive, which means you will sink into it a little bit, but not feel like you’re getting stuck in a pit.
Memory foam is a material many companies are introducing some interesting innovations to. These include gel infusions into the memory foam (which is intended to help keep the mattress, or infusion with substances such as charcoal (intended to to help with odor) and aloe vera (intended to promote good sleep). However, in reviewing some of these “infused” mattresses, it’s hard to say what the true benefit of that technology is as real customers rarely mention it in their reviews.
Latex is a foam material that can either be produced using the natural sap from the rubber tree, or made synthetically. I am a big fan of latex as a mattress material. It is durable and provides great support. How firm one latex mattress or latex layer within a mattress feels will depend on the density of the latex: the more dense it is, the more firm it will feel. Latex has similar pressure relieving qualities to memory foam. It shouldn’t ever feel too overly firm as latex is a naturally bouncy material. Latex tends to be an expensive material though, and can ramp up the price of a mattress. For a complete and detailed breakdown of latex as a mattress material, please read this post.
As the name suggests, hybrid mattresses combine technology from two mattress types. The true definition of a hybrid mattress is one that has a spring system as the support layer of the mattress, and then a comfort layer made up of other materials, usually memory foam and/or latex. They are an incredibly popular choice as people feel familiar with the springs but get the benefit of some of the newer mattress technology all in the one mattress.
Most hybrid mattresses will use individually wrapped pocket springs in the support layer, and I would recommend if you are purchasing a hybrid you choose one with pocket springs over one that has innersprings if motion transfer is an important issue for you.The comfort layer could be one or several layers of materials, depending on the specific mattress.
Buy online or in store?
It can seem like a very strange concept to buy a mattress online. After all, isn’t it something you really need to lie down on and test before you buy? Well, I went and tested a whole bunch of mattresses in store recently, purely as research for you guys. And honestly, between the sales people and the overwhelming number of mattresses to try that all blended into each other, I’m more than happy to recommend you buy a mattress online. You can read more about the pros and cons of buying a mattress online here.
An online mattress purchase will more than likely be a “mattress in a box”. These are great fun to open. I have read countless reviews of mattresses on Amazon, and there are thousands of accounts of people having a great time opening their mattress and watching it spring to life. Read my questions about mattress in a box, and watch one spring to life!
So if I buy online, where should I buy from?
I think your two best options are either on Amazon or directly from the manufacturer.
Some potential benefits of buying on Amazon:
- fast shipping
- great reputation for customer service
- may run discounts not available elsewhere
- many mattress manufacturers will interact with customers directly on Amazon
Read more about buying a mattress from Amazon here.
If you buy direct from the manufacturer, there may be some benefits you might miss on Amazon, such as a discount code or a longer sleep trial. Make sure you look at prices on both platforms though, here is a story about a mattress I recently reviewed: it was cheap on Amazon, but had no sleep trial. It was double the price on the manufacturer’s website but had a 100 night sleep trial.
I wrote to the manufacturer asking about the price difference, they stated it was mainly due to Amazon having cheaper shipping and no sleep trial. So if you want to pay several hundred dollars for a sleep trial, then buying direct would have been the way to go… the decision is up to you about what is important. Knowledge is power.
Questions you will need the answers to before you buy
- What is the warranty period for the mattress?
- Ten years is about standard. I would consider five years a short warranty. I have seen one mattress with a 25 year warranty, which is extremely generous (you’ll find that mattress in my review of Hybrid mattresses on Amazon).
- Is a sleep trial available? And if so, how long is it?
- It is generally advised that you need around a month to really give a mattress a good try to know if it works for you. Mattresses that provide a 100-120 night sleep trial are ideal for this. Cheaper mattresses might offer 30 nights, which while not ideal, is better than none at all. When I went in store, even the really expensive mattresses only had a 7 night trial at that store which was nowhere near enough.
- What is the shipping cost?
- Usually if you buy online, the cost will be included. A great bonus about buying on Amazon is that if the mattress is Prime eligible, you will have it within 48 hours. You will also want to make sure if there will be any shipping costs to return the mattress (if it has a trial period and you don’t keep it).
- What materials are used in the fire barrier?
- It is a federal requirement that mattresses contain some sort of fire retardant barrier. The materials used vary widely and each have pros and cons. Chemicals may be used, which are harmful to health. Fiberglass may be used, which is better for your health, but disastrous if you open up the mattress cover. Wool or cotton are great natural alternatives found in more expensive mattresses.
- What do other people think of the mattress?
- This is where Amazon reviews are worth their weight in gold. I only review mattresses with a high number of reviews so you can be assured I am bringing you the whole picture of what people think.
- How durable is the mattress?
- Different materials have different expected life spans, with latex being considered the most durable and springs the least. This is another good piece of information that can be found out on Amazon, by finding out from people who have owned the mattress for a length of time.
- How firm is the mattress supposed to be?
- This might seem like a bit of an obvious question to ask, but I have seen countless negative reviews left where people bought a mattress advertised as being soft or firm, then finding it too soft or too firm for their taste. This is a very subjective thing of course, and everyone is different, but if you know what feel to expect you will be better prepared. For example if you buy a great sounding mattress but have overlooked the fact its firmness rating is “plush”, you will be disappointed if you wanted a firm mattress.
I answer all these questions about specific mattresses for you (and more) in my thorough and unbiased mattress reviews.
What to read next
You will have seen that throughout this article, which is a brief overview buying guide, I have directed you to other informational articles I have written that provide more in-depth coverage of topics that relate to this buying guide. I will add to this guide as I continue to write articles for this site (suggestions welcome for articles, leave me a comment). The articles I have linked for you are:
- All about latex mattresses
- My experience trying mattresses in store
- Buying a mattress online
- Buying a mattress in a box
- Why you should buy a mattress on Amazon
- Mattress reviews