Mattress Buying Guide
Last Updated September 2023
Navigating the mattress market can be overwhelming. There are so many different brands, all of which claim to have the “best mattress” available. Not to mention all the complicated jargon and technical features, which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused.
But don’t worry! We know that buying a mattress is a big investment, and you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. That’s why we’ve created this mattress buying guide that breaks down the complex jargon to teach you everything you need to know before buying a mattress, so you can find the bed of your dreams—without losing any sleep over it.
In this guide, we’ll cover mattress basics, including when it’s time for a new mattress, the main types of mattresses and the most important features to consider. To make sure you’re buying with confidence, we’ll even tackle how to find the best deal on a new mattress and send you off with a complete mattress buying checklist.
Before you start shopping for your dream mattress, there are a few important things you should know., like how long a mattress lasts and how often you should replace it. In this section of the guide, we’re diving into those details so you’re equipped with all the information you need to get started:
How Long Do Mattresses Last?
Generally speaking, mattresses need to be replaced every seven to 10 years. This is often when the wear and tear of regular use starts to compromise the mattress’ support system.
But there are several factors that dictate the exact lifespan of your specific mattress, including:
- The material quality
- The quality of construction
- Your sleep position
- Your bodyweight
- How well you’ve cared for your mattress
- The type of mattress you are sleeping on
- How often the mattress is used
For a more in-depth overview of the impact of each of these factors on your mattress’ lifespan, check out this helpful article.
How Often Should You Replace Your Mattress?
Although mattresses have a general lifespan range, they don’t have a set expiration date. Rather, it’s up to the sleeper to decide when it’s time for a new mattress.
But how do you know for sure? First, ask yourself if you’re sleeping comfortably through the night. This is the best indicator of whether it’s time to start shopping for a new mattress.
Some signs are a little less obvious, so to test whether it’s time to say goodnight to your mattresses for good, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you wake up feeling tired, achy or numb?
- Are there any visible signs of wear, such as sagging?
- Does your mattress feel lumpy or unsupportive?
- Do you toss and turn during the night?
- Are you able to feel your partner’s movements more than you used to?
- Do you sleep better in hotel rooms or when visiting friends or family?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to replace your mattress.
But first, check to see whether your current mattress is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Many mattress companies cover for sagging and other signs of wear within a certain timeframe.
If your mattress isn’t covered under a warranty, it’s time to start shopping. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with exactly what to look for during the mattress buying process.
What is the Best Mattress to Buy?
Since a sleeper’s needs vary greatly from person to person, the most ideal mattress choice varies as well, depending on sleep style and individual preferences. Ultimately, the best mattress is one that’s comfortable, supportive, durable and high quality.
Later in the guide, we’ll introduce you to the most important features to look for in a mattress, as well as which mattress is best for your individual sleeping style. And don’t forget to check out our list of the Best Mattresses—we ranked the top mattresses based on criteria consumers like you care about most.
What is the Best Mattress Brand?
Fortunately, there are a lot of great, high-quality mattress brands in today’s market, and shoppers have their pick when it comes to firmness, features, style, materials and price.
Some manufacturers make a variety of mattress styles, while others simply offer one flagship model. There are organic mattress brands, luxury mattress brands and brands that specialize in budget-friendly offerings, and that just scratches the surface of what’s available.
We know this is a little daunting, so a great way to start narrowing down the field is by checking out our mattress reviews. There, you can see which features each brand offers, how the mattress is constructed—and you can even compare each mattress side by side with others on the market to see how they measure up.
A Beginner’s Guide to Mattress Types
So now that you’ve determined that it’s time to upgrade your lumpy, bumpy, pain-inducing mattress, it’s time to figure out exactly what type of mattress you want.
What Size Mattress is Best?
Most mattresses are made in six standard sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king and California king, otherwise known as a “cal” king.
To determine the best size mattress for you, you’ll need to ask yourself two questions: Who is sleeping on it, and where will it be set up? The size of the person, as well as the size of the room it’s going in, will help you find the best fit.
We’ve gathered all the factors you should consider to determine what size mattress you need—including who each size is best for, dimensions to make sure it’ll fit in your space and an average price range to make sure it’ll fit in your budget—all in one handy chart for easy comparison:
|SIZE||WHO IT’S GOOD FOR||DIMENSIONS||MINIMUM ROOM SIZE||PRICE RANGE|
|Twin||Children, teens, single sleepers on a budget||38” x 75”||7’ x 9’||$150-$600+|
|Twin XL||Children, teens, single sleepers on a budget, college students, single sleepers with a child or pet||38” x 80”||8’ x 10’||$200-$700+|
|Full||Children, teens, single sleepers, college students, single sleepers with a child or pet, couples on a budget||54” x 75”||10’ x 10’||$250-$1,000+|
|Queen||Couples||60” x 80”||10’ x 11’||$300-$1,300+|
|King||Couples, pet owners, parents||76” x 80”||12’ x 12’||$400-$1,600+|
|Cal King||Couples, pet owners, parents, taller people||72” x 84”||12’ x 12’||$400-$1,600+|
As you can see, mattress size has a lot to do with who will be sleeping on the bed, but personal preference, room size and budget all come into play as well.
Twin, twin XL and full mattresses are great for children, teens, single sleepers and singles with a child or pet.
The most common size for couples is a queen, because it fits well in most bedrooms and gives both people enough room to sleep comfortably.
King mattresses are best for couples with children or pets who like to sneak in bed with you from time to time. For those interested in either of the king-size options, keep in mind the increased costs for the bed itself as well as linens, and a potentially more challenging setup because of the size and weight of these mattresses.
What Type of Mattress is Best?
There are several different mattress types, each with their own benefits, and each suited to specific types of sleepers. Some of the most common mattress types include:
- Memory foam mattresses
- Traditional foam mattresses
- Gel memory foam mattresses
- Innerspring mattresses
- Hybrid mattresses
- Latex mattresses
Since every sleeper is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the best mattress. The best mattress for you depends on a few factors, including:
- Your preferred sleep position
- Your age
- Your weight
- Your pain points—back, hips, shoulders or neck
- Your temperature preference
- Your firmness preference
- If you sleep alone or with a partner
For help determining the best mattress for you, check out this helpful guide, which breaks it all down.
The Best Mattress for Every Sleep Position
How you sleep is an important factor in determining the optimal mattress type. Different sleepers have different needs, and we’ve broken them all down by sleep style to help guide you to the mattress features that’ll be the most comfortable and supportive for you.
Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers need more support for their shoulders and hips, to provide pressure-point relief for the areas that press deeper into the mattress. Firm or medium-firm foam and memory foam mattresses tend to be a good choice for side sleepers, as they balance contouring and pressure-point relief and help properly align the spine in this position.
Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
Those who sleep on their back need a mattress that balances comfort and support while providing proper spinal alignment. Most back sleepers prefer a medium to medium-firm mattress, while lightweight back sleepers are usually more comfortable with a softer feel and heavyweight back sleepers tend to appreciate a firmer model. All mattress types can work for back sleepers if the firmness level is right and the spine is properly aligned.
Best Mattress for Stomach Sleepers
Sleeping on the stomach puts strain on the neck and spine, so stomach sleepers should choose a firm mattress that supports the midsection while promoting healthy spinal alignment. Memory foam, hybrid, latex and innerspring mattresses can all work for stomach sleepers, given they are firm enough to provide support in the right places.
Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers
If you change positions frequently throughout the night, you’ll have some different considerations when it comes to choosing a mattress. You’ll want a mattress with good freedom of movement so you don’t feel “stuck” when you move around, and the right firmness to support any sleep position. Combo sleepers will find good support from hybrid, latex and foam mattresses.
Best Mattresses by Age
Most people know that their sleep position and firmness preference are important considerations when shopping for a new mattress. Lesser known, is just how much age and lifestyle should also factor into that decision.
But if you think about it, it makes sense: A small child who moves around a lot in his sleep needs a different mattress than an overweight adult who shares her bed with a partner. And an athlete who runs hot needs a different sleep experience than a sedentary senior who has back pain and trouble getting out of bed
Here’s an overview of the mattress features to look for, according to age and lifestyle factors:
|Age Group||What to Look for in a Mattress|
|Kids||Twin mattress for toddlers and young children; full-size for preteens / Foam for those who move around a lot; innerspring for those who sleep hot|
|Teens||Medium-soft to medium firm mattress, depending upon sleep position (side sleepers tend to prefer a softer mattress while back and stomach sleepers do well with firmer mattresses) / Temperature regulation—cooling technology and good airflow / The best-quality materials and construction your budget allows since sleep is extra important for this group|
|Adults||Any mattress that provides adequate contouring and support—to prevent or manage aches and pains / Cooling technology for those who sleep hot / Firmness and materials according to sleep position, body weight and personal preference / Couples should look for good motion isolation so that when one partner moves during the night, the other is not disturbed. / Heavyweight sleepers (230+ lbs.) should look for a medium to medium-firm mattress with strong support and minimal cushioning; lightweight sleepers (less than 130 lbs.) tend to prefer a soft mattress.|
|Seniors||Hybrid mattresses with: Solid edge support to assist with mobility / Memory foam for support and contouring. / Springs for greater ease of movement|
For more detail on which mattress is best for your age and lifestyle, check out this detailed guide.
What is the Best Mattress by Pain Type?
If you experience neck, back, shoulder or hip pain, selecting your mattress is especially important. That’s because the right mattress can provide some much needed relief, while the wrong mattress can exacerbate the issue.
And because the best mattress for someone suffering from back pain isn’t necessarily the best mattress for someone suffering from hip pain, it’s critical that you know what’s best for your unique pain type. Here’s a high level overview of the best mattress for each pain type:
|Pain Type||What To Look For|
|Back pain||Foam or latex mattress in the medium to medium-firm range|
|Shoulder pain||Foam, latex or hybrids with contouring and sufficient support|
|Hip pain||Premium support and optimal firmness for your sleep position and bodyweight|
|Neck pain||Medium-soft to medium-firm mattress|
For a more in-depth review of the best mattress according to your pain type, check out this helpful guide.
Sleep Problems? How to Choose Your Mattress
Sleep is essential to our general wellbeing, so those who suffer from sleep issues will be happy to know that mattress makers have your comfort in mind, too, when designing their key features.
If you’re prone to tossing and turning at night, the right mattress can be a lifesaver when it comes to getting a good night of sleep.
Restless sleeping can be caused by pain, stress, poor temperature regulation, noise and movement, as well as various health issues, so the key is to narrow down what’s causing you to lose sleep, so you can find a mattress that addresses your specific needs.
Foam mattresses excel at providing pressure-point relief at the joints, which can help relieve aches and pains. They’re also great for absorbing and isolating movement and noise.
If you find yourself waking up too hot or too cold at night, keep reading for our recommendations for “hot” and “cold” sleepers.
Similar to restless sleepers, those who suffer from insomnia do so for a variety of reasons, and can find relief with a mattress that’s designed to alleviate your specific areas of discomfort or concern, such as memory foam for pain relief, motion isolation or noise reduction, or a mattress with zoned support to ensure proper spinal alignment no matter what position you’re in.
Those who tend to sleep hot should look for a mattress with excellent airflow. Innerspring mattresses allow for the most air circulation by design, due to the open space around the coils.
But if you’re a hot sleeper that prefers the “hug” of a memory foam mattress, don’t worry. Many all-foam and hybrid mattress brands have engineered sleep technology that helps regulate body heat and pull hot air away from the body as you sleep. So if you’re sold on foam, be sure to look for a mattress with built-in cooling features.
If you’re always cold at night, no matter the season, you’ll want to look for a mattress that retains as much heat as possible. This can be tricky since most sleepers tend to have the opposite problem, which means a lot of mainstream mattresses have been designed for cooling.
The best mattress for cold sleepers is one that’s constructed of traditional memory foam. Because of the contouring nature of memory foam, your body comes in contact with more surface area of the mattress, which warms you up faster. And since synthetic foams are naturally insulating, they retain heat rather than ushering it away from the body, keeping you nice and toasty at night.
Stay away from foams with gel, copper, graphite or other “cooling” additives, but be sure to look for a mattress that’s made with CertiPUR-US® foam, which is certified to be free of a whole slew of harmful toxins.
Most Important Mattress Features to Look For
Selecting a mattress is personal; there’s no one-size-fits-all model. But there are three mattress characteristics every sleeper should look for: Your mattress should be comfortable, it should be supportive, and it should meet your firmness needs and preference.
There are a few factors that contribute to comfort in a mattress: Its responsiveness—how well it reacts to your movements, its motion isolation—how well the mattress absorbs movement, and temperature regulation. Determine your preference, and then make sure your pick matches your needs.
To determine how supportive a mattress is, you’ll want to consider how well the mattress relieves pressure on the body, especially on the shoulders, hips, back, neck and joints. You’ll also want to ensure that the mattress keeps your spine in healthy alignment. Edge support and durability are also important considerations.
Finally, firmness. Put simply, a mattress’ firmness is how stiff or soft it feels. Selecting a mattress with the right firmness level is critical since it will impact how comfortable and supportive your mattress feels. Firmness is measured on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the firmest option available. Your sleep position and bodyweight are the primary determinants of how firm your mattress should be. Side sleepers tend to prefer a slightly softer mattress that contours the body while also providing support to the shoulders and hips. Back sleepers tend to prefer a mattress that’s on the medium-firm side. Stomach sleepers also often prefer a firmer mattress.
For more detail on the best mattress for your sleep position, check out this helpful article. And for additional information on the most important mattress characteristics, we’ve got you covered here.
Trial, Return Policy & Warranty
Though most mattress companies, especially online-only brands, offer a generous in-home trial period and warranty, along with free returns, each company varies slightly with the terms of each of these features. So be sure to note the length of the trial, the return policy period and what’s covered under the warranty as you’re shopping around.
In other words: How a mattress makes it to your front door.
Most online mattresses are shipped free and arrive quickly to your door, but you should also look into exactly how it ships, especially if you live upstairs or in a small apartment. If you live in smaller quarters, a mattress-in-a-box, which ships completely compressed, might be a better option than a mattress that ships full size.
As a bonus, some companies offer white glove delivery service that includes setup of your new mattress and removal of your old mattress, either for free or for a small fee. This is a great feature to consider, especially for mattresses that tend to be heavier or bulkier, like latex or hybrids.
How Much Does a Mattress Cost?
A new mattress ranges anywhere from a couple hundred dollars up to a couple thousand, or more. In terms of budget, no matter where you land on that spectrum, it’s a big investment that’s worthy of planning and consideration.
Since a mattress typically lasts seven to 10 years, you’ll want to seek out the best quality materials and construction you can find for your budget.
Mattress type, size, materials and construction all play a role in the price. Generally, latex and hybrid models fall into the higher price range, while all-foam or innerspring mattresses constructed with basic materials are more budget-friendly. The mid-range, however, is the sweet spot. Here, you’ll find many mattress types, like all-foam, innerspring and hybrid options, from a variety of brands—all made with high-quality materials.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for basic mattresses, $1,000 to $1,500 for mid-range models and $1,500 to $3,500 or more for luxury mattresses. Later in the guide, we’ll show you how to get the best mattress deals, and when is the best time to buy a mattress.
Where to Buy a Mattress
When it comes to purchasing a mattress, you have a lot of options for where to go. You can shop at department stores, mattress stores, furniture stores, big box retailers—and even online without leaving the comfort of your home.
In-Store Mattress Shopping
The main benefit to shopping in a store is the ability to try the mattress out in person, on the spot. But for budget-conscious shoppers, you’ll often see better deals with online mattress companies, since they’ve cut out a lot of the overhead costs associated with traditional retail stores. Plus, many online mattress retailers offer generous sleep trials, which allow you to try out their mattress at home, and if you aren’t satisfied, return it for a full refund.
Online Mattress Shopping
Generally speaking, it’s more economical to purchase a mattress online. That’s because online mattress companies and mattress-in-a-box brands cut out the middleman and don’t have the overhead of a brick-and-mortar location, so they’re able to pass those savings along to the customer.
Online mattress companies realize that buying a mattress without testing it out first can be intimidating to shoppers, so they’ve designed their purchasing experience to be as convenient and risk-free as possible, with generous in-home sleep trials, free returns, extended warranties and best-in-class customer service.
Check out our top ranked online mattresses here.
When is the Best Time to Buy a Mattress?
Buying a mattress is a big investment. But luckily, many mattress brands offer sales and discounts regularly throughout the year.
Look for deals around major holidays, such as:
- Presidents Day
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Black Friday
- New Year’s
Most companies roll out sales a few days before the holiday, and oftentimes, extend the sale at least a few days after the holiday as well.
Pro tip: Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few mattress brands or stores, sign up for their email list to get notified when big sales and discounts are coming up so you can be prepared!
Let’s Do This: Your Mattress Buyer’s Checklist
By now, you’ve determined whether or not it’s time to buy a mattress, and you’ve probably even narrowed down what type of mattress you want and some of the key features you’re looking for.
So if it’s time to pull the trigger and start shopping, use this handy checklist as you start your search to ensure you have all of your bases covered:
- What type of mattress is it?
- What materials is it constructed from?
- What size do I need?
- Does it fit my budget?
- Will it accommodate my preferred sleeping position?
- How does this mattress perform in key areas, such as:
- Spinal alignment
- Pressure-point relief
- Temperature regulation
- Motion isolation
- Edge support
- Body weight support
- Will it accommodate all sleep scenarios, such as sleeping with a partner?
- How long is the in-home trial?
- Does the company offer free returns? What is the return period?
- How long is the warranty period and what does it cover?
- Are there any other red flags to consider, such as a short trial period or warranty, too soft or too firm, too cheap or too expensive?
And with that, you’re off! We hope this guide has given you the information you need to seek out your best night’s sleep and purchase with confidence. Happy mattress shopping!