Buying a mattress is one challenge in life that you should take lying down. Though salespeople might tout a particular design or technology, the best mattress for you is the one you find most comfortable and supportive, and the only way to know for sure is to try some out.
Mattress shopping is further complicated by the pricing games manufacturers and retailers play. Markups are so high that stores routinely announce "sales" of 50 percent or more off. So if you don't time it right, you can end up overpaying by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Different stores might also sell similar beds under different names to thwart comparison shopping. Those practices are hardly new; we have criticized them for years as a disservice to consumers, perhaps the worst for any major household purchase.
To cut through the hype, we cut through 11 firm mattresses from the big three brands, Sealy, Serta, and Simmons. We also tested Select Comfort (adjustable air) and Tempur-Pedic (memory foam). Before we started our dissection, 54 staffers participated in blind rest tests of the mattresses, assessing each for comfort. The role played by personal preference, as well as store-to-store product differences, make it impossible for us to rate mattresses in the same way we do cars, TVs, and kitchen appliances, but we did glean information that can help you make the right choice.