About 75 percent of those who bought a new mattress reported that it helped them sleep better. But paying more didn’t always translate into higher satisfaction the morning after. Nor did buying from a major retailer. Lying down on the mattress for at least 10 minutes in the store remains the best way to find the right mattress.
That’s what subscribers told us about more than 17,500 experiences buying and sleeping on mattresses in a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Though most were satisfied overall with their purchases, they also gave us an earful on the shopping process, which many manufacturers and retailers make as confusing as possible. Here’s some of what they had to say:
Memory foam and air beds satisfy. Subscribers who bought memory foam and inflatable air beds were more likely to tell us they were sleeping better than those who purchased traditional innersprings.
Price-matching offers are meaningless. If you want value as well as comfort, you’ll run into a long-standing business practice that makes it almost impossible to comparison shop. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally, but when those brands are sold through major chains such as Macy’s, Sears, and Sleepy’s, they’re for lines exclusive to those chains. And each retailer usually gives the mattress a different name.
A new box spring isn’t a must. Though most respondents replaced their box spring with their mattress, roughly 80 percent of those who kept their old box spring reported that they were sleeping better after replacing just their mattress. So if your box spring isn’t broken and is still structurally sound, consider keeping it and saving several hundred dollars. One caveat: Some brands require you buy their box spring to get full warranty coverage. You might want to avoid those brands.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "Mattresses."