Mattress Buying Guide

If you dread a trip to Mattress Firm or Macy’s, it may be comforting to know that you have more options than ever before—department and specialty stores are no longer the default destination for mattress shopping. Great mattresses at fair prices can be found at warehouse clubs and through online retailers—and the competition is only getting more intense.

Mattress prices have been increasing, and according to our surveys, CR members are paying, on average, $1,200 or more for a new mattress. But money savings can be found in that many mattresses no longer need a box spring and are perfectly situated on top of a frame with slats (make sure to ask your salesperson or check the information on the retailer’s website). And that’s not even taking into consideration that you can haggle for deeper discounts and freebies, both in store and online.

How We Test Mattresses

We test queen-size mattresses (60 inches wide by 80 inches long) because they’re the most common size purchased. (For your reference, the other standard dimensions are king, 76x80 inches; California king, 72x84; full, or double, 53x75; and twin, 38x75.)

We subject each mattress to a battery of lab tests and use human subjects of small and large stature to gauge how well the mattress supports people in a range of body sizes and who sleep on either their side or their back. We also have a machine push and pull a 310-pound wood roller across the mattress 30,000 times to simulate someone tossing and turning for eight to 10 years.

And though our scientific ratings for support are a good proxy for how well you might sleep on a mattress, we also provide ratings for comfort and satisfaction that come from people who’ve actually lived with these mattresses—for up to 10 years in some cases.

Our comfort and owner satisfaction ratings are based on data from recent surveys on CR members’ experiences with almost 70,000 mattresses purchased within the past decade. We asked members to rate the comfort of their mattress, and we used the data to generate ratings by brand and type of mattress. Note that a brand’s comfort score for its innerspring mattresses can be different from its score for its foam mattresses. Owner satisfaction is based on a member’s overall judgment of factors such as firmness/softness, value, quality of sleep, and more.

Compare the Types

If you’re shopping for a new mattress, you could be overwhelmed by the variety of choices and prices, ranging from too-low-to-believe to astronomical. Our years of testing have shown that, whichever type you choose, you can get a comfortable, supportive mattress for around $1,000. One innovative feature we’re seeing is that some mattresses in both the innerspring and foam categories are two-sided, with different firmness on each side so that you can flip the mattress to what you prefer. Here are the major types you’ll see. 

A cross section of a foam mattress.

Foam Mattresses

Though 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 and specifications tab on the model page. Some mattresses include both. Memory foam softens because of your body heat when you lie on it and soon molds to your body. Once you get up, it slowly returns to its original shape. Some foam mattresses require some effort to change position, but latex foam has a springier feel to it than memory foam does. 

Mattresses Ratings
A cross section of an innerspring mattresses.

Innerspring and Hybrid Mattresses

Traditional innerspring mattresses are composed of steel coils in various configurations. Variations can include special layers of cushioning, such as a pillowtop layer or infused gel. Hybrids have one or more layers of foam on top of the springs. Shifting positions tends to be easy (unless there’s a significant amount of foam above the springs, which can make it harder to move around), but on some models, particularly the ones that don’t have many foam layers, your sleep partner might feel an annoying bounce when you do so.

Mattresses Ratings
A cross section of an adjustable air mattress.

Adjustable Air Mattresses

You can inflate this type of mattress to your desired firmness using an electric pump attached to the bed (many even allow you to adjust the firmness via your phone). These typically include additional layers of foam on top. Most also let you inflate individual halves to different firmnesses to suit each sleep partner. But if you want to adjust the bed during the night, know that the pumps can be noisy.  

Mattresses Ratings

Mattress Buying Guide Video

For more, watch our video.

Mattress Myths

These two common claims haven’t held up in our tests:

Gel Provides a Cooler Sleep

Less than half our innerspring mattresses (noted in our mattress ratings) have a layer of gel-infused foam that’s claimed to provide a cooling effect. Overall, our tests have shown that innerspring mattresses containing gel did tend to sleep slightly cooler, but the reverse was true with gel-infused foam beds.

Innerspring and Hybrid Innerspring Mattresses Are Different
Nowadays, many innerspring mattresses on the market are hybrids, which means they may have several layers of foam above a layer of springs. Hybrid innerspring mattresses aren’t necessarily better or worse than other types of mattresses you can try, like foam or adjustable air.

Forget About Comparison Shopping

If you like a mattress at one store and ask elsewhere for something similar, you’re likely to be steered toward a same-brand mattress claimed to have the same construction, components, and firmness. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally, but when those brands are sold through major chains such as Macy’s or Mattress Firm, they’re typically exclusive to those chains. And manufacturers don’t publish a directory of comparable mattresses. So use our ratings as a guide, and insist on the precise make and model that scored well in our tests.

You can also browse our ratings of mattress stores, which are based on the Consumer Reports 2021 Winter Survey of 5,990 CR members reporting on their mattress purchase experiences during 2020 and the first two months of 2021.

Mattress Shopping Tips

Lie Down
If possible, lie on any mattress that you’re considering. Wear loose clothes, and shoes you can slip off. Make yourself comfortable, and shoo away the salesperson if you’re feeling pressured. Salespeople should expect you to take your time. Spend at least 5 or 10 minutes on each side and on your back (your stomach, too, if that’s a preferred sleeping position). Shopping online or at a warehouse club? Tryouts aren’t usually an option, so checking return policies before you buy is extra-important.

Check Return Policies
Make sure the store offers a full refund or credit toward 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 provide free pickup if you want a refund or an exchange, but otherwise, you’ll have to pay for it—or cart the mattress to the store. Macy’s, for example, charges an $85 pickup fee. And you’ll be responsible for any damage.

Look for a Green Certification to Avoid Harmful Chemicals
A new mattress can give off volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, chemicals that come from solvents used in mattress manufacturing and that can cause health issues when inhaled. If you want to buy a mattress that has low or no VOCs or other harmful chemicals, the best label to look for is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a certification that ensures a mattress is made of 95 percent organic material and that no chemical flame retardants or polyurethane was used in its manufacture. For latex mattresses, the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) ensures that the latex used is 95 percent organic and that no chemical flame retardants or polyurethane was used. You can read more about mattress certifications in our guide to organic mattress labels.

Try to Haggle
Once you’ve settled on a model, try to bring the price down. Many businesses, such as warehouse clubs, have fixed prices and won’t budge. But for retailers that do negotiate—particularly specialty chains—huge markups allow them to lower prices by 50 percent or more during their frequent sales. Our recommendation: Any time of year, insist on a sale price you’ve seen for the mattress you know you want, and don’t be afraid to walk out if you feel you’re getting a raw deal. Though it’s a little tougher to negotiate online, there are still ways to save. Plus, those members who tried to haggle online were about as successful at getting a discount as those who shopped in a store (62 percent vs. 63 percent). 

Don’t Be Bullied Into Buying a Box Spring
You might not need it. If your box spring is still structurally sound, consider keeping it and saving money (roughly $150 to $300 for a queen-size). One caveat: Some brands require you to buy their box spring to receive full warranty coverage. Many foam manufacturers recommend a platform base or a strong slatted-wood foundation.

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 frequently prorated, meaning that it decreases over time.

On Delivery Day
Never accept delivery without inspecting the mattress (and the box spring, if you buy one) for stains and other damage. Also be sure that the mattress has a label that states “all-new material” before you send the driver on his way. If it’s not there, refuse delivery. And keep it on afterward 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 appears to be wrong with the mattress or if it’s dirty. Take a few photos with your smartphone in case the customer service representative asks for proof of the damage.

Need new bedding for your mattress? Check our sheets buying guide and ratings to find out how we rate and review cotton sheets. We also have pillow ratings and a buying guide to find the pillow with the best support for your body and sleep style.

Mattress Brands

Below is a quick look at some of the most well-known and widely available mattress brands.

Beautyrest (formerly Simmons) lines include Beautyrest Black, Beautyrest Hybrid, Beautyrest Platinum, and Beautyrest Silver. Prices range from $500 for a basic queen mattress to $6,000 for a latex plush super pillowtop queen mattress. Simmons is available nationwide through mass-market chains such as Sears, sleep specialty chains, and furniture stores.
Casper mattresses are sold mostly online, with free shipping, though the company also has showrooms in New York City, Los Angeles, and other locations. Although you can’t try out the mattress in most parts of the country, you get a 100-night trial with free, no-hassle returns.
A regional seller with its own manufacturing facilities, Denver Mattress began as a waterbed manufacturer and today makes innerspring, foam, adjustable air, and specialty mattresses, with sales both online and through almost 100 stores in about 30 states. The company also sells other brands: Beautyrest, Serta, and Tempur-Pedic. Among its better-known home-grown lines is the Doctor’s Choice innerspring.
Novaform, made by Innocor Comfort (formerly Sleep Innovations), is a line of memory-foam mattresses, mattress toppers, and pillows sold exclusively at Costco and on its website. The mattress line averages medium firmness and has performed fairly well in our tests. The store won’t charge for shipping and handling if you contact it about a return within a reasonable period of time, such as a few months after purchase. (You don’t even need to save the box.) That goes for the website and the stores.
The Original Mattress Factory makes its own innerspring and foam mattresses and sells them from stores in nine states. Though the company offers shipping to most states, you ought to be sure you want what you order. Up to a year after purchase, you can exchange your mattress for a different model (it costs 25 percent of the less expensive mattress’ price), but the company doesn’t accept returns.
Sealy, one of the largest manufacturers, makes the Bassett, Sealy, and Stearns & Foster brands of mattresses. Sealy also markets itself as a maker of orthopedic, back-friendly mattresses with its Posturepedic line. The national brand is available in mass-market chains such as Sears, sleep specialty stores, and furniture retailers. Sealy makes models at a wide range of prices, from $500 for a queen to more than $4,000 for a foam mattress. A plush pillowtop (queen mattress only) can range from $800 to $3,000.
Serta is the largest brand of mattresses, available at mass-market chains such as Sears, sleep specialty chains, and furniture stores. Prices range from $200 for an entry-level, firm queen mattress to $3,000 for a Cool Action memory-foam model.
Sleep Number, from Select Comfort, is best known for adjustable air beds with DualAir technology, which lets users set the degree of firmness on each side of the bed. Prices range from $900 for an entry-level c2 queen set to $4,700 for the m9 model, which has memory foam and a digital remote. The brand is sold nationally in 410 retail stores and through the company’s website. In CR's member survey, Sleep Number received Very Good ratings for both comfort and owner satisfaction.
Tempur-Pedic is the top specialty-sleep brand. Its expensive line of proprietary foam bedding ranges from $1,200 for the OriginalBed (queen) to $6,000 for the GrandBed. Tempur-Pedic’s popularity has generated a loyal following and a number of knockoffs from the other leading mattress manufacturers. It is a national brand available at sleep specialty stores, and its own stores and website.
Tuft & Needle has showrooms in Arizona and Washington and partner stores across the country, but it mostly sells its own mattresses online. If you can’t try out the mattress, keep in mind that you get a 100-night trial. (If you’re shopping through Amazon, it’s 30 nights.) Should you want to return the mattress, the company will work with you to donate it to a local charity—and then refund your money in full.

How We Test Mattresses

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