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3 Ways to Buy a Mattress

Pros and cons of buying online, in-store shopping, testing options and returns

woman sitting on mattress at furniture store

Oleksandra Polishchuk/Getty Images

En español | In any given year, if you're an eight-hour-a-night sleeper, you'll log about 2,920 hours in bed — nearly 122 days. And in 2020 you may have spent even more time on your mattress — working, attending school or watching movies. The bedding industry saw a huge uptick in sales during the pandemic, everything from mattresses to adjustable bases, pillows and sheets.

A good mattress is a lifeboat carrying you from one day to the next, and the average mattress lasts seven to 10 years (a high-end mattress like a Tempur-Pedic may hold up for 15 years). If you love your current mattress, you can try to find the same one and purchase it again. But mattresses are like snowflakes; each one will be different. Plus, mattress retailers often sell the same mattress under different labels.

There are dozens of mattress brands that promise to deliver on quality, comfort, durability and longevity. If you want the inside scoop on good, better or best options, go to an independent review site like SleepLikeTheDead.com, TheMattressUnderground.com or GoodBed.com. Or you could get a subscription to Consumer Reports.

When you're ready for your next mattress there are a couple of ways to go about it: try-then-buy from a mattress store, purchase online, or test mattresses out at a hotel. Each method has its pros and cons.

Closeup of mattress on display for sale in large furniture store

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What to Consider When Buying a Mattress

  • Price
  • Comfort
  • Return policy

"These are the three things you can control for in person. Comfort may be harder to gauge, but a lengthy return policy gives you some wiggle room,” says Haniya Rae, Consumer Reports home editor.

You might also consider health issues as you research your mattress purchase. Consumer Reports’ surveys have found that people with adjustable air mattresses find them better for sleep-related health issues. “Sleep doctors I've spoken to often suggest firmer mattresses for people with trouble sleeping,” Rae says, “but note that firm doesn't always mean comfortable."

Remember, when you're trying out a mattress, salespeople may be knowledgeable, but they don't know if a mattress feels right for you. Says Rae, “If you try it and you instantly hate it, don't let yourself get talked into buying it."

1. Try Then Buy

Pros: A 2020 Civic Science survey of 3,533 people found that even during the height of the pandemic, in October, 60 percent of respondents planned to purchase a mattress by visiting a mattress store and testing options. In fact, older consumers were even more inclined to want to buy a mattress in a store: 67 percent of those 55-plus said that was their plan, according to the survey.

Is it important to lie on every mattress before you purchase? “I would say it's important to know whether you like foam or innerspring or adjustable air, and if you're switching from one to another, to make sure you like the sensation,” says Haniya Rae, a Consumer Reports home editor, adding, “You should also notice how easy it is to move around and how bouncy a mattress is.”

Usually, a retailer will remove your old mattress when they deliver a new one. In fact, in California, retailers are required by law to take away your old mattress. You could donate or sell a mattress that's in good condition. Or, you may live in an area where an organization like ByeByeMattress will haul it to a recycler for a fee (the same fee is tucked into the cost that the retailer must pay, anyway).

Cons: While shopping in-store allows you to test out different mattresses, “support over time is a different animal and you won't get this from trying it out in person,” Rae says.

Buying a mattress from a brick-and-mortar store can also be frustrating, because prices are negotiable. That $3,000 bed might be on sale for $1,700, but you can still get it for less. Before you shop, compare prices online and ask the in-store salesperson to match or even beat it. Most stores will do so.

Many stores also tack on delivery fees. Macy's, for example, charges a $110 delivery fee for a mattress that costs less than $1,499. There are different fees if the mattress is purchased with other furniture items.

Returns: If you don't like your new mattress, most retailers accept returns. About 90 days is the average amount of time you've got to check it out, and there's usually a 30-day minimum to make sure you really are not happy with it. According to SleepLikeTheDead.com, about 60 percent of retailers will give you your money back, but they may also charge you pick-up and restocking fees ranging from $80 to $500.

2. Buy Then Try

Pros: According to a recent CNBC report, there are 175 bed-in-a-box companies. Generally you order online and a mattress in a box appears at your door. Shipping is usually free. You get to try it out for a set amount of time, sometimes up to 100 days, to determine if it works for you. (It can take a month or two to get used to a new mattress.)

If you don't like haggling, you're in luck with an online purchase because the price is what's stated. Overall, buying a mattress online will cost about 15 percent less than buying one in a store, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you purchase from out of state, there may or may not be sales tax depending on where you live.

Cons: The big difference from purchasing from a retailer is that you are responsible for getting rid of your old mattress. However, some online companies such as Nectar, with its “white glove” service, install and remove for $149. But you might want to keep your old mattress handy in case you don't like the new one.

Returns: While online mattress sellers will take back your purchase if you're unsatisfied, it may not be easy. Packing that mattress back into the small box it came in can be hard work. Some online sellers like Casper will pick up the mattress from your home; but for others, you may have to bring it to a shipping center. Most online sellers will offer a full refund, but check the return policy for the mattress you choose.


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3. Practice at a Hotel

Pros: Who knows more about creating a comfortable night's sleep than a luxe hotel? Those crisp linens, just-right mattresses, right-weight blanket, sink-into-heaven pillows. Now, you can have all that comfort in your own home.

Properties — such as the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Peninsula Hotels, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Marriott International and others — will sell you your very own version of their mattresses, box springs, toppers and bed frames. The Westin even sells its dog beds.

Cons: These are new beds, of course, produced by well-known manufacturers such as Sealy Posturepedic, Serta, Tempur-Pedic or Simmons. They're relatively pricey, but they are made to order for each particular hotel.

Returns: Since hotels operate internationally, there are shipping fees based on destination. Check the hotel policy on returns. Marriott's website states that “beds are not accepted for returns or exchange.” The Four Seasons’ site says, “mattresses, toppers and/or foundations cannot be returned unless it has been determined that you have a warranty claim."

However you decide to purchase your mattress, do so knowing it might take a while to receive it. Mattress delivery from a retailer generally takes a day or two, but pandemic-related supply chain issues, the Texas deep freeze and soaring demand may mean you'll have to wait a little longer for a good night's sleep.
 

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