How to Find the Best Mattress (In 4 Easy Steps)

Follow these 4 steps to find the best mattress for your sleeping style and budget

Couple looking for the best mattress

Finding the best mattress shouldn’t be something you lose sleep over. Upgrading your sleeping space should be exciting – but it’s still a decision you’ll want to get right. With so many mattress options available in 2018, it can feel impossible to even know where to start.

We hear you. And we’re going to help you find the best mattress for you (and your budget) without having to compromise. So take a deep breath and close all those other browser tabs that are taking your mattress-buying anxiety to the next level.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through four steps to find your next mattress that will save you time, money and frustration.

If you want to skip ahead to any of these sections, simply click on the links below:


1. Determine if you need a new mattress

If you’ve had your mattress for more than 5 years, it’s probably a good idea to start paying closer attention to its overall condition. Take note of how well you’re sleeping, if you’re waking up groggy or achy or if you feel like you’re sinking in too much (indicating that your mattress might be losing its shape).

Unfortunately, there’s not an alarm that goes off letting you know it’s time to change your mattress. But the general rule is that you should change your mattress every 7-10 years. Of course, if you’re not sleeping well and haven’t hit that limit, it’s still time to start shopping.

Here’s a quick guide that might help you decide if it’s time to switch things up depending on the type of mattress you have.

The average lifespan of mattresses by type

  • Innerspring: 7-8 years
    Even if you’ve flipped and rotated your innerspring mattress on the regular, the core is still made of metal wire, which tends to sag and lose its form over time.
  • Foam/memory foam: Up to 10 years
    While this material is generally better at holding its shape, it still doesn’t last forever. It can last up to 10 years if you’re diligent about rotating it and keeping it clean.
  • Latex: Up to 15 years
    Latex mattresses tend to have the most longevity. A good quality latex mattress will last you because of its durable makeup.

Once again, this part isn’t an exact science. The average lifespan of a mattress depends on factors beyond the type of mattress you have – like how often you use it, the kind of sleeper you are, if you have jumping kids or pets that share your mattress – so use this as a guide.

And we hate to break it to you but if you’ve had your mattress for a while (more than 5 years), there are most likely dust mites, bacteria, and other nasties that have crept their way into your mattress layers – no matter how clean you think you are. (Fun fact: the average person sweats out half a pint of perspiration every night. Gross, we know.)

It may also be time to change your mattress if…

  • You’re in pain when you wake up
  • You regularly wake up feeling groggy or achy
  • You tend to sleep better in a hotel room or somewhere other than your own bed
  • Your mattress is feeling a little saggy or lumpy
  • You feel like you’re sinking too deeply into your mattress

What to do with your old mattress

If you’ve decided it’s time for a new mattress, you might be wondering what to do with your old mattress. Hint: do not leave it on the side of the road! In many cities, you can actually be fined for leaving your mattress on the curb.

There are better (and more environmentally friendly) ways to make room for your new bed. Take a look at our guide on getting rid of your old mattress for tips on what to do.

Getting rid of a mattress?


2. Choose the type of mattress that’s best for you

Now that you’ve decided it’s time for a new, upgraded, less lumpy, better smelling mattress, the next step is figuring out what type of mattress you should get. There’s endless research out there to help you decide, but we’ve boiled down the essentials for you here. (You’re welcome.)

You’re also probably seeing a lot of words like “responsiveness” and “motion transfer” thrown around. In the next section, we’ll go into more detail on these terms and other important factors you should consider when comparing different mattresses.  

Foam/memory foam

  • Overall customer satisfaction: 80%
  • Average price range: $675 – $1,000
Foam mattress
Foam mattress

Foam and memory foam mattresses make up the majority of online mattresses available. These are typically a medium on the firmness scale and tend to be better for people with back pain as it helps with lumbar support, pressure relief and body contouring. It’s also great for motion transfer (if your partner moves around a lot, you won’t feel it).

Memory foam mattresses have been put down in the past for retaining heat, being too restrictive (feeling trapped or sinking in) and giving off chemically odors. However, many mattress companies have developed new and improved foam layers and materials to prevent these from happening. (Science is cool.)

Memory foam will be more contouring, meaning it will hug your body more than other mattresses will and won’t provide as much bounce. It’s also worth noting that many of “foam” mattresses you see today are not purely memory foam but a foam blend made with other materials.

Latex

  • Overall customer satisfaction: 75%
  • Average price range: $900-$2,000
Latex mattress
Latex mattress

Latex mattresses are great for people who want many of the benefits of a foam mattress but don’t want to feel as engulfed or “contoured.” These mattresses tend to have great cooling properties, bounce and are still responsive – meaning it will adjust to your body as you move around. As we mentioned earlier, latex mattresses also tend to have the longest lifespan of all mattress types.

The downsides? Latex mattresses tend to be more expensive. They are also very dense, meaning they’re going to be on the heavier side. Depending on the type of latex you get, you may notice some of that synthetic, chemically smell for the first few days. It’s also not as good as memory foam when it comes to motion transfer or pressure relief – the more you push on it, the more it pushes back.

Note: You’ll also find latex mattresses in our hybrid section, meaning it’s made with latex and something else.

Hybrid

  • Overall customer satisfaction: 81%
  • Average price range: $1,000-$1,800
Hybrid mattress
Hybrid mattress

Hybrid mattresses usually refer to a combination of memory foam and innerspring mattresses, but can include other materials and combinations as well (like latex and memory foam). Hybrids tend to offer a good balance of support and pressure relief while offering a cooler sleeping surface. Motion transfer will also be better on a hybrid than innerspring alone with the help of more motion-absorbing layers.

Hybrids tend to be a good option to “please the masses.” If you and your significant other want different things in a mattress, then a hybrid might be the best option for you. However, getting the best of both worlds can sometimes mean a higher price point. Hybrid mattresses can also be extremely heavy, making transporting and handling challenging in some cases.

Innerspring

  • Overall customer satisfaction: 64%
  • Average price range: $2,000-$5,000

When you think of the “traditional” type of mattress, innerspring (or coil) is probably what comes to mind. This is one of the most widely used types of mattresses and is made with at least one layer of spring metal coils. As you can probably visualize, innerspring mattresses have great bounce, strong edge support, and are usually pretty good about keeping you cool.

Innerspring mattress
Innerspring mattress

Because of the metal coils inside, innerspring beds are pretty heavy and will typically ship full size (if that’s a factor that will impact your decision). They are also most popular among brick and mortar companies, meaning you are likely going to be paying top dollar for this kind of mattress.

If you’re looking for something that can contour your body well, then an innerspring mattress is probably not for you. Since there’s a decent amount of empty space in an innerspring mattress, you won’t get as much support. They’re also not as durable as other kinds of mattresses, meaning you’ll have to switch it out for a new one sooner.


3. Understand what to look for when buying a mattress

If you’ve done any research on mattresses already, you’ve probably noticed that the mattress industry has its very own lingo. While they might seem like “fluff” words, they’re actually important factors to consider when choosing a mattress that’s going to best meet your needs.

Here’s a breakdown – in plain old English – to help you understand what these terms really mean, along with other important factors to consider.

Support

This one is fairly self-explanatory, but when comparing mattresses, you want to look for something that cradles your body to provide healthy spine alignment while you sleep. A healthy spine position allows your muscles to rest and therefore wake up more refreshed in the morning. You also want your weight to be evenly supported so the heavier parts of your body don’t sink in too deeply. Relief for pressure points is important too, particularly if you suffer from a bad back or joint pain.

Responsiveness

Responsiveness essentially means how well a mattress reacts and adjusts to your body movements while you sleep. We all move while we sleep, but this is especially important for people who are restless sleepers or tend to change positions often throughout the night.

Motion transfer

Motion transfer refers to how well a mattress absorbs movement. For example, if your sleeping partner is tossing, turning or getting up throughout the night and you’d rather not be bothered by it, you’ll want to look for a mattress that isolates motion well. This also helps if your pets share a bed with you.

Firmness

Firmness is just that – how firm or soft a mattress feels. While all humans are different, the type of sleeper you are usually helps dictate the level of firmness you should look for. Firmness is measured on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the firmest. (But honestly, unless you find comfort in sleeping on a pile of cotton balls or wood floor, we wouldn’t recommend a 1 or 10 – that’s extreme).

  • Side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses (3-6) that contour their body well. Typically foam mattresses are better for side sleepers although adding a pillow top to your mattress can also help make this position more comfortable.
  • Stomach sleepers usually prefer a slightly firmer mattress (4-7) for better support since they tend to put more stress on the spine when sleeping in this position. Medium firmness foam mattresses are usually a preferred choice for stomach sleepers but you can also find middle-ground firmness on innerspring and hybrid.
  • Back sleepers need good support on their lower back especially and tend to prefer firmer mattresses (6-8). Most types of mattresses (even memory foam) offer some degree of higher firmness, but you probably want to stay away from mattresses that are on the softer side.

Temperature control / heat transfer

While you’re sleeping, you want to make sure your mattress is helping to transfer heat away from your body, not keep it trapped within its layers. (No one wants to wake up in a pile of sweat.) Things to look for in a mattress that promotes a cool sleeping surface include: breathable layers that promote airflow, materials that help carry heat away, air channels, cooling technology, moisture wicking. (All another way to say: it will keep you chill throughout the night.)

Durability

When looking for your perfect mattress, you want quality, premium material that will last (preferably without tons of nasty chemicals). The strength of the material is important – you don’t want sagging or lumping and want your mattress to maintain its elasticity and support for years to come.

Edge support

Edge support helps to keep you from rolling off the mattress. Innerspring mattresses usually have a separate support layer around the edges that help keep you on it, while foam mattresses typically don’t have a separate edge layer. However, it’s also harder to “roll off” of a foam mattress. This factor is important if you’re a particularly restless sleeper (or have a history of falling off beds…) but most mattresses should be pretty decent in this department.

Trial, warranty and return policy

Even if a thousand people love a mattress, it doesn’t mean you will too. Everyone’s body is different therefore you’re going to respond to your mattress differently. Before you buy your mattress, make sure you pay attention to the trial period you have, what’s covered under your warranty, and return policy (most of our favorites have a very generous trial period, warranty policy and hassle-free returns). You should also try to give your mattress at least 30 days to “break it in” and see if it’s right for you before you kick it to the curb. (Although we don’t recommend actually kicking it to the curb if you want a refund.)

Even if a thousand people love a mattress, it doesn’t mean you will too.

Shipping

Most of our favorite mattresses ship free and fast, but you should also pay attention to how it ships. If you live in a small or walk-up only apartment, then mattresses that ship condensed in a box might be more convenient than mattresses that ship full size. (If you can’t visualize lugging a full-size mattress up a flight of stairs going smoothly, it probably won’t.) There are also some companies who will come take your old mattress for a small fee (~$40) and set up your new mattress for you.

Size

When it comes to size, the best mattress for you can be determined by considering two important factors: who will be sleeping on it and where will it go?

Who will be sleeping on it?

While this certainly has to do with the size of the people who will be sleeping on it, it also has to do with personal preference.

If you’re single or shopping for children/teens then a twin or full size mattress will probably be suitable. The most common size for couples is a queen size mattress because it fits well into most bedrooms and is large enough to give both people the space they need to sleep without disturbing each other. Sheets and other accessories are also cheaper and more available for queen beds than larger sizes.

King size mattresses have crept up in the popularity polls recently because they essentially offer couples as much space in bed with their partner as if they were alone in a twin. If you’re a restless sleeper who needs lots of room, then a king mattress is the way to go. It’s also a popular choice among couples with pets or children who sneak into bed every now and then.

For taller or larger folks, California king might seem attractive. Buyers of both king sizes should be aware of increased costs for the bed itself and accessories, and more challenging set-up due to the size and weight of the mattress.

Here are the dimensions* for standard bed sizes so you know what to expect: 

  • Twin: 38” x 75”
  • Twin XL: 38” x 80”
  • Full: 54” x 75”
  • Queen: 60” x 80”
  • King: 76” x 80”
  • California King: 72” x 84”

*Note: mattresses differ in their height, which is why we are only providing width and length as standard dimensions.

Where will it go?

If you’re moving into a new space or looking to change the size of your mattress, be sure to plan ahead by measuring how your new mattress will fit into your sleeping area. Knowing that your new mattress will fit in your room (along with any other furniture) ahead of time can save you a major headache later on. One member of our team had to cut a custom-made “extra long” double bed back down to standard size so that the bedroom door of his tiny 400 square foot Boston apartment would actually open and close.

If you are planning to change things up, there are a number of free room planning tools available that will allow you to see what your new setup might look like before you pull the trigger. We like Roomstyler 3D Home Planner which allows you to customize your room layout and already has different bed sizes and standard furniture pieces pre-loaded.

Hopefully, by now you feel a little more cultured in the mattress department. If you still have questions that are unanswered, just leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you feel confident in your mattress buying journey.

In this next section, we’ll help you compare different mattress brands and give you a sneak peek at our favorite things about them.

Price

While we’re focusing on high-quality mattresses in this article (that are also affordable) we feel like we need to warn you about prices that are too low and too high. If you find a mattress under $500 (for a queen), it typically means they’re cutting corners or using cheaper materials. Which means you’ll likely end up getting low quality sleep.

Many of the online-only brands that cut out the middleman fees can offer a great quality mattress for under $1,000 for a queen size mattress. Certainly, there are mattresses that are more expensive than that, but you’re likely paying for bells and whistles, or hidden markups at that point.

You can also think about price this way: if you buy a $1,000 mattress, only sleep on it for 300 days out of the year, and own it for 7 years, you’re essentially paying $0.48 a day to get a great night’s sleep. (Your latte costs 10x more than that.)


4. Decide where you will buy your mattress

Online vs. in-store

One question you might be asking yourself is: “Can I really buy a mattress online without trying it out first?” Fair question. But then consider this: You can’t really tell if a mattress is right for you without testing it out for a while. We’re talking like 30 days. So while you can feel a mattress and wiggle around on it for a few minutes in a mattress store, you’re not really getting the full experience anyway.

Here are some other reasons why buying a mattress online might benefit you:

  1. Lower cost: Buying from online-only mattress companies cuts out most of those “middleman” fees that retail stores rack on, so you can get a great quality mattress for a fraction of the cost. A premium mattress in a store can cost anywhere from $3,000 – $5,000 – which includes retail markups, wholesale markups, showroom fees, commission-based sales representatives, multiple delivery patterns, and somewhere in there, the mattress itself. The price is inflated at every step so all the players can make cash money off the deal. Online retailers ship direct to their customers so they’re cutting all the “extra” stuff out and therefore can offer a quality mattress for under $1,000.
  2. Easy delivery and setup: Typically, buying a mattress online means it will be shipped in a box or package that’s much smaller than the actual mattress. This means the entire delivery and setup process is easier. It can be left right at your doorstep or mailroom and carrying it to your bedroom is way less of a hassle – especially if you live on a 5th-floor walkup. Most online mattress companies will ship your mattress at no cost and some will even remove of your old mattress for a small fee of around $40 or so.
  3. Generous trial period: As you’ll see later on in this article, online mattress companies offer a generous trial period (usually 100+ days) for you to determine if this mattress is a keeper or if your search for the perfect mattress will go on. These are typically risk-free trials so you should take advantage of them and be sure not to settle if it doesn’t end up working for you. Most online companies also offer free returns where they’ll pick up the mattress right from your home at no extra charge. Many of them will donate your unwanted mattress to local charities. So you don’t need to feel guilty for returning your mattress.
  4. Time savings: There’s also the obvious fact that buying online saves you a trip to the mattress store. You can do your research in the comfort of your own home and with the click of a button, it’s on its way to your doorstep. You can avoid the awkward interaction with salespeople in the mattress store who are working on commission and might make you feel pressured to buy.

If this hasn’t convinced you, then you should also consider the fact that some of the best-rated mattresses today are online only. It might sound a little silly to unwrap your mattress from a box, but it’s revolutionizing the way we buy mattresses.

That being said, if you’re old school and feel like you need to see/feel/touch your mattress before you buy it, there are certainly great mattress options available at retail stores, you should just be prepared to pay top dollar (and not necessarily because you’re getting a better mattress). Some online mattress brands like Casper and Leesa also have their mattresses available at select retail locations.


We get that choosing your mattress is a big deal – it’s where you dream, love, recharge, binge watch your favorite Netflix shows and nurse yourself back to sleep during flu season. By this point, we hope we’ve helped you select the mattress that’s going to be best for you. At the very least, we hope you have a better understanding of what’s out there and what to look for in a mattress.

If you still have unanswered questions, leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out.

Sweet dreams!