Cheap vs Expensive Mattresses: What’s the Difference?
Here’s what controls the price of your mattress—and how to know when spending more is worth it.
May 18th, 2023 •
When shopping for a mattress, you’ll find beds that cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to well over five thousand.
With such a wide range of prices, you might wonder what the difference is between cheap and expensive mattresses—and whether it’s worth it to shell out the cash for a more expensive bed. In this article, we explore what differentiates cheap and expensive mattresses, so you can decide what price level fits your needs.
Everyone has their own definition of cheap and expensive. People also have different priorities—for some, investing in a good mattress for back pain is essential, while others are totally fine with a cheaper bed.
We consider “cheap” mattresses to be those that cost $1,000 or less for a queen, “expensive” mattresses to be those that cost more than $2,000, and “average-priced” mattresses to be in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
Even within these categories, there’s a lot of variation—a $100 mattress absolutely differs from a $950 mattress, and a $5,000 smart bed has bells and whistles that a $2,500 mattress probably lacks.
Below, we cover various features that differentiate an expensive mattress from a cheap one.
More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. That said, there are differences between mattresses of different price ranges, particularly when you compare incredibly cheap beds with high-end models. Here are some of the most common ways in which mattresses differ based on price.
A mattress’s construction is the biggest factor that determines its cost. Here’s how to understand pricing as it connects to the type of mattress you’re buying and what it’s made from.
- Foam mattresses: Memory foam and polyurethane foam are the two least expensive mattress materials, which is why many high-quality budget mattresses are all-foam beds.
- Innerspring mattresses: Mattresses with innerspring tend to be slightly more expensive than all-foam beds.
- Hybrid mattresses: Hybrid mattresses combine steel coils with comfort materials like polyfoam, memory foam, or latex. These beds are typically thicker than all-foam or innerspring models and cost more than these mattress types.
- Latex mattresses: Latex beds are one of the most expensive types of mattresses, especially when made from natural latex foam.
- Adjustable air mattresses: Adjustable air beds are the most expensive mattress type thanks to the technology required for assembly. These beds often boast advanced technologies like sleep tracking that further increase cost.
Material Durability and Quality
Not all innerspring coils are the same. Some are thick and strong, while others are thin and prone to sagging. Others boast zoned support with greater firmness along the middle of the mattress and softer give at the shoulders and feet for exceptional lumbar support.
Similarly, some memory foams have low density and break down quickly, while others are far denser and last longer.
Then you have cover material and padding. This might be organic wool and cotton, which are non-toxic, eco-friendly, strong, and soft—compared to synthetic fabrics that wear down faster and absorb heat.
Essentially, some mattresses have high-quality, durable materials, and others don’t. Expect a cheap mattress to feel less comfortable and deteriorate faster than an expensive mattress. This means you’ll have to replace a cheap mattress more often than an expensive one. It may also mean that your mattress gets lumpy and bumpy or ends up sagging earlier than expected.
Natural vs Synthetic Materials
There are 100% organic mattresses, and those made from entirely man-made materials. Natural and organic materials—like natural latex and organic wool and cotton—cost more than synthetic options, like polyurethane foams.
But that increased cost comes with benefits for not just the planet and your health, but also your sleep quality. For example, cotton and wool are naturally breathable. Latex foam, another common natural mattress material, is cooler than memory foam and is hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and repels dust mites.
So when comparing a cheaper mattress that uses synthetic materials and a more expensive bed that uses natural materials, consider whether these factors make enough of a difference to you to justify the cost.
Many people sleep hot, and mattress manufacturers seek to solve this problem. Whether they use cooling gel memory foam, a breathable pillow top, or some other sleek and proprietary technology, cooling mattresses aim to transfer body heat and wick away your sweat.
Of course, these materials cost money. If a company adorns a mattress with an extra layer of proprietary cooling material, the price increases accordingly. As a result, hot sleepers might want to invest in a slightly more expensive mattress that includes those features.
If you need a mattress that doesn’t sleep hot but don’t want to spend the big bucks, opt for a cheaper cooling mattress with a generous sleep trial. That way, you can test it out and see whether it keeps you cool enough. Alternatively, you can invest in a cooling mattress topper, which can upgrade your bed for a fraction of what it costs to buy a high-end cooling mattress.
Another difference between cheap and expensive mattresses is their height and weight. Very cheap mattresses are often relatively thin. In fact, some budget mattress companies offer mattresses at different prices, which increase with increasing height.
More height corresponds to more layers and thicker layers in your mattress. The importance of this extra height varies depending on your sleep position and weight. Side sleepers need extra-thick comfort layers to relieve pressure from their shoulders and hips.
Heavier sleepers tend to require thicker mattresses to provide proper support and comfort, as they sink further into the top comfort layers.
There are many mattress features that cost extra money to create, and therefore make a mattress cost more. These include things like:
- Euro tops or pillow tops: An extra layer of high-quality, plush material is like sleeping on a cloud, but you pay for this benefit.
- Proprietary materials: Companies spend lots of time and money creating materials that make their luxury mattresses stand apart from others. For instance, many memory foams are proprietary, each with a unique feel and cooling properties.
- Sleep-tracking technology: Sleep-tracking and other smart bed features lead to expensive beds.
- Adjustable firmness: Air mattresses with adjustable chambers come at a steep price.
Thanks to the rise of online bed-in-a-box companies, mattress sleep trials are now very common in the industry. During a sleep trial period, you get to test out your mattress and let your body fully adjust to it before deciding whether to keep it.
The lengths of sleep trials differ substantially, from 30 days to a full year or more. Generally speaking, expensive mattress manufacturers offer longer sleep trial periods than do cheap mattress companies.
This is important because your body takes at least 30 days to fully acclimate to a new mattress, so if you buy a bed with a short sleep trial or return window, you may not have enough time to really test it out.
Companies that sell very inexpensive mattresses on Amazon are often the ones with 30-day return windows. Most online bed-in-a-box retailers offer longer sleep trials between 90 and 365 nights. While the majority of 365-night sleep trials apply to luxury brands like Saatva, it is worth noting that there are exceptions to this rule, including Nectar.
Mattress companies that sell beds strictly online are usually more affordable than in-store brands when comparing similar mattresses. The reason is simple: There are additional costs associated with selling mattresses in a brick-and-mortar location. These include transportation, salespeople, third-party vendors, and showroom costs.
So is a more expensive mattress worth it? It all depends on what you need in a bed.
At the end of the day, every sleeper is different and requires different features in a mattress. There are a wide variety of factors that impact which mattress is best for you, and these things can influence the price of beds that fit your needs, including:
- Comfort level or firmness preference: Thicker, softer beds with pillow tops tend to cost more than firmer mattresses that don’t have as many comfort layers. Additionally, if you want multiple firmnesses, adjustable air mattresses can be quite expensive.
- Sleep position: Side sleepers usually require a bed with more extensive comfort layers than back or stomach sleepers, which can come with a higher price tag.
- Body type: People with bigger bodies need a bed that’s durable and pressure-relieving. Beds with durable support layers and comfort foams that won’t form body impressions cost more than less durable mattresses.
- Whether you sleep hot or cool: Mattresses with cooling technologies cost more than similar beds without them.
- Health problems such as back pain, arthritis, or allergies: You’re more likely to find features like zoned support‒great for people with back pain‒or a plush pillow top for joint pain in high-end beds. Similarly, latex beds are excellent for allergies, but are one of the more costly mattress types.
If you’re an average-sized back sleeper with no pain, many beds will give you exactly what you need. But for some types of sleepers, beds designed to suit specific needs can be extremely helpful. Some people who need purpose-built beds include:
- Sleepers with arthritis
- Side sleepers
- Stomach sleepers
- Older adults
- People with limited mobility
- Plus-sized sleepers
Cheap mattresses can provide some of these features but generally replicate more expensive designs with cheaper materials. But if you need an affordable bed, consider one of those that made our list of the Best Cheap Mattresses of 2023 to find out which budget mattresses we recommend.
While you might never get the best sleep of your life on a $200 bed, you can absolutely get high-quality sleep without spending thousands of dollars.
Is there a difference between cheap and expensive mattresses? Yes, there are usually many reasons that a $4,000 bed costs more than a $400 one. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend that much money on a mattress. Consider what you need and want in a bed to find the right mattress at the right price for you.
Mattress Accessories & Bedding
Mattress Pad vs. Topper
Mattress pads and toppers go hand and hand when it comes to mattress accessories. Explore the difference between a mattress pad vs topper and see which works for you.
Can Sleep Disorders Cause Mental Illness?
Learn about the connections between insomnia and depression and how poor sleep quality can lead to mental illness.
Latex vs Innerspring Mattresses
We have a wide range of mattress materials at our fingertips. There are many distinctions between latex vs innerspring mattresses you should know before you shop.