Online mattress buying guide 2020

Online mattress buying guide 2020

Mattresses are expensive. Some of them cost up to $4,000-$5,000, and this price range is quite high for an average American to afford. The bad news is that if you are not a mattress expert, you'll probably spend more than needed on a high-quality mattress. The good news is: here, we'll make you as close to a mattress specialist as possible and help you save a good chunk of cash on a new mattress. Let's start at the very beginning.

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How to buy the right mattress: Factors you should pay attention to

Choosing the right mattress is often an extremely time-consuming process. Here, you’ll find all the necessary information to save your time and money — and the first thing you have to know is the factors to consider when choosing the right mattress. After that, we’ll talk about each of these factors in more detail.

  1. Type of the mattress. Most mattresses fall into four categories: memory foam, innerspring, latex, and hybrid. There are also futon mattresses, but they are not that popular in the US and are usually bought for guests.
  2. Size. There are 5 main mattress sizes, such as crib mattresses (suit only babies); Twin and Twin XL-size mattresses (work best for single adults and teens); Full-size mattresses (the best option for single adults and couples); Queen (the most popular mattress size which works great for couples); King mattresses and California King mattresses (work great for couples who prefer more space and for couples with children).
  3. Price. Of course, a good mattress can't be cheap, but what is "too cheap" and "too expensive" when it comes to mattresses? You can find an affordable mattress under $200 (if it's twin sized or buy a premium mattress for more than $2,000, but the majority of good mattresses are in the $400-$1,000 price range. Typically, more expensive mattresses have better coil systems and thicker foam layers thus providing more comfort and support.
  4. Trial and warranty. The trial period is the amount of time during which you can test the mattress, return it to the retailer if you don't like it, and get a full refund. Most trial periods last for 100-300 days, and it's really a great option — because, well, there is no perfect mattress for everyone, so you won't necessarily love the mattress you've bought. As for the warranty, it's simple — most manufacturers offer 5, 10, 25, or even lifetime warranties that cover sagging (every manufacturer puts its own threshold) and physical defects such as broken coils. There are almost no warranties that cover the damage caused by the owner, e.g. damage that occurs when you move a mattress or discoloration caused by washing.
  5. Firmness. The most popular firmness is "medium" (5 on a scale from 1 to 10), but the right firmness of the mattress depends on lots of factors, such as weight of the sleeper, favorite sleeping position, etc.
  6. Thickness. The perfect thickness of the mattress also depends on such factors as weight of the sleeper, medical conditions, and personal preferences — most mattresses are 8-12 inches thick, but there are also luxurious mattresses that can be as thick as 20 inches and mattresses for guest rooms/youth beds (5-8 inches).
  7. Density. The density is the feature of memory foam mattresses — low-density mattresses feel softer and cost less, medium-density mattresses offer both comfort and support, while high-density memory foam mattresses provide great support and work perfectly for those who suffer from back pain.
  8. Edge support — provides support on the sides of the mattress. The better the edge support is, the less the mattress will sag on the edges, and the easier it will be for you to get up from it.
  9. Motion isolation — if you're a light sleeper who doesn't stay asleep during the whole night because of your partner's excessive movement, you need to buy a mattress that isolates movement properly. Memory foam and hybrid mattresses have the best motion isolation, while innerspring and especially futon mattresses are the products with the worst motion isolation.
  10. The pressure points. Different sleeping positions have different pressure points — if you sleep on your back, you may feel pressure on your heels, shoulders, and head; if you are a side sleeper, you may feel it on your ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder; if you sleep on stomach, you’ll feel that on toes, knee, hip, and chest. The right mattress doesn't create pressure points — it allows your blood to circulate properly. If the mattress is too hard or too soft, you will probably wake up with aches and pains, so it's very important to make the right choice.
  11. Heat retention — in simple words, that's when your mattress holds heat and makes you sweat at night. This problem is quite common for memory foam mattresses but it can be fixed with a cooling topper or with new gel-infused memory foam mattresses. However, innerspring and latex mattresses are still the best options for hot sleepers.
  12. Expected lifespan — most mattresses last between 7 and 10 years, but it depends on the materials and on the quality of the mattress, of course. When you are choosing a mattress, it's extremely important to ensure it will last for long — because the mattresses are quite expensive and no one wants to buy them every 2 or 3 years. 

Now let’s consider some of these points in detail - briefly but exhaustively.

Mattress types

Memory foam

These mattresses are made with viscoelastic polyfoam that is usually called "memory foam" — this material can evenly distribute weight over the surface of the mattress which means such mattresses are great when it comes to contouring and relieving pressure. Memory foam mattresses are comfortable (because of the foam that provides great cushioning) and supportive (because there is usually a thicker lower layer that provides support). These mattresses are great for stomach sleepers and for side sleepers — they provide proper spinal alignment and relieve stress at the same time.

Pros:

  • Memory foam aligns the spine and reduces pressure points.
  • These mattresses offer great contouring
  • Memory foam is a good material for those who have arthritis/joint pain
  • These mattresses are more quiet than innerspring and hybrid mattresses
  • Can be very soft and firm, it’s possible to find the right firmness almost for everyone
  • Such mattresses provide the best motion isolation

Cons:

  • Memory foam mattresses are not the best choice for hot sleepers because they retain heat better than other types of mattresses
  • They are typically more expensive
  • Off-gassing (chemical odor) is a very common problem

Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses contain small coils that can be individually wrapped in fabric or interwoven with a foundation. These mattresses offer great support and they are typically closer to the firmer side — it's extremely difficult to find a plush innerspring mattress. They are quite durable and can last 10-15 years which is an extremely good lifespan for a mattress.

If you don't like that sinking feeling and want to find a medium or a medium-to-firm mattress that provides good support, innerspring is what you're looking for. Such mattresses are perfect for back sleepers but if you are a side sleeper, you should be careful with them — innerspring mattresses are often too firm for those who sleep on the side. If you sleep on your stomach, you need a supportive medium-firm mattress, so an innerspring mattress is what you need.

Pros:

  • Provide comfort and great support
  • Such mattresses work great for hot sleepers because of the air circulation
  • A great choice for plus-size sleepers and for those who don't want to "sink" in the mattress 
  • These mattresses are quite cheap (not all of them, of course, but it’s possible to find a good innerspring mattress under $500)

Cons:

  • Innerspring mattresses are not the best in terms of motion isolation
  • If you’re looking for a plush mattress, 100% innerspring is not what you need

Hybrid

That's what is usually called the best of both worlds. Hybrid mattresses usually have both wrapped coils and memory foam/latex layers on top — such a construction makes them both comfortable and supportive. Actually, most modern innerspring mattresses have a memory foam top layer, but hybrid mattresses have more foam and therefore provide even more comfort.

There are both soft and firm hybrid mattresses, but they all provide great contouring because of the foam layer. That's why these mattresses are a good choice for back sleepers and for those who suffer from back pain, as well as for side sleepers (again, because these mattresses offer both cushioning and support) and for stomach sleepers (thanks to the coils, a stomach sleeper will not sink in the mattress).

Pros:

  • Better motion isolation than isolation innerspring mattresses offer
  • Reduce pressure on hips and shoulders greatly
  • Best of both worlds — these mattresses provide both comfort and enhanced support
  • A better choice for hot sleepers than memory foam mattresses because of breathability
  • Provide better edge support than all-foam mattresses
  • Hybrid mattresses usually last 8-10 years which is a good result (though not the best)

Cons:

  • If the quality of memory foam is low, the mattress will quickly sag
  • These mattresses are a bit more expensive than the others
  • Hybrid mattresses are heavier than other mattresses

Latex

Latex mattresses are made of latex (a type of rubber) with springs/foam. Latex is an eco-friendly material that is very responsible and bouncy. It's not like memory foam that may take 10 seconds to snap back into place when you press it with your hand — latex expands very fast after being pressed. This material doesn't provide great contouring which makes it a great option for the hot sleepers. Latex mattresses are also a good choice for back/stomach sleepers because this material doesn’t allow sleepers to sink in it.

Pros:

  • Natural latex doesn't hold heat so it's a perfect option for hot sleepers
  • No off-gassing Natural latex mattresses are hypoallergenic and perfectly resistant to dust mites
  • Natural latex mattresses typically have very a long lifespan (10-15 years)
  • Comfort and cushioning provided by these mattresses are perfect for those who suffer from back pain

Cons:

  • For some users, latex is "too firm"
  • Natural latex mattresses are quite expensive
  • Not the best pressure relief
  • Latex mattresses are not the best in terms of motion isolation

Customizable airbed mattresses a.k.a. smart beds

Adjustable air mattresses or airbeds are the most expensive mattresses on the market — but they are a perfect option for almost all types of sleepers. The most interesting feature of these mattresses is the adjustable firmness which means you don't need to choose the mattress of a right firmness level, you only need to adjust the firmness yourself. All these mattresses consist of multiple air chambers that improve air circulation and support the sleeper better than other mattress types.

Pros:

  • Most adjustable air mattresses have separated comfort zones for different parts of the body so you can adjust the firmness level to suit your needs
  • Such mattresses are very durable
  • Adjustable air mattresses work great for all sleeping positions and for both light, average, and plus-size sleepers
  • Almost all these mattresses have at least 1 breathable layer or gel-infused memory foam layer so they work great for hot sleepers
  • These mattresses use the top-notch technologies — smart sensors that deliver data to the app, smart pumps that provide optimum support, etc
  • Most air mattresses isolate motion transfer properly, so they are a perfect option for couples
  • Additional air chambers provide great pressure relief to the pressure points

Cons:

  • These are the most expensive mattresses on the market — some Queen-size adjustable mattresses with air chambers cost up to $5,000
  • Because of air chambers, these mattresses are quite noisy
  • Not all expensive air mattresses are available in a Twin size

Futons

Futon mattresses typically work as guest beds in the United States. These mattresses are made with compressed layers of cotton, wool, or latex, but their most important feature is that they are often placed directly on the floor. However, many Americans prefer placing futons on Tatami-style beds (platform beds made of wood) or on slat bed frames.

Pros:

  • When placed on a wooden slat platform, these mattresses provide great air ventilation
  • Futon mattresses are great for those who prefer firm and medium-to-firm mattresses
  • There are lots of futon types and materials, from latex to cotton
  • These mattresses take very little space so they are perfect for small rooms
  • Futons are much cheaper than memory foam, innerspring, hybrid, and latex mattresses
  • They are thin and lightweight, easy to remove and to clean
  • If your futon is placed directly on the floor, you just can't fall out of the bed!
  • Almost all futons are made from 100% organic materials
  • For certain types of back problems, sleeping on a hard surface is a good thing

Cons:

  • Many futons are only 5-6 inches thick, so they will flatten over time
  • When it comes to comfort, futon mattresses are definitely not the leaders of the market. Because of their construction, they are just "average", not very comfortable — almost any decent memory foam, innerspring, latex, and hybrid mattress will feel much more comfortable than a futon

Mattress sizes

There are plenty of mattress sizes that are available to buy right now in almost any shop online or offline. You can even order some rare sizes, although they are so big that you should have a really big room to place a bed with a mattress like Alaskan king (which is 108x108 in) there.

Below you can see two tables with popular and not so popular mattress sizes - choose the one that suits your needs.

popular mattress sizes popular mattress sizes
NameDimensionsBest for
Twin38x75Children and single adults
Twin XL38x80Single tall adults who don't have enough space in a room. 2 mattresses of this size placed side by side make a standard king mattress, so it's a good option for partners who have different firmness preferences
Full54x75Single sleepers who prefer wider beds or couples who don't share the bed with children/pets
Queen60x80Couples with and without a child or a pet. The most popular size in the US
King76x80Two adults who want to have a lot of personal space and for two adults with a child
California King72x84Very tall sleepers or those who prefer very long mattresses. Only for relatively big bedrooms (bigger than 12 feet by 12 feet)
NameDimensionsBest for
Small Single30x75A child who has outgrown a crib and for teenagers under 6 feet
Wyoming King84x84For couples who find a California King size too narrow
Alaskan King108x108For those who share the bed with more than 2 children and for those who don't care about the price — such mattresses cost up to $5,000
RVTypically the same size but a few inches shorter or narrowerFor those who need a mattress for an RV, obviously. RV mattresses come in a lot of dimensions, from Twin to California King, and they are usually a few inches shorter than the “standard” size

Firmness, thickness, and density: difference and how to choose

These are the most important factors to consider, as they determine how you will feel lying on your mattress. Have a look at the tables below and remember the preferable firmness, thickness, and density of your future mattress.

Firmness

You should choose firmness considering your weight and sleeping style. Heavier sleepers should pick medium firm and firm mattresses, lighter sleepers can buy any mattress they want and that are recommended by their doctors (if needed, of course.) In the table below you can find all the essential information on mattress firmness and sleeping styles - find your one and enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep.

Extra-firmNo sinking, no conforming at all. Such mattresses are very hard to find and the majority of people don't actually need them because of that "board-like" feel

FirmnessWhat to know
Extra softExtremely plush and sinkable mattresses that are very rare to see. Unfortunately, such mattresses can cause muscle pain and stiff back
SoftPlush mattresses that work well for side sleepers because of the sinkage that contours the pressure points. Stomach and back sleepers need more support than plush mattresses usually offer
Medium80% of sleepers prefer medium-firm mattresses. The point is, these mattresses are the best choice for stomach and back sleepers and they work well for side sleepers as well. Medium-firm mattresses have a good level of support without sacrificing comfort
FirmMore support, less sinkage and comfort. These mattresses keep the body straight and reduce pressure on the circulation system. However, hard mattresses are not the best choice for people who suffer from back problems
Extra-firmNo sinking, no conforming at all. Such mattresses are very hard to find and the majority of people don't actually need them because of that "board-like" feel

Thickness

In simple words, thickness is the height of your mattress which is determined by the number and thickness of layers it consists of. Mattresses usually have cover, support layer, and comfort layer, and their quality will influence your night’s sleep. Have a look at the table below to find out if you need a thicker or a thinner mattress, and what mattress thickness to choose for your family members.

ThicknessWhat to know
2-5 inchesExtremely low profile mattresses that are typically used for cribs. Such mattresses are not as comfortable as the thicker ones and they are quite rare
5-8 inchesNot the most comfortable mattresses, but they are space-saving and can be used in a small bedroom. They are cheaper than 8+ inch mattresses, they are a good choice for shorter sleepers who don't want to climb into their bed, they work great for camping, RVs, sofas, etc
8-12 inches8-12 inch mattresses usually have several comfort layers and a base layer that provides support, which means they are much more comfortable than thinner mattresses. 8-12 inch mattresses fall in a mid-price range and they are available in all firmness levels, material types, and sizes
12-16 inchesGood choice for heavier people and for those who want to get even more comfort. Thick mattresses usually offer more support than the thinner ones because of zone support. These mattresses are also more durable. It's very important to check if you have problems with getting in and out of a thick mattress before buying it. Obviously, such mattresses are more expensive than the ones from the previous category
16 inches and moreThese mattresses are for those who weigh more than 300 lbs. They are very expensive, most of them are extremely comfortable, but they are not actually the "best" mattresses — thus, they don't work well for older people because it's hard to get in and out of a thick mattress and they take up too much space so they should not be installed in small bedrooms

Density (only for memory foam mattresses)

Density is a measurement of how heavy the memory foam is compared to its size and it determines the firmness of the material. To calculate the measure of a memory foam mattress the manufacturer takes 1 cubic foot (12x12x12) of the foam and weighs this piece — say, if it weighs 5 lbs, the density of the mattress is 5 pounds per a cubic foot. The absolute majority of memory foam mattresses have 3-6 lbs/ft³ density. Let's see what it means for you as a buyer.

DensityWhat to know
Low (3 lbs/ft³)Feels very soft and provides that sinking feeling, works well for lightweight sleepers and children. Such mattresses are usually quite affordable (because less foam is used) but not very durable
Medium (4-6 lbs/ft³)Better support, higher price, good airflow, a good choice for people with an average weight. Side sleepers will love the mattresses with such density, but not back sleepers (the level of support isn't high enough)
Medium80% of sleepers prefer medium-firm mattresses. The point is, these mattresses are the best choice for stomach and back sleepers and they work well for side sleepers as well. Medium-firm mattresses have a good level of support without sacrificing comfort
High (6+ lbs/ft³)The best support, works great for side sleepers and for plus-size sleepers, good contouring. These mattresses are more durable than medium and low-density ones, but they are not the best choice for hot sleepers

Average mattress prices

Memory foam and innerspring mattresses fall under the middle price range category. Hybrids and latex mattresses are usually more expensive - they are of lux quality, although you still can find affordable latex and hybrid mattresses or get a good discount if you make a purchase at the right time.

Mattress typeThe average price range on Twin sizeThe average price range on Queen sizeWhat influences the price
Memory foam$300-$600$600-$1,200Density, thickness, gel-infused cooling layers
Innerspring$250-$500$500-$1,000Coil type, thickness,, the quality of the comfort layer
Latex$400-$600$700-$1,400Type of latex (natural/synthetic), thickness, type of the mattress (all-latex/hybrid), organic certifications
Hybrid$500-$800$800-$1,400Thickness, the quality and density of the memory foam, the quality of the coils
Airbed$1,500-$2,000$3,500-$5,000Number of comfort zones and air chambers, innovative technologies (sleeping tracking, body pressure map, etc), thickness of the top comfort layer
Futon$100-$200$150-$400Materials, the frame (futons usually come with a wooden or metal frame)

Buying a new mattress: guide on online and offline shopping

You need to make a decision here, so let's use that classic "pros and cons" decision-making technique and see which one is better. Let's start with offline shopping.

Offline shopping

Pros:

  • You can touch the mattress and test it before buying
  • If the salespeople are professional, they can guide you and tell you everything about the mattresses
  • It's just more fun than online shopping

Cons:

  • Lying on a bed for a few minutes is not enough to understand if this mattress will work for you or not — all the mattresses have a so-called "break-in" period so you'll have to spend at least 7 days to adapt to a new mattress
  • Offline mattress stores usually don't offer a trial period
  • Purchasing a mattress offline is usually more expensive than doing it online It's time-consuming
  • Salespeople can be quite annoying and pushy sometimes

Online shopping

Pros:

  • Online shops offer tons of mattresses, more than offline stores It's fast, convenient, and cheap — there are no middlemen, no store rent, no employee salaries, etc
  • Online stores offer long trial periods, usually 100-300 nights. You can test the mattress and return it, it’s usually free
  • The customer support can answer all your questions without pushing to close the sale A wide selection of delivery options e.g White Glove delivery

Cons:

  • You can't try your new mattress before buying
  • Not all manufacturers offer free returns during a trial period
  • Not all customer support specialists are as professional as salespeople in the best offline stores

These brands are among the most famous and respected. People from all over the globe order mattresses from them, and here we provided some of their most popular options that can satisfy even the pickiest customer.

Nectar

One of the fastest-growing mattress and bedding accessories companies in the United States. Free shipping, 1-year home trial, and lifetime warranty included. Their most popular product is the Nectar Mattress.

Tempurpedic

Tempur-Pedic is the brand that comes to mind first when you think of a high-quality mattress. Free delivery, 90-night trial, and a 10-year warranty on any Tempur mattress. The most popular product of this company is Tempur ProAdapt.

Saatva

A NYC-based company that has almost 50,000 customer reviews (most of them are positive) and that is focused on luxury mattresses. The most popular product is Saatva Classic Mattress.

Casper Sleep

Another company headquartered in New York City, Casper Sleep offers premium mattresses, free no-contact delivery, a 100-day trial, and a 10-year warranty. The most popular mattress is Casper Original.

Avocado

The company that offers non-toxic organic mattresses, furniture, and bedding accessories. No PVC, low emissions, no polyurethane. Avocado offers a free 1-year trial period and free shipping/returns. Their most popular mattress is Avocado Green Mattress.

Tuft & Needle

American award-winning mattress company that offers free shipping, a 100-night free trial, and a 10-year warranty. The most popular mattress is T&N Original Mattress.

Layla

American company with lots of awards by Forbes and People. A 120-night trial, 10-year warranty (defects), lifetime warranty (sagging, loss of shape). The most popular product is Layla Memory Foam Mattress.

Zinus

Zinus offers quite affordable high-quality mattresses (most products are under $500). A 100-night trial, 10-year warranty, free shipping, and a very good reputation. The most popular mattress is Green Tea Memory Foam Memory Mattress.

Conclusion

There is no best type of mattress — memory foam mattresses are good when it comes to pressure relief, hybrids provide great support, latex mattresses have good motion isolation, innerspring mattresses are affordable and supportive, etc. To choose the right one, you will have to answer a lot of questions. Like, what mattress type is the best for you? What firmness is right for you? What is your favorite sleeping position and how much do you weigh? And after all, how much are you gonna spend? Write the answers down, choose the brand, and find the best mattress for you — it's quite difficult, but with this guide, it will certainly be a bit easier.

Before you leave, check out our table with info on all mattress types you might need when you go shopping. Remember it, copy it to your smartphone, or print it and use it to choose the best mattress for you or your family members.

Mattress typeAll-foamInnerspringLatexHybridAirbed
Edge supportNot that goodGreat, but might feel uncomfortable (rigid support)Not that goodGreatGreat
Pressure reliefGreatNot that goodNot that goodGoodGreat
Odor potentialVery strongVery little or noVery little (if natural), strong (if synthetic)LittleVery little or no
Motion isolationGoodBadGood (depends on the density of the latex)Good (better than innerspring)Good
Average lifespan8-10 years8-10 years10-15 years10 years10-20 years
Best for such type of sleeperStomach sleepers, side sleepersBack sleepers, stomach sleepersBack sleepers, stomach sleepersAll sleeping positionsAll sleeping positions
SexBad. No bounce, it's easy to get too hot, and it's not that easy to move on memory foamGood. Easy to move and bouncy but such mattresses put a lot of pressure on knees and elbowsBoth good and bad. No edge support, so the edges will sink. However, latex mattresses have a good bouncing effectGood. These mattresses keep you cool, they are bouncy, and they don’t put pressure on elbows and knees. The best of both worldsGood. Adjustable air mattresses keep you cool, provide enough pressure relief and keep knees, elbows, and hands very comfortable
SupportGoodGreatNot that goodGreatGreat
The average price range on Queen size$600-$900$400-$800$600-$1,000$600-$1,200$3,500-$5,000