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9 Tips to Buy a Great Mattress at a Bargain Price – Buying Guide

A few years back, my wife and I purchased a new queen-sized mattress to go with our new IKEA platform bed. Previously, we’d slept on secondhand mattresses, either salvaged from our childhood homes or, in one case, bought used. (I’ll explain shortly why that’s not as nasty as it sounds.)

We knew that buying a high-quality mattress would be an expensive proposition, and we certainly didn’t expect to settle on the first mattress we found. But we were both surprised by the sheer range of choices available on both ends of the budget scale. Eventually, we took advantage of a friend’s $100-off referral code to purchase a perfectly serviceable memory foam mattress from a well-regarded, direct-to-consumer vendor.

We learned plenty about buying a mattress along the way, and it can help you get a better deal on your next mattress. As you move through the buying process, keep these tips and tricks in mind to drive a better bargain and ensure you get the most value – and best night’s sleep – for your investment.

Mattress Shopping Tips to Get the Best Deal

1. Check Out the Mattress Return Policy

Most mattress manufacturers, and virtually all reputable online-only direct-sales vendors, offer no-risk trial periods during which dissatisfied customers may return mattresses for full refunds. But some of these periods last longer than others. Leesa, for example, gives you 100 days to try out a mattress to see if you like it.

I’ve seen no-risk trial periods as short as 60 nights and as long as 365 nights. A new mattress is a major investment, one you hope and expect to last many, many years. So you owe it to yourself and your partner to take your time and be sure you’ve made the right call. All other things being equal, go with the mattress with the more generous trial period.

Another potential catch is the cost of a return should you choose not to keep the mattress. Some legacy retailers charge restocking fees ranging from 10% to 20%. That’s serious money in the context of a mattress purchase. Return shipping fees aren’t unheard of, either. Before you buy, make sure to look into the company’s return policy.

2. Read the Warranty’s Fine Print

Lengthwise, virtually all mattress warranties stretch to 10 years; 15- to 25-year terms are better. Many direct-sales vendors offer lifetime warranties; manufacturers that sell through mattress stores, either online or off, may be stingier.

In terms of what they actually cover, mattress warranties are all over the map. Generally, warranties from legacy manufacturers such as Sealy and Serta are less comprehensive and may require out-of-pocket fees for inspection or service; though covered repairs are free, the devil is in the details.

Painful as it may sound, commit to reading your mattress’s warranty cover to cover. The difference between a subpar, exclusion-riddled warranty and a more generous one could be the difference between paying hundreds or thousands to buy a new mattress and paying little to nothing out of pocket to repair or replace your existing one.

3. Drive a Hard Bargain

Specialty bedding stores are like car dealerships, where sticker price is really just the starting point for negotiations. Sales associates all but expect you to haggle; they’re getting paid to be there, whether they work on commission or not. Besides, you’ve likely seen your local mattress store’s holiday blowout sale ads on TV and the Web. When a store marks a product down by 50% and still profits from the sale, that product was probably overpriced to begin with.

You don’t have to be an expert negotiator to drive a hard bargain at the mattress store. All you have to do is insist on the same discount shoppers got at last week’s clearance sale. If the salesperson hems and haws, walk out. This is a competitive business, after all.

4. Search for Model-Specific Coupons & Discounts Online

It’s not as easy to negotiate mattress deals online, and some direct-sales vendors may not be willing to budge on price at all. But don’t let that discourage you from seeking out discounted mattresses and bedding combination packages online. You can do an online search for terms such as “[mattress brand] coupon” or “[mattress brand] deal.”

Direct-to-consumer mattress vendors and legacy companies alike routinely offer meaningful discounts on quality bedding products. The coupons, deals, and discounts are out there, and it’s worth looking for them.

5. Seek Out Exclusive or Under-the-Radar Deals

Not all mattress deals show up in a Google search, and not all that do show up in a Google search are available to everyone with a Web browser.

Some mattress brands are retailer-exclusive. Novaform, for instance, is sold exclusively at Costco warehouse clubs and Costco.com. If you want a Novaform mattress, you’ll need to pay Costco’s $60 annual membership fee first. That may be a sound financial decision; Costco discounts products as aggressively as any other big-box retailer, and if your Novaform mattress winds up costing $60 less than a comparable publically available competitor, you can thank it for covering your Costco membership for the year.

6. Think Twice About the Box Spring

Literally and figuratively, the box spring plays a supporting role in the multi-part production that is a traditional frame bed. It:

  • Provides a level, sturdy surface for softer mattresses, particularly as they age
  • Reduces wear and tear on older mattresses
  • Provides support and reinforcement for sleepers, potentially improving sleep quality and reducing morning discomfort
  • Raises the height of the bedding surface, allowing for more comfortable entry and exit

Traditional metal frame beds are built to hold box frames. Otherwise, they’d be too low for easy entry and may not provide adequate support.

If you’re purchasing a traditional spring mattress, you’ll probably have the option to buy a box spring at the same time, perhaps as part of a discounted package deal – say, 20% off the combined cost of the mattress and box spring. Indeed, if you’re buying in person, the sales associate will probably try to sell you on buying both. You can find serviceable box springs for $50 new; nicer models will set you back $100 or more.

But don’t take the bait without first determining that you do, in fact, need a box spring. Platform beds generally don’t require box springs because they’re built higher and have adequate built-in support, usually wire mesh, slats, or a solid wooden platform. Foam mattresses are resilient enough not to need box springs for support, but you may still want one if your bed is too low.

7. Consider Total Value

Sticker price is only part of the equation. As you narrow down your mattress options, consider the totality of each brand’s value.

For example, say you’re down to two queen-size memory foam mattresses, one priced at $700 for the mattress only and the other at $900 for the mattress, two pillows, and a mattress topper, representing a total value of $1,200. Despite the higher price tag, it’s worth taking a long look at the $900 mattress.

Likewise, free shipping and returns are so common in the mattress business today that there’s really no reason to pay for either.

8. Test Before You Buy or Inspect on Delivery

Brick-and-mortar retail is facing a reckoning, but specialty bedding stores and mattress warehouses aren’t going away anytime soon. Many people prefer the opportunity to test out mattress options in person.

Even if you plan to complete your purchase online, try to visit at least one mattress showroom to test as many available-in-stores brands as you can. There’s no substitute for trying a mattress yourself.

If you’re too busy or not mobile enough to get to a mattress showroom, that’s fine. Buy from any reputable online vendor, and you’ll have at least two risk-free months to try your new purchase. But you probably won’t have to wait that long if you carefully inspect your mattress for blemishes on delivery and thoroughly probe it for defects once it’s out of the wrapping.

9. Consider Buying Used (Really)

Depending on where you live, you can buy a used mattress. It’s not as gross as it sounds, provided you buy from aboveboard retailers – not Craigslist, Nextdoor, or your neighbor’s yard sale – and ask the right questions.

Start your search for reputable retailers with private consumer advocacy resources such as the Better Business Bureau, which fields and publishes customer complaints. Your state’s consumer protection agency, department of labor, or attorney general may publicize legal or regulatory actions taken against sketchy retailers, as well. Though not foolproof, verified reviews on business directory sites such as Yelp and Google Maps may inform your decision; pay special attention to patterns of complaints about service, quality, and honesty.

According to the FTC, restrictions on the sale of used mattresses vary by state, aside from a federal requirement that mattresses containing used stuffing bear special tags. Where the sale of used mattresses is permitted, the law generally requires that mattresses be sanitized or disinfected.

Like many consumer protection laws, regulations governing the sale of used mattresses aren’t always followed, and the FTC advises consumers against purchasing any mattress without a tag clearly indicating its prior use status. If you encounter a suspiciously low-priced mattress that’s not clearly marked as used, ask the retailer. If they admit that it’s used, consider taking your business to a merchant that plays by the rules.

Final Word

There’s no way around it: Buying a new mattress is expensive. Expect to pay at least $200 new for a basic traditional spring mattress fit for one and $350 or more for a memory foam mattress of the same size, not factoring for discounts. Larger mattresses cost more.

If the mattress-buying process has a silver lining, it’s that competition forces merchants – even online-only, direct-to-consumer merchants that ostensibly operate on lower margins and price accordingly – to do what’s necessary to make the sale. Mattress sales is among a dwindling number of American retail niches where negotiation is par for the course. Even inexperienced negotiators can usually talk a mattress salesperson down, or at least muster the courage to walk out on a less cooperative one.

You might not learn to love the mattress-buying process, and you may still want to get it over with as quickly as possible. But you’ll almost certainly be better at it than you expect.

Do you have any other mattress-buying tips? Share them with us in the comments.

Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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