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6 Things You Should Know to Find the Mattress of Your Dreams

March 16, 2015
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Some purchase decisions are so difficult to make that you just need some time to sleep on them. In this instance, we mean that literally.

Picking the right mattress can be hard work. From price to comfort, here’s what you need to know before you set foot in a mattress store.

1. There’s one for everyone

On the surface, mattresses all appear relatively similar, but look closer and they’re actually quite differentiated. From twins to queens to kings, pillow tops to euro tops, there seems to be a mattress for every possible type of sleeper.

Before making a purchase, know your options, starting with size. The mattress you pick has to fit in the bedroom where it will be used and, if you have a frame you want to keep, in your bed frame. Standard mattress sizes are:

  • Twin: 39 inches wide by 75 inches long.
  • Full: 54 inches wide by 75 inches long.
  • Queen: 60 inches wide by 80 inches
  • King: 76 inches wide by 80 inches long.

Next, when looking at mattresses, you’ll notice that some are taller than others. Taller models likely include a “pillow top” — a padded layer attached to the top of the mattress. “Euro top” mattresses also have an extra padded layer, but it’s integrated into the mattress — it doesn’t look like a pillow, the way a pillow top does. Pillow tops are generally the softer of the two. There are also “firm” mattresses, which are more solid, and “plush” mattress, which fall between firms and pillow tops in softness level.

You won’t know which design is best for you until you actually see and feel it for yourself. When in doubt, test it out; that’s what showrooms are for. And don’t worry about feeling silly lying down on mattresses in the showroom; a good store will encourage you to do so. You’re probably going to be spending hundreds of dollars (perhaps more than a thousand) on this purchase, so you’re better safe than sorry.

2. Price might not tell you much

When you set out mattress shopping, it’s one thing to settle on how much you’re willing to spend. It’s quite another to determine how much you need to shell out to guarantee you’ll be taking home a good product.

Experts seem to agree that a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a superior mattress. Customers don’t seem to base satisfaction on price either, according to sleep product research website Sleep Like the Dead. That website found that 76% of owners of low-priced mattresses (up to $700 for a queen) expressed satisfaction with their bed. Compare this to 73% mid-priced ($700-$1800 for a queen) and 73% of high-priced ($1800+ for a queen) mattress owners.

As a general rule, pay closer attention to comfort than cost. Also keep in mind that bed prices vary depending on how many accessories and add-ons you buy — box springs, for example, or stain-proofing.

3. Comfort guarantees are a must

What good is a mattress if it isn’t comfortable? Some retailers offer a comfort guarantee — in essence, a promise that you’ll be able to rest easy on your purchase.

Sears, for example, boasts a 60-day guarantee. If, after 30 days of use, customers do not find their mattress to be comfortably supportive, the store provides an additional 30 days during which consumers can request a refund or a one-time exchange. You’ll find similar offers at other retailers as well.

4. The price you see is a starting point

Unlike with many purchases you may make for your home, mattress prices aren’t necessarily set in stone. Some retailers list mattresses for more than their minimum manufacturer price, leaving wiggle room for negotiating. Even if the answer is no, it won’t hurt for you to ask for a lower price. You may even be able to negotiate free delivery or other bonuses.

Furthermore, if it all possible, time your mattress purchases to coincide with retailers’ sales. There’s no magical day to snag your bedroom essential for the least expensive price possible, but September’s Labor Day discounts are a good place to start, according to Reader’s Digest. No matter the month, shop around to see which stores are holding mattress sales.

5. Warranties can be worrisome

You’ve selected your dream mattress and are ready to buy, but there’s one more thing to consider. Are mattress warranties worth it? It depends.

As Consumer Reports points out, mattress warranties generally cover defects in materials and workmanship, but not comfort or normal wear. Furthermore, some warranties deduct an annual usage charge from the product’s current retail price, rather than covering full replacement value. Read the fine print to know what to expect before the wear and tear sets in.

Additionally, weigh the length of the warranty against the amount of time you intend to have the product. Mattresses generally need to be replaced after seven years, according to the Better Sleep Council. If you’ll be swapping out your mattress for a new one around the seven-year mark, you may not need a warranty that lasts much longer than that.

6. Hidden fees may lie in returns

As with any major purchase, you need to consider what recourse you have in the event your new mattress turns out to be less than satisfactory. You’ll want to know all about the return policy (and possible restocking fee) associated with the mattress you’re considering.

Similarly, be aware that if you opt to return a mattress, it’ll probably cost you. Remember that Sears comfort guarantee we told you about earlier? It comes with some strings attached; if you send back your purchase, you’ll be faced with a pickup fee and a 15% usage/restocking fee.

Bottom line: Do your homework before you go mattress shopping so you’ll end up with a dream — instead of a nightmare.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer covering personal finance for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @CourtneyNerd and on Google+.

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