Mattress Buying Guide
Buying a mattress can be a difficult process as there are so many options available on the market these days. Will you choose one of the popular mattress brands, or go with one of the many online companies offering direct shipping to your home?
What type of a mattress will you buy: memory foam, latex, or a hybrid? How much should you spend? What features are important to consider? Read our buying guide below to learn more.
In this guide, we will outline what we consider to be the key criteria for choosing the best mattress which we use in our mattress reviews. Last updated
Key Considerations When Buying a Mattress
Construction and Materials
One key criteria to evaluate when purchasing a mattress is the construction and materials used. These days, mattresses are made up of the traditional innerspring coils, memory foam, memory foam and latex combinations. There are those made entirely of latex, and more exotic hybrids utilizing memory foam, latex, and innerspring coils.
The type of materials used in the construction usually has a direct impact on the price as well.
Multiple layers of foam, latex, and cooling gels are often combined together to provide varying levels of firmness, support, breathability, and total depth.
Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam models are known for their great support, pressure relief, and body contouring. Historically, memory foam has had a bad reputation for “sleeping hot”.
However, many newer more advanced memory foams have been designed with superior cooling properties, creating a much cooler surface than traditional memory foams.
Memory foam models are best for sleepers who want great hug, body shaping, contour, pressure relief, and support. There are a wide spectrum of foams classified as “memory foam” and not all memory foams are created equal.
Memory foam is a good option for sleepers who want a more pronounced hug and who prefer the feel of sleeping inside a mattress rather than the floating feel and sleeping on top of a mattress that many hybrid or latex mattresses offer.
Built exclusively from latex foam, they are known for their cooling properties and comfort. Latex is known for its great responsiveness, comfort, bounce, and cooling.
Latex is often best for sleepers who want great bounce, cooling, and responsiveness. It is also good for sleepers who like the feel of memory foam but don’t want excessive hug and contour that often comes with memory foam mattresses.
A latex mattress will have more “bounce” than all memory foam one, for example, and may be something to consider if you are looking for a more springy feel vs. having the mattress mold to your body.
Latex mattresses can be 100% latex, latex blends, latex hybrids (combined with foam or in some cases coils), and natural or synthetic latex.
Constructed from a combination of latex, memory, polyurethane foams, coils, and / or other materials, they are designed to maximize certain benefits.
For example, a latex + memory foam hybrid provides a great bounce, cooling, and responsiveness, but also provides great pressure relief and support from the memory foam.
Innerspring coil hybrids combine the support and cooling benefits of coil mattresses with the comfort of memory foam and/or latex.
These hybrids are best for sleepers who want the best of all worlds: great bounce, comfort, support, and cooling.
The cover of the mattress is another key feature in construction, with some manufacturers using organic materials, wool, Tencel, Celliant, bamboo, cooling gel layers within it, etc.. to provide a comfortable sleeping surface and dissipate heat.
Firmness & Support
Firmness and support is probably one of the most important criteria used in evaluation, as the degree of firmness is directly tied to individual sleep preferences (lower back support, side sleepers, etc..).
The degree of firmness or softness is something that should be taken into consideration when choosing a mattress as different models will have varying levels of firmness based on their construction.
Memory foam as a rule is known for conforming to the body, and when combined with other materials such as latex or different types of memory foam itself, it will provide a nice support.
Latex models are generally firmer than memory foam and provide excellent support and responsiveness. They are good choice if you prefer mattresses with a firmer feel. like your mattress firm.
Choosing the right model should most definitely involve the evaluation based on its firmness and support levels.
When purchasing a mattress, we want to get the most comfortable option possible.
It should be capable of providing a great support to keep your spine naturally aligned regardless of your preferred sleeping position and incredible comfort and give in the top comfort layers to cradle your shoulders and hips and prevent the appearance of pressure points and any other kind of discomfort and pain.
But it should also provide you with a nice lift and prevent you from sinking too much into the mattress and feel enveloped by it.
Before we started Memory Foam Talk, and began evaluating mattresses, we had a terrible degraded memory foam model that made us sink down in the middle and was hot and very uncomfortable.
So, having a comfortable and supportive mattress does wonders for your health and wellness, not to mention your happiness when you get a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping cool is another important factor for evaluating mattresses. Some early memory foam models were known for sleeping very hot and they were sticky in the summer, and would harden in the winter.
These days, mattress manufacturers make their mattresses sleep quite cool due to the special cooling technologies used in their construction such as: gel foams, copper and graphite-infused foams, open cell foams, pocketed coil systems, etc.
Innerspring mattresses are known for sleeping cool as well, so many of the hybrid models on the market use pocketed coil systems in their construction for this reason.
Latex also does not trap heat by nature, so latex mattresses or those that use latex as part of their construction also tend to sleep cooler.
Sinkage and Motion Transfer
Sinkage and motion transfer was one of the biggest issues for us. As a couple with the man (me) weighing over 200 lbs, and the woman around 120, we had some difficulties sleeping comfortable due to our weight disparity. I would sink considerably more than Kaye and cause her to roll into me.
Needless to say, it was a constant source of complaints! Evaluating the sinkage of a model is an important consideration for couples as well as individuals.
A well designed memory foam or hybrid model will prevent you from sinking too much into the mattress and feeling enveloped by it. It won’t cause you or your partner to roll into each other and off the bed due to the poor edge support.
A mattress with good edge support will eliminate that “rolling off” the edges sensation and allow you to use the entire surface of the mattress not just its middle part.
Motion transfer refers to how much motion you feel when your partner moves around in bed. A good mattress will isolate and reduce motion transfer to the least bit so you won’t feel much disruption in your sleep.
Smell / Off-gassing
A common complaint about memory foam mattresses is that they have too much off-gassing. Off-gassing is a chemical odor that you notice when opening a memory foam mattress that has been compressed, packed in a plastic package and shipped in a box.
The smell usually dissipates, but some memory foam mattresses have an odor that lingers and in some cases doesn’t go away.
This was one of the early problems with memory foam mattresses that used certain chemicals in their foams and for some people this was a huge problem.
How much smell the mattress will have upon opening the box is also something you should consider when looking for the best mattress for your needs.
Most mattresses these days don’t have too much of a noticeable smell after unboxing, but if it happens that the smell doesn’t go away after a certain period of time, you can return it to the manufacturer. Luckily, most manufacturers have good return policies, and if you are not satisfied, you can return the mattress withing a trial period and get a full refund.
Customer service is important these days, as many popular mattresses are sold direct to consumers online.
Having an easy-to-order product with great communication regarding shipment and order status is extremely important when purchasing a $1000 mattress online.
Shipping and delivery is also important. For example, some companies ship mattresses via truck and offer mattress removal and installation as part of their service, whereas most recent online companies minimize this cost by deploying a “Bed in A Box” delivery model.
Many online companies offer trial periods of 75 to 365 days to evaluate the product with money back guarantees, which is extremely important as it is not possible to test out the product before purchasing.
The presence of these polices is a key consideration to take into account when purchasing a mattress online.
In addition, warranty for the model you purchase is also something you should pay attention to. Many manufacturers offer 10, 15, 20 year warranty or in some cases even lifetime warranties for their products.
Price, in the end, is often what most people base their purchase decision on. However, this can be misleading when thinking about the traditional in-store mattress purchasing model.
The traditional retailers selling brands such as Tempur-pedic, Sealy, and Simmons have extremely high purchase prices due to their in-store distribution models which also involve a variety of margins and commissions for distributors, sales representatives, and other middlemen.
The new online retailers don’t have this and offer the highest quality mattresses at the fraction of the price of the in-store models and this price also often includes delivery.
This results in a much lower cost for the same level of quality compared to department stores.
In fact, we recommend bypassing in-store retailers all together, as often being able to test out a mattress doesn’t help much when it is only 5 minutes in a store with conflicting sources of information (biased commission-based sales reps) and the fact that you are paying so much more for the same or often lower level of quality.
Some recommendations on choosing a mattress on a budget:
You don’t always get what you pay for: Price is not a good indicator of quality, as in-store brands are marked up significantly.
Don’t skimp on price: $1000 is ideal for the Queen size mattress as you can get a very high quality product at a reasonable price. Just don’t go below $500 as these mattresses usually use lower quality materials in their construction.
You will pay more for a king: While this seems obvious, the $1000 price point we recommend will more likely go to $1500 when you go up in size.
Buy online: As mentioned above, you will get better quality for the money you spend using an online retailer vs. an in-store one.
Choosing the best mattress can be a daunting task for even the most informed and educated shoppers due to the sheer amount of choices on the market these days.
Whether you choose from traditional retailers such as Tempur-Pedic, Sealy, Simmons, or one of the many online retailers offering direct home shipping at affordable prices that we review on our site such as Loom & Leaf, Nectar, Layla, Leesa, and many more, your decision should be based on your sleep preferences as well as examination of the various criteria such that we discussed above.
Our goal at Memory Foam Talk is to help you bring your decision easier and also make purchase easier, so please check out our mattress reviews and guides and pick the best mattress for you.