How to buy a good mattress

sleepA few months ago I replaced our mattress, which was over 10 years old, and my kids’ mattress, which were even older. I went to the local outlet of a mattress store we had used when we lived in Chicago since I loved our mattress and wanted to replace it with the same brand. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky to have a great mattress store nearby that they trust. Instead, many people buy mattresses online, at a department or big box store, or at a discount warehouse.

If that’s the case, you’ll need to do a little research to find the most comfortable mattresses that are right for your health needs, such as lower back pain, sciatica, or MS. One of the best online resources for household goods including mattresses is You can also check out or talk with friends or your doctor about what mattress brand or store they recommend.

Here are some tips to consider when buying a new mattress:

  • Consider an innerspring first – it’s usually the least expensive. Other choices are memory foam or inflatable. Adjustable beds are a good option for some people, too. That’s what my mom has and she loves it.
  • Decide where to shop – don’t buy online unless you’ve tried the mattress in the store first. Places to shop include furniture stores, mattress stores, department stores, company stores that only sell one line of mattresses, and discount warehouses.
  • Don’t rely on fancy product descriptions – one company’s plush is another’s supersoft. Instead, rely on what you observe when you check out the mattress at the store.
  • Pillow tops – I love them, but make sure it’s on both sides of the mattress, so you can flip it to keep wear even.
  • Ulta firm is out – most people, especially those over 40, need a medium-firm mattress. A more cushioned surface will help pad sensitive pressure points, which is why pillow tops and memory foam have become so popular.
  • Test drive it in the store – salespeople want you to try out the mattress, so don’t be shy. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you can easily remove. Spend 5-10 minutes lying on what ever side you sleep at the store to determine if you like the mattress. (I’m a side sleeper, so that I did.)
  • What’s the return policy – many stores let you return a mattress if you’re not happy – anywhere from two weeks to 90 days. Ask what their “comfort guarantee” is and what it costs to return or exchange a mattress.
  • You may need a new box spring – if your old box spring is in good shape and only a few years old, consider keeping it. However, many companies will only honor your warranty if you buy a new box spring with your new mattress. If that’s the case, ask if you can buy a lower priced box spring instead of the one that’s paired with your new mattress. You may want to look into low profile box springs, too, if you have an ultrathick mattress that you need a ladder to get into!
  • Warranty – a good mattress will have a minimum of a 10 year full replacement or non-prorated warranty. Ask! I found if the warranty isn’t so great, neither is the quality of the mattress.
  • Shop the sales and shop around – this goes without saying especially if you’re looking at a national brand that is sold at several stores or online. If you know that the mattress is cheaper online or at another store, ask if they can meet or beat the price.
  • Closing the deal – ask about trial periods, return policies and restocking fees, and delivery and disposal fees before buying. Don’t assume that you get free delivery or that they’ll automatically take your old mattress for free.
  • Protect your investment – Some people recommend getting a water proof mattress protector as stains will void your warranty. However, I find that they make the bed too hot and prefer an ulta thick mattress pad instead. Also remember to flip your mattress regularly to prevent uneven wear.

What brand and style of mattress do you prefer?

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