How to come out on top when buying a mattress

Consumer Reports
Finding a new mattress

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Five tips for choosing the best mattress, plus three new tricks for your old mattresses.

Getting a good night’s rest doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Consumer Reports’ most comprehensive test of mattresses found models that performed well and cost under $1,000.

”You don’t have to spend thousands to get a great mattress,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports.  “Our first full performance ratings make it easier to find one that works for you and your sleep partner if you have one – and we found there are many affordable options.”


Consumer Reports tested 12 models from Ikea, Sealy, Serta, Simmons, Stearns & Foster and Tempur-Pedic, plus Costco’s Novaform brand.  Simmons’ performance varied the most in this test.  The manufacturer’s Beautyrest Glover Park Firm Pillowtop (sold at Sears), a CR Best Buy at $780, topped the ratings of conventional, innerspring mattresses while its ComforPedic Loft Crestwood Luxury Plush, $1,920, earned the lowest scores among foam models and overall.

Overall, foam models fared a bit worse than innerspring mattresses in Consumer Reports’ tests.   The recommended Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Simplicity, $1,200, earned the highest scores.  But Sleep Innovations Novafoam Memory Foam Collection Serafina (Costco), a CR Best Buy at $900, virtually tied the Tempur-Pedic for $300 less. 

When it comes to mattress shopping, roughly 40 percent of surveyed subscribers said that they had buyer’s remorse. 

Finding a new mattress

Five Tips for Choosing a New Mattress

Consumer Reports’ latest tests confirm that more coils, fancier fabrics and frills found on pricier models don’t guarantee a better mattress.  And the best mattress isn’t always necessarily the firmest, even for those who suffer from pain.

  1. Try before buying. Don’t rely on softness or firmness claims – nearly half the mattresses Consumer Reports tested were softer than promised.  Gauge comfort by lying on any mattress in consideration.  Spend at least ten minutes on each side, back, and stomach – depending on typical sleep position.

    (See also: Consumer Reports best vacuums)

  2. Win the name game. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally.  Those available at major retailers like Macy’s, Sears, and Sleepy’s are typically exclusive to those chains.  And because retailers often change model names, it’s hard to compare models store to store so use Consumer Reports performance ratings as a guide.

  3. Consider the winter months. Using a temperature-controller chamber, Consumer Reports tests found three innerspring and three memory-form mattresses that were better at retaining body heat, which should help keep users warm when the weather turns cold without feeling clammy when it’s hot.

  4. Keep an old box spring if possible.  Replacing the box spring that goes beneath a mattress can cost anywhere from $150 to more than $300.  For those swapping out an innerspring mattress for a new one, keep the box spring if it is not sagging or damaged.  If switching to memory foam, a solid platform may be necessary to provide enough support.  However, for both foam and innerspring mattresses, some brands require consumers to purchase their box spring purchase to receive the full warranty.

  5. Don’t forget to haggle.  Most mattresses have huge markups that allow retailers to run frequent “sales” of up to 50 percent off.  But don’t wait for a promotion to save – one-third of Consumer Reports’ subscribers who haggled slashed $150 or more off the price.

Three New Tricks for Old Mattresses

People typically keep their mattresses roughly ten years before replacing them. Consumer Reports recommends tossing any mattress that shows sags or lumps.  For a mattress that looks serviceable but causes discomfort, try these quick fixes before buying a new one.

  1. Flip or rotate it.  Many older, conventional innerspring mattresses can often be flipped and rotated.  But models with an obvious top layer can only be rotated.  And those with different firmness levels for each sleep partner, including some memory-foam can’t be flipped or rotated.

  2. Check the pillow.  A firmer or softer one may be what it takes to nod off. Evaluate the firmness of pillows by putting them on a flat surface and compressing them to about half of their original thickness; the more pressure needed, the firmer the pillow.

  3. Top it off.  A mattress topper can improve a too-hard bed.  Consumer Reports tests have found that paying more for foam- and feather-filled toppers didn’t guarantee more comfort. 

Copyright © 2006-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.
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