Getting the best bed

The lovely Dallas writes:

Dear pretty Mir —

I’m a longtime reader and finally moving into an apartment with no roommates (holler for being a grown up, even in a recession!)… I’m upsizing from a twin bed (I’m 27, it’s time) to a queen bed. Any suggestions on how to pull off getting a good deal on a mattress, quality tips, etc? I’m totally clueless… and you know everything 🙂

Love,
Dallas

You know what? I do love Dallas! She’s exceptionally pretty. And that’s not even just because she’s also an accomplished suck-up.

Speaking as someone who enjoys researching products before I buy them and then finding the best deal, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the mattress industry is in cahoots with the liquor industry. That is, even the most savvy and conscientious among us want to drink when we have to shop for a new bed. That’s because it’s confusing, time consuming, and there’s no possible way to find a “standard” for pricing. But let’s see what we can do.

You’ll want to do some basic research before you go shopping. There’s four types of mattresses: Innerspring (this is the conventional type, and most common), memory foam (think Tempur-pedic, though they aren’t the only brand), air-filled (seen the commercials for the “Sleep Number beds?), and latex (a non-innerspring option designed to appeal to people who kind of want memory foam, but want something either cheaper and/or with slightly more “give”). Innerspring mattresses are always going to be your cheapest option, but those mattresses vary widely, which is where the research comes in.

Here’s two pieces you should read before you shop: Here’s a simple overview from Good Morning America, and if you don’t mind a bit of snark, here’s an 11-year-old Slate piece which is still my favorite (both because it’s entertaining and informative). The bottom line is that you must…

… shop in person, and don’t be afraid to lie down for a while. Yes, you’ll feel silly lying there in the middle of the store. You still need to do it. And yes, there are mattress deals online, but I do not recommend buying a primary sleeping surface for an adult without trying it first. (Was that enough qualification for you? Confession: We bought my daughter a new mattress from Overstock and it’s fine. But at the time she weighed about 65 pounds, and we also picked a major manufacturer. These two things combined meant I knew it would be reasonable quality and that she was unlikely to weigh enough in its 10-year lifespan that it could end up lacking sufficient support.)

… assume a 10-year lifespan. Some mattresses will come with a longer warranty, but 10 years is really the reasonable expectation for an innerspring or latex mattress (memory foam and air last longer). If the warranty is only 5 years, move on.

… buy from a store with a 30-, 60-, or 90-day trial period. Sometimes what you love in the store you loathe after a week. You’re going to spend a third of your life on this thing, plus you’re spending a decent chunk of change, so make sure you’re going to get what works for you.

… reconcile yourself to the reality that all mattresses are marked up and comparisons across brands or even models is close to impossible. The good news with this is that you can almost always get a lower price or some extras (free delivery, free removal of your old bed, free pillows, something) if you’re willing to bargain, but the bad news is that it’s very hard to know if you’re truly getting a deal. Stick to the major brands, a reputable seller, and a 10-year warranty, though, and you should be okay.

Enjoy your new place, Dallas!

16 Responses to “Getting the best bed”

  1. 1
    Karly December 14, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    May I just be all crazy for a moment and tell you that I bought my bed off of Amazon? Yeah, I know. I’m insane. It is the BEST BED EVER. It’s JUST like a Tempur Pedic and has a 20 year warranty. It has amazing reviews and, um, it only cost around $500 for a king sized mattress. For serious.

    It’s by Sleep Innovations, if you’re curious and want to check it out.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go pet my mattress some more. I love her.

  2. 2
    Hall December 14, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Hi, we just bought a mattress and I’d like to add a couple of thoughts. One, innerspring mattresses may well have layers of memory foam and/or latex. Two, memory foam is very hot to sleep on, latex has similar features but isn’t as hot… that’s a biggie for some of us. Three, since most of us don’t sleep alone forever, it’s worth doing your in store shopping with a friend. Have that friend roll and bounce so you can tell how much motion transfer you feel. For me, that’s the most important feature as I’m a light sleeper, easily awakened by someone else’s motion.

  3. 3
    Liza December 14, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Tee-hee. We just bought Josie’s “big girl bed” mattress from Overstock, too. And it beats the heck out of the one we bought for her big brother, in the store, 2 years earlier.

  4. 4
    Diane December 14, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Gah. Long story, but I’m 53 and still sleeping in my twin…finally have a place big enough for an ADULT bed. Thank you, both Dallas and Mir, for the information. Now to wait until the tax refund is in my hot little hands…

  5. 5
    Beth December 14, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Latex doesn’t always have more give than memory foam. My perception of it is that it has more “spring” and less “cush” than memory foam, but we all perceive these things differently and that’s another reason it’s so hard to buy a mattress! 🙂

    Our mattress is latex, and we LOVE it! I am almost 50 (hot flash territory, Baby!) and have fibromyalgia so getting a decent night’s sleep is difficult. Latex is soft enough to feel cushy, gentle on my sore body, and still has plenty of support for my husband’s bad back. It’s warm enough to feel comfortable but doesn’t make me feel overheated. When I’ve slept on memory foam I felt like I was being swallowed up by the mattress, but the springy-ness of latex doesn’t feel that way to me. Like I said…individual perceptions. 🙂

    We ordered our mattress from Costco.com after doing a ton of research online. Costco is really good about returns, and apparently that applies even to big things like mattresses.

  6. 6
    Claire Bingham December 14, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    I have to say that I was a skeptic about the Tempur Pedic, but I am now a full convert. We got the “Classic” model so it not super squishy and I don’t ever feel like it swallows me up. It is no warmer than our coil mattress was, and I LOVE that my husband can toss and turn as much as he likes and I don’t feel a thing. It was an investment, but it has led to the best sleep of my life. Highly recommend!

  7. 7
    Gin December 14, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    We have a California king sized bed from Costco and it is magnificent. I also purchased all the accoutrements (down comforter, egg crate, flannel sheets, etc) at an off-season sale at Macy’s during the month of July. I got very deep discounts by stacking their sale prices with coupons from having a credit card there.

    Also, depending on where you live, I SWEAR by a mattress heater: A thin covering over your mattress and under your bedsheets that can be switched on 20 minutes before bedtime and when you slide in, you have a pre-toasty bed. Again, purchase during the summer, leave it on your bed year round and turn it on when the weather requires. Fancy ones have dual controls so that you and anyone else who’d like to join you can customize the heat. TRUST ME ON THIS. It is exquisite.

  8. 8
    Suzanne H December 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    I can’t recommend a memory foam topper enough. I need a firm mattress or my back kills me but my husband likes a softer bed. I bought a 3″ memory foam topper from Overstock.com and it’s wonderful – soft yet firm and sooo comfortable.

  9. 9
    laura December 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Another shout out for latex. I think you sold it a bit short, Mir! Latex is natural rubber, so a lot of people choose it for its more “green” appeal, as the rubber is a renewable resource. It also doesn’t off-gas like memory foam and other synthetic materials. And yes, it doesn’t retain body heat like the synthetics!

    Latex mattresses ought to last a life-time. My parents slept on a double latex mattress for 30 years before handing it down to me; it’s still going strong and still doesn’t have those horrid “trenches” that you get in other types of mattresses.

    I bought my current (queen!) latex mattress at a local store that makes their own latex mattresses to order, in house. It was just shy of $1200 with a *20 year warranty* and a 90 day “love it or return it” guarantee.

    With a mattress, I think investing a bit more up front and purchasing something with true longevity is worthwhile, if your current budget can swing it. If you’re getting an innerspring mattress that is going to develop trenches and need to be replaced after 5 years, you are really not saving money in the long run!

  10. 10
    Nancy S December 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    We have the Sleep Number bed and it is worth every penny. I love that I can make my side of the bed softer or firmer at the touch of a button and my husband can do the same with his side. They have a 20 year warranty and a 30 in-home trial. We have had ours for about 10 years now and I’m still loving it!

  11. 11
    Jill W. December 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    I am late to the party, but have to put my 2 cents in. We bought a Sleep Number bed, and we love, love, love it. I keep my side firm and my husband keeps his like a marshmallow and we are both happy. Yay!

  12. 12
    cARRIE December 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I have been curious about warehouse type places for mattress brands. Gotta be better, but I haven’t tried one yet. I’ve seen mattresses at Menard’s, too.

  13. 13
    Karen R. December 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    What Beth and Laura wrote. I think I’ve tried everything. The Sleep Number was great — except that we had an annual leak in one or the other mattress and the warranty is pro-rated. The annual cost was close to $100 for a refurbished replacement air chamber.

    I had a memory foam topper, which was comfy, but I was horrified to discover that the mattress beneath was soaked with sweat.

    For the last four years DH and I have slept on a natural latex mattress, and it is still the most comfortable bed ever. It has a 20 year warranty, is firm enough for good support, and cushioned enough for good comfort. No regrets on that purchase. I’m hoping it is the last mattress we ever buy.

  14. 14
    mkw December 14, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    For the kids, we’ve purchased some IKEA mattresses. We realized they would be short-term mattresses and the children only weighed about 50 lbs. Watch a few new coverages on bedbugs and dust mites. You’ll buy allergen mattress covers for both mattresses and box springs!! We shopped a bit and ended up with a Natura (natural) latex mattress. Love it. Now, they’re more readily available on-line.

  15. 15
    Brandy December 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    I wish we’d had this information in March. We bought a new king sized mattress and it’s already dipping on both my and my husbands sides. It’s a traditional innerspring because we just couldn’t afford the cost of the Temper-Pedic or Sleep Number. (I was convinced that $3000 for a mattress was a nightmare.) If only we could go back…..

  16. 16
    eko December 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    DH did way too much research before finally letting go of our 15 year old bed…and he sprung for a king latex. I was like “WHAT?” — but it is da bomb. I do tend to sleep warmer – always have, and find this bed is perfect. If I do get too warm – the old foot comes out for some air. We also had learned in Europe to each have our own covers – duvet (except for – um – together time.) I personally never would have thought latex – but it is green, lasts a LONG time, and is resistant to bed bugs. We are not disturbed by one another tossing/turning – which we just don’t do much of anymore. It is firm – and took me awhile to get used to. NOW don’t, however – try turning the mattress around by yourself – ever! The huge guys that delivered it (via Costco) could hardly lift it.