Ultimate Mattress Buying Guide

Ever slept a full 10 hours and wake up feeling groggy and tired? You might want to get yourself a new mattress.

Shopping for a mattress might seem like a simple thing to do, but in actual fact, it takes a little bit more work than walking into a store, lying down on a few mattresses, and walking out with a brand new one.

If you do not take the time to choose carefully, you might end up with sleepless nights, days of sore back, and be an all-around grumpy fella. 

You could be moving, upgrading to a larger mattress, or trying to improve your sleep quality. Whichever is the case, this buying decision should not be taken lightly.

And that’s why you need this guide to help you.

My family has moved a number of times in the last decade and have bought over a dozen mattresses during this time (we are a family of 4!). With all that experience, I hope this mattress buying guide will help you select the right mattress for you and your loved ones.

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Mattress Buying Guide: What is the Best Mattress?

I think that is one of the first questions that people will ask, and the truth is…. there is no one size fits all. Every one of us is unique and certain mattresses will suit us while others don’t. It is not necessarily a problem with the mattress, but rather more about what our needs are.

With that said, there are certain mattresses that are more suitable than others for specific purposes.

Here’s my recommendation for each type of unique sleeper.




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2 key factors to consider when shopping for a mattress

The main thing that a mattress is supposed to do is to provide you with the right support and posture alignment when you sleep, and it should feel comfortable.

Without good support from your mattress, you might end up sleeping in an awkward position and wake up to a stiff back or something worse can develop over a longer period of time.

While you sleep, you want to feel comfortable so that you do not toss and turn trying to find the right position. When this happens, you frequently wake up feeling tired and not getting the rest you actually need.

There are some other minor factors to consider too which I will dive into later in this article.

How do you test for support in a mattress

When we lie down on a flat surface, our body is not in the right alignment. This is due to the fact that our body has curves (yes!).

A good mattress needs to be able to support our body weight and the main points of contact, such as the hips and shoulders. 

When that happens, our spine is properly aligned in a straight line, which means better sleep.

Different people will require different firmness to support their bodies, so don’t assume that whatever works for your friend will work for you.

If your body is not properly supported, you will likely end up with a sore back when you awake.

Check out this illustration for a better understanding of how the correct sleeping position should be. This applies even if you sleep on your back or stomach (although this is highly not recommended!).


How to Test for Comfort in a Mattress:

Comfort has to do with how hard or soft your mattress is and what it does to your pressure points.

Too hard and it will cause excessive pressure which leaves you feeling like you have pins and needles all over your body. 

Too soft and your body “sink” too deep into the mattress, causing misalignment of your posture. 

All this will cause you to move around when you are sleeping, which affects the quality of your sleep.

The baseline is that you need to find a mattress that provides you with both good support and comfort. If you find one, you have gotten yourself a winner!

Other minor factors to consider too

Motion transfer: If you sleep on your mattress with a partner or someone else, it would make sense that you want to reduce motion transfer. That is, you don’t want your sleeping partner to feel it when you get on or off the bed, or just moving about on it. This works both ways, so if this is you, be sure to test this out too.

Temperature: Hands up anyone who’s had to flip open your blanket or adjust your sleeping position due to heat. The temperature in the room that you sleep in is important, and so is it on your mattress. Today, there are lots of advances in terms of the material used to manufacture mattresses which makes them cooler. Quick note though: avoid cheap foam mattresses at all costs. They typically trap and retain a lot of heat.

Types of mattresses

If you have started doing any research on mattresses, you are likely to find that there are a few common types of mattresses in the market. We are talking about how they are made and what they are made of. 

Frankly, this should not be your number one criteria when choosing a mattress. Refer to the section above once again if you are unsure about the key factors.

That said, mattresses are mainly divided into 3 main types:

1. Spring/Coil/Innerspring – as the name suggests, these types of mattresses are made with coils as the supporting structure.

2. Foam – In place of coils, these type of mattresses are made entirely of layers of foam, each performing a different function from providing support to comfort. This is where you would see material such as memory foam and latex being used.

3. Hybrid – This type of mattress combines both coils and foam into one, but it’s really more of a new marketing term more than anything else.

You might find other types in the market such as waterbeds or air mattresses, but I regard them as nontypical and don’t really perform the job of a good mattress.

Spring/Coil/Innerspring mattresses

springcoil mattress

This kind of mattress is made with metal coils inside the mattress. In the old days, the coils were interconnected with each other, but these days, you can find coil mattresses with individually wrapped coils.

These tend to cost more, but they provide better and more targeted support for your body as well as reduce motion transfer way better. 

Additionally, you will also see something called coil count. In my opinion, they are not very important to consider as there are several factors such as the type of coil used, the number of turns, and thickness etc. This also makes it almost impossible to compare one brand to another. In general, as long as you avoid coil counts lower than 400, you will be fine. 

Foam mattresses

foam mattress

There are quite a number of different names for it nowadays, such as specialty foam, memory foam, and latex foam. In modern times, these kinds of mattresses are gaining in popularity and people find that it is much more comfortable than spring mattresses.

In essence, they are made up of different layers of foam, with high-density polyfoam most commonly forming the base. On the top layers, it is most common to find memory and latex foam. 

If you have never slept on memory foam before, it feels like you are being hugged by the mattress. It follows your body shape and provides you with the right support at the right places, offering your the best pressure relief. Cheap memory foam traps a lot of heat, so avoid them! Most modern reputable manufacturers have improved this material with certain gels, getting rid of the heat problem once and for all.

With latex foam, they are generally firmer and last longer. Since they are a natural material, they tend to be cooler too. Take note though, they are not that great at reducing motion transfer.

How much should I spend on a mattress?

The big question that most people are concerned and confused about. What should you be spending on a mattress?

Well, of course, you would need to consider the purpose of the mattress and how much you have in your bank account, but investing in a good mattress makes a lot of sense.

Think about this: most people spend about 7 to 8 hours sleeping, which is about a third of the day. 

In return, you get a good night’s sleep, which leads to a well-rested body, which leads to better concentration and focus, which leads to better efficiency, which leads to…. I think you get my point.

And if you decide to scrimp and save on a cheap mattress only to change it a year or two later, you might end up spending more in your lifetime versus one really good mattress. And you get all the crappy sleep. 

This is not a precursor to tell you to splurge on a $10,000 mattress, but rather to let you know about its importance.

Here are common price ranges (for queen-size) and what you can expect from them:

$50 – $200: You could head over to Amazon or your local store right now and order a mattress for $50, but do you really want to do that? They are made with thin and cheap foam that probably won’t even take the weight of a toddler. Imagine what that would do to your body after 8 hours?

$200 – $600: At this range, you are likely to run into coil mattresses that have right around 420 coils, which is the bare minimum you should expect to have. However, I would recommend these to used only in guests rooms with lower mileage. Sleeping in it for a night or two is no big deal, but they will not work well for long-term use. At the higher, you will get ones with better foam on the top layer and up to 10 years of warranty.

$600 – $1000: This is the price range I would recommend you to start looking at. This is also commonly where you see memory foam mattresses being priced. There are some genuinely good mattresses in this range and are suitable for nightly long-term use. You can expect much better quality foam and coils being used here which provides adequate support and comfort for daily use. If you have been paying attention to adverts, you would also notice that direct-to-consumer mattresses start at this price point. They are excellent value for money and come backed with other great features.

$1000 and above: This is the starting point of luxury mattresses, the ones with bells and whistles. Remember I spoke about the minor factors when choosing a mattress? You will see more of them here. Also, you can expect that the coil counts are much higher, featuring individually pocketed spring coils, thicker and better foams, exotic materials, and much more. If you want to splurge, I’m pretty sure you can find something $10,000 and up.

Honestly, I really do not see much point in spending more than $2000 on a mattress. You would be able to get a top-quality and long-lasting mattress that gives you what you need for a good sleep and probably some change. Which can be used to invest in suitable pillows or bedsheets. 

Remember too to add in another $800-$1000 for a sturdy bed frame to your budget.

Buying Considerations

Now that you have a good grasp of the price range, what else should you consider?

I’m a sucker for fringe benefits. If I’m buying two identical items, why not pick the one that gives me more bang for my buck, right?

So here are some of the other buying factors you can consider, which can very likely lead to you saving some more money.

Shipping: Needless to say, you would want a retailer to offer free shipping to you. Who wants to carry such a large object home on their own?

Warranty: Most manufacturers offer at least 5 years warranty on their mattresses, but I ignore these. I always look for at least 10 years of warranty as that tells me the manufacturer is pretty confident about their products. I imagine that mattresses might start to have problems only after 5 years, so what good is a 5-year warranty? On the same note, I love direct-to-consumer brands as they often offer at least 10 years of warranty.

Returns: There are always conditions attached to returns, but they are more critical to online retailers. If I can’t get to test it out in-store, then I fully expect to be able to return it easily without hassle. Most brands allow you to do that, and some will impose a minimum nights tryout before allowing you to return.

Freebies: Some merchants will offer you free pillows to entice you further. Even if I don’t need them or can’t use them, I can always give them as a gift or sell them to cover the cost of my mattress. 

Where is the best place to buy a mattress?

There are so many places you can get a mattress these days and the options are bewildering. Thankfully you have this guide, right? (heh)

Let’s take a closer look at where you can get one today:

Big box retailer: You can drive to any of these big boys such as Costco or Walmart and pick up one. Frequently, they have some deals going on too which helps you to save some money. The prices are great and you get to try some of them out (unfortunately, not all). The problem is, there are too many to choose from, and I get frustrated speaking to so many different promoters.

Specialty stores: Brands like Sealy, Tempur, and Simmons all have specialty stores to help you find the right mattress. Others like Mattress Firm also do the same thing. You can expect to find very knowledgeable staff on duty here and provide you with as much information as you need. I find that this is a great place to bargain too. The main issue here is that these stores are not so readily available, and most items are marked at retail prices (which means higher!).

Furniture and department stores: These stores commonly have a dedicated section to mattresses and bedding-related stuff, which makes it super convenient for you to pick up all you need from one location. By combining your purchases, you might even get a discount. Unfortunately, you probably want to do your homework first before heading to one as the staff might not know the product so well. Also, there might be way too many choices on offer.

Online: The information age has really improved the lives of many, and online (direct to consumer) mattress specialists are now very commonplace. Who would have thought that Casper is a leading mattress brand now rather than being a friendly ghost? I love the convenience of shopping online, and I do not have to face paralysis by analysis. They offer a few choices and budgets which makes your decision much easier. The great thing is that they ship to you for free, allow you to test them out, and you often get long warranties and freebies. The main problem here is that you can’t try it out before purchasing, but they have taken out the risk by allowing free returns (they come and pick it up from you).

I have personally bought 3 mattresses online and can only highly recommend it.

The delivery was fast, the unboxing took only a minute or two, and the quality is top-notch for the amount I spent. 

Check out my review of Puffy Mattress to learn more and get an exclusive discount!

Here are the brands that I support. I have either used them in my family or tested them through my family and friends:

In conclusion

If you made it to this point, congrats! You now have the knowledge you need to choose a proper mattress!

Here’s a quick summary of what we covered:

  • Most important factors: Support and Comfort
  • If buying a coil mattress, choose those with individual coils and a minimum of 420 coils
  • If you have a model in mind, check online to compare prices
  • If you want a foam mattress, DO NOT buy cheap ones!
  • Budget around $1000 for a good quality mattress and an extra $800 for a bed
  • Consider buying online for more convenience and a risk-free purchase

Good luck choosing your mattress! I hope you find one that you can use for a very long time.

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