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What to know before laying down money for a mattress

February 13, 2020 GMT

Here comes Presidents Day, a time to celebrate Lincoln and Roosevelt — and blowout mattress sales. These holiday-weekend bargains can be a smart opportunity to shop for a mattress if you need a new one. But choosing the right bed in your budget can be tricky if you go into the decision cold.

Do this homework before buying a mattress.


“There’s no better way to waste money at a mattress store than to buy a mattress that’s ultimately going to be bad for you,” says Michael Magnuson, founder of the online mattress guide GoodBed. But how do you know what kind of mattress is good for you?


“The No. 1 thing that everyone has to know about mattresses is that they’re very personal,” Magnuson says. Factors such as your typical sleep position, weight, firmness preference and whether or not you sleep with a partner determine which mattress will give you a solid night’s sleep. Identify those things about yourself, or try GoodBed’s mattress-finder quiz.

This research may also tell you what types of mattresses you prefer, such as memory foam or pillow-top, and their price range. Don’t worry about exact mattress model names, as they’re often inconsistent from store to store.

Knowing all this will make you more empowered, “so you’re not susceptible to whatever the salesperson wants to sell you,” Magnuson says. In fact, this knowledge helps the salesperson help you. They’ll better understand what you’re looking for and will be more likely to connect you to it.

Without this research, it’s too easy to lie on a few mattresses, think “yep, this feels like a bed,” and more or less guess at the best one, Magnuson says.


Part of your research is thinking about your budget. Now is not the time to be too frugal, if you can help it. “If you’re going to spend a lot of money on something, a mattress is worth it,” says Lexie Sachs, textiles director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. After all, a quality mattress is important for your sleep and thus well-being.

Depending on a few factors, Magnuson says you can probably find a high-quality queen mattress for about $1,000. Keep in mind that you can spend less for rarely used guest-room beds, according to the mattress-review site The Slumber Yard.

Once you find a mattress you want, you can always try to negotiate a lower price. “It can’t hurt to ask,” Sachs says, and your research puts you in a good position to do so. Keep in mind that there will be more room for haggling in local stores, rather than national chains, says Jeff Rizzo, CEO of The Slumber Yard. Before making the purchase, ask about how the return policies and warranties work.


Not sure if you’re ready to buy? Leave the store and think it over — away from the gaze of your salesperson. Don’t feel obligated to purchase a mattress you feel lukewarm about, even if you just spent an hour trying out beds. “You can go to another store, or you can shop online,” Rizzo says.


There are plenty of opportunities to buy a mattress online, through retailers such as Casper, Tuft & Needle, Helix and many others. Mattresses sold online are typically less expensive than those sold in stores. And most online retailers offer generous trial periods and free returns.

But just like buying a mattress in person, buying one online requires the same research to help you choose a winner. In fact, add a few bonus questions to your homework. What the heck will you do with your old mattress? (The folks who deliver a mattress from a brick-and-mortar store typically haul away your old one, Magnuson points out.) If you don’t like your new mattress, what exactly do you have to do to return it? And will your returned mattress be donated or go to a landfill?

If your goal is to pay little for a mattress, you may consider going through another kind of online retailer, as in, a stranger on Craigslist selling her used bed. Buying a used mattress simply isn’t worth the risk of bedbugs, Magnuson says. If you must go the hand-me-down route, it’s safer to get it from a trusted family member or friend.

Or save up for a new, inexpensive mattress “just to have the peace of mind that it’s clean,” he says.


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Laura McMullen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @lauramcmullen


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