Cheap mattresses?
September 18, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Ultra-cheap mattresses: does anyone know what the deal is with these?

I am in the market for a mattress and I constantly see roadside hand written signs for new mattresses at ridiculously low prices ($200 for a queen pillow top, $300 for a king). I also see comparable deals in the classified ads and on craigslist. Are these for real? Anyone purchased one of these? Is this the mattress equivalent of buying speakers from a guy in a white van?
posted by internal to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This mattress article was written for you.
posted by Sassyfras at 8:10 AM on September 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

Apaprt from the immense markup for marketing, the only thing you really need to know about matresses is that anyone can make a good hard mattress on the cheap, regardless of the materials used, whereas it is much more difficult and expensive to make a good soft mattress.
posted by ijsbrand at 8:20 AM on September 18, 2008

I once answered one of those Craigslist ads in my leaner days. I drove an hour to a bare-bones storefront to be greeting by a sleazy salesman ("We're practically neighbors!"). He had one mattress for the advertised price leaning up against a wall in the back - it was thin and cheap, practically folding in half. Everything else in the store was at least twice as expensive.

So, no, it's not for real.
posted by aliasless at 8:24 AM on September 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

We bought some mattress sets from our local Habitat for Humanity store (US). Local furniture stores donate new sets to help the cause and they get the tax write off. We bought King sets for $600. Other sizes were priced accordingly. It isn't the best set ever but with a pillow topper bought at Wal Mart for $25, it is fine and well worth the money. See if you have a habitat store in your area. They are great for all kinds of finds, appliances to gently used furniture to everything else!! And you help a great organization!
posted by pearlybob at 8:50 AM on September 18, 2008

if there's one around you, i'd hit an ikea—their mattresses are comfortable, comparatively reasonably priced, and best of all: no slimy mattress salesmen.
posted by lia at 8:54 AM on September 18, 2008

There are mattress "recyclers" in the Bronx that will pay $10 for any used mattress, and there are people who drive around in beat up panel trucks looking for them on the curb. They are covered with a new padded outer wrapping and sold downtown, like on 14th Street, for $150 or so. You don't want one of those.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:34 AM on September 18, 2008

The last time I bought a mattress I found a cheap one in a flyer. I went to the store (err, Mattress World?) and they didnt have it and got the hard upsell. I went to another store in this chain and it was a pretty cheesy mattress. I got the hard upsell again. In the end I bought one of the cheapest of the firm beds which turned out to be $200-300 more than the one that was advertised.

I dont want to say this stuff is a bait-and-switch scam, but they have no incentive to sell you the one you came in for. No incentive to make it quality. No incentive to keep it in stock.

The only place I've seen a quality "cheap" mattress was Sam's Club. It lasted years. The price was competitive, perhaps $100 less than the mattress chains. If I was still a member I would have just gone there from the beginning.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:59 AM on September 18, 2008

if there's one around you, i'd hit an ikea—their mattresses are comfortable, comparatively reasonably priced

This is a great suggestion if you have access to a truck. I almost went this route but delivery was going to cost me between 60-100 dollars. Mattress World delivers for free, but I ended up paying more there, so its a wash.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:01 AM on September 18, 2008

damn dirty ape, we recently bought an awesome latex mattress at Ikea. It came rolled up and fit just fine in our little Toyota Yaris.
posted by zsazsa at 10:22 AM on September 18, 2008

There are quite a few local chains that have lots of market share, depending on which state you hail from. I used to work at a Sleep Outfitters (think South), which commonly advertised a pretty cheap set. Internally, though, these sets were known as the 'mother-in-law' beds - the beds you'd let the mother-in-law sleep on to get her to leave in short order... I personally am not a picky sleeper, and as such had few problems with the MIL bed...

With that said though, be willing to spring for a mattress a level or two up from the bottom. Unless finances are that tight, a mattresses cost over its life comes out to pennies per night. No that's not a sales pitch - I hated that job - but comparing it to the $5 cup of Starbucks it might take to get you going otherwise, it's a bargain... If your finances are that tight, dumpster diving all the way. Cover with plastic sheet or sanitize and lay a blanket over it. If it smells funky, throw it out or try bleach :)
posted by chrisinseoul at 10:35 AM on September 18, 2008

I know a guy that bought one of the mattresses from the handwritten signs. He got a really nice pillowtop mattress that was clearly new and really cheap. He said the guy had a plain box truck with a bunch of mattresses in the back. We all agree that there has to be something not so legitimate about the whole deal, but no one asked any questions.
posted by thejanna at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2008

Yes, investigate those too-good-to-be-true ads, especially if they're in your area.

I just moved to Eugene, OR and got an enormously comfortable king size mattress with the box frames for $50. It's sooo nice to finally have a bed large enough that some part of me isn't hanging off. The mattress has some wine stains, oh well. Thank you Craigslist.

Never underestimate the willingness of kind people to let old but useful stuff go for next to nothing. Recent college graduates who didn't take care of moving arrangements because they were finishing their thesis are similarly beneficent, although it's a little late in the year for that. I investigated about 10 ads on Craigslist and decided to follow up on the one I purchased because it was an incredible deal and the woman selling it was obviously a total hippie. If the person who answers the phone sounds like a soccer mom, a hippie, some bored guy who just got off work at the mill, or any other kind of real person, there's a good chance you'll get a great deal. But go lie on it and smell it first.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2008

From that Slate article: So just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they're pretty much all the same.

I remember reading this and found it to be good advice. A friend tut-tutted me for not spending a fortune on a mattress, but my cheapo Ikea mattress has been just fine. I do tend to sleep best with a hard mattress, though, so bear ijsbrand's words in mind.

if there's one around you, i'd hit an ikea—their mattresses are comfortable, comparatively reasonably priced, and best of all: no slimy mattress salesmen.

Right on. The downside of the Ikea experience, however, is that having nobody around to "help" you (scare quotes) means not having anybody around to help you (no scare quotes). It means getting to the end of the store and realizing that they honestly expect you to pull this massive, unwieldy thing off of a shelf all by yourself, maneuver it onto a tiny non-stationary cart in a dance that nicely illustrates Newton's laws of motion, and then wheel it through the checkout line without knocking over the hundreds of light bulbs and patio sets that have been laid before you as your final obstacles. If you are doing this by yourself, invite some strangers to watch, because things will quickly go Buster Keaton for you.

And, if you don't have a truck, you did all that just to leave it at the store with Ikea's delivery department.
posted by cobra libre at 11:08 AM on September 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I accompanied my roommate to a warehouse to look at cheap mattresses she'd seen advertised on craigslist. It was similar to what aliasless described - a rather bare-bones warehouse with a small portion set up as a sort of showroom. The mattress at the price advertised was pretty thin and cheap-looking (and just sitting on the floor), but he had several other models (set up as full beds) for more money that were better quality. After the first sixty seconds there was no attention paid to the cheap mattress--he and my roommate focused on the more expensive ones and he did the salesman thing.

My roommate ended up buying one of the more expensive ones. I think she paid something like $400 or $450 for a queen-size set, and she seemed happy enough with it two months later.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:38 PM on September 18, 2008

I bought a $300 mattress once. Absolutely one of the worst purchases I've ever made.

If I needed an economical bed, I'd absolutely buy one at Ikea. Their people will help you (without scare quotes) get it to the register and out the door if you ask. Be prepared to load it into your car without their help - or fork over the money for home delivery.

If you are looking for a cheap mattress because you're "thrifty" or cheap, think twice.

Bonus unrequested advice:
If your bed is larger than twin-size and you (or you and your partner combined) weigh more than 150 pounds, make sure to use a bed frame with a support in the middle like this one. Avoid the two support frames this one.
posted by terpia at 3:57 PM on September 18, 2008

late post, but american freight is one of those places, and they are a national chain. The "QUEEN BEDS FROM $50!" on their commercials are as thin as a saltene.
that being said, I got my bed there, it was maybe $400 for the whole deal, including frame and delivery, for a nice pillowtop. A year later no complaints.

So yeah, the get you in the door special is utter crap, but there are still good deals to be found.
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:25 PM on September 19, 2008

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