Tips for mattress shopping?
January 13, 2014 9:25 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are going mattress shopping. Right now he has a regular coil mattress with a pillow top, but it's too small for us and also has an indentation in the middle of it from years of him sleeping in the middle. So we're looking for a king-sized and something that's less "sinky."

We've ruled out memory foam because of how warm it gets and we both like to sleep cool. Other than that, we're just planning to go to different stores and try them out.

I should say that he likes the softer, plushier feel, and I don't have much of a preference. I've slept on harder ones and softer ones and it seems like I can get a good night's rest on either. My mattress I slept on for 10 years has no indentation of any sort, which I like, and it's a firmer mattress. We do need a mattress that has minimal bounce/movement, because our mutual tossing and turning can be a problem at times.

I've yelped some places around us and there are a ton of Sleeptrain stores and some Mancini's as well as a few I've never heard of before. Might check out Ikea too. If anyone loves a specific brand or kind of mattress (or store), I would love to hear about it and make sure to give those a try. Also, is it worth haggling with the salesmen or are they usually pretty firm on prices?

posted by madonna of the unloved to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Pillow tops wear unevenly because you can't flip them over to vary the surface space you're sleeping on. In fact, the vast majority of coil mattresses currently manufactured in the US are "non-flippable" mattresses. These are advertised as not needing to be flipped, but that's not actually true and this effectively halves the life of your mattress. Manufacturers have done this since 2006 or so because of more stringent manufacturing guidelines; it's a cost-saving measure, and they knew that most people weren't flipping their mattresses anyway and so they'd look at being told that mattresses weren't flippable as a benefit. But again, it's really not.

What you want, to avoid that dip in the middle, is a double-sided mattress. The problem is that all of the major mattress manufacturers no longer make double-sided mattresses (and yet they charge the same rate as they did a decade ago for a flippable mattress). Looking at the websites for Mancini's and Sleeptrain, I don't see any flippable models. Kluft might have one--they're also a very high-end mattress brand. So they might be expensive. You can definitely haggle with mattress salespeople, though. In fact, you should. Buying a mattress is pretty much like buying a car, in my experience. We were able to get $1000 off ours just be leaving and calling back later.

When we recently bought an innerspring mattress, because of all of the above, we went with a Shifman mattress. But, like Kluft, it's a high-end brand. Expensive (we got ours for $2700). But awesome, flippable, and very comfortable. And we can expect it to last way longer than a single sided S-brand mattress. We went firmer than I usually like--my husband prefers a very firm bed. We just use a separate twin-sized pillow topper on my side.

If that's out of your budget, and you can't find another double-sided mattress manufacturer in your area, I'd go with Ikea. You won't be able to barter, but their mattresses are pretty damn good, and almost universally double-sided.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:40 PM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try Costco, if you're a member. They're one of (few? Only?) places that will let you return (not just exchange) the mattress if you don't like it. They'll even come pick it puts no charge. (I've done this with them for an unsatisfactory memory foam mattress before)
posted by theplatypus at 9:46 PM on January 13, 2014

Speaking from personal experience, you don't need a flippable mattress to avoid the dip in the middle. You need a fully-encased waterproof mattress cover (which you will never remove), and then a washable mattress pad on top of that. The first time I had a pillow top I did not cover it with either of these things and, sure enough, my mattress got droopy rather fast. My current pillow top is covered with both of these items and still completely even all around, several years later.

Why does this work? Because it keeps out perspiration and heat which weaken the fluff in the mattress. I remove and wash the mattress pad every month (or really whenever I remember which is usually less often) to get rid of any buildup of body... stuff. Added bonus of the waterproof encasement thingy is that it also keeps out bedbugs if you ever need to worry about that!
posted by joan_holloway at 9:48 PM on January 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh also, you are best to wait until a big holiday to go purchase. I got mine around 4th of July weekend and the mattress store (Sleep Country, if you are in the pacific NW look them up!) was having a 40% off sale on everything. Every. Thing. Plus we got an additional discount for paying in full rather than doing monthly payments.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:51 PM on January 13, 2014

Seconding avoiding the pillow top if you don't want a sink-hole, and I will personally never go back to springs. Have you considered latex? Sleeps cooler, is supposed to last ages, and lots of people find it really comfy to sleep on.

A very helpful person gave me a link to in my own mattress question. It's full of great info.
posted by moira at 9:54 PM on January 13, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, and the latest thing in memory foam is the supposedly cooler gel-foam, e.g. this mattress.
posted by moira at 9:59 PM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

We bought the Sleep Number. I didn't expect to like it AT ALL. We went to the store to do a cursory look and ended up buying one. Mr. 26.2 is a bit of an insomniac and he insists that the Sleep Number bed has made staying asleep much easier. He gets to sleep, stays asleep and doesn't toss all night.

Maybe not your cuppa, but its worth a looksee.
posted by 26.2 at 10:02 PM on January 13, 2014

Try Sams Club ... I found that their prices were waaaaayyyyyy lower than mattress stores, which in my experience were outrageously expensive and kinda like car dealerships in the way they made you feel like gullible prey. The king-sized mattress I had from Sams Club lasted a long time. I can't remember the brand, but it was a major one.
posted by jayder at 10:37 PM on January 13, 2014

Consumer Reports looked into mattress retailers. Both Costco and Sams Club ranked very highly.
posted by jayder at 10:41 PM on January 13, 2014

Seconding latex. We bought our mattress from FloBeds. You can build up each side to the firmness/softness that each person prefers. Also, I can feel very little movement in the bed if my partner moves around.

You can return parts/the whole thing within 100 days. We changed the firmness for one side and have been really happy since. It was bit of a gamble to order online, but we knew someone else who had one and recommended it.
posted by j at 11:00 PM on January 13, 2014

latex or memory foam is much better for two people. if you don't want the bed to move when the other person moves or rolls over, you want a foam bed over a coil/spring bed.

you can pick the kind where each side has a different firmness as commenters said above. i see really good deals and reviews on and, but a long time ago we bought a mattress at costco and that worked well for us too.

a good memory foam mattress will never have an indentation and has a long warranty in many cases (my tempurpedic has a 20 year warranty). if you end up trying one, make sure you put a waterproof cover on it (spilling liquids voids the warranty) and don't use a heated mattress pad on it (intense heat can degrade some of the foams).
posted by zdravo at 5:39 AM on January 14, 2014

I have been sleeping on a Simmons Beautyrest mattress for years now and it's still amazingly firm with no dips. It's not a pillow top. I paid top dollar at a mattress store, but next time we need to replace it I'll go to the factory store. Or I might get mine at Costco. Look around for department store outlets, that's a great place to get deals on mattresses.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 AM on January 14, 2014

The mattress advice I found when shopping last time was:
1) There is no "best" mattress for comfort or health. Different people like different kind of mattresses, and as long as the mattress is comfortable, it's fine.
2) What feels comfortable after 2 minutes might not after 8 hours. Before taking a mattress home, lie down on it for at least 15 minutes in the store.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:04 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mr. know it some, I laid on a bunch of mattresses for 10 minutes a piece, then went back to my favorite and took a nice nap. The mattress store actively promoted this method and I have been sleeping very happily on my current mattress for a while now.
posted by Nackt at 6:37 AM on January 14, 2014

I feel for you. Mattress shopping is a special sort of shopping hell. We recently went through the ordeal ourselves. The bottom line is that there is no good way of shopping for mattresses, unless you are willing to limit yourself to what's on offer at only one particular store. Otherwise, you are doomed to driving from store-to-store, which has the effect of fatiguing you, which ends up making almost every mattress you lay on feeling fantastic. It's maddening.

My advice is to take several days. Keep going back to stores to test and re-test mattresses. Also, be realistic about testing them. You should lay on them in the same manner as you sleep. Too many people simply lay down on their backs, arms across their chest, etc. If you guys sleep spooned for most of the night, assume that position and stay there for at least 10 minutes. It may seem embarrassing, but it's a more realistic test.

Also, if you have a particular pillow you sleep with (like a body pillow, or a large pillow), take it with you. Most stores have, at best, a thin little pillow to use. You need to recreate your particular sleeping position as closely as possible.

Good luck. Like I said, it's a terrible process. In the end, you're still likely to be second-guessing yourself, even after you have the new mattress home.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mr. Summerstorm and I have been sleeping on a Sam's Club memory foam for 4 or 5 years now. I know they have a reputation for being hot, but we've never noticed it. What we have noticed, though, is how comfortable they are and how much better we sleep. I liked it so much I recently replaced my two twin guest mattresses with memory foam. These mattresses have a different, firmer feel than our Sam's Club, but I've had nothing but positive compliments from our (admittedly aging) overnight guests.

Some hotels have memory foam mattresses. Maybe you could spend the night sleeping on one there to judge for yourself before committing to buy?
posted by summerstorm at 7:02 AM on January 14, 2014

We purchased a mid-line mattress recently. Agree with Thorzdad that you need to spend time in the same position for a good while, and that what feels good to you may not feel good to your partner and others. And the process is time-consuming and can be frustrating - we took one store at a time for about an hour apiece, and went to these stores trying out multiple mattresses.

We settled on two different ones that were very similar, and then waited until Labor Day to purchase, specifically asking for the rep who helped us in each store. (You will get to know the salespeople very well - and take the time to find an experienced one or even a store manager.) Depending on your ability to haggle, you'd be surprised at the kinds and amount of discounting allowed.

And also seconding the waterproof cover mentioned earlier - it makes a difference creating the barrier against all the shed skin that ends up in a mattress (sad but true).

Lastly we discovered how nice a foam pillow can be. It had been a good 10 years on our prior mattress, and we really enjoy our new one now.
posted by scooterdog at 7:20 AM on January 14, 2014

I spent a ton of money on a Sleep Number Bed that nearly killed me from the black mold problem.

Once we discovered it and freaked out, we quickly got rid of the bed.

We bought a mattress from a couple up the street for $100 who had flipped it monthly for the last seven years, and kept a cover over it. We bought an awesome mattress topper that I love because it makes everything super comfy, but should I have to throw it away it won't be a big deal to replace. Total investment: $250.

We've been sleeping on this for 3 years now, flipping, etc, with no problems or loss of comfort.
posted by haplesschild at 8:48 AM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

My parents have a latex foam mattress that has lasted them for 20 years (at least) with no indentations or sag.
posted by KathrynT at 9:10 AM on January 14, 2014

Another vote for latex! Very comfortable, very long-lasting.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:38 AM on January 14, 2014

My generic advice is twofold: a) never get pillowtop, because that can always be added with a topper; and b) get one notch more firm than you think you want from laying on them in the store, because firmer is better for you and laying on them in the store always skews perception.
posted by rhizome at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone! All the answers were really helpful, so I didn't mark a "best answer."
posted by madonna of the unloved at 3:15 PM on January 14, 2014

I like my latex mattress too - I got a firm one, but then added an extra bit of springiness to it with a foam mattress topper.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:56 PM on January 14, 2014

One more piece of advice that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet: you should never pay full price for a mattress. Mattresses are one of the highest mark-up consumer goods around. Shoot for 50% off, and don't be afraid to haggle. You will probably have less success haggling at stores that sell their own brands.
posted by hootenatty at 10:32 AM on January 15, 2014

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