How to buy a mattress without getting fleeced

Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and get the bed you want

Consumer Reports

(Photo: Grant Cornett/Hello Artists)

(Photo: Grant Cornett/Hello Artists)

Chances are you haven’t shopped for a new mattress in years. What haven’t changed since your last visit to the stores are the high-pressure tactics at most mattress retailers. Also unchanged: the pumped-up prices that come down to reality only during holiday weekends. Here’s what to know before stepping into the store.

First, try to save your old mattress. Ten years is about the average life span of a mattress. But before you toss yours, give it another chance. Some older innerspring mattresses can be flipped and rotated to address minor dips. And a firmer or softer pillow—or a mattress topper—might be all it takes to sleep soundly again. But mattresses with varying firmness levels, including foam models, usually can’t be flipped or rotated. We also suggest getting rid of any mattress with sags or lumps.

Try before buying. Trying out a mattress in a store can be awkward. Our advice: Do it anyway. Spend at least 10 minutes on each side, your back, and your stomach if that’s how you sleep. If you buy online or at a store where tryouts aren’t possible, check the return policy; Costco is one retailer that offers free pickup and return if you aren’t satisfied.

Know the name game. Mattress makers offer some lines nationally, with consistent names. But some stores, including Macy’s, Sears, and Sleepy’s, sell certain models that are exclusive to those chains. And retailers often change model names, making it even more difficult to compare models among stores. Use our mattress performance ratings as a guide and insist on the precise brands and models that scored well.

Don’t be afraid to haggle. Huge markups often let retailers lower prices by 50 percent or more, especially during holiday weekends. Even if you miss a sale, try insisting on the sale price. You can also save $150 or more by keeping your old box spring, or foundation, unless it’s sagging or damaged. Although some brands require you to buy a new one as part of the warranty.

Check the materials. Some makers of latex-foam mattresses say their processing removes the proteins that cause allergies. Our mattress ratings note models with latex if you’re still concerned.

Top mattresses from our tests

Serta Perfect Day iSeries Applause

Serta Perfect Day iSeries Applause

Consumer Reports tests innerspring, memory foam, and adjustable air mattresses. Here are the top mattresses of each type including a CR Best Buy for each.

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