2020 Mattress Buying Guide: Buying a Mattress Online Made Easy

Online shopping. Online-shop. Smiling couple with laptop.
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Our mattress buying guide is the only one you’ll need. From warranties to deliveries to the best mattresses themselves, we cover it all.

    Benefits of Buying a Mattress Online

    Many people are naturally hesitant to purchase something like a bed online. However counterintuitive it might seem, though, buying a mattress online can actually be a better investment than purchasing a bed from a brick-and-mortar store.

    Convenience

    First and foremost, there is no denying that online shopping is incredibly convenient. Not only do you not have to physically travel to a store, but you also have an entire Internet’s worth of options available to you—which no single physical store can hope to match.

    Virtually Risk Free

    Did you know that it takes your body about 30 days to fully adjust to a new sleeping surface? That means the few minutes you spend testing various models at a physical store aren’t accurate indicators of how well a bed will suit you.

    The opposite is true of online shopping.

    Reputable online retailers will offer a trial period, or a time where you can test out a certain mattress before you finalize a purchase. Since most sleep trials in the industry are at least 100 days, you will have ample time to decide if a mattress really is the best fit for you, all from within the comfort of your own home or apartment.

    Easy Customization

    From sizes to firmness levels, there is no end to the amount of customization online shopping offers. Shopping in-person, however, often limits you to the small selection available in a single store.

    Quick Quality Checks

    It’s easy to go online and check honest customer reviews. This way, you can make a more educated decision when it comes to buying a particular product—something that’s hard to do in-store with a salesperson right beside you.

    How to Buy a Mattress Online

    Interested in buying a mattress online? Awesome! We’ll help you through this process, step by step, so you can make an educated decision when it comes to upgrading your bedroom.

    So, what should you do when you want to buy a bed online? It all starts with looking at the fine print.

    Check the Fine Print

    fine print enlarged with magnifying glass magnifier loupe, buying a mattress online concept.

    If you’re interested in an online retailer, it pays to check the details of their trial period and warranty, as well as the specifics of their shipping, return, and refund policies.

    Sleep Trial

    You’ll want to check how long each sleep trial is. Remember, it takes the body about a month to fully adjust to a new sleeping surface, so you’ll want a trial that lasts at least 30 days.

    Additionally, you should check if there are restrictions on this trial. For example, most retailers only let you initiate returns after 30 days.

    Warranty

    A mattress is no small investment, so make sure it’s backed by a respectable warranty. Since mattresses typically need replacing every 7-10 years, look for warranties that are at least 10 years long.

    However, don’t just look at the warranty length; make sure to examine the warranty’s terms and conditions, too. For example, some warranties only cover replacements for certain damages. So, if the odds of not-covered damages occurring seems high to you, it might be best to find another brand.

    Shipping, Returns, and Refunds

    There is always the chance that a bed won’t work out for you. In that case, you want to minimize costs as much as possible. So, look for retailers that offer low-cost or free shipping and returns, as well as full refunds. Now, most companies in the industry offer free shipping, returns, and full refunds to those who live within the continental United States. Those who live in Alaska, Hawai’i, and Canada often have extra fees attached.

    Once you’ve read the fine print, it’s time to start asking yourself some important questions, such as how you like to sleep.

    Know Your Sleeping Type

    Portrait of african-american man sleeping shirtless on stomach in bed at home, closeup
    man sleeping in bed
    A Portrait of a young man from above sleeping in a bed.

    One of the most important questions you have to ask yourself before you buy a new mattress is: What is your sleeping type? Namely, do you primarily sleep on your side, back, or stomach? The answer to this question can guide your final purchasing decision. Why? Because different types of beds can suit the needs of different kinds of sleepers. So, even if you purchase a high-quality bed, if it isn’t optimized for your sleeping position, you still might not wake up feeling refreshed.

    If you aren’t sure which kind of mattress will work for you, don’t worry; we’ll walk you through the main sleeping positions and which mattresses suit them best. What’s most important to remember is that you need a mattress that helps you line up your neck, shoulders, and back. After all, when the spine isn’t properly aligned, it can lead to aches and pains in the morning.

    Side Sleeping

    Sleeping on the side is the most popular sleeping position. Fortunately, there are plenty of benefits to this posture, including reduced chance of snoring and acid reflux. Pregnant individuals who rest on their left sides may also reap benefits that include improved circulation to both parent and fetus.

    So, what types of mattresses do side sleepers need?

    Typically, those who rest on their sides need soft or medium-firm sleeping surfaces. Why? Because less of their bodies touch their beds, meaning the parts that do touch their beds sink more. So, softer surfaces allow parts of the body—like the shoulders and hips—to sink a little more, which better facilitates proper spinal alignment. Notably, taller and heavier individuals will likely need slightly softer sleeping surfaces than smaller people for this same reason.

    That makes latex or foam bedding best suited for this posture, as these materials tend to create softer sleeping surfaces. A hybrid bed with a plush top may also work.

    You can see our guide to learn more about beds optimized for side sleeping.

    Back Sleeping

    Back sleeping is the second-most common resting posture. Like side sleeping, it may also help with acid reflux. Unlike side sleeping though, it tends to worsen snoring issues. Pregnant individuals should likewise avoid this position as it can generate back pain and make breathing more difficult. Notably, though, this posture is preferred for babies, as research shows it decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

    So, just what sort of beds will best suit back sleepers?

    Since more of back sleepers’ bodies come into contact with their mattresses, these sleepers need less “give” to their beds than side sleepers do. That makes medium-firm or firm mattresses best for this group. Taller and heavier individuals will likely need medium-firm surfaces to properly cushion their bodies.

    So, innerspring or hybrid bedding tends to be best for those who slumber supine, as these materials tend to make firmer sleeping surfaces. Although, it is possible to find firmer foam or latex beds, as is the case with the reverse side of the Layla mattress.

    You can see our guide on beds best suited for back sleepers to learn more.

    Stomach Sleeping

    Woman lying on her stomach, side view, incorrect sleeping posture for neck and spine, unhealthy sleeping position vector Illustration
    Woman lying on her stomach, correct sleeping posture for neck and spine, healthy sleeping position, orthopedic mattress and pillow vector Illustration
    Woman lying on her stomach, incorrect sleeping posture for neck and spine, unhealthy sleeping position vector Illustration

    Stomach sleeping is the least popular of the three major resting postures. While it can be useful in reducing snoring and sleep apnea, it’s also easy to rest incorrectly in this position. This incorrect posturing leads to cricks, aches, and pains in the morning; that’s why it’s so crucial for this group to find a sleeping surface that facilitates proper spinal alignment.

    Okay, but which mattresses are best for stomach sleepers?

    Like back sleepers, those who rest face-down will need medium-firm or firm sleeping surfaces, making hybrid options the best choices for this group.

    You can see our guide on the best beds for stomach sleeping to learn more.

    Combination Sleeping

    What about people who rest in various positions? These folks are known as combination sleepers. The beds that work best for them depend on which sleeping positions they bounce between.

    For example, those who switch between side, back, and stomach will need a bed of middling firmness, about a 6 or 7 out of 10. Why? Because this firmness level is a good middle ground that can adequately suit the needs of each of these postures.

    Those who switch between the side and either the back or stomach should also aim for a middling firmness level.

    Back + stomach combo sleepers are in luck; both of these postures similarly require firm beds.

    Once you’ve discovered what your sleeping position is, your next step is to decide what materials you want to have in your new bed.

    Learn the Materials

    There are a few main types of mattresses: foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid. Which one works best for you will depend on factors like sleeping posture and budget.

    Foam

    Big stack of memory foam mattress for bed

    Foam-based bedding often includes polyfoam in the support layers and memory foam in the top one. Now, polyfoam is a fancy term for mixed foams of various densities. Often, base layers will be high-density foam. Memory foam is a specialized type of foam that boasts enhanced body-hugging abilities, meaning greater comfort and personalized pressure-point relief.

    Unfortunately, though, memory foam has the tendency to trap heat. So, when shopping for a foam mattress, look for something that incorporates cooling technology. This tech will often be in the form of gel-infused foam, which helps transfer heat away from the body. Foam of poor quality is also prone to forming indents, which is why it’s important to look for mattresses made with top-notch materials.

    When first unpacking a foam mattress, expect to notice an odd smell at first; this odor should go away as the bed airs out, which can take between 24 to 72 hours, on average. 

    Foam mattresses are available at all price points, for a budget foam mattress look at the Tulo Brand from Mattress Direct or the SweetNight Brand. Those on a mid range budget should consider the Nectar and for those looking for a high end foam mattress should consider either the Layla or Bear mattress.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Conforms well to the body
    • Enhanced motion isolation
    Cons
    • Easily traps heat
    • May form permanent indents
    • Initial unpleasant odor

    You can see our guide to learn more about out favorite foam-based bedding.

    Latex

    Nature para latex pillow and mattress

    Latex can be either synthetic or natural; the natural material comes from the sap of trees, similarly to rubber. This material is popular to include in bedding because, like foam, it’s comfortable, body-hugging, and pressure-relievingUnlike foam, though, it typically is much cooler to sleep on.

    The largest drawback to this material? Those with latex allergies won’t be able to use them if they aren’t properly sealed. Further, natural latex can be a little pricier; while it can be well worth the bump in price, this bump may also place latex out of reach for those on tighter budgets.

    Pros
    • Great pressure relief
    • Sleeps cooler than foam
    • Effective motion isolation
    Cons
    • Price
    • Not great for those with allergies

    You can see our guide to learn more about our favorite latex-based bedding.

    Innerspring

    When learning how to buy a mattress online, make sure to look at bedding material. Shown here: pocket springs.

    Innerspring beds are beds that contain coiled springs. Often, these beds have lots of bounce to them. These beds are often the most affordable on the market, and their coiled design means they provide excellent airflow and edge support. So, hot sleepers and those who like to sit along the edge of the bed should find this type of bedding to their liking.

    Unfortunately, though, this bed variety isn’t perfect. For one, the interior springs naturally generate noise, which can jostle light sleepers. Secondly, these beds tend to be a little stiffer, meaning less customized pressure relief. Additionally, these mattresses are fairly old-school, and many big-name mattress manufacturers don’t sell many all-spring beds anymore, so options can be limited.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Breathable
    • Decent edge support
    Cons
    • Noisy
    • Less pressure relief

    Hybrid

    Mattress structure with pocketed spring

    Hybrid beds include several types of materials, most often foam and springs. This way, these beds offer the best of several materials: the comfort and motion isolation of foam, the coolness and responsiveness of latex, and the stability of pocketed coils. Taken together, these beds sleep cool, offer great pressure relief, and effectively isolate motion, making them great options for hot sleepers or couples with a light sleeper.

    Unfortunately, these beds aren’t cheap. In fact, hybrid mattresses tend to be some of the most expensive on the market. While the increased price points are often worth it, these prices can place hybrids out of reach for those with lower budgets. Keetsa are a brand that offer a hybrid mattress at an affordable price.

    Pros
    • Temperature control
    • Strong edge support
    • Good pressure relief
    • Decent motion isolation
    Cons
    • Price

    You can see our guide to explore our favorite hybrids.

    Look for Trustworthy Labels

    Deceptive advertising is common in marketing, and the sleep industry is no exception. That’s why it pays to look for trustworthy labels and certifications—so you can rest assured that you really are getting what you think you are. It’s best when a company provides a direct link to the certifying document, so you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the brand really is certified.

    Below are some reputable labels you’ll often come across when shopping for bedding. You can click on each to learn more about the label, including what they signify and what they look like.

    USDA organic seals
    For illustrative purposes only.

    Set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, products with this certification must meet the following standards:
    Round CertiPUR-US logo
    For illustrative purposes only.

    This label is set by a not-for-profit, Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, Inc., and covers foams that are rigorously tested for harmful materials like mercury, lead, and formaldehyde.

    Rounded rectangle GOLS logo
    For illustrative purposes only.

    This widely trusted label applies to the quality, safety, and production of latex. Notably, every part of the production chain—from rubber plantations to the retailer—must be certified by these standards in order for the final product to receive GOLS certification. Some GOLS requirements include that a product:

    • “must contain more than 95% of certified organic raw material”
    • is rigorously tested for harmful substances and emissions
    • must meet certain “polymer and filler percentages.”
      GOTS logo
      For illustrative purposes only.

      This globally recognized standard ensures that products meet certain criteria for safety, ethical labor practices, and sustainable manufacturing.

      Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX label
      For illustrative purposes only.

      This internally trusted label is the gold standard for textile safety in the industry.

      GreenGuard Gold logo
      For illustrative purposes only.

      This UL-run label signifies that a product has undergone rigorous testing for emissions of dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like formaldehyde.

      Pick the Right Size

      Once you’ve settled on the right type of mattress for you, you’ll need to pick the right size. Typically, you’ll have six options, the standard North American adult sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, and California King. Those with little ones need to look for retailers that sell a standard-sized Crib option.

      If you aren’t sure which size will work best, don’t worry. Below, you can see the standard North American bed sizes, as well as their dimensions and who they will suit best.

      Crib: 28" x 52"

      This size mattress, as the name implies, works best for babies.

      Twin: 38" x 75"

      This size is great for kids, teens, or adults with limited amounts of space.

      Twin XL: 38" x 80"

      A Twin XL is a great option for college students or taller individuals.

      Full: 54" x 74"

      A full-sized bed is perfect for those who enjoy stretching out or share their bed in a limited space.

      Queen: 60" x 80"

      Queen is the most popular bed size in the United States. It’s great for couples.

      King: 76" x 80"
      Cal. King: 72" x 84"

      King and California King are sizes best suited for couples who have lots of space in their rooms.

      FAQ

      Most frequent brand questions

      The answer to this question depends entirely on your preferences. Likely, which mattress you like best will depend on what type of sleeper you are. Specifically, side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses. Conversely, those who like to sleep on their backs often enjoy firmer sleeping surfaces, as do stomach sleepers.

      Once again, the answer to this question largely depends on your preferences. Important factors to keep in mind as you shop around include budget, sleeping style, and safety.

      You can check our in-depth guides for more information about beds under $500, mattresses under $1000, beds for stomach sleepers, bedding for back sleepers, mattresses for stomach sleepers, safe eco-friendly bedding options, and even organic crib mattresses for your little one.

      The best mattress for back pain will vary based on what is causing you pain in the first place. If it's due to an underlying condition, it's best to see your doctor. If it's due to sleeping on a mattress ill-suited for back sleepers, then upgrading your bed may help.

      You can check out our guide to learn more about beds optimized for back sleeping.

      The sleep industry offers plenty of choices, which fortunately means plenty of good beds within most price ranges. A good mattress will typically cost a few hundred dollars, although it isn't unusual to spend over a thousand, either.

      Based on bedding materials and size, you can expect to pay roughly the following amounts for new bed:

      • Foam: $300 - $1000
      • Latex: $500 - $1,300
      • Innerspring: $300 - $1000
      • Hybrid: $600 - $2000

      Note that specialty mattresses, such as organic ones, tend to cost more.

      You can check out our guides to learn more about the best mattresses under $1000 and bedding under $500. Those on an extremely tight budget can browse through the Zinus catalog, which offers beds at industry-leading rates. You can see our breakdown of these models in our Zinus review. If you are looking for a mattress from a company with a background in traditional stores, Mattress Firm created the Tulo brand to provide an online sales option.

      Final Thoughts

      A smiling Black woman resting on her mattress.

      Buying a mattress online might seem intimidating at first, but it doesn’t have to be a scary experience when you know how to go about it. From checking the fine print to understanding your specific sleeping needs, finding a bed that works for you can be a more straightforward process when you have the right mattress buying guide to help you out.

      Share on twitter
      Twitter
      Share on pinterest
      Pinterest
      Share on facebook
      Facebook
      Share on reddit
      Reddit
      Share on email
      Email
      >

      Our Highest Rated Mattress

      The Idle Sleep Hybrid

      Free Adjustable Bed Frame with all Mattress Purchases