For decades, buying a mattress involved visiting a mattress or department store and testing models in the flesh. But, thanks to the rise of direct-to-consumer mattress brands and bed-in-a-box technology, shopping are shifting their mattress shopping habits. Per a survey conducted by the International Sleep Products Association, 45% of mattresses purchased in 2018 were online, up from 35% for purchases in 2017 -- a number which almost surely skyrocketed during the pandemic.
One reason why online mattress shopping is so popular: pricing. Online-purchased mattresses typically cost 15 percent less than comparable in-store models -- and sometimes less than half the retail price. And there's little risk involved: These mattresses typically come with flexible return policies and lengthy trial periods.
It's not easy knowing how and where to shop for a mattress online, especially if you've never done it before. But CBS Essentials compiled all of the information you need to buy a mattress online without fear. (Note that all mattress prices listed are for a queen, the most popular mattress size.)
What kind of mattresses can you buy online?
When you buy a mattress from a store, it usually involves in-home setup via a delivery service. But most online mattress companies use standard ground delivery via a shipping company. To simplify that shipping, the companies typically use bed-in-a-box or mattress-in-a-box packaging. Before shipping, a process dubbed "roll-packing" compresses the mattress and vacuum seals it in plastic, minimizing size. After unboxing, it quickly expands into a full size mattress, ready for sleeping within 24 to 48 hours.
Foam mattresses dominate the online mattress market -- memory foam compresses more efficiently than other types and tends to be more cost efficient. Recently, however, conventional coil/innerspring, gel and hybrid mattresses have surged in popularity.
One of the most appealing aspects of memory foam? It cradles a body to relieve pressure points, and then returns to its original shape. This makes it a great sleeping surface for people with back issues. Memory foam has evolved over the past three decades, offering much more bounce back, a cooler sleep experience and more longevity, all at a lower price point. There's also cool gel memory foam, which offers a firmer and cooler sleeping experience. For sleepers partial to old-school innerspring and coil mattresses, hybrids are a great option, combining the support of innerspring and the cradling quality of gel or foam.
Testing a mattress and returns
Testing a mattress prior to purchase generally isn't an option when shopping online. That said, nearly every online mattress seller offers a generous trial period and easy return and exchange policies -- which often work in your favor. Instead of simply testing a mattress in a showroom, you can sleep on it for days or even months, generally risk-free.
Most companies have also made the return process seamless, refunding money and covering shipping or pick-up costs as well. Some companies will even donate your unwanted mattress to charity, and still give you your refund.
Do you need a boxspring and bed frame?
before buying a mattress. Most mattresses don't require a boxspring as long as you use them with a slatted bed frame.
And don't forget to factor in the depth of the bed frame. For example, if your frame is deep, you want to avoid a super-thin mattress.
Tempur-Pedic released the first memory foam mattress in the 1990s. The Tempur-Adapt, which comes with a 90-day, risk-free trial, boasts multiple layers of memory foam and coils. The 11-inch mattress is a good option for sleepers who like mid-level firmness paired with superior motion absorption.
Saatva Classic is a popular hybrid mattress. It can be ordered in two heights and various levels of firmness, ranging from plush soft to firm. It offers two layers of coils and a pillow top filled with pressure-relieving memory foam. Saatva also provides a generous, risk-free trial period of 180 nights.
Technically foam models, Purple mattresses feature the company's Purple Grid technology, which layers hyper-elastic polymer between tiers of foam or coils, depending on the model. The traditional Purple mattress features two levels of their trademark gel, paired with dual-layer foam, while the Purple Plus boasts two extra layers of comfort foam. The Purple Hybrid adds pocked coils for more airflow and durability, and the Purple Hybrid Premiere 3 or 4 -- luxury models -- offer three or four inches of the buoyant-feeling gel. Every mattress comes with a 100-night, risk-free sleep trial period.
Purple mattress and Purple Plus mattress
Purple Hybrid Premiere
The Emma Original
The best-selling mattress in the U.K., Emma launched an all-foam mattress in 2015 in Europe, expanding to the United States in 2019. They only offer one, tri-level, all-foam model at a moderately affordable price point. The ultra comfortable sleeping surface is soft but supportive, designed to isolate motion, relieve pressure, align the spine and also regulate temperature. Emma offers a 100-night, satisfaction-guaranteed, risk-free trial.
Avocado Green offers a number of environmentally friendly mattresses, including the Avocado Vegan, a PETA-approved, no-wool hybrid. All the company's mattresses are constructed from non-toxic, natural and organic materials. The Avocado Green Mattress is made with 100% organic latex, 100% organic wool and 100% organic cotton -- and no polyester, polyurethane or toxic fire retardants.
Avocado also offers one of the most generous trial periods: one year.
Casper didn't invent the bed-in-a-box concept, but it certainly popularized it when it released the Casper mattress, now dubbed Casper Original. Available in both all-foam and hybrid (foam and springs) models, the brand's most popular mattress features three zones of breathable memory foam for ergonomic alignment. It also comes with a 100-night, risk-free trial, and 10-year limited warranty.
Whether you suffer from intermittent back problems or are on the fence about whether you prefer a softer or firmer mattress, Layla serves as both. Available as both a memory foam and hybrid, this clever sleeping surface offers "flippable firmness," soft on one side and firm on the other. And, constructed out of a pressure-relieving antimicrobial copper foam, it helps you sleep cooler, cleaner and more comfortably. Layla offers a 120-night, money back guarantee.
A budget-friendly mattress with overwhelmingly positive Amazon reviews, Zinus Ultima boasts 12 inches of memory foam at an under-$400 price point. Infused with green tea and charcoal, the mattress controls odors while absorbing moisture and provides firm-plush, pressure-relieving support.
Birch Luxe Natural by Helix
Birch is an offshoot of popular mattress brand Helix, offering comfortable and luxurious beds, responsibility sourced and sustainably produced, handcrafted and assembled in the USA. The mattresses are also Greenguard Gold certified and GOTS certified organic. They offer two options, including the upgraded Birch Luxe Natural (shown here), made with materials such as organic cashmere, organic New Zealand wool, Fairtrade cotton and Pulse latex. This medium-firm hybrid limits motion transfer with the help of 1,000 individually wrapped steel coils and natural latex to cradle the body and relieve pressure points.
Tuft & Needle Original
One of the top-selling and user-supported mattress brands on Amazon, Tuft & Needle offers a great mattress value. With two layers of foam -- a firm and supportive base with a plush, cooling top layer -- the medium-firm, 10-inch mattress is made out of chemical free materials and is both Greenguard Gold and CertiPUR-US certified. The company offers a 100-night trial; that said, the brand maintains that 95% of customers opt to keep sleeping on their Tuft & Needle mattress.
Brooklyn Bedding recently unveiled a completely customizable mattress. Available in three sizes -- queen, king or California king -- options include firmness (soft, medium or firm), comfort (gel-infused with deep compression support; an all-natural responsive and breathable latex; or a contouring TitanFlex with pressure-point relief) and top fabric (organic cotton, luxury cooling or recovery).
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