Buying a Used Mattress: Money-Saving Idea or Health Risk?

Buying a Used Mattress Pros and Cons

Click here for a List of Great New Mattresses in the price of used ones

Buying a used mattress may sound cost-effective especially to people on a tight budget. It could be that you are a college student or an individual living independently. Your $500 can be spent on something else instead of a premium mattress that you may be discarding anyway in a few years.

So if you’ve been searching for tips on how to buy a used mattress, we have the information you need. Dip into our Table of Contents to see the link to that section. However, you may also want to know the reasons why buying an old mattress can pose risks to you, particularly your health.

Read on to know more about the pros and cons of snagging a secondhand bed. Let the idea sit for days before you decide. Consider it as an important decision you are making for yourself. And when you’re searching for options, keep this guide within reach.

Why You Should Not Buy A Used Mattress

Internal Damage

Pictures don’t paint a thousand words. Not when it comes to used mattresses listed on Craigslist–or any online buying site, for that matter. Pictures can hide the fact that the bed is lopsided. Or some coil units underneath are broken. Now, there are sellers who may disclose the good, the bad, and the ugly. But definitely, most will be biased toward the good. Because who’s going to buy into ugly?

Not generalizing sellers, but the point here is that the risk is high when you buy second hand. You’ll get what you pay for. And you don’t have to wait until you’re tossing and turning before you realize the old item is not worth the trouble. Mattresses are designed in a certain way to deliver optimal support. If the structural integrity is compromised, it can be a source of many troubles.

Bed Bugs & Dust Mites

A preloved mattress may come with unknown residents. One of the most common creatures living in the bowels of the bed is the bed bugs. They can burrow through the layers and then resurface when a warm body draws them out. They’re basically attracted to you because you exhale carbon dioxide. Then they suck on your blood, leaving you with red, itchy marks.

The other parasites to watch out for are dust mites. These are even trickier to discover. An infestation can be undetected by the previous owner because dust mites can survive by feeding on dead skin and pet dander once a year. So you can’t really tell right away unless you feel symptoms of bites like rashes. Symptoms may aggravate people with allergies or asthma.

Shorter Life Span

Before you purchase a used car, you check for the current mileage. This is the metric that tells you how much the vehicle has been driven over time. Imagine if a bed has mileage or something that’s similar in concept. You will know if it has maxed out its ideal run. The next best thing, though, is that we now know the average lifespan of a mattress.

A memory foam mattress, for example, can live up to 5 to 10 years. By Year 7, you can assess whether to let go of it or not. But if you are inheriting your unit from someone else, you need to factor in the time the owner has already spent snoozing on it. If they’re honest about it, you probably have a short time left. Better invest in something new.

No Returns

One more issue with a secondhand mattress is you can’t return it if you detect the damage, infestation, or another unappealing factor. You’re stuck with your purchase until you discard it. No matter how cheap you got it, that is no justification for paying for something of little to no value to you. Sadly, this is a risk you have to take if you insist on buying a hand-me-down.

On the other side of the fence, your option is to get a brand new bed. Most manufacturers give you the chance to return the item as long as your sleep trial is ongoing. This is a risk-free way of replacing your own old mattress. And that is on top of not having to make do with something that’s been battered or reduced from its maximum capacity.

Health & Hygienic Risks

Let’s be real. Unless you’re sure the previous owner is a ridiculously clean person, chances are the mattress you’re planning to buy has an icky history. Beds are one of the dirtiest, if not the dirtiest, items in the bedroom. They gather dead skin, dirt, dust, and even pet hair. Stains, spills, and odors may have tarnished their layers and surface.

At the same time, the one you end up buying could host bacteria and germs, aside from the dust mites, bed bugs, mold, and mildew that you may not detect right away. It simply isn’t healthy and hygienic to go this route. You might end up spending more getting checked and cured for conditions you could suffer from using it. 

Why You Should Buy A Used Mattress

Caring for the Planet

This may be a good idea at face value. Instead of buying a new product that can potentially end up in a landfill someday, you save one from going that route. This is okay provided that what you are saving is a natural and organic mattress. A conventional one that is made of harsh chemicals can also be worth saving if you think you’re preventing it from contaminating Mother Earth.

The cause for concern here is that it may be harmful to your health. Also, just because you are not buying a brand new one doesn’t mean that the item isn’t going to be sold to someone else and be part of the loop. If you want to be eco-conscious, the better path is usually getting a natural and organic mattress that can last 7 to 10 years.

Not Squeamish

If you are not bothered by the icky factors we enumerated earlier, then it may really be good for you to try the secondhand mattress purchasing option. Still, make sure that there is no infestation and damage in the mattress. Even if you are not squeamish, it will not be a reason for bed bugs and dust mites to spare you.

Also, sanitize the mattress before using it. Again, your lack of squeamishness does not erase the fact that bacteria and germs can carry illnesses and conditions. Any of these can be passed on to you if you do not kill them the first chance you get. Check out #5 in the section that follows for instructions on how to clean your mattress.

Budget Is Tight

We know that once the bed in a box is removed from its box, or the store-bought mattress’ seal is broken, the value of the item starts going down. It is considered sold, owned by someone else. This is why bought-but-never-used mattresses are still sold at prices lower than the original. If you are on a tight budget, take advantage of the economics.

You can search for mattresses within your stated budget. Or you can bump up the max price a little and see if you can haggle later. We will give you tips on how to communicate well with sellers so as not to destroy your chance of snagging a good deal. 

But honestly, if your budget is tight, you can opt for financing and become the owner of a brand new mattress. That is if it’s a reasonable option–like, you can afford to pay off the monthly installments.

How to Buy A Used Mattress

how to buy a used mattress

Now, if you really have to buy a used mattress, there are ways to make sure you won’t be getting the short end of the stick. Like brand new mattress shopping, there is a process you can follow when searching for second-hand ones on the market. Here are the steps:

1. Buy a slightly or never-used bed.

Searching for options that are slightly used or bought but never used is a good place to start. Usually, people selling their mattresses are relocating or buying a new one. Some simply have it in storage for some reason–maybe they didn’t find it suitable but didn’t bother to return it to the manufacturer. These details should be available on the listing. Otherwise, you can ask the seller directly.

What’s a good number for a slightly used bed, you may ask. One to 2 years should be fine. Verify this via the receipt from when the owner purchased the mattress. Even better if they tell you that it’s only been used in the guest room, as this is another angle by which you can say a bed’s been slightly used. Other reasons might be the owner’s not always home.

2. Shop online or in a store that knows quality assurance.

Search for a reputable shop that sells refurbished mattresses. This can be your local thrift shop or a buy-and-sell website. Dig a little deeper into their process of accepting used items. And then see if you can also get a grasp of their restoration or renovation procedure. Ask family or friends who have transacted with the store before. It wouldn’t hurt to collect information before you make the big decision.

Another place to check is a furniture store that sells both new and old beds. This kind may know how to spot what is good or not. Also, it is probably putting up returned mattresses from within its trial period–around 90 days. If it is acknowledging the manufacturer’s set trial period, then it can go from around 120 days to a year.

3. Communicate with the previous owner.

If you are searching on Craigslist or similar sites, you may be able to interact with the owner. Now, in situations like this, things work like the old days. Business is conducted on a trust basis. Relying on that rule, you can assume goodwill when communicating with the owner. Ask respectfully for details that are not included in the listing but you feel you need to know.

You can also request to check the mattress first if they live nearby. Or ask for additional photos if they are from far away. Chances are neither of you wants to waste each other’s time. So see if you are acting not out of entitlement but out of a genuine desire to buy. That said, don’t launch an inquiry or haggle if you are not ready to purchase.

4. Check for signs of parasites and damage.

This may be hard to do if you are shopping online. You can be limited by the photos the owner includes in their listing. Also, asking about it may make the seller feel you are undermining them. So, as we said in #3, communicate well with the other party. Perhaps you can phrase it in a way that you are not accusing them of false advertising. 

On the other hand, you can try asking if there has been a case of infestation before. Or if the mattress has undergone some intense situations, such as being submerged in the flood. This approach is about being direct. You will bear the consequences of not finding out anyway. So better take a shot.

5. Sanitize the mattress before snoozing on it.

This is standard practice for when you are buying anything secondhand. You should sanitize the mattress you just got. A natural enzymatic cleaner or your go-to antibacterial household cleaner should help eliminate the bacteria and germs that came with your purchase. Cover every nook and cranny to make sure you aren’t leaving any chance for these microscopic villains to reproduce.

And then, of course, bring it out in the sun to dry. Air and sunlight should remove the moisture completely. This is to prevent mold and mildew from attacking the bed. You don’t want them to replace the bacteria and germs you just nuked. Also, sunlight can disinfect the mattress, so that should destroy the bacteria and germs that are still alive at this point.

Read more about how to clean a mattress here.

How Much Is A Used Mattress Worth?

According to surveys, the average price for a used mattress is $250. This can be reasonable if the model is from a premium or high-end brand. But if you are not particular with brands, there are low-cost options on the market which you can own for the same price. 

Of course, buying a new one seems the better option here. If you may, consider these mattresses under $500.

If you can haggle, try it. You would want to end up with a price that matches the perceived value of the bed. If you don’t have the budget, though, don’t search for pricier options and expect the owner to give in to your demands. Again, be reasonable about the deal you are proposing.


Buying a used mattress has its set of pros and cons. In this case, the cons outweigh the pros by a long distance. This is because the risks attached to this option are high. Whereas, if you buy a new mattress, you will be considering a slew of different factors that are most beneficial to you.

However, we acknowledge that this could be your only option at the moment. This is why we added the section called How to Buy A Used Mattress. You don’t have to receive the short end of the stick when dealing with a seller. You will still need a mattress that feels comfortable and supportive. Otherwise, your sleep quality will suffer.

So, with all this information at your fingertips, we hope you bring home a rocking used mattress. One that will let you drift off to dreamland without any worries it will break down or release a horde of dust mites. But in case, just in case, you realize you should buy a brand new one, then here’s how you can find the right match for you.