Five years since the online mattress boom started, ordering a bed through the internet has become a way of life. Newcomer brands like Casper, Layla, Nectar, and Brooklyn Bedding have managed to compete with retail store giants like Sealy, Serta, and Tempurpedic.
It seems the alternative choice works for some consumers. Instead of publicly lying down on mattresses for a test-drive, possibly encountering a few pushy salespeople in the process, why not shop online? If you’re replacing your old bed and considering this route, make it a goal to have a good grasp of how to buy a mattress online.
What mattress type is right for you? What are edge support and motion transfer? Some of the things you’ll find on Google may sound alienating, so we hope to gear you up for your mattress hunt through this comprehensive guide. You can read through it in a linear fashion, or skip to the section that speaks to your needs and go back to the rest afterward. Ready?
Table of Contents
How to Buy A Mattress Online
Which Mattress Is Right For You?
There are several types of beds to be found online. These are memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses–which are more ubiquitous on this channel–hybrid mattresses, and airbeds. Innerspring mattresses are still more commonly found in physical stores. Some models you’ll encounter on the web integrate foam into their designs to differentiate from retail store-bought ones.
- Innerspring – This is the most traditional mattress type, so it’s not a surprise you can still buy one in a brick-and-mortar store. Its name is derived from the material that gives this mattress its structure. The innerspring is known for its bounce, which is perfect for couples and amorous activities. It also features great edge support, so you can take up the entirety of your sleeping surface.
However, it has a history of breaking apart at some point, which can shorten the lifespan of your bed. Some construction can also be too firm for sleepers that they experience back pain. More modern designs are able to address the sagging and pain by adding foam layers, sometimes made of memory foam or latex foam. Innersprings are less expensive than other types as their popularity continues to decline.
- Memory foam – This is an example of an all-foam bed. Its main material is memory foam, which has been around since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration created the cushioning technology that gave birth to it. As it was adopted by the mattress industry, its earliest versions had a reputation for sleeping hot. While it was celebrated for its close conformity, it was derided for this weak point.
Then entered the online mattress models led by Casper. These models combined memory foam with cooling components, such as gel, copper, and graphite. To date, other innovations include phase change technology and open cell structure. Breathable covers are blended with memory foam layers.
Memory foam beds last between 5 and 10 years, longer than innerspring ones. They are also more expensive. However, the average market price of a memory foam mattress model remains affordable to many people. The range is between $500 and $1,500 (Queen).
- Hybrid – Often touted as the mattress that offers the best of both worlds, hybrid mattresses are indeed simply a combination of foam and coils. You can take the two previous types, put them together, and you get a hybrid. However, it is not just a random pairing. A hybrid marries the bounce of innerspring with the contouring comfort of foam. What you get is a sturdier, supportive, and cradling bed.
The coils are placed at the base, often encased individually to provide superior support and durability. They also give the bed its shape. A layer or layers of memory foam, latex foam, or polyurethane foam is/are arranged above the spring system for a soft, comforting, and/or contouring feel. The top layers also reduce the squeaky effect and motion transfer. The average price of a queen version can vary from $1,200 to $2,000.
Hybrid vs Innerspring: What’s Really the Difference?
A faster way to tell is to determine the thickness of the foam used in a hybrid’s comfort layer. It should be 2 inches of memory foam/latex foam/polyfoam. The presence of pocketed coils at the base is also a telltale sign.
- Latex – This type is more expensive than those we already mentioned. Its star material may be the cause since it is sourced from rubber sap. From there, the raw material is processed either Dunlop or Talalay style. Dunlop foams are denser and heavier, while Talalay ones are less dense and lighter. The latter is also said to be more breathable. But both employ an open cell structure for airflow promotion.
Be careful with companies claiming their beds are natural. You should look for a certification that says 100% natural to reassure consumers there is not blended or synthetic foam used in your chosen latex mattress. On average, a queen-size latex mattress can set you back about $1,500 to $2,500.
Latex mattresses are often exhibited online rather than in a retail store or showroom.
- Airbed – You can tell if it’s an airbed because it features air chambers in the area where the support foam or core layer should be. Traditional ones sport two air chambers, but modern editions can contain up to six air chambers. You can manually or remotely inflate the bed during setup. Customized height and firmness can be achieved depending on the model.
Airbeds are useful in master bedrooms and guestrooms, as well as in outdoor camping or recreational vehicle sleeping spaces. The thicker the airbed, the more expensive it can get. The average price for this type is $1,500 to $2,500. You can rely on the durability of an airbed, especially when you are buying a pricier model.
What Factors Should You Consider?
Construction & Materials
While mattress types differ in the materials they incorporate into the design, they often share a common structure. At the top, you have the comfort layer, followed by the transition layer and the support layer. What the manufacturer uses depends on its purpose for each model. So, for instance, an all-foam maker can combine memory foam at the top and latex foam at the core for contouring and response.
A trend among online mattress brands is their open stance with regard to disclosure of mattress materials. This goes beyond saying Brand A is using a proprietary foam as the comfort layer of Model X. Brand A will describe the comfort layer by its component (e.g. Is it made of memory foam? Infused with gel?) and what it does (e.g. Does it “hug” your curves?).
Another thing to check out is the safety of the materials. Certification from third-party certifying bodies is a good starting point. Go ahead and look for labels like CertiPUR-US, OEKO-TEX, ecoINSTITUT, Rainforest Alliance, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), among others.
The amount of money you are willing to shell out should be considered when buying a mattress. However, it should not be the only deciding factor. Quantity should also be matched by quality. With mattresses online, you have a vast array of price points to choose from anyway. And there are top-quality models to explore in each category.
If you cannot pay the model you are eyeing upfront, you can apply for financing. Some brands partner with a financing firm that will screen your application and eligibility. If your application is approved, you can pay in 3, 6, 8, or 12 months–this depends on the financing agency handling the account. Mostly it’s Affirm or Klarna.
- Firmness & Feel. This is the comfort level you desire in a bed, determined using figures and scales. The standard Firmness Scale employed by the mattress industry is quite straightforward. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being softest and 10 as firmest, what is your preferred firmness rating?
Here’s a legend to guide you:
Ultra Soft – 1-2
Soft – 3-4
Medium – 5-6
Firm – 7-8
Ultra Firm – 9-10
If you are a side sleeper, a more plush surface should be able to support you. Medium to medium-firm cater more to back and stomach sleepers. Lastly, take note that there are companies that follow a reversed version of the standard firmness scale. So their 1 is firmest and their 10 is softest.
- Edge Support. You may have heard or read about edge support in the course of your research. But what does it mean? You probably have a guess, right? If you said that it is the support provided at the perimeter of your bed, you’re close. It refers to the stability and strength of the bed at the edges. This is typically a strong point for hybrids.
But what is it for? Well, our first answer will tell you who is it for. It is for sleepers who tend to roll near the edge while snoozing. If you are this type, you should look for a mattress with great edge support. This will prevent you from feeling the roll-off effect. Further, you should also be able to take up all of the surface areas of your bed.
Superior edge support also prolongs the lifespan of your bed because it prevents the perimeter from early sinkage. You will notice weak edge support in a mattress by the depth of compression that occurs when someone sits or sleeps on the side.
- Motion Isolation. Here is another industry jargon. Before we define motion isolation, we would like you to learn what motion transfer is. It refers to the transfer of motion across the bed. If you or your co-sleeper moves, you will feel a shake, a squeak, or a similar effect if the mattress is not able to insulate motion.
Motion isolation, then, is the ability of the bed to contain movements. Imagine if you or your co-sleeper moves while sleeping and the other person won’t feel the impact of your movements at all. This benefits light sleepers, but frequent shifters can also snooze without guilt when lying down on a bed with exceptional motion isolation capabilities.
Shipping & Return
Normally, we lump the last three factors to consider in one category. However, since this is a guide on how to buy a mattress online, it is important to understand what each of these three means to the consumer. Most bed-in-a-box brands offer free shipping in the contiguous United States. It’s even better if the company offers complimentary white glove delivery and mattress removal.
More often than not, you will need to pay around $100 in shipping and handling fees if you live in Alaska or Hawaii. This should not really be a problem if you know the terms beforehand. Take note that any fees you paid during the delivery and setup of your bed won’t be included in the full refund (should it be necessary).
Speaking of refunds, you will only be able to get yours if your return is initiated and fulfilled. Typically, online mattress companies shoulder the pickup and return costs. Other times, you will be asked to donate your mattress to a charity. Or pack it and drop it off in a courier office near you.
Connected to shipping and returns is the trial period. The most popular brands offer a trial period for this product. The industry average spans 90 to 120 days. Some extend it to 365 days, while others limit it to 30 days. There are times when the company does not give you a chance to test out the mattress (much like when you shop in a brick-and-mortar store).
We recommend finding one that offers 90 to 120 days as much as you can. This amount of time should allow your body to adjust to the mattress and observe its performance in a few months. A longer trial period will also give you ample time to request a return (if you need it).
Usually, warranties cover 5, 10, or 20 years. But don’t be surprised if you come across a brand offering a lifetime warranty. These are all promising. Just make sure to read the warranty terms as companies differ in their acceptance of what constitutes a legitimate claim. It’s your call if you purchase a product that does not come with one. But this case should be rare.
If you are buying on an e-commerce site, such as Amazon, check if the company will honor the warranty.
What to Watch Out For
- Product specifications. Double-check the specs of the product before purchasing. It is better to be sure you are getting the right mattress type, size, and dimensions before you hit the Buy button. Returns are possible, as we discussed above, but some companies will require a 30-day break-in period before allowing you to file a request.
- Company direct or online marketplace? Buying directly from the site is your best bet. But there are instances when you can save a lot more by shopping on an e-commerce site. Amazon is one good example of this. Companies like Brooklyn Bedding even maintain their own page on the online retail giant’s site to accommodate more customers.
- Subjective factors. Your choices of firmness and feel, edge support, and motion transfer may differ from another person’s. So, when reading user reviews, it is important to remember that these factors are subject to a user’s experience. Here at PhatFusion, we strive to report about the market pulse when it comes to certain factors (best firm mattresses, best mattresses for back sleepers, etc.).
- Compression. Foam and coils compressed and placed in a box. That is the innovation of the online mattress revolution. Beds with these materials can return to their original shape once decompressed. However, check with the company if the bed has been stored for more than two months as coils can be damaged if compressed for an extended period.
Pros & Cons of Buying A Mattress Online
- Convenient. Say goodbye to aggressive salespeople and awkward test-drives in the middle of a showroom or retail store. You don’t even have to leave home when shopping mattresses online. By cutting down your time, energy, and monetary investment, online mattress brands have been able to make the buying experience pleasant and convenient. And you have the internet to thank for that.
- Economical. Because these web-based companies do not need to spend on maintenance costs and ground personnel salaries, they are able to pass on the savings to you. This is why their offerings are much more affordable than those found in traditional brick-and-mortar shops.
- Customer-centric policies. Free delivery and returns. Trial periods. We already mentioned these above. Without the creation of these friendly policies, consumers might not have been enticed to purchase online anyway. So it is a good thing the industry has come across these privileges. After all, we would feel more confident paying a high cost for a model we can test out, risk-free, for 100 nights.
- Fixed prices. While the prices are often cheap or competitive, they can also be fixed. Discounts and promos come and go. But when you are buying in a physical location, there is that chance to haggle at the least. You can even go home with a freebie from the salesperson assisting you.
- Overwhelming options. Another thing that can hinder you from enjoying the experience is the number of options available to you online. There are just too many models out there. The perfect solution to this is to read the “best” lists of a mattress review site you trust. Such lists already have recommendations for you. Go to phatfusion.net to see some examples.
Or you can start with our complete guide for the Best Online Mattresses in 2020.
- Deceptive claims. The internet can also be filled with people taking advantage of others. If crooks can get their hands on anything on the web, they won’t hesitate to use the online mattress boom for their gain. Be cautious about companies that ask for your credit card details without providing clear information about the product, its delivery, etc.
Usually, though, mattress companies have their own secure website or an Amazon page to ensure the protection of your data and privacy.
And that is the scary part. You have no one to blame more than yourself if you end up with a mattress that is not suitable for your needs and wants. But, hey, cheer up! We trust that you can do it. With the help of this guide, you will be able to navigate the world of online mattresses. May the force be with you.