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How to buy a mattress and not get ripped off

Updated on October 14, 2010
This mattress is clearly used, don't buy it
This mattress is clearly used, don't buy it

Avoid the mattress scam

There are few industries more unscrupulous than mattress sales. Even used car salesmen look like saints in comparison. Mattress makers attempt to confuse shoppers with various brand and model names, scientific studies that may or may not exist, and mark-ups and sales that will leave your head spinning.

Shopping for a mattress can be made easy if you know what you're doing before you head into the store. I'm going to show you how to tell the salesperson exactly what you want, how to try it out, and how much you should be paying for it.

Mattresses are simple

There really isn't much to a mattress. For an innerspring mattress, you've got springs, foam, and cloth. That's really all there is. Don't be fooled by the various gimmicks they try to sell you, because most mattresses are basically the same with the only differences being the level of firmness.

Decide how firm you want your mattress

Although the salesperson will try to sell you the softest and most expensive mattress they have, chances are you don't want you mattress that soft. It might feel nice in the store, but you'll find over time that sleeping on a super soft mattress is not as fun as you imagine. You're constantly sinking into your bed and you'll find you have trouble figuring out where to put your arms while you sleep without sleeping on top of them.

Tell the salesperson that you want a firmer mattress and the choices they'll give you should be cheaper than their super soft and memory foam mattresses (trust me, you don't want a mattress made out of memory foam, a memory foam pillow will do just fine).

What about mattress brands?

Here's a secret the industry doesn't want you to know about: mattress brands are all mostly the same. The springs inside a $900 mattress are the same as the springs in a $300 mattress. Don't believe me? Leggett and Platt is the company that makes these springs for the various mattress companies, including Serta, Stearns and Foster, Sealy, and King Koil. They don't make a special premium spring for one company and a weak little spring for another. It's the same springs for everyone. The springs are the most important part of an innerspring mattress, so why pay a lot more when the main part is the same?

Don't label shop with mattresses. Even within a single label like Sealy, you'll find the model names change depending on the store where you buy the mattress. Don't be fooled by this. All the major mattress makers sell the same mattresses under different model names at different stores. They do this to prevent you from comparison shopping. Tricky isn't it?

Just buy the mattress you are comfortable with

I advise people to ignore any sales jargon and just buy the mattress that feels comfortable when they lay on it. Actually, buy the mattress that is slightly more firm that you feel you want. It'll probably be cheaper and you'll sleep better in the long run. Most people go after the soft mattresses only to find that the feeling of floating on a cloud they experienced at the mattress store is much different when they bring it home and actually try to have a good night's sleep on it.

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