How to Buy the Best Mattress

Buying a mattress is a big investment but it’s a critical component of getting good quality sleep. With so many different mattresses available, how do you know which mattress is best?  

In this article we’ll cover what a mattress should provide, the different mattress sizes, the pros and cons of each mattress type, and finally what to look for when buying your new mattress.

Purpose of a Mattress

First, let’s take a look at what you need a mattress for in the first place. A mattress serves two purposes:

  1. Support – Take the pressure off your joints and align your spine with the rest of your body.  Ensures good posture and prevents any aches and pains.
  2. Comfort – Provides a place where you can easily and comfortably relax and drift off to sleep.

Do you need a new mattress?

If your mattress does not provide you with the comfort and support you feel it should, then you should definitely consider buying a new mattress.

Mattresses can be expensive, but consider the fact that it’s something you’re going to use every day for six to eight hours per night.  That’s probably more than you use your car in an entire week.  Consider also the impact a mattress has on your sleep and the potential health problems you may experience if your mattress doesn’t properly support your body.

Replacing an uncomfortable mattress with a new one is money well spent. There are lots of different price ranges so you needn’t spend more than you can afford. As I’m writing this, the cheapest full sized mattress in my mattress reviews is only $137 and it has 112 five star ratings on Amazon.

There’s usually two things that can go wrong with an old mattress:

  1. Sags and no longer provides you with support
  2. Becomes lumpy and no longer provides you with comfort

If a mattress becomes lumpy, you can often solve this problem by either buying a mattress topper or flipping the mattress over. You could even place a blanket on top of the mattress. While you can never fully get rid of the lumps, it can make a big difference.

If the mattress sags or doesn’t provide you with enough support, unfortunately there is no easy way to fix it.  A mattress that doesn’t provide you with enough support may cause you future health problems such as back pain and will no doubt affect your sleep, so it should be replaced.

Mattress Sizes

Mattresses come in a range of sizes that vary depending on your country:

N. America Australia UK/Ireland
Twin (USA)
39in × 75in
0.99 m × 1.91 m
36in × 74in
0.92 m x 1.87 m
36in × 75in
0.9 m × 1.90 m
Double/full 54in × 75in
1.37 m × 1.91 m
54in × 74in
1.37 m × 1.87 m
54in × 75in
1.37 m × 1.91 m
King (UK/Ire.)
60in × 80in
1.52 m × 2.03 m
60in × 78in
1.5 m × 2 m
Olympic Queen 66in × 80in
1.68 m × 2.03 m
Super King (UK/Ire.)
76in × 80in
1.93 m × 2.03 m
72in × 80in
1.83 m × 2.03 m
72in × 78in
1.83 m × 1.98 m
California King 72in × 84in
1.83 m × 2.13 m


Here’s how the sizes look when compared side by side: (click on the images to enlarge)

US Mattress Sizes UK Mattress Sizes


For a run down of the mattress sizes available in other countries, take a look at Wikipedia’s bed sizes article.

Types of Mattresses

There are four main types of mattresses.  These are open coil, pocket sprung, latex foam and memory foam. In this section we’ll review the pros and cons of each type of mattress.

Open Coil

The most common type of mattress, approximately 8/10 mattresses are open coil.

Pros of a open coil mattress

  • Open Coil MattressCheap – often used for budget or “no frills” mattresses.

Cons of a open coil mattress

  • Goes lumpy over time as the fabric sinks into the springs.

Pocket Sprung

In a pocket sprung mattress, each spring is separate, contained within its own pocket.

Pros of a pocket sprung mattress

  • Pocket Sprung MattressProvides very good support for your body as each spring works separately to contour around your body.
  • Since each spring works independently, if you sleep with a partner, you can move around on your side of the bed and your partner won’t be able to feel it on their side.

Cons of a pocket sprung mattress

  • Expense – Pocket sprung mattresses tend to populate the more premium end of the market and are more expensive then open coil.
  • Since springs are used, pocket sprung mattresses can still become lumpy over time.

Latex Foam

Latex foam mattresses can either be 100% foam or as part of a hybrid with a spring system.  A hybrid contains the positives and negatives of both types of mattress.  The pros and cons below refer to a 100% foam mattresses.

Pros of a latex foam mattress

  • No lumps!  If you’re like me, the prospect of never having to deal with a lumpy mattress again is nothing short of a revelation.
  • Foam mattresses can be surprisingly cheap.  I have one myself that I bought from Ikea for around £80, (equivalent to around $125).  It’s the best mattress I’ve ever slept on by far, although it’s beginning to show signs of wear after 3 years of use.

Cons of a latex foam mattress

  • Firmness – Latex foam mattresses tend to be medium to soft.  If you prefer a firm mattress, latex foam may be one to avoid.

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are similar to latex foam mattresses, but the difference is that it molds around your body for a few seconds and then keeps its shape. Memory foam can also be a part of a hybrid system with springs.

Pros of a Memory Foam mattress

  • Memory Foam MattressMemory foam molds around your body and has the unique effect of “holding you in”, meaning you’re less likely to move around at night.
  • Provides excellent support.  Provides firmness when needed but also takes the pressure off your joints.
  • It was invented by NASA – A definite added coolness factor. 😉

Cons of a Memory Foam mattress

  • Memory foam mattresses are often expensive.
  • Memory foam has a very unique feeling to it.  It’s safe to say you’ll either love it or you hate it.  I personally love it but both my parents who have also tried it, hate it.

To get an idea of the price range for each different type of mattress, take a look at my mattress reviews which lists my top picks for each type of mattress.

How to Buy a New Mattress

In addition to comfort and support explained earlier, when buying a mattress you need to be aware of two additional factors:

  • Firmness – Whether you prefer a firm mattress or a soft mattress is mainly down to personal preference.  As a rule of thumb, back sleepers often prefer firm mattresses whilst side and front sleepers prefer medium to soft mattresses.  Try out a range of mattresses yourself to decide the level of firmness you most prefer.
  • Quality – The higher the quality, the longer the mattress will last.  For either a latex foam mattress or a memory foam mattress, the durability can be defined by the thickness.  The thicker the mattress, the longer it will last.  For a spring mattress, the number of springs often defines the quality.

Choosing a New Mattress

Find a mattress store that contains both a large range of mattresses and knowledgeable staff.  The members of staff should be able to guide you through this process and help you identify the best quality mattress for your price range.

You’ll want to try as many mattresses as you can to decide which type of mattress you prefer and with what level of firmness.  To get the most out of each mattress you try out:

  • Test out the mattress in different sleeping positions.
  • Bring your pillow along so you can see exactly how it would feel if you bought it.
  • If you sleep with a partner, bring them along too and lay on the bed with them.  Notice whether it sags and how much it moves on your side of the bed when your partner moves.

Negotiate the Best Deal

Here are some added extras to take into account when buying a mattress:

  • Disposal of your old mattress – Many bed stores offer to take away and recycle your old mattress for free when you buy a new mattress.
  • Delivery time and costs – These can often be negotiated if next day delivery is not already included.
  • Money back guarantee – Ensure the bed store allows you to take back if you change your mind.
  • Insurance – If you also take out an insurance plan with your new mattress, make sure you know exactly what it covers.  Many don’t cover accidental damage.

Many of these added extras are negotiable and used as incentives for when the sales rep is trying to close a sale, so make sure you mention them to get the best deal. It shows you are making a well considered purchase and are willing to shop around to get the best deal.

You may also want to negotiate on price.  Ask the sales rep “is this your best price?”. There is almost certainly extra deals the sales rep can throw in, particularly if he or she knows it would mean the difference between making a sale or you walking away.

Check popular bedding websites such as US Beds to see if your chosen mattress is any cheaper online. If it is, you can either buy online or go back into the bed store, give them a printout of the webpage and offer them to either match or beat the online price – or even include better added extras such as a longer money back guarantee or free insurance for the first few months.