Are Expensive Mattresses Worth It?

Glasses of champagne and a bowl of strawberries sit on an expensive mattress.
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Some people swear by expensive mattresses, but others think a mattress’ price doesn’t make a difference. So, why are some mattresses more expensive than others, and is the difference actually worth it?

Don’t think of this as a price guide—we’re just going to outline why some mattresses are more expensive than others, and whether or not that extra expense leads to a better mattress. That way, people should be able to find the best mattress for their budget, whether said budget is $600 or $6,000.

Expensive Mattresses Are Usually Worth It

A woman looks really comfortable laying on her expensive new mattress.
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Two things make a mattress worth its price: the comfort you get from a mattress and the physical quality of its materials. Comfort is, of course, subjective (and is therefore an illusion of the primitive mind). But it would be fair to describe a comfortable mattress as supportive, soft, breathable, and long-lasting.

As you might assume, materials that are considered “high quality” tend to offer these feelings, while cheap “low-quality” materials often bring about feelings universally recognized as uncomfortable (uneven support, heat buildup, etc.).

You already know where this is going. A good mattress is made from high-quality materials, and high-quality materials are expensive. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all expensive mattresses are great—only the ones made with high-quality materials are worth their salt.

It’s Easy to Tell When a Mattress Is High Quality

A woman checks a mattress' bounciness.
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You can’t go to the mattress store to perform mattress autopsies, so you’ll never know exactly what’s in a mattress before you buy it. But that’s fine. You can usually tell a mattress’ quality simply by examining it in person, and the process only takes about a minute.

Here’s what you’ll find while examining a high quality mattress:

  • Thickness/height: A tall mattress is a comfortable mattress—all that extra height leads to more weight distribution. A high-quality memory foam or latex mattress should be 10 to 12 inches, while high-quality innerspring mattresses should be 12 to 14 inches (bigger springs are more bouncy and supportive than smaller springs).
  • Density/weight: Lightweight mattresses are often made from synthetic or low-density (and thereby unsupportive or uneven) materials. You can test a mattress’ density by trying to pick it up— high-density mattresses are heavy. You can also look for labels like “high-density memory foam” or “natural latex,” but try to rely on your instincts (labels can be misleading).
  • Springiness: High-quality innerspring and latex mattresses should be incredibly springy (but still soft and quiet; squeaking is bad). As for memory foam, it shouldn’t be springy at all. It should sink and change shape slowly, like in the advertisements.
  • Cover: A thin mattress cover with breathable quilted pattern will keep you from sweating at night. If a mattress cover is rigid or warm to the touch, then it’s probably cheap.

In other words, you can tell the quality of a mattress just by looking at its height, feeling its weight, and pressing down on its cover. This way, it’s easy to tell if a mattress is worth its price (quality-wise), without listening to any hogwash from a salesperson, an advertisement, or some guy on YouTube.

That said, tall and dense mattresses can get really expensive, and not everybody has that kind of budget. Making compromises is okay—a mattress that you can’t afford is never ever worth it. But you can still check mattresses in your budget for weight, thickness, springiness, and breathability to get the most bang for your buck.

Mattresses Can Be Expensive for the Wrong Reasons

A woman lies on her new mattress. She's upset. You see, it's uncomfortable.
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Mattress companies don’t brag about the height or weight of their mattresses for a very obvious reason. If people knew how to actually test a mattress’ quality, then they wouldn’t be willing to pay extra for dumb features, brand names, and trendy snake oil.

Yes, mattresses can be expensive for the wrong reason. Take infused memory foam for example. Gel-infused memory foam is said to keep you cool while you sleep, but it actually retains heat and restricts air ventilation through the night (breathable quilted toppers are better). And then there’s charcoal and green tea infused memory foam. These products are just riding industry trends—there’s no science to back up the claim that charcoal or green tea keeps memory foam “fresh” (if anything, they just mask the chemical smell of cheap memory foam).

Other features, like special mattress springs or lumbar pillows, are equally nonsensical. They aren’t backed by science, and they’re usually used to inflate the price of a mattress that’s built with cheap, low-quality materials.

And then there are superficial features. These features have nothing to do with a mattress’ quality, but they can dramatically increase the price of a mattress. One obvious superficial feature is branding—beds by Sealy, Tempur-Pedic, and Serta cost extra because they’re by well-known brands, but lesser known brands often produce mattresses of similar quality at a lower price.

Of course, these superficial features are sometimes “worth it” for reasons that have nothing to do with your late night comfort. You might pay extra for a name-brand mattress just to save time shopping. Or, you might spend extra on a mattress that’s made in the USA because you want to support domestic business.

Should You Buy Online or In Person?

A man goes mattress shopping
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Online mattress shopping is the big new thing. It’s easier than driving out to the mattress store, and you don’t have to deal with salespeople. Plus, most direct-to-customer brands (there’s so many of them—Casper, Purple, Tuft & Needle, etc.) offer 100-night trials and high-quality mattresses for bargain bin prices.

There are just a few problems here. Most direct-to-customer brands focus on memory foam mattresses because they’re easy to ship. There’s nothing wrong with memory foam, but it’s not for everybody. Plus, 60-day returns are nice, but they can also be a bit overwhelming. If you’re the kind of person who sets aside these kinds of responsibilities, you might want to find a mattress that you like in-person just to avoid any disappointment.

Luckily, it’s easy to find a high-quality mattress when you shop in person. As we discussed earlier, you just need to check for height, weight, and springiness. If you want to save some money, you could order whatever mattress you find on the internet, as most brands have direct-to-customer schemes.

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is a writer for Review Geek and its sister site, How-To Geek. Like a jack-of-all-trades, he handles the writing and image editing for a mess of tech news articles, daily deals, product reviews, and complicated explainers. Read Full Bio »

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