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How to Shop for Mattresses

How to Compare Mattresses
There are several ways to compare mattresses, but this is unquestionably the most fun.
There are several ways to compare mattresses, but this is unquestionably the most fun.
Frank Herholdt/Taxi/Getty Images

If you haven't bought a new mattress in a while, you might feel overwhelmed by all the options and choices you'll be presented with. With labels that contain words like plush, ultraplush, firm, ultrafirm, cushion-firm, pillow-top, no-flip and posturepedic, how should you decide what to buy?

One way to compare products is by firmness. If you're interested in purchasing a soft mattress, look for plush and ultraplush beds. Similarly, firmer mattresses typically will be labeled firm or ultrafirm. Deciding what kind of firmness you want is the most subjective part of the mattress-shopping process, so don't be alarmed if your opinion on this is different than someone else's. If you're not sure what level of firmness you prefer, spend a little extra time on store model beds to help you decide what's right for you.

Some innerspring mattresses are pillow-tops. Pillow-tops have have extra padding that makes them feel softer, but they still provide firm support. Keep in mind that you won't be able to flip mattresses with these cushiony tops (since the soft part is missing on the other side). If you're a big proponent of flipping -- and most experts are -- but still want the softness of a pillow-top, consider purchasing a mattress pad or topper separately. That way, you can have the softness you desire but retain the ability to flip your mattress.

Speaking of flipping mattresses, no-flip options are exactly what they sound like: mattresses you can't flip over. Most no-flip beds don't even have a reverse side (it's just the frame and springs), and despite what the salesperson might tell you, they're not a better bargain. They're usually as much or only slightly less expensive than flippable numbers, but they won't last as long because -- that's right -- you can't flip them, so they'll wear more quickly.

If you're on a budget, you'll also want to compare mattresses by price. While you want to buy a quality product that you'll enjoy for several years, you don't want to spend your hard-earned money needlessly. Get a sense for mattress prices before you go into the store so you'll be able to recognize a good deal when you see one. If you want to be a truly frugal shopper, be willing to visit multiple mattress stores to compare their prices.

Some retailers let you compare mattresses in your home. To do this, purchase your mattress from a retailer that offers a 30- or 60-day trial period. Take the mattress home and see how it feels. If you're not satisfied, return it and try another.