The ultimate (affordable) mattress buying guide: How to choose the best type for you

The ultimate (affordable) mattress buying guide: How to choose the best type for you

Some purchases are best made secondhand. Mattresses? Not so much.

Sure, Craigslist makes it easy to find a cheap used mattress, but that might mean dealing with bed bugs, dust, mold, mites or bodily fluids.

Let's be real: You're safest buying a spanking new mattress. 

Naturally, the $7 billion industry loves your conundrum. The product markup for a new mattress can be 40%, 50%, and even 100%.

Luckily, just a little homework will help you avoid overpaying — and make it easier to narrow down the very best mattress for your body and budget. Here's what to know.

Mattress buying tip 1: Study up on springs, foams and latex

People keep a mattress for seven years on average. Convenience is nice, but it pays to invest in durability, comfort and value.

Just like in your romantic life.

Source: Brian Yap/Flickr

There are three main types of mattresses to choose from: innerspring, memory foam and latex

Innerspring is the cheapest mattress, with basic queens starting around $150. They are the most popular seller as 80% of mattresses sold today are innerspring. But people report less satisfaction with innerspring mattress than other type.

The innerspring has an internal coil core wrapped in fabric-covered layers, and has undergone little "innovation" since the 1800s, KeyBanc Capital Markets retail analyst Brad Thomas told Freakonomics Radio.

NASA-designed memory foam means a notch up in mattress comfort — ranked the most liked by sleepers — but can also be affordable if you shop around. Whether they are good for sex is another debate.

Prices range from $250 to $1,000 or more for luxury versions. And foam type matters: Traditional foam runs hot and both traditional and gel-infused foams can emit odors, while plant-based foam is cool, odorless, and especially responsive, but more expensive.

Source: Giphy

Latex mattresses have a rubber core, rather than springs, are rated highly (for satisfaction and sex) and are popular among those who shop eco-friendly

They are also the costliest, with entry queen models starting at $400 and higher. If you want to really geek out, read up on natural latex versus synthetic latex and dunlop versus talalay processing.

Mattress buying tip 2: Test drive at a mattress store. 

One of the good things about walking into a mattress store is the price is usually negotiable. Stroll into these shops for a test drive. Look, lay, touch and feel. But don't buy.

Remember that mark-up? A mattress that costs you $1,000 probably cost $200 to make, analyst Thomas told Freakonomics. If you seem interested but resistant to buying, salespeople may drop the price right there.

Source: Giphy

These stores may also try to entice you with a store credit card. This is very rarely a good idea, because the store card's APR can be very high and the benefits of the card are typically fair-to-middling. 

If you can't pay in full, better to use your own credit card, with a familiar interest rate, than to tangle with a financing a mattress through the store.

And if you're only at your first stop? It's best to walk out and comparison shop before pulling the trigger. 

Mattress buying tip 3: Find discounts online. 

If you loved a mattress in the store, see if you can find it for less at an online retailer like 1-800-Mattress, Overstock or US Mattress. Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club are also in the game.

There's also now a glut of new mattress-in-a-box online retailers offering free delivery and generous return trial periods and return policies; most roll up the mattress and ship it to you in a box.

Source: Giphy

The companies go by names like Tuft & Needle (starting at $600 a queen); Cocoon by Sealy (starting at $699 a queen); Yogabed (starting at $874 a queen); Lessa (starting at $890 a queen); Bed in a Box (starting at $849 a queen); Casper (starting at $850 a queen); and Loom and Leaf by Saatva (starting at $999 a queen). And that's just a handful. 

These small businesses are trying to disrupt the mattress industry, but it's still many Davids against few Goliaths: Heavy hitters Sealy, Serta and Simmons command the lion's share of the industry, together comprising more than 50% of sales.

Wherever you shop, remember there are cheaper and more expensive times to buy and retailers often schedule sales on Labor Day, President's Day and Memorial Day.