Differences Between Expensive & Cheap Mattresses

What’s the difference between a thousand dollar mattress and a five thousand dollar mattress?

Often, less than you think. Sometimes it’s just retail markup or the manufacturer’s name that makes the added mattress cost. Also, it could simply be a marketing gimmick.

The modern mattress business has changed

Since being taken over by private equity and retirement funds (not mattress people anymore) it is all about the pennies in mattress construction. Because you will never see the insides of the mattress you are buying, the cheapest possible materials are used in the construction of mattresses.

This, however, does not change the mattress cost that is being charged

Usually what is used is inexpensive polyurethane foam under various names (eco, soy, supersoft, memory, visco or some proprietary name). It feels great for a little while but has a usable life of about 5 years. That’s why Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping tell you to replace your mattress in 5 to 7 years, half the time they used to recommend before private equity got involved and started manufacturing “can’t flip” mattresses.

The mattress industry is based much on the illusion that there are some new, miracle materials being used in their mattress and that there is some magic in the construction.

Otherwise, why would you pay such an outrageous amount for their product? They are passing on the magic in the form of mattress cost., but I can tell you that there are no new miracle materials and mattress construction is really quite simple. What you will see, however, are some gorgeous fabrics and thick, elegant looks; none of which makes a difference in how the mattress will perform or hold up. What really matters is on the inside of the mattress.

An old time mattress rep told me once to buy a mattress by the pound, meaning that the way to see if good materials were used inside is by the heft of the mattress. That resonates today as most of the big “S” brands now are so light you can tell it is all about the look, not durability.

The things that can legitimately add value to a mattress are: 

  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Latex (botanical, not synthetic/”natural”)
  • Higher coil count springs
  • More natural fibers
  • Two-sided, flippable versus one-sided, can’t flip mattresses (two sided more than doubles the usable life)
  • Certified organic may add value; however, you might question whether the certification is worth the price (examples might be certified organic wool vs. locally sourced wool, or all botanical uncertified latex vs. 95% certified organic latex)
  • Locally sourced materials creating local employment may have more value than an import or something needing to travel great distances.

Things that don’t add value: 

  • Adding extra thickness to a mattress
  • Added poly foams or design for design’s sake
  • The so-called advantage of the “No Flip” or “Can’t Flip” mattress

These are aesthetic enhancements and marketing techniques only, added to get you to pay more. Some of these actually take away from the value as the extra thickness and poly foams reduce the usable life of the mattress. Longer warranties don’t add value as the life of most 20 year warranty products is 5 to 7 years and the warranties do not cover comfort, durability or usable life – only manufacturing defects.

Things we have heard our customers share with us that are simply NOT true!

  • It is illegal to make two-sided mattresses
  • Consumers demanded one-sided mattresses
  • Two-sided mattresses are not made anymore because they are too heavy

How do you protect yourself?

Check the contents listed by percentage weight on the law label. If you are buying a latex mattress and you believe it is really latex, the % should be 95% or more. If the label shows 20 to 40%, there is likely only a 1” layer of latex and the rest will be poly foam.

A flippable mattress changes everything

Make the most of your investment. Get a mattress you can flip & rotate.


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1 Comment on "Differences Between Expensive & Cheap Mattresses"

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Good morning
I enjoyed reading your article. Very refreshing and to the point. I especially liked your view points on the two sided mattress.
I will be back to read more.