How to Buy a Bed

A mattress is a purchase that could be with you for a decade or more, so research is essential.

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3. Test mattresses for comfort. Worden suggests spending as much 15 minutes lying on each bed to see how it feels against your body. You'll be spending several hours a night on your mattress for the foreseeable future, so try a few different positions and make sure they're comfortable. If your old mattress is uncomfortable, it's likely that everything you try in the store will feel like an improvement, says Meleski, but take time to find the right fit.

Salespeople should ask about your sleep environment and why you're in the market. Some are trained to check your spinal alignment, but consumers "should be conscious of where their hips are relative to their shoulders," says Meleski. In general, he adds, the greater your hip-to-waist ratio, the more important it is that the material conforms to your body to prevent lower back pain.

4. Ask about price guarantees, delivery costs, and warranties. "A lot of places will say in the advertising that 'we'll beat anyone's prices by 5 or 10 percent,' and some will do it for as long as 60 or 90 days," says Czarnecki. "I know one place that honors their price and comfort guarantees for as long as a year." Price guarantees don't always apply to online prices, but they allow you to shop around and gain some leverage in negotiation. The trick is that model names are usually different at different stores, so to get a price match, the mattresses should be of comparable quality, brand, and material.

[See 6 Ways a Lack of Sleep is Costing You a Fortune.]

Czarnecki also suggests asking these questions before making a decision: "Is delivery free? How much does it cost for you to pick up the old mattress? What kind of comfort guarantee do you offer? If I'm uncomfortable, can I exchange my mattress?" Extras like sales tax, delivery, and removal of your old mattress can drive up the price considerably, so factor those in or see if you can negotiate free delivery and mattress removal.

5. Make your mattress last. Staining your mattress may void the warranty in many cases, so protect your investment with a mattress cover. Mattresses also tend to get firmer as they age, while as people age they tend to need a softer mattress. According to Meleski, one way to cope with this fact is by using a high-quality gel or latex topper to prolong the life of your mattress purchase.

Rotating your mattress can also help, especially if you share a bed with a partner. "You're going to have some variance in height and weight, so rotating helps it wear better," says Meleski. "Most mattresses are not double-sided, so you don't need to flip the mattress anymore." He recommends rotating all types of mattresses twice a year, more often if there's a significant weight differential between partners, because one side will wear more quickly.

Choosing the right mattress isn't easy—but you'll sleep better knowing you bought the right one and didn't overpay.