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Cheapism: The best mattresses for a budget

Feb. 8, 2012 at 8:05 PM ET

The Simmons Beautyrest line includes some budget models.

By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com

Could an old mattress be responsible for a lackluster love life? A recent survey found that almost a quarter of respondents with a mattress more than 10 years old report less romance in their lives — and most blame the mattress. Turns out this research was conducted on behalf of Sleepy’s, the mattress retailer, so the suggestion that a new mattress might be in order comes as no surprise.

Still, with Valentine’s Day less than a week away, this kind of thing can get you thinking. A new mattress is undoubtedly a major purchase. The price of even a traditional innerspring mattress can top $5,000, and experts warn that the very cheapest off-brand mattresses aren’t worth it. However, the big three  — Sealy, Serta, and Simmons — offer well-regarded queen-size mattress and box spring sets for less than $600. That amounts to mere pennies a night if the mattress lasts even five years. This is also one of those categories where sales seem constant and almost no one pays full price. Although a box spring isn’t always necessary, the warranty may stipulate that the mattress be used with the appropriate component. 

It may seem strange to lie down for a nap in the middle of a store, but it’s important to test different mattresses for comfort. Even on the low end, the various fiber, foam, and coil combinations present a wide range of options. These all have different names depending on the manufacturer, the retailer, and even the geographic region, which makes comparison shopping a challenge.

In general, look for more layers of padding if you enjoy a soft mattress or sleep on your side and fewer if you sleep on your back and like your bed to be firm. Pay attention to the quality of the materials that make up those layers; the padding on some inexpensive mattresses is apt to deteriorate. Finally, don’t worry too much about the number of coils — 375 is plenty for a queen-size mattress, according to GoodBed. What matters more is the construction and positioning of the coils.

Below are Cheapism’s top picks for affordable mattresses.

  • The Serta Perfect Sleeper series (starting at $560) is lauded for being firm yet comfortable, and the mattresses are covered under warranty for up to 10 years. The design was developed in partnership with the National Sleep Foundation. (Where to buy)
  • The Simmons Beautyrest series (starting at $477) earns praise from users for offering a range of firmness levels. Mattresses come with a 10-year warranty and a whopping 800 pocketed coil springs, which are intended to isolate movement and keep people from disturbing their partners. (Where to buy)
  • The Sealy Posturepedic series (starting at $391) is designed to support the back and relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips. The Sealy brand rated highest in a survey of customer satisfaction and offers a 10-year warranty. (Where to buy)

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