It's easy to make a mistake when buying a mattress. Do you buy one of those new mattress (or bed) in a boxes online, or head into store? How do you know if you're really going to like it when you get it home into your bedroom? You're about to outlay a significant amount of cash, so what are the pitfalls you need to be aware of?
"Buying a mattress can definitely be a difficult and confusing experience," says CHOICE mattress expert Peter Zaluzny. "There's a huge range of products, price points, materials and features on offer, which can really make your head spin. Given how important good sleep is to your health, it's a decision you really want to get right."
With so many brands and bed types on the market, Peter says it's easy to make an error. So that you don't experience mattress misery, here are the most common mistakes to avoid, plus Peter's expert tips for finding the best mattress for your body and budget.
1. Not testing a mattress properly instore
A mattress store salesperson told a CHOICE staff member when they were looking to buy a new bed recently "some people spend hours testing mattresses in here". That may sound funny and awkward, but actually lying down on a mattress in a store is the best way to find out if you're going to be comfortable on it or not.
"It's really important to take your time and really give a mattress a proper test drive," warns Peter.
"Most people sleep seven to nine hours a night, so a few minutes in a shop won't even come close to replicating this experience. Given mattresses are designed to last around eight years, lie down for as long as you need."
"It's really important to take your time and really give a mattress a proper test drive," says CHOICE mattress expert Peter Zaluzny.
He says it's also vital to mimic exactly how you'd sleep at home. Lie down as you usually would, roll over and see how easily you can get in and out of bed (especially if you have limited mobility). Ask your partner to do the same beside you and see how much the mattress moves. Also, check the bed base is similar to yours at home (i.e. ensemble, slats), as this can affect how things feel.
If this all feels silly with the salesperson close by, ask them to leave for a bit so you can truly relax.
Last, says Peter, never shop when you're tired: "All the mattresses will feel great if you're already sleepy, so don't try them out after a long day on your feet!"
2. Assuming more expensive is always better
The more you pay, the better the bed, right? Not so, says Peter, who's quick to point out that spending more cash is never an automatic guarantee of a better night's sleep.
"Our mattress testing regularly disproves the adage 'you get what you pay for'," he explains. "In fact, some of the most expensive mattresses we reviewed – ones that cost three to four grand – rated the lowest when it came to comfort and sagging, which is really alarming."
The great news is CHOICE testers also found much cheaper models that scored highly in our key tests, which means you can bag a better bed for far less. Find out which are the best mattresses for less than $1100.
Top tip: lift the mattress to see how heavy it is. Some mattresses are quite heavy, which can make transport, flipping and rotation difficult.
3. Not checking the returns policy
In the event that you get the mattress home and you have an issue with it, what then? Take care before you buy – different companies have different rules on returning mattresses if they're faulty, or if you simply don't like it after sleeping on it for a while. It's vital to check first or risk being stuck with a bed you don't want.
"It's really important to understand a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase," says Peter. "What are the conditions around refunds and exchanges? Is there a waiting period or additional fees? These are all questions you want to ask before doing a deal."
The same applies to shopping with online mattress-in-a-box retailers. In place of a showroom, most offer a "risk-free" trial period (that ranges between 30 and 120 days) and a refund if you're not satisfied. Some will also send you extra removable foam layers to adjust the firmness during your trial.
It's really important to understand a retailer's returns policy before making a purchase
"The trial periods can be quite generous, but there are still some key questions to investigate before buying," warns Peter.
"Can you return it whenever or do you have to wait a certain amount of time? Do you have to pay for the mattress to be taken back? Most companies will pick it up for free, but some don't, especially if you live in a regional area.
"Be aware of all the fees you may be liable for if you want to return it after a 'free' trial period."
4. Paying full price
Let's be honest – asking for a discount on any purchase can feel awkward and nerve-wracking, but Peter says it's definitely worth your while when it comes to mattresses.
"CHOICE has been buying mattresses for years for our tests and we've found many retailers have a lot of room to move when it comes to price," he explains. "Sales are pretty frequent too, so there's really no reason to pay the recommended retail price for a mattress.
"If you're confident and have done your research, you can usually shave a decent amount off the price tag by haggling. Just ask them 'what's the best you can do?' and start from there."
There's really no reason to pay the recommended retail price for a mattress. Many retailers have room to move when it comes to price, so definitely ask
Of course, bargaining is much easier to do instore than on the internet. Online retailers usually have more fixed prices and a limited range of mattresses, so discounts will be harder to negotiate. They do have sales occasionally, though, so keep your eyes peeled.
5. Ignoring brands you don't know
When you're spending a lot of money on a mattress, it's tempting to play it safe and stick to the brands you know. But with more mattress makers on the market than ever before, Peter says it's worth keeping an open mind and exploring all your options – especially in light of some of the test results CHOICE has seen recently.
"In the last few years, we've seen an influx of new mattress-in-a-box products, as well as recently released house brands from retailers," he explains.
"In our latest tests, some of these lesser known products rated very highly and even outperformed brands that have been around for ages and advertise a lot. Many of them cost less, too, which is great for shoppers."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.