CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert deal-hunting staff showcases the best price drops and discounts from reputable sellers daily. If you make a purchase using our links, CNET may earn a commission.

How to Buy a Mattress Online in 7 Easy Steps

Here's how to navigate the online mattress market and how to buy a quality mattress without leaving home.

McKenzie Dillon Writer
McKenzie, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and proclaimed mattress expert, has been writing sleep content in the wellness space for over four years. After earning her certification from the Spencer Institute and dedicating hundreds of hours to sleep research, she has extensive knowledge on the topic and how to improve your quality of rest. Having more experience with lying on mattresses than most, McKenzie has reviewed over 150 beds and a variety of different sleep products including pillows, mattress toppers and sheets. McKenzie has also been a guest on multiple radio shows including WGN Chicago as a sleep expert and contributed sleep advice to over 50 different websites.
Expertise Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach, Bachelor of English.
McKenzie Dillon
7 min read

This mattress was delivered in my mailbox. Well, not quite, but it arrived in a surprisingly compact container.

Tuft and Needle

Shopping for a mattress in store may not be the best way to buy a mattress. In-store bed shopping tends to be about as fun as car shopping, with the countless confusing options, the often-pushy salespeople and the awkward "test drives." (Actually, I'll take driving with a stranger over lying fully clothed on a bed. In public. Repeatedly.)

It usually ends with, "Well, this one seems pretty comfortable, I guess." So you pull out the credit card and hope for the best, because there's often a hefty (nonrefundable) delivery fee, a restocking fee and probably only 30 days to decide if you actually like the mattress.

Shopping online for a mattress makes the process more convenient and hassle-free, allowing you to purchase from the comfort of your own home with a whole lot more options to choose from. If you've never shopped over the internet for a new bed, you might be wondering how to buy a mattress online and where to start. Continue on for a step-by-step online mattress buying guide and what to expect when you purchase a bed-in-a-box mattress

How to buy a mattress online 

  1. Consider your sleeping position to determine the best firmness level for you.
  2. Consider your body type to determine the best mattress construction for you.
  3. Keep your budget in mind of what you're willing to spend. 
  4. Determine the materials you want in your mattress.
  5. Determine your most ideal mattress size.
  6. Read mattress reviews for real, accurate descriptions of beds.
  7. Read up on brands' company policies (shipping, trial, warranty).

Consider your sleeping position

This is important in figuring out what mattress firmness is best for you. 

  • Side sleepers sleep best on medium to soft mattresses because they are plush enough to give under your hips and shoulders and cradle your joints. The softer the mattress the more pressure relief it offers. 
  • Back and stomach sleepers need a medium to firm mattress that'll keep the back from sagging into the bed and promote a straight spinal alignment. The firmer the mattress, the more support it offers. 
  • Combination sleepers who sleep in two or more positions should get a bed with a medium profile. Beds with a medium firmness level offer a nice balance; they are soft enough for side sleepers and supportive enough for back and stomach sleepers.

Take your body type into account

There are different types of mattress constructions (which we'll get into below), and some are more accommodating for certain body types than others. 

Sleepers over about 230 pounds should consider a hybrid mattress. 

Hybrid mattresses that are made with a combination of steel coils and comfy foam are more supportive than all-foam mattresses. As you can imagine, steel is more durable, supportive and stands the test of time longer than foam does. 

Sleepers under the 230-pound weight range will be accommodated by a foam mattress, but keep in mind that hybrid beds are stronger and longer-lasting.  

Consider your budget

In the online mattress market there's a place for shoppers of any budget. I've tested good beds that cost under $300 and all the way up to $10,000. Also, online mattress companies are almost always running a sale. Especially around holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Here's a look at MSRP prices for some of the internet's most popular bed-in-a-box mattresses.

Determine your ideal materials

You may not give the materials inside your mattress much thought, but it's worth considering when different bedding materials have their own pros and cons.

Innerpsrings/Coils: Innerspring systems contain rows of steel coils that function and move as one unit. Most online mattresses have pocketed coils in its base layer for support rather than innersprings. Each coil is wrapped in fabric and work independently from one another. This helps enhance a bed's motion isolation abilities. The coils under you or your partner won't shake the other side of the bed if one of you moves or gets up.

helix plus mattress review construction overview

A look at the inside of the Helix Plus mattress, including a thick pocketed coil layer. 

My Slumber Yard

Memory foam: This is one of the more popular bedding materials -- you've probably heard of it. Memory foam was first made by NASA to make the seats in their rockets more comfortable and good at absorbing motion. It's very pressure relieving and provides a comforting hugging feel. However, it may be hard for combination sleepers to move positions in some memory foams because it's so slow to respond to pressure. 

Polyurethane foam: Think back on the comfiest couch you've ever sat on. Many comfy couches use polyurethane foam in its cushions because it's soft, objectively comfortable and more supportive than feathers or cotton. Mattresses use poly foam, and it gives beds more of a soft, neutral feel that's quicker to respond to pressure than memory foam. It's also cheap to manufacture, making it popular for budget mattresses. 

Latex foam: Natural and organic latex foam is sourced from the sap of a rubber tree and baked into a durable, supple and comfy foam. It's bouncy, very responsive and more durable than the foams mentioned above. It also sleeps cooler because it has perforations throughout its surface. Another benefit? Natural or organic latex foam is hypoallergenic and antimicrobial. However, beds with this foam can be more expensive than the typical mattress. 

Proprietary foam: Foams special to specific brands made in-house are called proprietary foams. The first that comes to mind is the material used in Purple mattresses. It's a gel-like foam that's stretchy, soft and durable, unlike anything used in mattresses before.  


A peek at the hyper-elastic polymer grid that gives the Purple its squishy feel.

Jonathan Gomez/CNET

Determine your ideal mattress size

Standard mattress sizes include: twin, twin Xl, full, queen, king, California king and split king. Twin is the smallest and king/California king are the largest. Determine the best mattress size for you by taking these factors into consideration:

  • Bedroom size
  • Size of the sleeper
  • Are you a single or co-sleeper?

Here's a breakdown of the different mattress sizes and their dimensions.

Mattress dimensions

Twin 38 x 75 inches
Twin XL 38 x 80 inches
Full 54 x 74 inches
Queen 60 x 80 inches
King 76 x 80 inches
California King 72 x 84 inches

Read up on mattress reviews

Check up on mattress reviews before you settle on a mattress. Bedding brands use language to describe their beds that don't always end up being accurate. I've tested beds that were softer or firmer than what the brands described them as, weren't as cool-sleeping as they claimed or generally didn't function as advertised. 

See what real people have to say who have slept on or tested the mattress you're interested in and you'll get a more accurate idea of what you can expect. 

Understand shipping, warranty and free-trial policies

One of the best parts about online mattress shopping is the brands' company policies. They know you won't have the chance to touch or feel a bed before you press that purchase button, so they offer a few perks to take the risk out of buying online. 

  • A risk-free trial, typically between 100 to 365 nights.
  • A warranty, typically 10 years, but a few brands offer a lifetime warranty.
  • Free shipping and free returns, with the exception of some luxury brands that charge a return fee.

Brands like Saatva and Beautyrest offer free white glove delivery on their beds, meaning they will set up your mattress for you. They'll even remove your old mattress, saving you a trip to the dump or mattress recycling center. 

Online vs. in-store mattress shopping

Online shopping


  • Online brands have more generous trial and warranty policies
  • More affordable options online
  • Wider range of options to pick from online
  • No having to deal with pushy salespeople 
  • Your mattress is conveniently shipped to your door


  • You can't try before you buy
  • You have to wait about five business days for delivery
  • You have to give your bed-in-a-box to fully expand (24 hours) 

In-store shopping


  • You get to physically touch and feel a bed before you buy
  • You can get your new mattress right away


  • You may need to transport your mattress home
  • You may need to pay a retail store to ship the bed you choose to your home
  • You're limited to the store's inventory and showroom
  • Retail stores tend to carry a lot of expensive, premium brands

How to unbox your mattress

If you order a bed-in-a-box mattress it'll literally be shipped to your home inside of a box. Mattresses are compressed and rolled up to fit inside a golf-bag-size cardboard box and will arrive at your front door ready to unbox like any other package you order online. 

  1. Find a friend or family member to help you carry and unbox your bed.
  2. Remove your old mattress from your bed frame. 
  3. Unbox your mattress and put it on top of your bed frame.
  4. Carefully cut the plastic packaging and avoid cutting through the mattress itself.
  5. Let it unroll onto your bed frame.
  6. You're able to sleep on it the same night you unbox, but you'll want to allow 24 hours for it to fully inflate. 

How often should you replace a mattress?

Your bed's shelf-life depends on its construction, how often its been slept on and how well you take care of it. The thicker and more durable your mattress is, the longer it's going to last. For example, a 7-inch foam mattress won't be as long-lasting as a 13-inch hybrid bed. 

A hybrid mattress that's regularly slept on every night should last around eight to 12 years if you rotate it every six months for even wear. 

A foam mattress that's regularly slept on every night should last around six to 10 years if you rotate it every six months for even wear. 

Your mattress will also show signs that its near the end of its life. Here are a few ways to tell it's time for an upgrade.

  • Your bed has permanent body impressions
  • Your bed is sagging in the middle
  • Your bed is lumpy and bumpy
  • You wake up first thing in the morning with back pain

Over time, beds soften and foam breaks down under the weight of your body. If you've spend a decade sleeping on your mattress and you wake up with more pain than you felt when you went to bed, it's probably time for a new one. A supportive, accommodating mattress can really make the difference in achieving a good night's sleep. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.