Buying a new mattress: 7 questions to ask before you shop

This mattress-buying guide will help you pick the right bed for better sleep.

Amanda Capritto
4 min read

A mattress is a big investment, so you'll want to make sure you know the answers to the important questions. 


Buying a new mattress, while exciting (yay, sleep!), is historically overwhelming and expensive. First you have to choose a retailer, of which there are hundreds, and then you have to choose a mattress, of which there are thousands. Even with the surge in online bed-in-a-box retailers and the sweeping changes to the mattress-buying game, finding the best mattress can involve some seriously tough decision-making. I mean, you spend about one-third of your life in your bed, and a good mattress is no small investment. 

Asking yourself a few key questions can make the whole ordeal a little easier -- answer these seven before making your final decision. 

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1. What size mattress do I need? 

First and foremost, start your mattress-buying journey with size. How big is your bedroom? You wouldn't go out and buy a California king mattress if your room can only host a full-sized bed. 

Also, think about your own height. Maybe your room can only fit a twin-sized mattress but your feet stick off the end. In that case, look for a twin extra-long mattress.

When choosing the size for your new mattress, make sure to consider both width and length (particularly length if you're tall). 

Here's how mattress sizes stack up: 

  • Twin: 39x74 inches (99.06x187.96 cm)
  • Twin extra long: 39x80 inches (99.06x203.2 cm)
  • Double/full: 54x74 inches (137.16x187.96 cm)
  • Queen: 60x80 inches (152.4x203.2 cm)
  • King: 76x80 inches (193.04x203.2 cm)
  • California king: 72x84 inches (182.88x213.36 cm)

2. How firm or soft do I need my mattress? 

Another basic but important question. Do you like a firm mattress, a soft mattress, or something in between? This is perhaps the most important question of them all, because it doesn't matter if you buy the most expensive, fanciest bed made of the highest quality materials: If it's too firm or too soft for you, you won't sleep well. 

Within the context of this question, you'll want to consider the different mattress types: memory foam, gel-infused foam, latex, innerspring, pocket coils, adjustable, pillow-top and hybrid. 

If you buy your mattress online, it can be hard to determine if the firmness or softness is right for your body. Luckily, you can try out mattresses from Purple, Leesa, Nectar and more in real life before buying.


Mattresses in a box come in all kinds of comfort levels.


3. What do I not like about my current mattress?

I'm guessing you want a new mattress, at least in part, because there are things you don't like about your current mattress. Obviously you won't go looking for a new mattress with those same old qualities, so consider what you don't like about your current mattress that you'd like to avoid in a new mattress. Make a list (a physical one, so you can remember while shopping) and bring it to the store or keep it handy while you browse online.

4. What do I like about my current mattress?

Even if your current mattress is many years old and basically has imprints of your body, there may still be qualities you like about it. Or, maybe you remember what you originally liked about it. Again, make a physical list of these qualities and keep it on hand when you're shopping for a new mattress. 

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5. Do I need to accommodate a sleeping partner?

Having a bed partner will most likely affect your final decision. For example, you'll probably want a larger bed than you might need for yourself, and you may be more keen on an adjustable mattress that can accommodate both sleeper's preferences.

6. How much can I afford to spend on a mattress?

A necessary evil sort of question. Of course we'd all love to spend a few thousand on a super cool smart bed that promises to improve your entire life, but that's unfortunately not always an option. 

Before you start your mattress search, set a budget. Make sure to set a low end (something you'd be more than willing to pay) and a high end (something that seems a little uncomfortable, but definitely doable for the right mattress). 

7. How do I return a mattress I hate? 

Despite hours of research and trips to mattress stores, you might still end up with a mattress that you don't like. Returning a mattress isn't always possible, but don't just assume that it isn't. Many online mattress retailers offer returns (though you might have to fork out handling and shipping fees), and some brick-and-mortar retailers offer comfort guarantees that you can (and should!) take advantage of. 

To ensure minimal hassle, make sure to keep your receipt and keep the mattress intact. Don't remove the manufacturer's label -- that's the big one with all the information about the mattress and the one that says jail time is a possible consequence of removal!

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You may also want to use a mattress protector if you think there's any chance you might return the mattress, because warranties and guarantees won't usually covered a soiled mattress. If you have pets or kids, your mattress can become soiled sooner than you think, so keep it safe. 

You could also go with a brand that offers free trial periods, during which you can use a mattress for several weeks (usually around 100 days) to see if you like it. Purple, Nectar and Layla are some such brands.

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.