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6 surprising things we found in our recent mattress reviews

CHOICE experts uncover some truths to help you find the mattress of your dreams.

Last updated: 14 June 2024


Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Mattress manufacturers make many claims about how their beds feel and what they can do, and our testing shows this advertising can be untrue
  • Affordable models are increasingly earning recommendations in our mattress reviews
  • CHOICE experts have tested 44 mattresses from leading brands on factors such as firmness, comfort, sagging and heat retention to help you find the best one for you

Buying the right mattress can be a minefield. You can search high and low online or hop from mattress store to mattress store, navigating quite a few enthusiastic salespeople along the way, and become quite quickly overwhelmed with the vast options and prices on offer. 

How can some cost thousands of dollars while others are hundreds, and which is best? Are there really mattresses that can keep you cool while you sleep, and are the 'free' trials really free? 

CHOICE experts recently reviewed 44 of the latest mattresses, and say there are a few things you should know before deciding on the right one for you. 

We extensively test each mattress, aiming to identify if it will change in firmness over time, and whether you can rely on it to deliver the same standard of comfort over its lifetime. 

We also look at things such as how well the mattresses repel sweat, and how saggy or bouncy they are, to give each product a final CHOICE Expert Rating. Find out more about how we test mattresses

Here, we highlight some key things we learned from our recent test to help you when shopping for the mattress of your dreams. 

1. Mattresses-in-a-box and standard retail models are evenly matched

Back when we first started testing mattresses, our results found that classic spring models were the way to go. Then mattress-in-a-box models came along and wiped the bedroom floor of traditional retailers with consistently higher scores. But now, both categories are fairly evenly matched.

Of the 17 models we recommend (that are currently available), eight are from bricks-and-mortar retailers, eight are delivered in a box, and one is a full-sized spring mattress from an online-only store.

"This is great news for consumers," says CHOICE mattress expert Peter Zaluzny. "There's a range of CHOICE Recommended options of various types, materials, and builds such as foam or spring, so you can really find a good quality mattress that feels right for a solid sleep."

2. Never pay full price

Peter says you should never be afraid to haggle on the price of a mattress. 

"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 go from there."

We've found many retailers have a lot of room to move when it comes to price, so there's really no reason to pay the recommended retail price for a mattress

CHOICE mattress expert, Peter Zaluzny

To make sure we get an authentic customer experience when we buy our mattresses for testing, our experts often see if they can haggle their way to cheaper prices.

Of course, bargaining is much easier to do instore than online. Online retailers usually have more fixed prices and a limited range of mattresses, so discounts will be harder to negotiate. They do have sales pretty regularly though, so keep your eyes peeled.

3. Price isn't always an indicator of quality

Paying more doesn't always guarantee you're going to get a better mattress or a better night's sleep. We've found plenty of cheaper mattresses that outperform pricier ones in our testing.

Among the top performers in our latest review, you'll find a model costing upwards of several thousand dollars, while others are in the hundreds – including some of the cheapest mattresses we've ever recommended.

"In fact, some of the most expensive mattresses we reviewed – ones that cost $3000–5000 – rated the lowest when it came to comfort and sagging, which is really alarming. Meanwhile, there are plenty of recommended mattresses that cost less than a thousand dollars."

4. More box mattresses come with customisable firmness

One of the benefits of buying a mattress-in-a-box is that more manufacturers are selling products that have adjustable firmness designs. 

In previous years, mattress-in-a-box brands typically only had one firmness for each mattress they made, which was usually advertised as 'medium-firm'.

Some now have various firmness layers available (usually made out of foam) that you can add or remove until the mattress reaches your desired comfort. 

Some use 'toppers' that you can flip for a different feel, and others have alternative firmness options on each side of the mattress. 

A few even have so-called 'firmness zones', which let you adjust the feel on each side of the bed (in case you prefer your mattress firmer than your partner does).

5. 'Cool' mattress claims may well be authentic

If you get hot while you sleep and you're looking for a mattress that will keep you cool, you may be wowed by the various claims made by many mattress manufacturers. 

In the past, CHOICE experts have consistently found that mattresses said to be better for 'hot' sleepers haven't differentiated themselves in our test enough to live up to those claims – most returned results of 'medium-warm'. 

In the past, warming or cooling claims in advertising didn't stack up, but now we're seeing more variety in this area

Peter Zaluzny, CHOICE

But things changed in our the last few tests. 

"We've been testing mattresses for years and lately, we're seeing some variety in how the insulation feels," says Peter. "In the past, warming or cooling claims in advertising didn't stack up, but now we're seeing more variety in this area.

"Eight mattresses were measured as cold or very cold and three came back as warm in our 2022 test. This year, two were cool and one was very cool. This is a big shift from what we typically see, where almost all tested mattresses come back as 'normal' (medium-warm)."

Two cool models

For example, the Zenna pure latex mattress says it has built-in ventilation with an "open-cell construction that removes excess heat and moisture". Our experts verified that this mattress indeed returned a result of 'cool' when tested.

Likewise, A.H. Beard claims the King Koil Conforma Element provides "breathable, cooling pressure relief to keep you relaxed". This mattress was also rated 'cool' by our experts.

Keep in mind, though, that the many other mattresses that are claimed to be 'cool' still return results of 'medium-warm' in our testing. Eva, for example, claims that the Comfort Classic mattress helps keep you cool with "anti-microbial and cooling gel memory foam" and a "hybrid mattress structure that helps promote airflow".

Despite these claims, however, our tests found that the mattress has a medium-warm feel. The best way to avoid getting hoodwinked by marketing jargon and unsubstantiated claims? Check our mattress reviews before you buy.

6. Some 'free' trial periods sting you with sneaky fees

Almost all mattress-in-a-box manufacturers offer a 100–120-night free trial period, something you probably won't get if you buy a standard retail mattress. But you need to read the fine print to avoid paying sneaky fees. 

The 'free trial' usually comes with a few caveats. 

First, most have a minimum trial period of 14–30 nights, so you can "really understand the mattress" before returning it. 

Second, there are relatively stringent conditions regarding the quality of the mattress. If your mattress is damaged, soiled or significantly worn during the trial period, then you may not be able to get a refund or exchange.

The exchange may not be free. Most manufacturers cover collection costs if you live in a major city, but this doesn't always extend to regional areas

Finally, the exchange itself may not be free, depending on where you live. Most cover collection costs if you live in a major city, but this doesn't always extend to regional areas. Some brands state that they require regional shoppers to cover the return costs or drop it off at the nearest shipping/charity partner. 

Others are simply vague. For example, Macoda only covers "some" rural areas but doesn't say which – and some brands don't mention regional areas at all. Eva says it will try to find a charity partner in your location, but you may be charged for collection if this isn't possible.

Always check the free returns policy before buying. If the terms don't specifically mention the city, regional centre or town that you live in, contact the manufacturer to find out how returns are handled in your area.

Free trial vs trial period

Though the free trial period is fairly ubiquitous among mattress-in-a-box brands, a few do charge for returns. In these cases, they specifically refer to it as a sleep trial, trial period or test period rather than a free trial. Zenna, for example, has a "100-night trial" that incurs a $150 return fee if you decide to get a refund.

So don't assume that all trial periods are free. Read the FAQ and T&Cs if the manufacturer doesn't use the word 'free' when advertising the returns or exchange policy.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.