Ryan Fiorenzi
August 3, 2021

Shopping for a Mattress Online

Buying a new mattress used to be a hassle, but it’s now easier (and cheaper) than ever before with the ability to ship a mattress to your door in a compressed box. Finding the best boxed mattress ultimately depends on your sleeping position and your weight. Side sleepers should seek out a softer mattress to provide contouring to their body, while back sleepers typically find the most comfort with a firmer mattress. Your weight is a big factor. Generally the heavier you are, the firmer your mattress should be. There are also many other factors such as your sleep temperature, budget, and tolerance of inorganic materials that play into your buying decision. With a little background and education, we’ll help you find the best mattress. Currently, our top pick is the Nectar mattress available on Nectar Sleep Site.


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How to Choose a Mattress

A lot goes into selecting the best mattress, but here are some of the top recommendations we give to our readers about buying a mattress online or a mattress that arrives in a box.

  • Buy from a company that stands by their products - Mattress companies are willing to compete for your business and that’s a great advantage for you as a buyer. Most reputable mattress companies will offer you a truly risk-free experience with their mattress. Whether it’s a long in-home trial or a money-back guarantee, you’re not fully committed when you order one and you won't be stuck if you want to return it.
  • Consider Your Sleeping Position - Most mattresses that ship in a box are constructed of memory foam, which is generally medium to medium-firm. This is great if you’re a back or stomach sleeper, but if you’re a side sleeper, especially a light sleeper you should pay extra attention to the firmness of the mattresses you’re considering. If you're a side sleeper, read my guide on best mattresses for side sleepers for more specific information.
  • Look for CertiPUR foams  - Many quality mattresses foams are certified by a non-profit organization program called CertiPUR which aims to ensure foams found in mattresses are free of many health and environmental hazards. There are currently over 2,000 companies currently manufacturing CertiPUR mattresses according to their website.

Buying Online

Given the size of an average mattress you may be wondering how it ships to your house. Over the last 15 years, technology has been developed to compress foam mattresses into a tall narrow box allowing them to be shipped with normal parcel carriers like FedEx or UPS. The ability to ship mattresses this way comes at a great benefit to you from a cost standpoint and mattresses no longer require showrooms or expensive freight shipping for transportation.

Returns

If you’re worried about the return process, don’t be. While many mattress companies do ask that you try the bed for a certain period before asking for a refund, they usually make it fairly hassle-free to return them. Unfortunately, by being returned, mattresses are being thrown away. This is a topic that is rapidly changing as some mattress companies like Purple will allow you to donate the mattress to be returned vs sending it to a landfill. We are big advocates, as many non-profits and homeless shelters, in particular, can make excellent use of them. If you do plan to return a mattress, ask if you can donate it for a refund instead of sending it to a landfill. In some cases, you may be able to keep the mattress even though you are getting a refund.

Budget Considerations

Mattresses in a box, while less expensive than traditional innerspring mattresses sold in stores, still entail a significant cost. As you are probably sticking to a budget, here are a few things for you to consider.

  • Financing a Mattress Purchase - Many mattresses in a box can be financed over a period of time. Your interest rate and monthly payment depend on your credit score and ability to qualify. If you urgently need a mattress and can't afford it upfront, financing the purchase can make sense. Services like Affirm or AfterPay are commonly offered during the checkout process.
  • Consider the Costs When Annualized - We think your sleep is something worth investing in, but if you’re concerned about price or justifying the cost, try thinking of the investment as a monthly, or yearly payment (assuming a typical mattress life of 7 years):

    Queen
    Mattress Price

    Cost Per Day

    Cost Per Month

    Cost Per Year

    $250

    $0.10

    $2.98

    $36

    $500

    $0.20

    $5.95

    $71

    $1,000

    $0.39

    $11.90

    $143

    $2,000

    $0.78

    $23.81

    $286

    As you can see in the table above, the difference between a $250 and $2,000 mattress that both last 7 years comes out to only ~$20 difference in cost per month. While we don’t often advocate buying a $2,000 mattress, it just goes to show how small the monthly cost is considering how long a mattress can last. We think the sweet spot is around $500, which comes out to around $6 a month over the life of the mattress. At this price point, there are a lot of great mattress options from reputable companies.

  • Extra Costs of Buying a Mattress - Make sure you don't overlook the extra costs associated with buying a new mattress. This especially applies if you are switching mattress sizes as this often requires a new bed structure, sheets, and pillows.
  • Promotional Freebies - On the plus side, many mattress in a box companies throw in promotional extras such as pillows and sheets and other bedding when you buy a mattress. We took a look at all the current promotional freebies being offered by some of the top mattress companies:
    • Nectar - each mattress purchase includes 1-2 pillows (up to $150 value)
    • Purple - choose between sheets, pillow, or a mattress protector (claimed between $99 to $129 value)
    • Layla - intermittent promotions offering two pillows with mattress purchase

Best Mattresses in a Box

We’ve invested around 21 hours of research in creating this guide on mattresses in a box and have supplemented our own research with one interview with an industry insider and a chiropractor versed in sleeping positions and sleep-related back and neck pain. You can learn more about our review process here.

Best Value and Ideal for Side Sleeping

  • A relative newcomer to the mattress space, the Nectar memory foam mattress is great value for money and offers great quality.
  • Nectar really stands by their product with a 365-night home trial, forever warranty, free shipping, and returns... pretty unbeatable and truly risk-free.
  • Returns can be donated instead of thrown away.
  • Includes a handy packaging removal tool that protects your new mattress and makes unboxing very fast.
  • Each mattress purchase includes 1 to 2 free pillows depending on the mattress size you buy.
  • Financing available.

Best Cooling Mattress

  • The Purple mattress is a totally new approach to the mattress, and introduces something called hyper-elastic polymer which is like a rubbery honeycomb material that cools and supports you in an entirely new way.
  • This new version of their mattress addresses a lot of problems reported by side sleepers in relation to the original.
  • While more expensive than many other mattress options, we think the purple mattress offers the best cooling option.
  • No VOC construction means you have less to worry about compared to memory foam mattresses.
  • 100-night trial and 10-year warranty.

Best Value Runner Up

  • If you're shopping for a mattress online and worried about the firmness and not being able to see the mattress in person, the Layla is for you. Its innovative two-sided design gives you two different firmness options.
  • 120-night trial and lifetime warranty... pretty awesome.
  • It has two design features that aid in cooling. The memory foam is infused with copper which helps transfer heat. Also, while a lot of mattresses are made from a solid material, the Layla has significant air pockets which help air circulate.
  • Durable high-quality and breathable outer layer - an area where a lot of mattresses cut corners.
  • Frequent promotions including pillows and/or nice discounts on the mattress price.
  • Financing available.

Best Budget Memory Foam

  • The Green Tea mattress is a cut above the least expensive mattresses we've reviewed, but low cost enough to make this our best budget pick.
  • Available in nearly every mattress size in 5 different thicknesses from a plush 12" to a firm 6" thickness.
  • Infused with green tea extract and plant oil.
  • Available on Amazon, this is one of the easiest mattresses to order online.
  • Backed by Amazon's return policy, customer support, and a 10-year warranty.

Amazon Basics

Amazon Basics Mattress - Best Mattress in a Box

Best Budget Runner Up

  • If you consider your mattress a commodity and just want the best price, the Amazon Basics Memory Foam mattress is for you.
  • Its 4-layer memory foam construction creates a soft firmness ideal for side or lightweight sleepers.
  • Available in all major mattress sizes, each in three thicknesses to tailor the firmness further to your needs.
  • The price does come at a cost with a relatively short 1-year warranty.

Best for Stomach and Back Sleepers

  • The Tuft and Needle Original is a great medium firm memory foam mattress best suited for back and stomach sleepers or heavy side sleepers.
  • A great price point for a high-quality mattress from a reputable company - they were one of the first to get into the bed-in-a-box market.
  • Both CertiPUR and Oeko Tex certified.
  • 10-year warranty and 100-night trial.

Comparison Table

If you're having trouble making a decision, we have gathered some key information on each of our top pick mattresses in a box below:

Mattress

Key Materials

Trial/Warranty

Firmness

CertiPur-US Certified

Nectar

Memory Foam

365-day/Lifetime

Medium Firm

Yes

Purple

Polymer, Foam

100-day/10-year

Medium

n/a

Layla

Memory Foam, Copper

120-day/Lifetime

Medium, Medium Firm

Yes

Zinus

Memory Foam

120-day/10-year

Medium

Yes

Amazon

Memory Foam

n/a /1-year

Medium Soft

Yes

Tuft & Needle

Memory Foam

100-day/10-year

Medium Firm

Yes

Bed in a Box Frequently Asked Questions

Here are our answers to the most frequently asked questions about modern mattresses like bed in a box.

Most major manufacturers offer great bed in a box options. It is best to understand your budget, sleep position, and warranty preferences before finding the best mattress for you.