AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Shopping for a mattress can be a nightmare. In fact, consumer reports receives more inquiries about mattresses (3,300 since 2001) than about ally other product except cars.
The reason is that shoppers are flying blind. It's hard to tell one box of metal, foam, fuzz, and fabric from another, making you vulnerable to a sales pitch. Model names differ from store to store, making it impossible to comparison shop. And prices vary so much that the $1,300 mattress set you look at one day can cost $2,600 the next. We know; that happened to us.
To explode mattress misconceptions and expose what many retailers don't want you to know, CONSUMER REPORTS shopped in all kinds of stores, interviewed mattress makers, and polled visitors to our Web site, ConsumerReports.org, about their buying experiences. We hired two retired industry insiders, with a combined 87 years of experience, to tear apart 18 beds from Sealy, Serta, Simmons, and Spring Air, the top-selling brands. Our objective: to point out differences among low- and high-priced models. We recruited 59 staff members to visit our own "store" to try out beds you've probably heard about on TV or radio: Duxiana, Select Comfort, and TempurPedic. We also asked four couples to take those mattresses home and sleep on each for a month. Our unique research has resulted in a wealth of information that can help you choose the bed of your dreams.
The one thing we can't do is tell you precisely what bed that is. We know from years of bashing and dissecting that all but the cheapest mattresses are apt to be sturdy, but there are no reliability data for specific models or even brands. A retailer we interviewed confided that no brand is less trouble prone than another. Industrywide, less than 1 percent of mattresses are returned for warranty failures such as broken springs. Furthermore, comfort is relative. To reach a consensus would take a panel of thousands, and the results still wouldn't speak to your own preferences. That said, this is a how-to-buy guide you'll find nowhere else.
First, a primer on how mattresses have changed in recent years.
NEWS AND TRENDS
Consumers are buying bigger beds. Queen is the most widely sold size: kings account for nearly 10 percent of the market. Many mattresses are almost twice as thick as they were a decade ago--up to 20 inches. They're also heavier, but most have cushioning on the top only, so manufacturers no longer suggest that you flip them. (It's still a good idea to rotate most from front to back to even out wear.) Among major brands, only Serta continues to make some two-sided mattresses.
It would seem that a bed with one sleep surface would last half as long. But manufacturers and others in the industry contend--and our consultants agree--that quality has risen since our last report, in 1997. Mattress makers are using more foam, including …