Mattresses put to the test

April 20, 2010 8:51:15 PM PDT
If your mattress is at least eight years old and you wake up with aches and pains, it might be time for a new one. And shopping for a mattress is no easy task. But new information from Consumer Reports can help you sort out the games and gimmicks.

One big problem: No two stores carry the same mattress, making comparison shopping virtually impossible. You are going to hear all kinds of hype about features such as fancy fabrics, thick padding, and high coil count.

What is the difference between a $2,000 and a $1,000 mattress? Consumer Reports found not much. Testers cut through queen-size innerspring mattresses from Sealy, Serta, and Simmons. All were well constructed, with few differences.

Consumer Reports also had 54 panelists try out 14 mattresses with innersprings, as well as memory foam mattresses and an adjustable air mattress. Panelists did a 15-minute "rest test," spending 5 minutes on their back, their side, and their stomach.

All of the panelists felt that all of the mattresses were at least moderately comfortable. But every mattress - regardless of price, regardless of type - had its supporters and detractors.

Bottom line: Comfort is a personal preference. That's why Consumer Reports does not rate mattresses. So you always want to be sure to try out a mattress, spending at least 15 minutes in several sleep positions. Consumer Reports says start at the low end of the price scale and work your way up until you find one you like. That way you won't overspend.

And once you find the one you like, watch for a sale or start haggling. Mattress markups are huge, so aim for 50 percent off the list price. Also make sure you understand the return policy so that you don't end up paying hefty fees.

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