Buying a mattress in a box? Read these 5 tips first

mattress buying tips
(Image credit: Casper)

If you’re like most people, you probably spent more time on your mattress in recent months, and you may be ready to find one of the best mattresses to replace it. After all, data from fitness trackers (opens in new tab) found that Americans were sleeping more and moving less while under quarantine this spring, and all that time on your mattress may have convinced you it’s time for an upgrade.

Before you buy your new mattress, though, there are a few things to consider. You’ll want to make sure the mattress-in-a-box company you’re buying from has a good reputation and a generous trial period. But you’ll also need to do some research about what you want in a mattress, which companies offer those components, and how the delivery and setup process works. Follow our useful tips on how to get the best mattress in a box for a great night's sleep.

You may also want to check out Casper vs. Purple vs. Nectar vs. Leesa: Who makes the best mattress or see if you can pick up a bargain in the best mattress sales or best Nectar mattress deals.

Top mattress-in-a-box companies

Looking to buy a mattress-in-a-box? Check out these top companies:

Casper (opens in new tab)
Purple (opens in new tab)
Helix (opens in new tab)
Leesa (opens in new tab)
Layla (opens in new tab)
Nectar (opens in new tab)
Tuft & Needle (opens in new tab)
Brooklyn Bedding (opens in new tab)

Here are the key mattress buying tips you’ll need when you order a mattress from an online retailer.

What features should I look for in a mattress-in-a-box company?

Some of the best online mattress companies in 2022 are ones you’ve probably seen and heard advertisements for, like Purple, Casper and Tuft & Needle  – to name a few. Not all of these are bed-in-a-box companies, though. For example, while (opens in new tab)Saatva is an Internet mattress company, the mattress is delivered at its regular size and set up in your home by their professionals for free.

Among our best mattresses picks, Casper, Purple, Helix and Leesa all sell mattresses that arrive at your door in a box or bag. What’s more, these companies offer mattresses with positive reviews from both customers and other sites, good return policies and warranties and quality materials; they’ve also received notable commendations for customer service.

mattress buying tips

(Image credit: Amazon)

While many of the bed-in-a-box companies have made some efforts at sustainability, if eco-friendly products and natural mattress materials are important issues for you, consider companies like Boll & Branch, Avocado Green Mattress and Birch by Helix.

Free shipping is definitely a factor you should look for in an online mattress company. Come on, if their main business is online and they’re shipping a heavy product, they should make delivery convenient for you.

If you want more bang for your buck, some mattress companies will throw in free pillows, bedding or other products to seal the deal.

What features should I consider in a mattress when I’m shopping online?

When you shop for a mattress at a retail store, you probably lay on a few before deciding which felt the best and fell within your price range. Now that you can research mattresses online to find the best one for you, there are a host of features you should think about beyond firmness levels. 

Some mattress components that should influence your purchasing decision are materials used, size, the best mattress for certain sleeping positions, whether the mattress sleeps cool, if it has good support for back pain or hip pain, whether it can accommodate heavier people, motion transfer, and how easy it is to get delivered.

mattress buying tips

(Image credit: Purple)

Figure out whether you want memory foam, innersprings, latex, or a hybrid (a combination of those). Most of the bed-in-a-box companies are made from foam so the mattress can compress when it’s shipped while feeling supportive under your body.

While many companies have specialty foams as the main material, Purple in particular is known for its proprietary Hyper-Elastic Polymer foam that features a flexible purple grid so it sleeps cool. (We have answers to all your Purple mattress questions.)

Some say that latex has more bounce (opens in new tab) so latex mattresses can help prevent aches and pains or relieve them. An innerspring (coil) mattress has that spring-like feel you’re probably used to and may feel firmer than a memory foam mattress. An innerspring mattress may also not feel as hot to sleep on.

Side sleepers will probably be happy with products from Casper and Helix, while back sleepers gave high reviews to Leesa and Layla, and stomach sleepers like Brooklyn Bedding and Helix Hybrids. You can also search for mattresses that help relieve back pain, hip pain or even those that may help with recovery for active people, like Bear Mattress.

Hot sleepers may like mattresses known for high-tech materials that help users sleep cool, like Ghostbed or Purple.

When factoring in the price of an online mattress, many of the bed-in-a-box mattresses cost in the $700 range for a queen-sized mattress. If you’re searching for budget mattress-in-a-box options, Zinius has queen mattresses for $156, Allswell’s queens are about $375, and a queen-sized mattress from Tulo is $399. Some brands, like Tuft & Needle, even offer special deals and discounts to military, first responders and healthcare professionals. It’s worth looking into to see if you qualify for additional savings!

What should I know about return policies when buying a mattress?

The thing about buying a mattress online is that it’s really hard to tell how comfortable it’ll be for you to sleep on simply by reading about it and looking at photos and videos. You need to take it for a test run. And by that, we mean sleep and nap.

(Image credit: Nectar)

The beauty of the bed-in-a-box industry is that most companies offer a free sleep trial of at least 100 days, and some — like DreamCloud, Nectar, and TomorrowSleep — give you a year to test out the mattress. For most of these mattress companies, that means you’ll pay for the mattress outright, but if you don’t like it, you can get a full refund before the trial period is up. Some companies, like TomorrowSleep will send out a representative to pick up the mattress, while others, like Casper, will send you a shipping label to print out, attach to the original box or another sturdy box, and drop the mattress off at a retail shipping store.

Familiarize yourself with a brand’s return policy before typing in your credit card information. If you’re weary of this large purchase – and won’t be able to get a heavy package to a shipping store – you might want to go with a brand that will do the heavy lifting for you.

How do I set up a mattress in a box?

Since the market for online mattresses is so competitive, retailers have become generous with their offers as a way to entice customers. Most of the mattress-in-a-box companies offer free shipping and some will even remove your old mattress for free.

If you aren’t getting a “white glove” setup service, the mattress will arrive at your doorstep compressed in a box that’s about the size of a coffee table and you’ll have to unpack it. Each retailer has instructions on their website of how to properly open and unbox their product. Once the boxed mattress is unrolled, it’ll expand to its full size within a few minutes or hours.

(Image credit: Purple)

After unrolling your mattress, you might notice a particular odor from some companies’ products. That’s a reaction from the memory foam called “off gassing.” Some brands will advise you to let the mattress “breathe” for a day or a few before sleeping on it to reduce your exposure to chemicals. Other mattress companies, like Leesa, Avocado Green, and Awara, will say it’s safe to sleep on their mattress right away and they don’t have off gassing.

If you’re wondering how much an online mattress weighs, know that many of these boxes can be very heavy – a queen can weigh from about 70 pounds up to around 160 pounds. If you’re having the mattress delivered, check out the mattress weight first. You might be better off having it delivered on a day when you have help if you can’t handle that kind of weight on your own. It could be well worth the extra charge (around $149 from DreamCloud as an example) to have a delivery person set up the mattress and remove your old one – especially if you live in a fourth-floor walkup apartment.

What should I know about mattress-in-a-box warranties?

You might start off liking the mattress you purchased – it could feel firm in all the right places, offer good edge support and seem durable. But if the mattress materials seem to be degrading in quality or craftsmanship, or the areas that once were supportive seem to be sinking, you’ll want to know that the online mattress company offers a long warranty. 

Most companies offer a 10-year limited warranty, Saatva has a 15-year limited warranty and Avocado Green has a 25-year warranty. Layla offers a lifetime warranty that says they will repair or replace defective parts, but the warranty doesn’t apply to the customers’ comfort preferences. Nectar has a ‘Forever Warranty’ that will cover impressions more than 1.5 inches. 

Avocado Green Mattress

(Image credit: Avocado)

Read the bed-in-a-box company’s warranties on their website before buying because “limited” means different things for different brands.

Cynthia Lawrence
Homes Writer

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!