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

mattress buying tips
(Image credit: Casper)

Bed shopping has changed a lot in the past decade or so. Once, when it was time to buy a new mattress, you had to get yourself down to a local shop and spend an hour or so bouncing on display models, before booking in delivery people to awkwardly maneuver your bed into place. These days, everything has changed, and that's mostly due to the rise of the bed-in-a-box. 

Opt for one of today's best mattress in a box options, and the whole thing is much more straightforward. You shop for your new bed online, then your purchase comes vacuum-packed and rolled into a much more manageably sized package, delivered promptly to your door, or sometimes into your bedroom. Here, it can be released from its packaging and left to expand on your bed frame.

Top mattress-in-a-box companies

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

Tuft & Needle
Brooklyn Bedding

Are bed in a box mattress any good? Yes, many of our best mattress picks are boxed models. Provided you pick from a respected brand and do your research before hand, you won't be making any compromises on comfort or quality. In the boxed mattress vs traditional mattress battle, the former often wins out on convenience. 

If you're making your first bed-in-a-box purchase, there are few things you should know before you commit. For example, you'll want to make sure the company you're buying from has a good reputation and a generous trial period. Mattress sales happen all year round, but national holidays can deliver especially low prices, so it can pay to be tactical about when you shop.

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 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 Saatva is an online mattress company, the mattress is delivered at its regular size, with the brand  including free white glove delivery to your room of choice for free, to make things easier for you. What's great about this service is that, not only will they deliver and set up a new mattress, but they will remove your old one, too. White glove delivery is also available at other mattress brands (such as Leesa, Stearns and Foster, and Cocoon by Sealy) and is great if you don't know how to get rid of your old mattress.

Among our top 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.

Casper mattress in a box

(Image credit: Casper)

While many 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 (or check our guide to the best organic mattresses for more info and recommendations).

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 position you like to sleep in, 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.

Allswell Mattress, on a wooden bedframe in a bedroom

(Image credit: Allswell)

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. (Our Purple mattress review and Purple Plus mattress review have more information, if you're interested.) 

Two people removing a Purple mattress from its packaging

(Image credit: Purple)

Some say that latex has more bounce 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 also includes space for air to circulate, which means it may be more breathable and sleep cooler than an all-foam model. 

The best mattress for side sleepers is one that's slightly softer, to keep your shoulders and hips comfortably cushioned – if you like to sleep on your side, you should consider brands like Casper and Helix. Meanwhile, those who sleep on their back need something more supportive (brands like Leesa and Layla have proven popular for this sleep style). Finally, stomach sleepers need a firm mattress to ensure correct spinal alignment. 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 want to opt for a specialist cooling mattress, with high-tech materials designed to dissipate body heat. Popular brands in this area include Ghostbed and 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 options, Zinus 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.

The Nectar Memory Foam Mattress on a light wooden bed frame and dressed with a white comforter and pillows

(Image credit: Nectar Sleep)

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 wary 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.

Avocado Green Mattress

(Image credit: Avocado)

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 so 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, while others offer longer – lifetime warranties are increasingly common these days, but do check the small print for exactly what that does and does not cover. 

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, 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!