The Best Cheap Mattresses Are Easy on Your Back and Your Wallet -

The Best Cheap Mattresses Are Easy on Your Back and Your Wallet

 The Best Cheap Mattresses Are Easy on Your Back and Your Wallet

Investing in the best mattress for your specific sleeping style is essential to getting a good night’s rest. But the best cheap mattress might suit your needs nearly as well. Yes, you might find yourself laying on something slightly less supportive. But the gap between the performance of a pretty good mattress and a just-okay mattress is much smaller than you think (and certainly wildly disproportionate to the cost difference).

Sure, you’re going to spend a third of your life cradled in a mattress. In general, a good one is worth the investment. The cost-per-wear logic that has spurred many a grail-seeker to blow their budgets is instructive here: Spend $1000 on a mattress, sleep on it for three years, and the thing has cost you less than a dollar a day. But! Consider all the scenarios and situations where it might make sense to search for the best cheap mattress. Maybe you move a lot and would rather start fresh instead of tying a mattress to the roof of a car every 6 months. Maybe you’re outfitting a guest room that won’t see a lot of action. Maybe you’ve done the math and realized covering the floor of your kid’s rumpus room with 6 cheap mattresses will be cost less than those colorful foam puzzle pieces. Heck, maybe you’ll sleep better knowing you didn’t shell out an entire paycheck for a mattress. Point is, there’s no shame in shopping for an ultra-budget mattress, and in plenty of instances a good cheap mattress is the sensible and smart option. Whatever your reason, after years of research and hands-on testing (read: sleeping on a bunch of mattresses), we’ve found plenty of affordable mattresses that will cradle you to sleep.

What to Expect With a Cheap Mattress

Even the best cheap mattress is likely going to be a compromise over something more expensive. The first thing you’ll notice the moment you lay down on a budget mattress is that they’re…kinda stiff. Firmness level is very important. Cheap mattresses tend to be on the firm side, which makes them best for back sleepers, who don’t need something to cradle their shoulders or hips. You’ll also notice that most are foam or hybrid mattresses, since making innerspring mattresses that don’t suck is a lot more expensive than just cutting a bunch of foam. You might also notice that none of these foam mattresses are heavy on the jargon-y special technology that more expensive mattresses are supposedly made with. This is not actually a big deal at all. Most of the “X4 cooling gels” or “organic plush Wool pillow tops” companies like to promote don’t really have an actual effect on how it feels to sleep on their new mattresses. You can live without them.

More importantly, durability is often an issue with cheaper mattresses, especially ones entirely constructed from foam. After a couple of months, this foam can start to wear out, leading your mattress to stop actually holding you up while you sleep. We’ve had no issues with this kind of bottoming out from the mattresses we’ve included in this guide, but if you do, you should contact the manufacturer and try to see if your mattress is still under warranty.

Why Do Mattress Prices Vary?

The perfect answer to this question would require information that mattress companies simply won’t disclose. But based on what we can gather from our experience comparing mattress listings and sleeping on them ourselves, it mostly hinges on material. Broadly, more expensive mattresses are made with higher quality materials—denser foam, heartier woven fabric exteriors, sturdier innersprings. At higher price points, the mattresses also tend to have more complicated designs, with contouring and conforming that provide more pressure relief.

How to Buy a Cheap Mattress (And Not Get Stiffed)

Before you buy any online mattress, think about your needs. What kind of sleeper are you? If you sleep on your side or stomach, you should look for a mattress that will support you. Do you sleep hot? Look for a mattress with innersprings, since they have built-in ventilation. Are you looking for a mattress that will last upwards of a decade? Think hard about how much you’re willing to spend. 

The Best Affordable Mattress Overall: The Casper Element

Casper Element mattress



What makes it great: Casper started the bed-in-a-box revolution. After a big reworking of its line last year, the retailer released the Element, the cheapest mattress it has ever sold. It’s clear that the company’s experience making mattresses has served it well, because the Element is a very comfy mattress. Made from two layers of polyurethane foam, the bottom base layer forms a dense solid base, while the top foam layer is softer and perforated. Those perforations give you a good amount of breathability and airflow, so this foam mattress doesn’t cause overheating like some other foam mattresses. It’s solidly constructed for plenty of edge support (you won’t roll off the bed as you sleep). Our tester described the texture as kind of like a hardened gloop of hair gel—medium-firm and supportive, but with just a little bit of give. That support makes this a comfortable mattress for any kind of sleeper, coffin-style or otherwise. For an affordable mattress, the high-quality Element punches way above its weight.

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