Cheap Mattresses — Which Ones Offer the Best Value in the Long Run?

Cheap mattresses don’t exactly have a great reputation — that’s why they’re called cheap rather than “good value” mattresses — but I’ve bought many a bargain-basement mark-down in my day, and they have served me quite well.

Keep in mind though, if you are over the age of 40, sleep comfort needs to take a higher rank on your list of priorities. You may find that the same type of mattress that seemed perfectly fine in your twenties and thirties just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Cheap mattresses are not discount mattresses, although certainly stumbling upon a good mattress at a great price is a wonderful thing when it happens.

But a cheap mattress is something else altogether. It could mean a no-name brand, an unrecognizable mattress sold with a cheap bed frame in a discount store.

Or it may mean the lowest rung on a brand-name product line, which might be the best way to get decent quality for a low price.
When should you buy at the bottom price? Well, there are several times when it makes very good sense:

  • When the mattress is relatively well constructed, but not of any recognizable brand or model. It could also be a discontinued model. You need a bed, you try it out, it feels fine, you don’t care about long term wear because in a few years you’ll have more money to buy a better mattress. These are all good reasons to save money on your mattress.
  • Young, healthy people on a budget do not need ultra-expensive mattresses. Most young bodies are flexible enough to withstand most types of sleeping surfaces and there is no reason to not take advantage of this. College students, young couples just starting out, kids and teenagers, can all feel great sleeping on cheap mattresses.

But please beware, a truly bad mattress will not be good for anyone. And please, never buy a used mattress if you can help it!
Those who should not buy cheap mattress include:

  • Young people with any kind of musculoskeletal issues such as scoliosis, or those healing from injuries, or those who are very overweight, or anyone suffering from sleeping disorders where a better mattress may possibly offer value — should only buy a discounted “good” mattress from a reliable manufacturer.
  • Anyone with back pain, muscular pain, fibromyalgia, or arthritis.
  • People with allergies should also beware of cheap mattresses, as the fabric coverings will also be cheap and may not provide enough barrier from the materials inside, which could be allergenic to some.

In addition, some families may wish to provide their children and teenagers with specialty mattresses for allergy-control reasons or environmental or other health considerations. And some young adults may have the same concerns for themselves.

Of course, people of any age may find themselves on a limited budget. Seniors may fall into this category but should be more concerned with mattress quality than price because of health consequences. You may have to save in some other area as a cheap mattress may cause more harm and increased medical expenses in the long run.

Remember there are also ways to make a cheaper mattress more comfortable using mattress toppers and so on. But beware of covering up poor construction with added layers that in the end will cost as much as buying a better mattress to begin with.

What type of Cheap Mattresses are Best?

The best cheap mattresses fall under the coil spring category. Since innerspring mattresses are generally less expensive than other types, you will find your best value in this category. Just remember to not go below the coil count of 390 for a queen size mattress or you may suffer some consequences.

The next best is polyurethane foam or “poly foam.” In terms of support, a cheap foam mattress can be adequate, especially if you prefer foam over innerspring anyway.

Foam tends to cradle the body rather than lift it up as an innerspring core would. But a cheap poly foam mattress tends to be much more “sinky” than a good natural latex mattress.

But alas, cheap natural latex mattresses don’t really exist unless you consider “cheap” in much more generous terms than the average person.

When you’re talking about cheap air mattresses, you are getting into a questionable category. To offer decent support over a period of years, an air bed needs to be at the higher end of this category. The Select Comfort Sleep Number bed is the top example, and its price range runs at around $1200 for a queen size.

Air mattresses used for camping can be very cheap indeed, under $50 in some cases, and can be used on a temporary basis. Watch out for vinyl outgassing if you are chemically sensitive. If you are thinking of turning an air mattress into a permanent bed, think again. Support is not adequate for long term sleeping. You would be better off with a cheap foam mattress placed on the floor or on an inexpensive wooden frame (think Salvation Army or garage sales — for bed frames only).

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