Taken For A Ride: Ten Worst-Rated Mattress Scenarios To Absolutely Avoid
While there are dozens of great mattresses just a mouse click away, according to many popular review sites and blogs, there are plenty to avoid at all costs. After reviewing the web’s worst-rated mattress models and brands we began to notice a clear trend in the industry, and without bashing them by name, many of the characteristics of these not-so-popular beds are pretty commonplace.
Dissatisfied and angry customers are eager to post reviews when it comes to problems with mattresses, likely because a mattress is an intimate product that takes a lot of time to research and choose. Watch out for these problem products or red flags in order to make sure you get a mattress that is well made, will last, is comfortable and supportive, and is backed up with a solid trial period and warranty.
1. “Promotional” Mattresses
Promotional mattresses are typically sold for a limited time only, often as seemingly too good to be true bargains during major holiday sales. Typically a “loss leader item”, their real purpose is to bring you into the store or get you to nose around the manufacturers web site. Once you’re hooked, you are then often “up sold” to a better and more expensive product.
Since promotional mattresses tend to be limited in availability and through description, it can be tough to research reviews or accurately compare them to other beds. These mattresses are typically priced very cheaply, because they are made using the worst components you could possibly build into the product, have limited warranties, no return policy, and have a short lifespan, sometimes months instead of years.
2. Very inexpensive Beds
With the exception of guest beds that are rarely used, and kids beds, very inexpensive mattresses (under $500 or so for a queen) generally tend to have worse overall ratings compared to mid-priced beds (in the $800-$2000 range).
It is important to carefully read reviews by customers who have owned the brand, and compare prices online with similar products. You can also check out our Trusted Dealer page, where we have reduced over 250 mattress choices to a handful of recommended beds that have been evaluated by our team, including a CEO with 25 years of experience as a mattress manufacturer.
Inexpensive mattresses can feel comfortable and supportive initially, but over a short period of time, failure of components, including sinking, cavities and gulleys, and compression quickly renders the mattress unusable. Remember, mattress components come in many levels of quality, density, and sources, like anything else.
As a manufacturer, you can buy a container load of high quality American made foam, for example, for $10,000, enough to make 100 mattresses. You can also import a container of the same volume of foam in much lower quality for $4500, that will have 10% of the lifespan of the domestically made material.
We suggest asking directly if any of the components used in the mattress you are considering are imported or domestically made. These types of mattresses also tend to have less warranty coverage, meaning they will likely need to be replaced much earlier.
3. Mattresses that are excessively thin are always a bad idea
In the mattress world, whenever you hear the term “low profile”, be forewarned. It’s likely going to be hard, tough on hips and shoulders, and flat out uninviting. Thinner mattresses tend to be really unpopular, especially with side sleepers and larger individuals. This is because the comfort layers in the bed are not thick enough to provide proper pressure reduction and lateral load distribution, and fail to provide enough support between the sleeper and the coils or support foam to prevent pressure points.
People over 175-250 lbs really need something at least 8-10” thick, while those upwards of 300 pounds really need a mattress that is at least 14” thick. If you are side sleeper, and of typical height and weight, your ideal mattress will likely have at least 3” of cushioning material above at least 5-7” of supportive substrate foam, assuming you are buying a bed in a box type mattress available online.
4. A Memory Foam bed that sleeps too hot
Memory foam can vary considerably by density, thickness, and formula. Though in general, memory foam mattresses tend to earn the highest ratings, customers who complain the loudest and provide the lowest ranked reviews, typically have an issue with the mattress sleeping too hot or difficulty moving around on the mattress.
Both of these issues are most closely linked with beds that use thick layers of higher density (over 5 lb) memory foam that is too thick as a comfort layers, or fail to utilize foam components that help reduce heat, like charcoal infused polyurethane, or cooling fabrics like Tensel or bamboo. Really, a memory foam mattress that sleeps too hot is generally not well though out. We have personally selected a handful of excellent memory foam beds in our Trusted Dealer program that help you find a memory foam mattress that will not sleep hot.
5. Mattresses with Lower-Density Foam
Lower density foams, used as either the bottom support layer or the “comfort layers” up top, whether high density polyurethane or visco-elastic memory foam, are often associated with lower satisfaction over time when it comes to pain relief and pressure reduction. As a general frame of reference, a well made memory foam mattress will use 4 lb density foam (one cubic foot of the material weighs 4 lbs., a pretty easy metric).
For memory foams, low density would be considered under 3.5 lbs. Many manufacturers of memory foam mattresses often try to slip in 2 lb or 3lb memory foam, whcih can be immediately detected. It bottoms out and has no spongy, melting sensation that higher quality memory foam is known for. For polyurethane foam used typically in the base layers, a good density is around 5lb is ideal.
Since low density foams have a softer and more “open cell” structure, they are more likely to mash and offer a less buoyant feel than higher density foam. However, these foams are typically cheaper so they actually can be economical for infrequently used mattresses (beds you won’t be using for more than 3-4 years). Heavier people should consider a mattress made with denser foam, as firm as you can take it.
6. Innerspring Beds with Poor Motion Isolation
With coil or innerspring mattresses, one problem that can receive generate considerable complaints is too much motion transfer. This is an issue for couples especially, as one person’s movements can disrupt the other’s sleep. Couples should be careful about choosing an innerspring mattress, especially if there is a light sleeper involved.
A well made coil hybrid mattress, though, is generally fine, offering great support and reducing motion transfer across its surface. Here is a link to several excellent mattress options made using coils and foam combinations that are proven to work.
The worst coil mattresses are made using what is called bonnell or continuous coils. Pocketed coils and hybrid beds with memory foam or latex layers on top as comfort layers, tend to have fewer issues with motion disturbances.
7. Beds with short lifespan warranties or no Warranty
One prominent complaint seen in the worst-rated mattresses is often related to warranty issues. It is hard to gauge how a bed will perform over time even if you are diligent in your research, which is where the warranty becomes of paramount importance. Any given mattress typically is only useful for a fraction of the written warranty length as shown below:
Warranty Length vs. Average Useful Lifespan
5 year Warranty Actual Useful Life 4.8 years
10 year Warranty Actual Useful Life 7.1 years
20 year Warranty Actual Useful Life 8.2 years
For a middle grade and even a higher end mattress, you should expect to have at least 10 years of broad sweeping coverage during which the retailer will repair or replace defective beds at their expense. This is completely commonplace and not out of line, especially with the competitive mattress marketplace these days.
Most will also have extended pro-rated periods during which at least a portion of costs are covered, beyond the 100% replacement timeline of the warranty.
The important thing to seek out in a warranty is how deep ruts or indentations must be before the warranty offers full replacement as sagging greater than 1” can dramatically the performance of a bed. Sagging and indentations not covered by warranties is a very common complaint with many poorly reviewed and rated beds.
8. Too Soft or Firm for Your Needs
Mattress shopping is confusing for virtually everyone. It can be complex to decode different manufacturers’ terminology, which is often intentionally created to steer you towards the one mattress that they feature, often the higher priced model. Many mattress complaints wander the spectrum from beds feeling way too firm or far too soft. It’s also important to note that most mattresses made using strictly foam materials will soften slightly over time.
There is no foolproof formula for choosing the correct degree of firmness, but rules of thumb pretty much suggest that back sleepers should opt for medium-firm to medium beds, side sleepers medium to softer, bordering on plushy, and stomach sleepers should seek out something as firm as they can tolerate.
Side and stomach sleepers put pressure on a mattress in different ways than back sleepers. Softer mattresses provide the ability to sink into the bed for better spinal alignment.
It is important to observe that sleeping on your belly is not strongly medically recommended. This is because belly sleeping contorts the natural curvature of our spine, putting additional pressure on our internal organs, and can lead to restricted airways, limiting our ability to breathe without effort as we sleep.
Sleep studies find that people with back pain generally feel best on beds of moderate firmness. We highly recommend either memory foam or natural latex, as these materials help distribute load sideways, rather than down, reducing pressure points and helping to distribute spinal pressure away from the body.
Since manufacturers descriptions of firmness may be complete random and arbitrary, it can be helpful to look for what are called IFD/ILD ratings or read mattress reviews to see if there are any recommendations regarding degree of firmness.
These measurements are quite accurate and refer to the amount of weight needed to compress the foam a certain distance. ILD is the commonly used term of the two, standing for “Indentation Load Deflection” and is an industry gauge both for quality and application of the material for different kinds of mattresses.
As a rule, though, don’t get too caught up in ILD, stick with mattress density as it an easier system and for the average mattress consumer, gives you all of the information you really need to determine if you are buying a quality bed.
9. Overpriced Mattresses and being scammed on price
Another complaint often seen in reviews stems from owners immediately assuming that they overpaid or have been scammed buying a mattress. Even when they find the bed comfortable, a sense that someone has paid way too much can overshadow all other qualities of the bed and strongly affect satisfaction and ratings.
Retailers are notorious for using sales tactics to exaggerate prices, such as making comparisons difficult or using subtle techniques such as exposing you to endless repetition of images and logos, all designed to make you familiar with the brand. Often this “saturation carpet bombing” compels you to buy, and though you may not find your mattress wonderfully comfortable and supportive, you stick with it, because everyone else is buying it. This is well established with one or two of the top selling online mattresses.
“Expect to pay $600-800 for a decent queen sized bed. Using this guideline will generally work.”
The best way to prevent buyer’s remorse is compare mattresses and read buyer reviews. Be sure to get the details on all components and layers and be leery when retailers won’t tell you- in detail- what is in the mattress they are selling – chances are it’s because the bed is not fairly priced compared to its peers. Stick to your budget constraints, too. Expect to pay $600-800 for a decent queen sized bed. Using this guideline will generally work.
10. Beds with No Return/Exchange Policy
A lack of a return or well defined exchange policy can affect your satisfaction if the mattress you buy is not perfect. Many upset reviewers complain about being stuck with a mattress they don’t like or having to pay ridiculous fees for returns.
Especially when buying online, make sure you can either return or exchange the bed if you don’t like it for a reasonable fee. In most cases, these days, if you buy a bed online, there is typically no fee to return a bed or exchange it. Remember, allow yourself time to adapt to a new mattress.
It can take a few weeks to get nestle in and let your body get comfortable, so you should have at least 30-60 days to make up your mind. Some retailers will require you to try the bed for a certain number of days prior to returning, and we think this is and excellent policy.
Taking the time to research and compare mattresses makes it easier to find the perfect mattress for your situation. Armed with basic information, and with a little due diligence, you’ll be sure to come away with a great deal and a really comfortable bed rather than a nightmare.
Always inquire as to what the mattress is made of, compare to similar offers and mattress types, and don’t forget to look at retailer policies. Looking online for reviews can also help provide excellent information on qualities such as comfort, durability, and performance. Best part of it is that you can do your research without leaving your house.
Don’t get pressured into making a purchase. By shopping online you can avoid this for the most part. And don’t forget to check out our carefully vetted Trusted Dealer program. We have done the research for you on over 45 great mattresses. We considered over 250 option, and narrowed the list down. It’s well worth considering.