Buying a Mattress In-Store vs. Online: Pros and Cons

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Buying a new mattress is arguably one of the most important decisions we all have to make at some point. After all, we ideally spend an average of 30% of our time asleep, and a shocking 40% of Australians don’t sleep well on a regular basis. The right mattress can make a world of difference when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, and when we sleep well, our overall health and well-being can soar.

So, to assist with this big decision, we’re here to help you answer the first key question in your mattress buying journey: should you buy your new mattress online or in-store?

Read on to find out the pros and cons of each option and decide which is best for you.

Buy Mattress in a Store

Buying a Mattress in a Physical Store

Before the advent of the internet, buying a mattress in person was the only option available. So, with that in mind, it’s certainly a tried and tested method. Popular retail sellers like Beds n Dreams, Fourwinds, and Harvey Norman here in Australia prove that the ritual of buying a mattress in person is still alive and well. That said, there are some important pros and cons to consider before deciding whether or not to buy from your local mattress shop.

Pros of buying a mattress in a retail store

  1. Try it before you buy it The biggest benefit of buying a mattress from an in-person retailer is the opportunity to “test drive” your new bed before buying it. (There’s something novel, too, about being able to take a little nap in the middle of a store, right?) If you’re attached to the idea of being able to test the softness, firmness, texture, etc. of your mattress before you commit, then buying in-store will be your best bet.
  2. Fewer choices can make decisions easier – While it might not sound like a pro at first, having a limited number of options can actually end up being helpful when shopping for a mattress in person. Unlike the familiar “decision fatigue” that can set in during online shopping, having only a handful of options at a retailer can help narrow things down, making purchase decisions quicker and easier.
  3. Free delivery and removal – Other benefits of buying in person from a retailer include speedy home delivery (typically within a day or two) and free removal of your old mattress. Mattress stores will often even send a crew of movers to take care of each step of the process, all the way down to getting your new mattress onto your bed frame. This can be a major deciding factor for those who are physically unfit to do the work themselves. Plus, this benefit also extends to the mattress return process (if it comes to that), as retail stores will often send out a moving crew to remove the unwanted mattress from your home.
  4. In-person customer service – If you’re someone who prefers being able to talk to a real person when making a big purchase decision, buying in person will give you access to immediate support from a mattress salesperson or team.
  5. Support your local economy – A nice auxiliary benefit of buying a mattress in person is that you’ll be supporting your local economy in the process.

Cons of buying a mattress in a retail store​

  1. Dealing with salespeople – Buying a mattress at a retail store is not without its cons, like the fact that you’ll be at the mercy of the salesperson whose job it is to sell you a mattress. Unlike shopping online, you won’t have easy access to customer reviews, and instead, you’ll be entirely reliant on the input of the sales team. If you decide to buy in-store, after all, be sure to do some research beforehand so that you’re at least a little bit familiar with the mattresses you plan to test out. That way, you’ll be armed with the knowledge that could save you from being persuaded into buying the most expensive mattress over the one you actually want.
  2. Risks of test-driving a mattress – While buying in person does carry the benefit of allowing you to test your mattress first, the fact remains that lying on a mattress for a few minutes doesn’t actually guarantee whether or not it will give you a good night’s sleep. You won’t truly know that until you’ve spent a full night on your new bed. Plus, in the era of Covid-19, testing a mattress in person might not actually be as much of a benefit as it once was. According to studies, buying a mattress in person can actually carry a significant health risk when it comes to contracting the coronavirus. Especially for those who are immunocompromised, staying away from in-person shopping might be the safest bet for the time being.
  3. No risk-free sleep trials – Unfortunately, while some brick-and-mortar retailers have begun to offer risk-free sleep trials, most retail stores still do not offer sleep trials, and some even charge steep fees for returns.
buying a mattress online

Buying a Mattress Online​

These days, so many aspects of our lives happen online. Everything from school to work to grocery shopping can happen through a screen, and buying a mattress is no different. But while there are plenty of online mattress retailers, including the popular Emma, Koala, and Ecosa here in Australia, buying online has its drawbacks as well as its benefits. 

Here, we will discuss the pros and cons of buying a mattress online.

Pros of buying a mattress online

  • Convenience – The most obvious pro of buying a mattress online is the convenience it affords. You can shop easily from your home, saving time and browsing through as many different options as you’d like.
  • Risk-free sleep trials – What’s even better is that, unlike most brick-and-mortar mattress retailers, most online retailers offer generous risk-free sleep trials to ensure that you won’t be stuck with a mattress that doesn’t work for you and your sleep needs. Some sleep trials even last up to 120 nights, guaranteeing that you’ll know with certainty whether your bed is right for you.
  • Personalized options – Another big benefit of buying a mattress online is that most brands have multiple mattresses in their lineup and some even offer customizable mattresses. You can choose the firmness, responsiveness, temperature regulation, and more to fit your specific needs.
  • Good customer support – Buying a mattress online gains you access to convenient customer support service, which is often more readily available than the service you might get from a retail shop. Support reps are available via chat features online at most hours of the day.
  • Lower prices – One of the biggest selling points of buying a mattress online is the price factor. With the huge variety of mattress options available online, you’re likely to find a high-quality mattress for a lower price than you might find at a retail store. According to online sleep resource Sleep Like The Dead, you could save up to 15% by buying online (and when prices can range up to as much as $7000, that can make a huge difference).
  • Better quality – Believe it or not, Sleep Like The Dead also determined that mattress brands selling predominantly online often prove better overall quality than brands sold exclusively in stores.
  • Free shipping and returns – It’s pretty much an industry standard among online mattress retailers to offer free shipping and return options.
  • Peace, quiet, and no salespeople – If you’re particularly fond of shopping without the interference of salespeople, another small benefit of buying online is that you won’t have to deal with anyone trying to sway or upsell you during the process.

Cons of buying a mattress online

  1. Too much of a good thing? – While having a lot of options is absolutely a benefit on one hand, decision fatigue can become a problem when shopping for a mattress online. Because there’s so much to choose from, you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed and losing steam in your search.
  2. Assembly required – Buying online also loses you the benefit of mattress set-up upon delivery. When your mattress is delivered to you from an online seller, you’ll typically have to bring it inside and set it up yourself, which usually involves unpacking a “bed-in-a-box.” While this method makes mattresses easier to ship, they can be a bit unwieldy to unpack and assemble. While some online retailers might offer complimentary set up, most don’t, so you’ll have to sort that part out yourself.
  3. Returns can be a hassle – Speaking of cumbersome mattress handling, returning a mattress purchased online can also be a bit of a hassle. Because of the way mattresses are packed and shipped, a brand’s return policy might require you to repack your mattress and ship it yourself, which could make the return feel like more trouble than it’s worth.
  4. Buying sight unseen – Perhaps the most obvious downside of buying a mattress online is that you won’t be able to try it out before you buy it. If you value the ability to give your new bed a test run before pulling out your wallet, buying online might not be for you. (Tip: while most mattress brands that sell predominantly online don’t sell in stores, a handful of mattress brands including Peacelily are available both online and in person.) With this in mind, it could be possible to try out a mattress in person before buying it online, depending on the brand.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding how and where to buy your new mattress. Buying in-store and online both carry important pros and cons, but it all comes down to your personal preferences. If your top priorities are to be able to feel your mattress before opening your wallet, talk to a real person in the process, and have someone else deliver and assemble your bed, then buying in person is the best option for you. On the other hand, if you’d like to rest assured that you’re getting the best deal possible while choosing from the widest variety of mattresses available, all from the comfort of your own home, then shopping online is absolutely the way to go. (And don’t forget that there are a few tricks for combining the benefits of both options, like testing brands in person that also sell online.)

Overall, we have found through our research that the pros of buying online slightly outweigh the pros of buying in a store. You’ll likely spend less money, have more to choose from, and get a risk-free trial to ensure that you’re happy with what you’ve purchased. Though you’ll have to do the extra leg work of removing your old bed and setting up the new mattress yourself, we think the benefits are worth the costs.

We’ve also tested and rated the top online mattresses in Australia of 2022 to help you make an informed decision.

Regardless of which option you choose, remember that choosing the right mattress is a critical step in guaranteeing your body can achieve optimal health. When we’re well-rested, we’re happier, stronger, and more capable of achieving our goals. Happy shopping, and sleep well!

James Lee

James Lee

James is the content director at WhatASleep, a certified sleep science coach from Spencer Institute and our in-house sleep product expert. Over three years, he's personally tested hundreds of mattresses. He likes to keep his reviews simple, objective, and straightforward so that the readers don't have to go through decision fatigue which is often the case while shopping for sleep products.

He hails from Sydney and has a journalism degree from the University of Queensland and an MBA from Melbourne Business School.

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