Mattress reviews say the very cheapest mattresses -- in the $200 range -- aren't worth buying. Ditto for the no-name brands you find at discount warehouse sales.
Regardless of price, mattress reviews agree that the most critical criterion is what feels right. It's one thing to be a well-informed mattress shopper and another to be a satisfied mattress user. Knowing coil counts and gauge size and the names of all the various padding layers while keeping a sharp eye out for discounts and sales and other frugal deals does not, sorry to say, guarantee sound and restful sleep. The physical characteristics of budget innerspring mattresses certainly matter, but only up to a point. We read reviews posted by thrifty consumers reporting complete satisfaction with mattresses that seem skimpy and other reviews indicating total disappointment with innerspring models that seem to have all the right features. With mattresses, two things are clear: there's no accounting for personal preference in terms of comfort and no arguing with personal experience when it comes to durability.
After reading scores of mattress reviews written by consumers, we found only marginal consensus about levels of comfort and body support. Although many reviews are glowingly positive, many are strongly negative. Aside from the personal preference/experience issue, part of the difficulty in spotting a trend arises from the fact that consumers are often unaware of the particular model they bought, so reviews aren't necessarily about any one model or style (e.g., firm or plush). Rather, reviews may be lumped together as comments about Sealy Posturepedic (starting at $391), say, or Simmons Beautyrest (starting at $477) or Serta Perfect Sleeper (starting at $560), or just a brand name without further qualification. Moreover, mattress makers have recently introduced new products under different names and most of these new lines and models have yet to garner sufficient comments for us to assess whether they provide the support and comfort consumers expect.
Mattress Comfort.The amount and composition of the padding and quilting determine whether the innerspring mattress -- regardless of price -- is firm, plush, Euro-top, or pillow-top. A firm mattress contains the stiffest and the least amount of padding and is generally recommended for heavier people or those who sleep on their backs. Plush is softer and considered more comfortable for side-sleepers. A Euro-top mattress has more soft/comfort upholstery than the plush and is usually fully enclosed by the ticking. The pillow-top is softest of all, with a pillow-like pad that seems to float on, but is fully attached to, the top of the mattress. Note that manufacturers sometimes merge the designations, as in Euro-pillow-top or pillow-soft.
Mattress style aside, two people can buy the same mattress model and one will wake up all out of sorts and another will feel as though s/he slept on a cloud. Take, for example, a Sealy Posturepedic mattress. Reviews of the line (rather than a specific mattress model) found on Viewpoints veer positive but are pulled down by complaints. Consider two illustrative reviews: One consumer writes of having stuck with the brand for decades and says it provides the support needed to relieve the effects of aging; another reports the formation of ridges and gullies in the mattress after a couple of months and waking up with headaches and body aches every morning. In comments on Overstock about the Serta Alleene Plush (item is out of stock), a Sertapedic (starting at $330) model, one mattress review likens the experience to sleeping on the floor while another says it feels just right -- not too hard and not too soft. Simmons Beautyrest mattresses (the line in general) garner similar backing and zapping in mattress reviews, again on Viewpoints, where some consumers report blissful, undisturbed sleep while others gripe about sagging mattresses and sore bodies.
Sleep Like the Dead, a website devoted to, well, sleeping, has analyzed hundreds of mattress reviews from online message boards and drawn conclusions shoppers might find useful. According to the data collected, innerspring mattresses are the least comfortable when compared to latex, memory foam, air, water, and futon mattresses (which win on the comfort scale in descending order, starting with latex). Among innerspring brands, Sealy Posturepedic takes the prize for comfort, followed by Serta, Simmons Beautyrest, Kingsdown, and Stearns & Foster. Indeed, among the reviews for the limited number of specific and current models that we could find, many were quite favorable.
Starting with Sealy, the Posturepedic Cooper Mountain Firm () is one that impresses users who find it relieves back pain and helps them sleep through the night, according to mattress reviews on US-Mattress. In assessments of the Sealy Federation Select (II) Plush Euro Pillowtop () posted on Link is dead, users say it's firm enough to prevent lower back pain and the 50-percent-off sale price was perfect for consumers on a budget.
Moving on to Serta, the Cromwell Firm is strongly supported in mattress reviews posted on Overstock; users rave about its comfort and one bought two more for family members. A Serta Bristol Way Euro-top queen set (item out of stock) also garners positive reviews on Overstock, where one consumer says the coils are built to last and another says the bed is very comfortable for co-sleepers.
As for Simmons, back pain sufferers report some relief after sleeping on the Beautyrest Classic Tomahawk Firm, according to reviews on US-Mattress. On Overstock, one consumer tells of overnight visitors who enjoy a comfortable night on the Beauty Sleep Fox Hollow Plush that finds its place in the guest room.
Note: this last graph shows up indented on the site; pls fix. The Spring Air Back Supporter (starting around $479) line fares less well in mattress reviews. On Good Bed, multiple users report problems with sagging, lumps, and tilting that lead to neck, back, arm, and/or leg pain. One user says the bed was fine for a few years, but then the pillow top broke down followed by the coils; as a result, he writes, getting out of bed is like climbing out of a deep hole.