November 29, 2014

Discount vs High-Quality Memory Foam: What's The Difference?

Discount vs High-Quality Memory Foam: What's The Difference?

Often people shopping for a memory foam mattress find themselves wondering just what differentiates the pricey high-end memory foam brands from those at discount retailers. While there are some similarities, there also tends to be some significant differences as well in density, warranty, price and performance. Keep reading to see how leading brands from each sector stack up, and see which provides the ideal value for your needs and budget.

About Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are generally constructed in a similar manner. A base layer, or core, of regular polyurethane foam between 5 and 9 inches thick is topped with one or more layers of memory foam. Some brands may include extra layers of regular foam, latex or gel in the upper layers as well. The assembled mattress is then covered with cover fabric. While the construction is fairly consistent, brands use different thicknesses and densities of foam which affect how the bed feels, how supportive it is, and how durable it is.

There are also different types of memory foam. In addition to traditional temperature-sensitive, polyurethane-based memory foam, there are also gel-infused and plant-based options. Gel infused foams have either gel beads or liquid gel mixed into the memory foam. The idea is that gel absorbs body heat and feels cool to the touch, and while a slight difference in heat complaints exists for some brands, there is some dispute about how cool it remains throughout the night and how the gel will effect long-term durability. Plant-based memory foam incorporates plant materials like castor bean or soy oils in place of part of the petroleum products, creating a more environmentally friendly option. Plant based foams are generally temperature-neutral, and studies by Cargill indicate that they sleep 25% cooler than gel foams.

Discount and High Quality Memory Foam Mattress Comparison

When comparing different memory foam beds, the main factors to consider are the foam density of the core and memory foam layers, thickness, firmness, memory foam type, cover type, price, warranty, and, if it is important to you, the safety or environmental-friendliness of the product. In the following comparison, we look at these factors and more from brands spanning the market, including Tempurpedic, Serta, Amerisleep, Walmart, Costco, Target, Overstock, and BedInABox. The basic specifications and figures are presented in a comparison chart below for easy reference, followed by more detailed explanations. The information comes from retailer websites, third-party consumer websites, and consumer review forums.

BrandTempurpedicSerta iComfortAmerisleepBedInABoxCostco NovaformOverstock Comfort DreamsIKEAWalmart Spa Sensations
MF TypeTraditionalGel, TraditionalPlant-BasedGel, TraditionalGel, TraditionalGel, TraditionalTraditionalGel, Traditional
MF Density (lbs)2.5 - 7.03.0 - 5.04.5 - 5.333.0 - 3.53.0 - 4.03.13
Core Density (lbs)2.2 (est)1.5 (est)22.421.51.5-2.2 lb1.5 (est)
MF Thickness2" - 7"2.75" - 5.75"2" - 5"3"2" - 3"2.5" - 6"2" - 2.75"1" - 3"
Firmness OptionsSoft to FirmSoft to Med-FirmSoft to FirmMed-Soft to Med-FirmMedium to FirmMedium to FirmPlush or FirmMedium to Firm
Cover FabricMixed Knit-BlendsMixed Knit-BlendsBamboo BlendKnits, Silk/Bamboo BlendsMixed Knit-BlendsKnits, Bamboo BlendsMixed Knit-BlendsMedium to Firm
Fire Barrier TypeFabric BarrierCellulose FibersRayon/Silica FabricFiber/Silica FabricUnknownUnknownRayon/polypropyleneUnknown
Overall Owner Satisfaction79%81%91%85%80%78%77%80%
Heat Complaints12%5%2%6%5%5%8%6%
Odor Complaints18%6%3%15%13%9%10%8%
Durability Complaints7%8%2%5%14%8%7%15%
Trial Period90 Days120 Days90 Days120 Days90+ DaysNot Returnable90 Days to Exchange90 Days
Warranty Terms25 yrs (10 full); over 0.75"25 yrs (15 full); over 0.75"20 yrs (10 full); over 0.75"20 yrs (10 full); over 1.25"20 (10 full)0-5 yrs ltd25 yrs Limited5 yrs
Queen Price Range$1099-7499$1074-2774$849-1899$649-2099$599-1299$359-619$279-479$179-519

Memory Foam Density

Memory foam density is the measure of how much one cubic foot of material weighs, which varies based on the amount of polymers versus air present. High-density foams are more viscous than low-density foams, and stand up better to impressions and wear. Higher density foams also provide greater buoyancy and support, but are more expensive to produce.

If you compare the individual mattress models, more expensive beds are more likely to contain greater amounts of higher density foams in the 4.0-5.3 lb ranges. Tempurpedic, Serta iComfort and Amerisleep all use medium to high density foams in most of their mattresses, while BedInABox, Costco Novaform, IKEA and Walmart Spa Sensations beds primarily use low density memory foam under 3.5 lbs. However, some of the higher-end brands like Tempurpedic and Serta use 3 lb or lower layers in some models as well. Many retailers offer several lines of mattresses with different densities and value points.  This is why it is important to look at all of the specifications for any mattress you are considering, as not everything from high-end brands will represent the better value (or vice versa).

For example, the Tempur Simplicity and Overstock Comfort Dreams 8″ model both have the same overall height, however the cheaper Overstock model actually uses higher 4 lb density foam versus the Simplicity’s 2.5 lb foam, although the Simplicity costs almost 3 times what Comfort Dreams bed does. However, the Simplicity is also returnable and has a considerably better warranty.

Owner Satisfaction Ratings

Memory foam in general tends to earn a satisfactory or higher rating from about 80-81% of owners, making it the highest rated mattress category overall. Thus, even the lower-end memory foam brands still tend to rate fairly well compared to spring mattresses.

Pricier brands like Tempurpedic and Serta earn average to slightly above average reviews. For Tempurpedic, reviews were slightly below average, with primary complaints being price, odor, and heat. Lower density models had about average complaints for sagging, though higher density models fare better. Serta’s reviews tend to better than average for both heat and odor, though the biggest complaints are cost, sagging and inconsistent firmness.

Among the brands we compared, the mid-range brands like Amerisleep and BedInABox tend to earn the highest reviews. Amerisleep reviews had the highest overall owner satisfaction rates, with very low complaint rates for odor, heat and sagging. BedInABox also fared well, though had fairly high odor complaints and some people disliked the limited options for firmness.

Among the discount retailers, Costco Novaform and Spa Sensations had the best average satisfaction ratings, with Overstock Comfort Dreams and IKEA slightly lower than average. Most Novaform reviewers appreciated the pricing, return policy and the higher densities relative other discount options, but there were several complaints of odor and durability issues. Spa Sensations reviews touted the low prices as the biggest pro, with reasonable comfort but high complaints of impressions and sagging. Overstock reviewers had average rates of complaints for all factors, and primary issues related comfort or non-returnability. IKEA reviews are somewhat limited online, but odor and heat issues do see to be a little more prevalent than with the other discount brands.

Returns

Many people who buy memory foam are trying it for the first time, and having the ability to return can be important in case you choose the wrong firmness or thickness. Additionally, it can take several weeks to adjust to a new mattress. Most memory foam retailers offer 90 nights, and some like Serta and BedInABox offer 120 days, during which customers can return or exchange their mattresses. They differ in return fees and terms, but almost all ask people to try the mattress at least 30 days before returning. The only retailer we compared that did not offer returns or exchanges was Overstock.

Warranties

Warranties and return policies vary dramatically between manufacturers and retailers. Most high quality memory foam retailers include a solid warranty with at least 20 years of total coverage. The key things to compare are the “full” coverage periods (often 10-15 years) during which the cost of replacement is covered by the manufacturer. After this period, the warranty is usually pro-rated, with the owner paying part of the cost of replacement. All of the brands offer good warranty terms of 20 years or more, with the exception of Overstock and Walmart, who offer 5 years or less.

The other key factor with memory foam mattress warranties is how deep impressions must be before warranty coverage kicks in. Tempurpedic, Serta and Amerisleep all cover impressions over 0.75″. BedInABox covers impressions over 1.25″. The remaining retailers do not specify the depth of coverage on their websites or warranty materials.

Pricing

Based on manufacturing and material costs, higher density foams should cost more than low density foams. However, advertising costs associated with big brand names and retail stores can also raise prices, even of lower quality products, as the cost is passed along to consumers. The advantage of bog-box retailers like Walmart, IKEA and Costco is that they buy in bulk to get better prices. Online only shops like Amerisleep, BedInABox and Overstock also have lower overhead. Large brand names like Tempurpedic and Serta that operate through dealer networks are more likely to have high-overhead and markup costs.

Tempurpedic is by far the most expensive brand, followed by Serta. Amerisleep, BedInABox and Costco Novaform comprise the middle range of the pricing spectrum, while Overstock, IKEA and Walmart comprise the lower end. For a more direct comparison of pricing, here are the costs for each brand’s average 12″ queen size memory foam bed:

  • Tempurpedic Rhapsody – $3199 – 4″ 4.0 & 7.0 lb memory foam
  • Serta iComfort Savant – $1574 – 4.75″ 3.0 & 5.0 lb memory foam
  • BedInABox Tranquility Gel – $1299 – 3″ 3.0 lb memory foam
  • Amerisleep Liberty – $1199 – 3″ 4.5 lb memory foam
  • Costco Novaform Valentina – $749 – 3″ 3.5 lb memory foam
  • IKEA Sultan Flokenes – $479 (9″ is highest option) – 2.75″ 3.1 lb memory foam
  • Overstock Comfort Dreams Lumbar 12″ – $454 – 3″ 3.0 lb memory foam
  • Walmart Spa Sensations 12″ Theratouch – $389 – 3″ 3.0 lb memory foam

Based on our comparisons, the highest-end retailers don’t typically offer the best value, nor the highest satisfaction rates. However, the mattresses at the lowest end of the spectrum tend to have shorter lifespans and weaker guarantees. In order to find the ideal memory foam mattress, you should consider what type of bed you want, firmness level and thickness ranges most appropriate for your body type and sleep position, as well as your budget. Comparing options that match your criteria from a range of retailers can help you identify which memory foam mattresses represent the best balance of value and quality, and are most likely to be satisfactory.

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