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Why Are Mattresses So Expensive?

You’d think buying what seems to be pieces of foam layered on top of each other shouldn’t be too expensive. The fact is mattresses can cost anywhere between $200 to $2,000. Some well-known brands as much as $4,000.

Ouch.

So why are mattresses so pricey? Is there a reason behind such costs? Or is it all a marketing ploy to steal all our money?

Before we jump to conclusions, let’s take a look at the special nature of mattresses. We will also examine the ‘ins and outs’ of the mattress industry in this article.

1. Everyone Needs A Bed

Unless you enjoy sleeping on the hard ground, everyone needs a bed to sleep on. The cushion and support a thick mattress provides help alleviate the pressure point pain our weight causes on different parts of our body, such as our shoulders, backs, and hips. We also naturally toss and turn at night. Our body adjusts itself in its sleep when we feel particularly sore in a sleeping position. The layers of the mattress allows us to transition comfortably from one sleeping position to another, without waking us up.

The thing is, mattresses are pretty much indispensible. They come close to what economics call an “inelastic good”. This means that regardless of demand This makes mattresses close to what economics deem an “inelastic good”. What this means is as prices go up, the buying habits of consumers stay about the same.

Some shoppers might tighten their budget during tough times. Others might be willing to spend more during prosperous times. However, every shopper will eventually need to settle on a mattress of their choice.

There will always be a market for beds.

2. Mattresses Are Used For Years

The difference in a mattress’s lifespan has to do with proper usage (not jumping on your bed, using a foundation, etc.), the weight of the sleeper (might cause sagging earlier than later), and the durability of the materials (foams and coils, for example, have entirely different lifespan).

Regardless of these factors, the average lifespan of a decent mattress is about a decade long (+/- 5 years). Since mattresses range drastically, let’s do some simple math to give us an idea of how much we might be spending (or rather investing) on our daily sleep.

Mattress price
5 years of use10 years of use15 years of use
$500$0.27/day$0.14/day$0.09/day
$1,000$0.55/day$0.27/day$0.18/day
$1,500$0.82/day$0.41/day$0.27/day

The math on this involves two simple numbers. We want to find out how much we are spending on having a good night’s sleep each night. This can be done by taking the [price of the mattress] divided by the estimated lifespan of a mattress in [days].

Let’s say we are budgeting $1,000 for a brand new mattress. It seems like a lot of money! So let’s take a look at what this cost breaks down to on a daily basis.

We think we might use the bed for the average lifespan of 10 years, or 3,650 days. The math would then be $1,000 divided by 3,650 days to get a cost of $0.27 per night.

Although $1,000 seems like a lot of money up front, over a 10-year period, our costs would only be $100 per year, or a quarter every night. The question then becomes: is the mattress worth me spending a quarter each night to sleep well for 7-9 hours each night for the next 10 years?

If it means we wake up and spend the next 15 to 17 hours in the best way possible so we can enjoy our life the best way we know how, some might argue buying a great mattress is worth the money.

3. No One’s Buying A Used Mattress

At least, we hope no one ever will. Beds are often used for two primary need: sleep and sex.

Sleeping on a hotel bed might be a fine idea because they are professionally cleaned and disinfected. Bed sheets and pillow cases are often changed for fresh linen. However, a dirty mattress from another person might not have been sanitized ever.

We wouldn’t recommend buying a used mattress because a lot of things could have happened to it. It might be:

  • infested with dust mites or bed bugs,
  • stained from unknown bodily fluids such as blood and semen, or
  • worn out to the point where it would cause you more aches and pain than it’s worth.

Unlike the personal electronics market, the second-hand used market for mattresses is near non-existent. That means the demand for beds come in the form of buying new mattresses.

4. Mattresses Are Bought When Needed, Not When Wanted

Not all market demands are made equal. When it comes to shopping, unlike large purchases such as cars or homes, mattresses tend to be bought on a near-last minute basis.

Think about the last time you thought about needing a new mattress. What reason became the last straw that made you decide you need a new bed?

Some common reasons consumers purchase a mattress can be vague; others are more specific. Here are a few reasons that prompt mattress shoppers to find their new bed:

  • “My back keeps hurting”
  • “I keep waking up sore”
  • “I can’t sleep at night”
  • “My bed’s too soft”
  • “My bed’s too hard”
  • “I keep waking up with neck pain”
  • “I can’t keep sleeping with upper back pain”
  • “My mattress sags too much”

Rarely do people suddenly think about buying a new mattress out of the blue. The same also applies to pillows. We usually see some form of pain from sleep that prompts consumers to begin searching for new mattresses.

If you’re in the same boat, don’t be surprised. Many sleepers are scheduling some time in their day to find the best mattress for them, too.

5. Mattresses Have The Highest Profit Margins In The Furniture Industry

This point helps shed light as to why beds feel like they cost so much.

When we look at other pieces of furniture such as sofas and tables, their prices seem to be at acceptable price ranges. Unlike mattresses.

Comparing industries, grocery stores might earn a 5 to 7 percent profit margin. A lot of their goods spoil and needs to be tossed out. But the markup on mattresses can be in the 40 to 50 percent range. A mattress might only cost $300 to manufacture, but can be sold for $3,000 – a markup of 900 percent!

Mattress stores also have a low overhead. Many have factory-direct deals that allow manufacturers to ship their beds to the consumer homes. The mattress stores wouldn’t even have to transport and store the product at all. This reduces the amount of inventory they need to carry and the costs of having a large storage facility. It also cuts out the double shipping costs from the manufacturer to the store, then the store to the new mattress owner.

With such profit margins, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the same brand mattress stores open within 5 miles of each other! Have you noticed a few stores close to each other recently?

Although competition is fierce with over 9,000 mattress stores across the U.S. (600 stores less than Starbucks) and hundreds of mattress brands selling through online means, there is still a lot of money to be made.

6. Comparison Shopping Is Nearly Impossible For Mattresses

The breakdown for mattresses is a trade secret amongst the major brands. Things like a mattress’s indentation load deflection (ILD), ingredient breakdown for the different layers used, and specific information on patented materials are all hidden from the public. This makes comparing mattresses to see which one is the “better choice” nearly impossible.

To make matters more complicated, the comfort and support needed by every shopper differs in ways we can’t possibly measure. Most mattress brands and review websites will use a scale of 1 to 10 to give you some insights into the firmness of the product. Others will use terms to describe the comfort level, such as “plush”, “medium”, and “medium-firm”.

In the end, sleeping well on a bed entirely depends on you trying a few out. Laying down on a mattress embarrassingly for 5 to 15 minutes might not guarantee you can sleep comfortably for 7 to 9 hours every night on it. But it does help you figure out which material might be best for you!

7. DIY Mattress Guides Don’t Really Exist

At least, none that are trustworthy. Mattresses might be cheap to manufacture, but the labor and mechanical forces that put the materials together isn’t something the average person has tools to accomplish.

The lack of guides online and in published work makes it difficult for anyone to make their own beds from scratch. Since there are many variations, construction, designs, and ingredients involved in manufacturing a mattress, the average person might have difficulty making the right one suitable for their sleep.

It’s a lot easier to simply buy a mattress than to spend countless hours and resources for tools and material to build a mattress you aren’t sure will sleep well for you. If you have a sleeping partner, it might be more difficult to find the right fit. A poorly made mattress might also cause a lot of backaches and sleep deprivation, too.

Conclusion

Mattresses might be costly, but there are reasons behind the expensive cost. Although it still hurts to spend a large sum of money on one purchase, valuing your sleep is more important.

Your sleep is what gets you through your wakeful day, and a poor night of rest isn’t a problem that anyone deserves.

We hope this guide helps illuminate the costs of mattresses, and help shed some appreciation for mattresses that help us sleep better at night.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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