Trying to shop for a discount mattress? Having a little sticker shock? I hear it all the time: “Why are mattresses so expensive?” The short answer is: they’re not. I’m splitting the long answer over two posts, since it really is such a long answer. This post is going to be about what it actually in mattresses, and the costs that are associated with making and shipping them. The next post will cover why, in the overall scheme of things, it’s one of the cheapest things that you will every buy. Really.
Let’s start with the components of a regular innerspring mattress: there’s the coil system, and then the padding. The coil system is made out of steel, and the padding is a petroleum based product, and petroleum is made from oil. Two of the most expensive and volatile things on the planet. Check out this extremely hi tech chart I made of the prices over the past thirteen years:
Ridiculous? I think so. Steel prices increased by two and a half times from 2000 to 2013, and oil rose about 3.8 times in the same time period. So, just taking these two components into consideration, if you paid $700 for your good quality bed back in 2000 (which is what mid range beds cost back then), it would make sense that the same quality would cost you roughly $2100 today. Even if you bought an all foam bed, you may escape the high steel prices, but memory foam is a petroleum product, and latex, while not a petroleum product, is natural (from trees), and is not a cheap commodity either.
Manufacturing also costs more today than it did 13 years ago. Most of the workers in mattress plants are skilled and unionized, but since I don’t know how much they make, we’ll compare minimum wages. In 2000, the federal minimum wage was $5.15. In 2013, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Not a huge change, but someone has to pay for it.
All mattresses are still put together by people, not machines. They are sewn together by hand (with a sewing gun, not a needle and thread). They are inspected by humans, loaded onto trucks by humans, and driven to retailers (and eventually customers) by humans (in large trucks that cost a lot and burn a ton of fuel). It is a labor intensive process that costs money. All of this has to be factored into the price of the bed.
Add this to the price of actually running a plant, from the land to the permits to the insurance, as well as the non-manufacturing workers, such as marketing, customer service, and accounts receivables, and you’re adding a lot more to the price of each mattress. Furthermore, many of these manufacturers are constantly trying to make their product better, to innovate beyond what is the norm. These R&D departments cost money too, but you can thank them for breathable materials, memory foam, non-allergenic latex, gel, and the awesome back support systems that help you sleep better at night.
Ok, now that you’re almost asleep with all of this technical info, here’s the real part: you don’t have to spend $2100 to get an average quality mattress. Sure, some corners have been cut, but you can still get a good quality bed for much less than you think, and much less than you’ve seen at the furniture stores and national retailers. Beautyrest has a great line-up of Recharge beds that are at great price points, like the Americas or the Bernardsville Plush Pillow Top. If memory foam is more your cup of tea, the Comforpedic Advanced Rest is reasonable, and the Spirit Sleep Serenity is downright inexpensive.
Sure, I’d love to sell everyone a $2000 mattress, and we have mattresses that are in that price range, that are worth every penny. But you can get a great deal on a discount mattress, without sacrificing quality. Just remember, it’s the components and the labor involved, not the mark-up, that are making quality beds more expensive.
Stay tuned to find out why a mattress is the cheapest thing in your home. Really.