Practical Tips for Buying Used Mattresses

Thinking of Buying a Used Mattress? Here’s All You Need to Know

In This Article
Is it Legal? State Laws for Selling and Buying Used Mattresses
Should I Buy a Used Mattress? Pros and Cons of Buying Secondhand
Where to Buy a Used Mattress
Used Mattress Shopping Tips
How to Prepare Your Used Mattress for Use

With online platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, it's never been easier to buy furniture secondhand, including mattresses of all types and sizes. While buying a used mattress may not sound appealing to some, others see it as a great opportunity to save. 

Buying a used mattress certainly has risks, but you shouldn't count it out altogether. In this guide, we'll go over the potential hazards and how to mitigate these risks. We'll also provide practical shopping tips and walk you through how to sanitize a used mattress before bringing it into your home. 

U.S. states have their own laws regarding used mattress sales to keep people safe. Mattress laws also cover proper sanitation, labeling, tagging, and mattress filling. Be sure to review your state's mattress laws before you start browsing your options on platforms like Facebook Marketplace or put your own used mattress up for sale. You should know that:

  • Some states require you to disinfect your used mattress before selling.
  • Some states require red and yellow tags to identify used mattresses and mattresses containing used materials, respectively.  
  • Other states allow the resale of used mattress components, but not the entire mattress. 
  • Many laws are in place to protect consumers from unethical business practices and don't apply to one individual selling to another. If you're unsure how the laws apply to you, contact your local health department for guidance. 

If you're unsure how the laws apply to you, contact your local health department for guidance.

Should I Buy a Used Mattress? Pros and Cons of Buying Secondhand

If you live in a state that permits buying and selling used mattresses, it's up to you to decide. Only you know your circumstances, but these common advantages and disadvantages of buying used tend to sway people's decisions.

Advantages of Buying a Mattress Used

It Saves Money

Cutting costs is typically the driving factor for buying a used mattress. According to Business Insider, a new, budget-friendly foam mattress can cost up to $450. Meanwhile, budget-friendly innerspring, hybrid, and latex mattresses typically cost up to $600, $1,100, and $1,200, respectively. 

Buying a used mattress—whether from a friend, through an online marketplace, from an organization like Goodwill, or purchasing a floor model from a retailer—saves hundreds of dollars. 

It's Eco-Friendly

Mattresses, especially older models made with harsh chemicals, are infamous contributors to overcrowded landfills. While many safe, biodegradable mattresses are now on the market, they tend to have higher price tags. By buying a secondhand mattress, you can do your part to reduce landfill overcrowding without going over budget. 

Disadvantages of Buying a Mattress Used

Bed Bugs and Other Sanitation Risks 

Buying anything used comes with sanitation risks. People spend roughly one-third of their lives in bed and don't always keep up with mattress cleaning and maintenance. In turn, they often hold sweat, mold, bacteria, dead skin cells, countless other allergens, and unsightly stains. 

A used mattress (or other furniture with fabric components) can also carry bed bugs, scabies, dust mites, and other critters. Bed bug and scabies infestations are particularly dangerous and difficult to manage. We'll discuss how to check a mattress for bed bugs later in this guide. 

Damage, Defects, and a Shorter Lifespan 

Even the toughest mattresses eventually show signs of age, and many people get rid of their beds for that very reason. Cheaply-made mattresses and those that use viscoelastic polyurethane foam (memory foam) wear out even sooner, often sagging within a few years of purchase. 

If you buy a mattress used, it may already show signs of degradation like discoloration, rips, sagging, divots, and squeaks. By nature, a used mattress won't last as long as a brand new one.

No Trials, No Returns, and No Warranty 

New mattress purchases typically include an at-home sleep trial, easy returns, and a warranty if you buy from a reputable seller. With a used mattress, you won't have the luxury of trying the bed overnight or any form of customer service.

Where to Buy a Used Mattress 

If selling used mattresses is legal in your state, you likely have more purchasing options than you think. Policies and availability differ by region, but you can use this list of potential places to buy a used bed to guide your search. Just remember to check your state laws first, as you don't want to participate in an illegal sale unwittingly. 

  • Directly from a friend or family member 
  • Through an online resale platform like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, or LetGo 
  • At a secondhand store or non-profit like The Salvation Army or Goodwill (depending on your location) 
  • From a mattress retailer, if legal in your state 

Used Mattress Shopping Tips 

What to Look for in a Used Mattress

When browsing and comparing your options, keep in mind all the same factors you would consider if you bought a brand-new bed. 

First and foremost, determine which mattress size fits your space and needs. You'll naturally have fewer options when it comes to mattress construction and features, but hopefully, you'll have some choice over the mattress material type and firmness level. 

Here are a few resources from the Nolah blog to help you identify the mattress type and features that will work best for you: 

Aside from these general differentiators, you'll also want to consider each mattress's physical condition and cleanliness. 

How to Inspect a Used Mattress for Cleanliness

Inspecting the cleanliness of a used mattress goes beyond checking for surface stains. You'll also want to look for any dirt, dust, dander, hair, or other particles that likely won't come off with a thorough cleaning. Don't just use our eyes—give the mattress a good whiff. Mold, mildew, sweat, and smoke can all leave a lasting odor. 

How to Check a Used Mattress for Bed Bugs 

Never load a used mattress into your vehicle or bring one inside your home without checking for signs of bed bug infestation first. You can read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's complete guide here, but these are the basic steps: 

  • Flip the mattress over
  • Carefully inspect the corners and seams to spot live bed bugs, which are big enough to see with the naked eye
  • Check for blood (rusty, reddish stains) and droppings (tiny dark spots)
  • Look for tiny eggs (white or transparent and about the size of a poppy seed), eggshells, and shed skin (pale yellow)  

How to Inspect a Used Mattress for Structural Integrity 

First, check the bed for visible sagging, rips, punctures, indentation, and soaked-in stains. While typical wear and tear may not ruin the integrity of the mattress, larger damage or numerous defects can jeopardize the mattress's support system. 

If the person, organization, or store selling you the mattress allows it, you may want to lay on the bed to test its structure. Do you feel supported? Does your spine stay straight when you lay down?

Otherwise, you can still get a general sense of a mattress's condition by pushing down on the surface with your hands, checking both sides and the mattress edge. Does the mattress resist your weight? If not, it may not provide ample spinal support. Does the surface respond to adding or removing pressure? If not, it may not cushion pressure points or contour to your curves. 

Be sure to listen as well. With innerspring mattresses, you can often hear broken or rusted coils.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Used Mattress 

Depending on the circumstances of the sale, you may be able to ask the previous owner about the mattress’s history. If appropriate, you can ask: 

  • How old is the mattress?
  • Is the mattress lightly or heavily used?
  • Was the mattress ever exposed to bed bugs, smoke, flooding, or major spills? 
  • Did pets sleep in the bed? 

Aside from these inquiries, you’ll also want to ask a few logistical questions before agreeing to purchase. For example, you should arrange pick-up or drop-off and negotiate a price. 

How Much Should a Used Mattress Cost? 

The fair price for a used mattress depends on its type, age, and condition. Sleep Foundation recommends sellers post a used mattress for about 20 to 30 percent of the retail price. You can expect to start around that rate, but depending on the seller, you may be able to negotiate down to a lower price.  

How to Prepare a Used Mattress Before Your First Sleep 

With the sale completed and your mattress transported, you're almost ready for setup and sleep! However, we recommend a few cautionary measures to lower the risks associated with used beds. 

Disinfect the Mattress

We suggest conducting your own cleaning, even if the seller disinfected it before the sale. Our Ultimate Guide to Mattress Cleaning and Disinfecting walks you through the entire process and provides tips for treating stubborn stains and odors. 

Buy a Mattress Protector 

With used mattresses, mattress protectors serve two critical purposes: 1) they create a barrier between your bedding and the mattress, and 2) they prevent further staining and damage. 

A high-quality mattress protector will keep out allergens while defending against rips, spills, and sweat stains. Plus, using a protector limits contact with the actual mattress. Nolah currently offers two waterproof options, our Bamboo Mattress Protector and Organic Cotton Mattress Protector

Not Comfortable? Consider a Mattress Topper 

As mentioned earlier, used mattresses don’t come with a return policy. However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with an uncomfortable bed if you don’t end up liking your new (used) mattress. Adding a mattress topper or pad goes a long way to improve any bed. For a fraction of the cost of a new mattress, you can add a few inches of cushioning, contouring, and extra support. Like mattress protectors, mattress toppers can also extend your mattress’s lifespan. 

Buying a Used Mattresses with New Confidence 

Buying a new mattress isn't always a viable option, but fortunately, purchasing one secondhand can save money and give a used bed a second life. While there are still risks, browsing carefully and taking the precautions explained in this guide will increase your odds of finding a used mattress that you love. Once your mattress is all cleaned and set up, you may even forget that it's not brand new.