College is already expensive, so why spend extra on a mattress? You shouldn’t, especially if you’re going to be moving frequently and perhaps even change mattress sizes soon. Here’s a list of cheap, budget—yet still pretty nice—mattresses. And if you still can’t afford a new bed, we’ve also posted an article about the best mattress topper pads.
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For college students a mattress is more about utility than comfort, and you want to save as much money as possible. There’s no time to waste on looking for a luxury mattress with a fluffy pillow top. It’s all about buying a mattress that gets the job done. With that in mind, of the 130+ mattresses we’ve reviewed, here are those that we consider to be the best mattress for your college dorm room or apartment:
It is important to note that selecting our list was a difficult process—and we could have easily picked 15 beds—but we wanted to keep things short and digestible. We’ve also posted individual reviews of each of these beds, so if you need more information make sure to click the “See Full Review” button below.
Most of the individuals on our team went to college, so we understand that you’re not exactly flush with cash right now. As such, we’ve kept this list to just budget mattresses, but we made sure that they’re still fairly nice. You’re trying to save money, but you still want to be comfortable.
All of these beds (excluding our budget pick) come with a 100-night trial period so that you can determine if it is indeed what you’re looking for. They also come with free returns (within the trial period) in the case that you don’t like them. Put differently—and more directly—with most of these beds, if you don’t like your new mattress you can return it for a full refund.
|AT A GLANCE||PRICING||HEADLINE|
Soft Foam Mattress
|Check Best Price||Tuft & Needle is your standard foam mattress that's softer, super comfortable, and would serve as a great bed for college students and even college grads.|
Memory Foam Mattress
|Cocoon is a memory foam bed that's offered in two firmness levels, both of which are highly affordable and would serve as a wonderful mattress in dorm rooms, college apartments, etc.|
|Brooklyn Bedding Signature is a fantastic value for what you're getting. It's a coil mattress that's made in the USA, and yet is priced well under $1,000 for a queen size bed. And if you plan to keep the bed after college, this is the type of mattress that you can keep for years.|
|See on Amazon||It's not the fanciest mattress in the world, but the AmazonBasics bed should get the job done if you're on a cup-of-noodle budget. It's probably not the top pick for recent college grads, but if you're in school, it should serve you just fine.|
So you’re a college kid (or a recent grad), and you’re probably looking to get the cheapest mattress that money can buy. And hey, we don’t blame you! You might be looking for a twin XL to replace that awful dorm bed for a year or two at most, or you’re across the country and want a bed you can use for a few years in your tiny studio apartment and don’t plan on bringing said mattress with you once you get a job in who-knows-where.
College is a period of time that includes a lot of learning, while also balancing a lot of uncertainty. You’re finally learning how to do your own laundry but you’re not entirely sure if you’ll make it to your next class now that all your white are pink. You’re learning all about the importance of communication but you’re not entirely sure how it’s going to benefit you in your business career (trust us, it will come in handy).
Anyways, while getting the cheapest mattress ever might sound like a great idea, we also beg you to think about comfort. If you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep a night (you won’t), you’re spending a third of your 24-hour day with your mattress. And considering you’re already getting less sleep than you should, we think it should be quality sleep. Most bed-in-a-box mattresses are a good balance between quality, affordable, and comfortable.
Why you might get the T&N Mattress — We consider T&N a safe pick. It’s soft, neutral, and really comfortable. It’s actually a bed that we would expect roughly 70% of people to be fine with. It also has a college-friendly price point. After discount, a queen size bed sells for under $600 and a twin is less than $450.
Sleeper Type — Tuft & Needle is able to accomodate back, stomach, and side sleepers. It’s softer, but not too soft. It also is highly responsive, making it easier to rotate positions during the night.
Easy To Move — Despite being one of the nicer budget mattresses, Tuft & Needle is actually pretty easy to move and would be a great mattress during and after college. We’d venture to say that it’s probably lighter than the majority of 10″ beds out there.
Why get Cocoon — We noticed that a lot of college students are interested in memory foam beds in particular. Cocoon is among the most affordable memory foam beds and is backed by a major player in the industry, Sealy. Additionally, Cocoon is available in a “soft” and “firm” option, so you have a little control over how firm the bed is.
Firmness Profile — The “firm” model will be about a medium-firm and, interestingly enough, so will be the “soft” model. They’re both on the firmer side, but if you like memory foam, we imagine that you’ll really like this bed.
Feel — Cocoon has a dense memory foam feel. The bed still contours to the shape of your body, but it’s best for back sleepers and stomach sleepers overall. It’s not a properly firm bed, but it’s not our favorite option for individuals that exclusively sleep on their side.
Why you should think about Brooklyn Signature — It’s somewhat rare to see a bed that has coils, is made in the USA, and retails for under $1,000 (queen size). If you talk about value for the money, Brooklyn Signature is hard to beat, although, technically it’s not the absolute cheapest bed out there. This is a durable, supportive, very nice mattress for a crazy reasonable price.
Feel/Firmness — The Signature comes in three firmness levels (Soft, Medium, and Firm). As such, there is an option for all different types and sizes of sleepers. That means whether you’re a side, back, stomach, or combo sleeper chances are you’ll find a BB Signature that works for you.
Made In USA — You might not know of the Brooklyn Bedding brand, but it’s actually more than a brand. They are a manufacturer as well. In fact, they make their own beds and the beds for numerous other brands. That means when you purchase from BB, they are shipping the mattress directly from their production warehouse to your house.
Why get the AmazonBasics mattress — the entire reason to get this bed is that it’s cheap and is still somewhat nice. It’s a three-layer foam bed that only has a one-year warranty, but if you’re making a decision based on price alone, you likely won’t find anything better.
Height Options — One nice thing about this mattress is that it’s available in multiple height profiles, ranging from 8″ to 12.” The most affordable version is the 8″ and it typically sells for under $200 for a full size. You can check the current pricing on Amazon.
Feel/Firmness — This bed is basically as Plain Jane as it gets. It has a mixed-foam feel in that it uses memory foam and neutral foam. It won’t have a deep memory foam feel, nor will it feel completely neutral. Considering you’re buying this bed for the price point, I imagine you’ll find it to be sufficiently comfortable.
Did you know that there are multiple types of mattresses, all giving you a different feel and features? Here are the main types that are on the market. Hopefully you can find something that sounds comfortable for you.
Spring / Coil – These beds use springs or coils, and hopefully come with a pillow top for comfort. Your lame dorm mattress is probably a spring bed, but without a pillow top. Spring beds are responsive and bouncy, and tend to be more supportive and long lasting. We usually recommend mattresses with springs in them for heavier body types because they can support the weight better and won’t break down as fast as an all-foam bed would. These types of mattresses are best for pillow fights.
Memory Foam – Memory foam heats up and softens to pressure, and then is slow to respond once that pressure is removed. When you lay down on it, you’ll probably notice that you slowly sink down into the material as it contours to your body. Memory foam is one of those things where you either love it or you hate it. Active sleepers tend to not like memory foam because it can be hard to move around on, giving you the sensation of feeling “stuck.” Also, cheaper memory foam tends to change firmness level with heat. In the summer, beds will be softer, and they’ll firm up in the winter.
Gel Memory Foam – This is just memory foam that has somehow incorporated some sort of gel into it. It’s usually for cooling reasons. Memory foam has a bad habit of retaining your body heat, so that it sleeps really warm and makes you sweat. Gross, right? If you really like memory foam but you really like sleeping cold, check out the Cocoon Chill which isn’t technically a gel memory foam mattress, but does have a cooling cover.
Latex Foam – Latex is a really cool material. It feels bouncy and responsive, while providing good support and pressure relief. Latex is made from the sap of rubber trees, and is typically punctured with a ton of tiny holes for good airflow. It’s eco-friendly, hypoallergenic (i.e. good for allergies and health), and anti-bacterial. It also can be really expensive. Here’s our list of the best latex foam mattresses and best natural/organic beds.
Proprietary Foam – This is often a fancy way of saying “we made our own foam and don’t want to categorize it with your mainstream foams.” These brands are the indie kinds of the online mattress community. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. Make sure they have a trial-period in the case of those beds that don’t work out.
Air Mattress – Mostly these are the mattresses you whip out when you’re camping or your body is crashing on your floor for a week, but there are also some popular air mattress brands like Sleep Number.
Water Bed – Oh my god dude wouldn’t a waterbed be so cool?? No. It won’t. There is a reason the water beds died in the 90’s. They move and swoosh if you even move a fraction of an inch. And they pop more commonly than you’d think. Don’t make us say we told you so.
Polyurethane Foam – This is neutral-feeling foam. It usually sleeps temperature neutral and is super popular in the bed-in-a-box market. Really popular brands like Tuft & Needle, Morphiis, and Casper Essential are (majority) poly foam beds.
Gel-Like Materials – This is a lot less commonly used material, but the most popular brand that makes a gel-like mattress is Purple. They have four different models (original Purple, Purple 2/3/4)that all have really good airflow and support. People either love it or hate it. Ross the Boss sleeps on a Purple.4 every night.
If you didn’t know already, you’re sleeper type has a lot to do with what kind of mattress you should be getting.
If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll probably want a softer mattress that can bend to the curves of your hips and shoulders instead of pushing against them and giving you a dead arm. Side sleepers want to make sure their spines are aligned, including their necks. Usually softer mattresses are best for this.
If you sleep on your back or stomach, you will probably want a firmer mattress that will support the heavier areas of your body which are your hips, shoulders, and neck. Softer mattresses will let these areas sink into the bed and this will cause your spine to arch, which can lead to back pain in the morning. Firmer mattresses will keep your spine supported properly. Getting a firmer bed is important if you’re dealing with a lot of lower back pain in particular.
How much you weigh directly correlates to how firm or soft a mattress will feel to you. This is because it dictates how much pressure you’re applying to the surface of the bed.
Let’s use some examples. Our first example is the teeny tiny art student. You wear black turtlenecks and a beret and you like to drink wine on the weekends with your friends while you discuss philosophy. Some of your paintings or sculptures probably weigh more than you do. Most mattresses will feel pretty firm to you, because you barely put any weight into the mattress, so you’re basically laying on top of the bed. You might want to look for softer beds, especially if you sleep on your side.
Our next example is a college D1 athlete who has to live in the dorms as a part of his scholarship. He is probably too tall for the twin XL dorm bed and he’s in need of some good sleep after his four hour long practice days. Because he’s a big dude, most beds are going to feel on the softer side, because he’s going to sink down into the mattress more. This guy might want to look for a firm mattress, especially if he sleeps on his back. Here’s our list of the best mattresses for heavy and overweight people.
If you’re a body type that’s somewhere in the middle, you can choose the firmness level of your bed at your own discretion.
If you plan on giving away or re-selling your mattress after you graduate and take that job in the big city (or moving back in with your parents, this is 2019), you should probably take care of your mattress while you have it.
Most mattresses don’t come with machine washable covers, unfortunately. If you’re concerned about stains or spills (coffee while studying in bed, anyone?) we recommend getting a mattress protector off Amazon. That will keep things worry free, and can also protect against extra wear and tear on your bed, which will prolong the life of your mattress and protect your warranty. If you think a mattress with a machine washable cover sounds cool, check out Yogabed or Novosbed.
How does shipping work?
|Almost every online mattress brand will offer totally free shipping. The bed shows up in a box that's about 4 feet tall. All you do is remove the packaging and let the bed inflate, which usually only takes a few minutes.|
How do I test the mattress?
|The great thing about buying an online mattress is that they typically come with a 100-night risk-free trial period. That means you can test the bed in your own home for at least a few months. If you don't want it, typically returns are totally free.|
What happens if I need to return a mattress?
|In many cases, returns will be completely free during your trial period. In fact, the brands will usually send someone to your home to pick up your bed, at no extra cost to you.|
How much should I spend on a new mattress?
|For college students it's probably best to spend less than $1,000 on a new mattress. You can find plenty of queen and full size mattresses for $1,000 or less.|