Why Are Mattresses SO Expensive? You Might be Surprised

Many years ago foam mattresses were constructed with memory foam which was very expensive. After it was introduced to the public domain in 1980 the cost has dropped steadily. Also, the cost for materials and manufacturing in the US was high compared to current costs in China. So why are mattresses still so expensive?

Mattresses are so expensive due to the costs of research and development, new materials for an advantage over competitors, increasing labor and labour costs in China, increasing expenses due to tightening regulations requiring more testing and compliance expenses, and marketing.

Expensive research and development of new materials

With more manufactures entering the market each company must increase its research and development expenses to keep up with, or ahead of, the competition. Increasing wages and bonuses for scientists.

More time is spent researching and testing new materials to improve comfort, lower material, and production costs, and to provide a marketing edge.

New and more exotic materials

Expenses for materials is increasing as more exotic and expensive components are utilized in mattress construction to increase comfort and provide marketing fodder.

More expensive manufacturing labour costs at China factories

A major expense line item for producing mattresses is the cost of labor. And since 2016 the average annual salary in China has increased by one third. Source

That is a huge increase in expenses that must be passed to the buyer.

Testing and compliance

Most countries are increasing testing and compliance requirements and to improve safety for children and adults. I think we can all agree that these are expenses that we don’t mind paying for peace of mind that our new mattress won’t kill us or our children while sleeping; and will last for years before falling apart.

Mattress marketing costs

All I can say is wow! Doing research for mattresses on the Internet every day I am bombarded with advertisements for the latest and greatest mattress the world has ever seen.

And on YouTube? A nightmare. Every single ad is for a mattress! If I see the bearded guy and hear “I was skeptical of a mattress that came in a box”.

Mattress companies have massive marketing budgets and you and I are paying for that marketing when we make a purchase.

To learn how to build a bed platform for less than $80 check out my article here.

Why mattress prices should be dropping

The majority of the costs associated with producing and selling mattresses are decreasing including manufacturing, ocean shipping, and retail to customer shipping.

Manufacturing costs are more efficient

Mattresses were produced in the US long ago and now almost all are manufactured in China with low labor, electricity, and shipping costs the production costs are much less expensive now when factoring in the cost of living increases.

Cheap transportation cost from factories in China

With billions and billions worth of product coming from China and increasing each year the expense of transporting large volumes of mattresses across the ocean had dropped. And with larger container ships built each year, the cost should remain stable or drop. Especially with the price of oil now.

Shipping sea containers from China is cheap

I imported products about 20 years ago and again recently and it is cheap to ship a lot of product in a sea container. A couple of years ago we imported 20′ containers and the cost from the factory in China to our door in Nova Scotia was:

20′ ContainerCost*
Ocean Freight$1,278
Cartage (to shop)$227


a 40′ container is only an extra $200.

Thankfully weight of the product is not considered in the calculation for costs because we were shipping metal.

So the cost per mattress for transportation, taxes, and customs cost is very inexpensive per mattress, such as:

# of 10”
40′ HC*$1,772688$2.58

* High capacity at 9.5′ versus 8′ high standard

Cheap shipping from retailers to your door

Many online and brick and mortar stores are offering free shipping to your door, including big and heavy mattresses.

At one time nobody would consider shipping a mattress from a store to another state, province, or country. Now most retailers offer cheap or free shipping between the US and Canada.

Cheap Materials

Most mattresses are made primarily, or partially, made with memory foam that was invented in the 1970s and is cheap.

“Memory foam was developed in 1966 under a contract by NASA’s Ames Research Center to improve the safety of aircraft cushions. Memory foam was initially too expensive for widespread use, but became cheaper”


I found a company in India that sells bulk memory foam for about $2/lb. So a top-selling queen mattress that weighs 70 lb would have about $140 worth of foam in it.

But of course factories and BIG MATT (the big mattress companies) buy much larger volumes and receive smoking prices compared to the little guy.

More competition

There are a shocking number of companies manufacturing and selling mattresses so you would think they would become less expensive. I like the quote below and I have used it recently in another article:

“There are now more places to buy a mattress in the U.S. than places to buy a Big Mac.”

USA Today, There’s a fierce battle over your bed: Industry goes to the mattresses

As you can see there are many reasons mattress are so expensive and why they should be dropping in price. Unfortunately the high and increasing costs out-weigh the reasons price should be less and I don’t see this changing anytime soon,

So don’t waste time waiting for a sudden massive drop in prices, just wait for the best sale that you can find.

The video below is interesting with a blind cheap and expensive mattress test!

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