If you’ve spent any good amount of time looking into the details behind your mattress, you’ve probably come across that pesky thing we call a “warranty.”
Although the useful information in these warranties is usually buried under a couple mountains of legalese and confusing wording, there actually are quite a few critical details it’s important for you to know about what is (and isn’t) covered under your mattress warranty.
I know it’s not always the most exciting stuff, but trust me—there’s a reason we take mattress warranties into account when coming up with our overall rating for any given mattress.
Some tiny detail in your company’s coverage could mean the difference between a full refund for your mattress and diddly squat, so this is something you need to know.
So, here it is—everything you should understand about mattress warranties, broken down into simple English.
What’s REALLY Covered by Your Warranty
Most mattresses come with 5-, 10-, or 20-year warranties.
It’s easy to look at a timescale like that and think you can just rest easy, safe in the knowledge that your mattress retailer will have your back if anything happens during that period.
Don’t be fooled!
The truth is, most mattresses can only last between around 7 and 10 years, and while some higher-end products might be able to keep kicking for upwards of 15 years with proper care, no mattress is going to last you two whole decades!
That’s why most mattress warranties are meant to cover manufacturing flaws only.
Pretty much no mattress company is going to cover regular wear and tear on your mattress—if they did, they wouldn’t be able to turn much of a profit!
What “Manufacturing Flaws” Means
Now, when you see a phrase like “manufacturing flaws,” you probably have certain expectations in your head.
For instance, if you’ve only been sleeping on your mattress a couple months and you start getting terrible aches and pains in your back, you might think that would constitute a pretty clear flaw on the part of the manufacturer.
Their product isn’t performing the way it’s supposed to, and you have every right to demand a full refund… right?
Well, if you take a closer look at your mattress warranty, you’ll likely find that that’s not always the case.
In fact, mattress companies’ definitions of “manufacturing flaws” are often so narrow as to rule out all but a small handful of issues you might have with your product.
The most common examples of things they will cover are:
- Splitting at the seams
- Structural failure (coils breaking, bending, popping out, etc.)
- Irregular bunching (in memory foam mattresses)
- Indentations in the mattress surface below a certain level
What “Sagging” Means
That last point—indentations in your mattress surface, or “sagging”—is one of the most common problems people have with their mattresses.
Unfortunately, though, it’s one of those things that most manufacturers simply will not cover until it gets to be just ridiculous.
The exact amount that a mattress needs to sag varies a bit from company to company (you should be able to find the precise number somewhere in your contract), but it’s usually somewhere around 1.5 inches.
Now, you might be thinking that 1.5 inches doesn’t sound like that much, but here’s what you have to realize.
That’s not 1.5 inches when you’re lying down—that’s 1.5 inches naturally, with no weight applied.
If your mattress is sagging that much, I would honestly be shocked if you were getting any kind of decent sleep.
For some perspective, if you lie down on a mattress and your body makes an impression of 1.5 inches or deeper, there’s a good chance you’re about to start developing some major back pain when you wake up in the mornings.
And if your mattress is already sagging over 1.5 inches when there’s no weight applied whatsoever… well, good luck getting to sleep on that thing!
It’s important to realize here that mattress warranties are only able to go off of objective criteria—things that can be physically measured.
Your manufacturer’s legal department isn’t concerned about the way your mattress actually feels, and no matter how much you hate their product, that’s not something covered in any warranty.
Things That Void a Warranty
To make matters even worse, even if your mattress actually is legally defective under the eyes of your mattress retailer, that still doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the woods just yet.
There are actually quite a few ways you might have accidentally voided your mattress warranty without even realizing it!
If you’ve done any of the following things, it’s going to be pretty much impossible to get any kind of help from your company.
Not Using a Box Spring
Even though failure to use a decent platform bed or box spring doesn’t actually do that much to most modern mattresses, a lot of mattress manufacturers specify in their contracts that you have to have a decent foundation in order to qualify for their coverage.
Stupid but true, this policy can come around to bite you in the butt if you’re not careful.
Mattress warranties assume that you’ve been following their exact instructions for proper mattress care, and if they can find any reason to say you haven’t been, they’ll jump on that in a heartbeat.
Removing the Law Tag
All mattresses come with a little strip of paper attached to their underbelly that reads, “Do not remove this tag under penalty of law.”
Do not remove that tag!
Even though it’s mostly aimed at manufacturers—you’re not going to hear any police sirens if you for some reason decide to rip it off—this “law tag” is generally considered your proof of purchase.
No law tag, no coverage.
Them’s the breaks!
Getting Stains on the Mattress
Another easy way to void your entire mattress warranty is by spilling any kind of staining liquid on your mattress’s unprotected surface.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a drop of food coloring or a liter of your own blood—if it stains, you’re out.
Since some kinds of spills can make a mattress unsanitary and thus ineligible to be taken to a company’s storage facilities, mattress manufacturers typically just make a blanket statement about all kinds of stains.
They also consider spills to compromise the structural integrity of your mattress (even if the issue you called them about has nothing to do with a stain)!
Thankfully, though, there’s a product out there that can keep you from ever running into this issue.
It’s called a mattress case, or “encasement”.
Just zip your mattress into one of those puppies, and they’ll fend off pretty much any stain!
Realize How Prorating Works
So, you’ve looked through mattress companies’ definition of “manufacturing flaws,” you’ve checked to make sure you haven’t accidentally voided your warranty, and you still think you’ve got a good case to bring to your mattress warranty.
Unfortunately, though, you might still not be 100% good to go.
See, a lot of mattress companies have this thing called “prorating” built into their contract.
Under non-prorated coverage, the company will replace your mattress free and clear.
For every year your mattress is prorated, though, you’re going to have to pay a certain percentage of the mattress’s initial cost in order to replace it.
So the old your mattress is, the more it’s going to cost you!
Get a Good Trial Period
At this point, you might be starting to think mattress companies are kind of jerks.
Their warranty policies are often all but useless, and you’re probably starting to feel pretty cynical about their whole business model.
Thankfully, though, there is one silver lining.
Even if their warranties don’t always show it, they really do care about you getting a good night’s sleep—after all, they have their reputation at stake!
That’s why most reputable sellers will offer reasonable trial periods during which you’ll usually be able to return your mattress totally free of charge (or, at worst, for a small fee).
Brick-and-mortar stores tend to be kind of annoying about this sort of thing—some of them will only offer you a couple weeks to return a mattress if you decide you don’t like it, while others are a bit more reasonable.
Online vendors, on the other hand, are usually substantially more generous.
Since you’re not usually able to try out their products in-person, they try to make up for this by offering fairly lengthy periods during which you can return your mattress.
These trial periods average around 100 days, although there are of course a couple outliers.
One of the most generous return policies is Nectar’s 365-day risk-free trial period, during which you can at any point send your mattress back and get a complete refund.
Sound too good to be true?
That’s what I thought at first, too, but interestingly enough, the best companies usually have return rates well under 10%.
They’re serious about getting you a quality product, and they’re often willing to go to some pretty far lengths to do that!
(And no, these companies don’t try to resell any products you might return. They’ll usually dispose of them or donate them to a local charity.)
Hopefully by this point, you’ve got a pretty good idea of how mattress warranties work.
I know it’s not always the most intuitive or generous system, but it’s just one of those sad facts of life.
Basically, the best advice is probably just to make sure your mattress has a solid trial period and hope for the best from there.
We include details about all that stuff under our mattress reviews—and if you’re looking for some suggestions for finding your next mattress, be sure to have a look at our guide to the best mattress of 2018!
If you invest in a solid product to begin with, after all, the chances of you needing a replacement any time soon drop dramatically.
Mattress warranties are confusing, but a good product is a good product!