Mattress topper vs new mattress: Which one do you need?

Mattress toppers vs new mattress
(Image credit: Getty)

Getting regular, good quality sleep is vital for your health, and while there are many things that can affect how well your sleep, your bed could be one of them. If you regularly wake up because you feel uncomfortable, for example, it might be time to consider whether you need to upgrade. And from there the natural question centers around the pros and cons of buying a mattress topper vs a new mattress. Budget is a big factor, of course, but luckily many of the best mattress online brands run sales, especially during something like Sleep Awareness Week 2021, which we’re in the middle of. 

But honestly, do you really need to replace your mattress, or could you get away with nabbing one of the best bed toppers instead? After all, they’re cheaper, and you don’t have to bother learning how to dispose of a mattress when getting rid of your old one. Also, if your new bed is a little too firm right now, adding a plush topper could boost your comfort until your new mattress beds in. That said, there are instances when a topper just won’t cut it, and we’ll go into those below. 

Toppers also aren't as durable and need to be replaced more often, so it’s something to keep in mind if you are trying to reduce your contribution to landfill. So, let’s take a look at the options now to help you figure out where you stand in the mattress toppers vs new mattress debate. And for sweet discounts on both, check out our roundups of the latest Purple mattress deals, the best Casper mattress deals, and the best Saatva mattress discounts.

Mattress topper vs new mattress: Key considerations

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When choosing between these two, there are some questions you can ask yourself to clarify your needs. A mattress is obviously more expensive than a bed topper, but sleep brands run regular sales, so it's never been easier to save money on a such a big purchase. If you don't have the funds to buy outright and are thinking of buying on credit, take a look at our guide to how to buy a mattress on finance

Toppers are cheaper, but at times they can also be a false economy. How so? Well, if your current bed has seen better days, no topper will save you from the aches and pains you'll get from sleeping on an unsupportive bed. On the other hand, if you're looking to boost the support and comfort of a bed that's in good shape, a topper is the smart choice.

Mattress topper vs new mattress: Which one do you need?

(Image credit: Getty)

Toppers are also made by some of the world's biggest sleep brands, so you'll see familiar names cropping up, including Tempur-Pedic and Avocado Green. Some of those brands feature in our guide to the best cooling mattress too, as well as the best pillows for sleep, as they infuse the same airflow enhancing tech into their toppers to help you sleep more comfortably. 

Because that's the other thing about toppers: some can make you feel a little warmer in bed, as you're effectively sleeping on another layer of material.

Mattress toppers vs new mattress: You have a small budget

A big reason why many people buy a mattress topper inside of a new mattress is because of the cost. After all, why fork out several hundred dollars or more when a topper can provide a little extra comfort and support? 

If your bed is relatively new and firm, yet you're still waking up feeling achy and less than refreshed, a cheap topper could alleviate some of the issues you're experiencing and keep your bed in good health for longer. A simple change of surface suited to your sleeping position, weight or body temperature might be all you need.

Our recommendation:
If your bed is in good shape but you'd like a little more support, try the Tempur-Pedic Supreme Topper. This three inch-thick pad adds a dreamy layer of comfort to any bed, and introduces an extra layer of pressure relief by contouring to your body as you lie down.

Mattress toppers vs new mattress

(Image credit: Purple)

You need more support

When it comes to proper neck and back support during sleep, a mattress outperforms a topper any day of the week. That's because they use the latest technologies to ensure your spine is better aligned as you sleep, and that your pressure points are cradled. So you get more support, which should lead to less aches and pains in the morning.

Purple, for instance, uses Grid Technology to constantly adapt to your body as you lie down. It relieves pressure across your neck, shoulders and hips, and you'll feel as though you're floating on top of your bed, rather than sinking into it. Side sleepers and stomach sleepers will especially love this mattress.

Our recommendation:
Yes there are supportive toppers around, but if you need more support, especially if you're experiencing neck or back pain, then you really need a bed that's purpose built for this. Our top pick would be the Purple Hybrid (from $1,399), which takes many of the pressure-relieving features found in the brand's flagship model and gives them to you at a lower cost.

A topper, no matter how thick and firm, just won't compete here. However, if your current mattress nearly offers the level of support you need, take a look at the Saatva Graphite Topper (from $185). 


(Image credit: Getty)

You're dealing with sagging

If your current mattress sags, placing a topper on it will only be a temporary solution, as the topper will be resting on a weak foundation. An unsupportive bed leads to all sorts of physical health problems, such as a stiff back, an achy neck, and sore pressure points – your bed needs to offer adequate support, while not being so soft that you sink in.

Therefore, here we'd recommend a new mattress. There are plenty of sleep brands that make hybrid models, which use a magical combination of foam and springs to ensure no pesky sagging occurs. Especially in the middle, where you and your partner may spend most of your time sleeping. 

Our recommendation:
The Simmons Beautyrest Harmony Lux HLC-1000 is home to the brand's new T2 Coil System, which sits in the center to deliver enhanced support where you need it most to banish sagging. The Harmony Lux costs from $999 and is available to buy from Beautyrest itself, as well as major retailers. For similar bed in a box, try the Hybrid by Casper.

It’s for a guest bedroom

An affordable topper is the ideal solution for sprucing up a bed that only gets used once in a while, such the one in your guest bedroom. Toppers are also easy to transport if you're going to be sleeping somewhere else for a few days or weeks, as most can be rolled up and taken with you.

Though if you're looking to completely replace the bed in your guest bedroom, check out the options from Nectar and Tuft & Needle, as these two brands offer affordable options for all-round comfort.

Our recommendation:
It's quicker and cheaper to transform an adequate guest room bed with a topper. If the bed is just ok, then consider opting for a slightly higher performing topper like the Sleep Innovations 4-Inch Dual Layer Bed Topper. It's thicker than others, so will really ramp up the comfort of your guest bed.

Mattress toppers vs new mattress: Which one should you buy?

Before you make any final decisions, remember that you are first and foremost looking to upgrade your sleep experience. The key things to consider are your individual sleep needs, and whether your existing bed is meeting those needs. If you’ve been sleeping on the same bed for several years and have noticed the aches, pains and allergies just aren’t going away, it's probably time to buy a new mattress. 

Or if you simply feel you could do with a quick refresh and change in firmness or added comfort, a topper should suffice. It always pays to think about the long-term investment of a mattress, versus the short-term but cheaper option of a topper and what will give you the sleep you deserve.

Looking for more sleep better content? Try our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks to wake you more naturally in the mornings, as well as the best light therapy lamps to reboot your circadian rhythm during the darker months. For relaxation before bed, consider using one of the best meditation apps to calm your mind, before unwinding your muscles with the best handheld massager

Claire Davies

Claire is Health and Wellness Editor at Top Ten Reviews and covers all aspects of health, wellbeing and personal care. With over 17 years' experience as a qualified journalist, writer and editor, Claire has worked across some of Future's most prestigious, market-leading brands. Due to past struggles with insomnia, she is particularly passionate about the role quality sleep plays in our physical and mental health, and loves helping readers to sleep better. Claire is always keen to hear from brands regarding products and services that can help readers feel healthy, happy and empowered.