What is a bed in a box mattress? Plus, the pros and cons of buying one

what is a bed in a box mattress?
(Image credit: Casper)

We’re not shy about the fact that we love bed in a box mattresses. In fact, we have a detailed guide to the best mattress online for every type of sleeper, at just about every budget. However, that doesn’t mean that a bed in a box is the right choice for everyone. With that in mind, here we run through the pros and cons of buying a bed in a box mattress, what to look for, and an explanation of how the process works. 

We’ve also produced a guide stacked with tips to help you learn how to buy a mattress online, in addition to how to buy a mattress on finance if you don’t have the funds to purchase a new bed outright, particularly if you’re opting for a luxury option. 

What is a bed in a box?

What is a bed in a box mattress?

First things first, what is a bed in a box mattress? Well, although it doesn’t deliver the entire bed (it would have to be a pretty big box to fit an entire bed frame!) the concept of a bed in a box is pretty straightforward. Many companies now ship their mattresses folded up in boxes or reinforced plastic coverings, for new users to simply open at home. The mattress will then unfurl and expand to its full size. This makes the delivery process easier, because there’s no need to drag a fully sized mattress into your bedroom. 

What is a bed in a box mattress? Plus, the pros and cons of buying one

(Image credit: Nectar)

In most cases, a bed in a box mattress is made possible by memory foam. Memory foam is the miracle product of mattress companies right now, offering varying density levels and support for back and side sleepers of all weights. Because it can be compressed, it’s also possible to ship memory foam mattresses in a box fairly easily, which is one of the major pros of a bed in a box mattress.

The pros of buying a bed in a box mattress

1.They are often cheaper

What is a bed in a box mattress? Plus, the pros and cons of buying one

(Image credit: Casper)

One look at our guides to the best Purple mattress deals and the best Casper mattress deals, or even the best Saatva mattress discounts for a luxury option, and you will see how easy it is to make a great saving on a bed in a box mattress these days. One of the reasons for this is the reduced shipping costs, as well as the fact that selling online significantly reduces other expenses. 

While you’d have to go to dozens of mattress stores to find the best price, it’s easy to find a great deal on a bed in a box mattress when browsing online. In fact, with President’s Day mattress deals approaching, you could order online now and have your new mattress at home by the time Black Friday 2020 arrives. 

Some bed in a box deals include free gifts such as the best pillows for sleep, as well as other accessories like bedsheets and bed toppers.

2. They are available on long trial periods

You can typically expect a 100 night trial from even the cheap bed in a box mattress brands. In fact, when we compared Casper vs Leesa mattress for the best budget bed in a box, both offered 100 night trials for you to make sure you’re happy with your choice. 

Most of us have gone to a bed store and laid down on a sample mattress to try and figure out if it’s the right one for us. Although you get to see the mattress in person, that’s about the only advantage of this method. Purple estimates that it can take three weeks to get used to a new mattress, so by testing one from the comfort of your own home for up to 100 nights or more, you’re better placed to know if it’s the one for you by the end of your trial. Compared to a fully-clothed lie down in a showroom, there’s no comparison! 

3. There’s plenty of choice

Even the fussiest sleeper is more likely to find the right mattress for them if they opt for a bed in a box mattress, because there are practically countless options to choose from. There are options for those who want a more custom level of firmness, with brands like the Helix Mattress enabling you to select every last detail, from desired density to optional hybrid mattress options. 

We’ve also looked at the best cooling mattress for those who know for a fact that they want something highly breathable. Hot sleepers will know that memory foam isn’t always the right choice for them, but an emphasis on cooling gel and copper foam will allow your bed in a box mattress to diffuse heat as you sleep. Plus, you can always return it as part of your trial.  

The cons of buying a bed in a box mattress

1. No “try before you buy”

What is a bed in a box mattress? Plus, the pros and cons of buying one

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So yes, while you do get an extensive trial and free returns from the vast majority of bed in a box mattresses, it is hard to overcome this major concern. No matter how good the deal, your first impression of your new mattress will be taking it out of a box and leaving it to “off-gas” (meaning to expand to its full size, often with a chemical smell) before sleeping on it. And at this point, you’ve already paid. 

If your instant impression is that it’s not quite what you’d expected, or if you thought it was a firm mattress you wanted, only to realise you’d much prefer something softer, your only option is to arrange a return or exchange. The process doesn’t have to be complicated, and we’ve actually written a guide on how to return a mattress, but there’s no denying that you could be spared an initial disliking of a mattress with a trip to the bed store. 

2. Less sprung mattress options

Memory foam is all very à la mode, but what if you want a good old fashioned mattress with coils and edge support? Although it’s still totally possible to find a bed in a box mattress with all this to offer, especially hybrid mattresses that use a combination of springs and foam, they are a little less common. Why? Well, reinforced edge support and firm springs don’t exactly fold as easily into a box or packaging, so you may be better off going for a Saatva mattress discount and getting their fancy “white glove delivery” as standard. After all, just because your mattress delivery doesn’t come in a box, doesn’t mean you have to be the one to carry it into your home! 

Having said all that, many sleep brands are working hard to design mattresses with good edge support, so we do expect to see more of this on future releases.

The verdict

Should you buy a bed in a box mattress?

One thing to remember is that not all companies deliver mattresses in an actual box. Some will roll up a mattress and cover it in super-tough, reinforced plastic. Other brands, such as Saatva, will deliver without the use of a box entirely, but typically this will cost you more due to the more personal nature of the delivery service. That said, if you want a cheap mattress, a bed in a box is the obvious choice. These mattresses may not be available for you to try before you buy, but our guide to the best mattress will help you make the right choice, and there are countless options to choose from when you compare to those found in a standard bed store. Best of all, you don’t even have to leave home to go shopping. 

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Top Ten Reviews. She also works on our sister sites: Real Homes, Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, and Livingetc. As Head of Reviews, Millie is on a mission to make sure that we are reviewing all of the latest and greatest products for you and your home, whether it's a vacuum cleaner or an inflatable hot tub.