This of course will play a major role in most people's decisions and is usually the final "decision maker". Value means many different things to many people. For some it includes the basic materials and the "price per inch" of those materials. For others it includes the knowledge and service that is included in their mattress purchase so they can be confident that they have everything they want in a mattress. For others yet it may include the quality of different parts of a mattress such as ticking and quilting that others will pay less attention to. The common thread of value though, regardless of how any one of us may define it, is a feeling when all is said and done that "I would have paid more to buy that mattress from that outlet than I paid". This is value and no matter how you define it, it is available 365 days a year at hundreds of outlets throughout North America. Be aware here of the dangers of defining of value by price alone, no matter how important a part of the overall picture it may be. It can be much more expensive in the longer term to buy a mattress that has lower quality materials or components or is "missing" something that becomes important to you later on than it is to buy a higher quality mattress that will last you longer (in many cases 2 or 3 times as long) and will fit you needs and preferences for many years to come. It can also expensive in other ways (pain, discomfort, and lack of proper sleep) to buy a mattress that will only keep its qualities for a very short time or will develop issues that make it uncomfortable or even unuseable in a relatively short time.
Be aware too of the different places where you can buy a mattress regardless of where you have done your testing. Most people of course will go to a bricks and mortar store and do comparisons between one store and another one in the same city. It is well worth while to do some online price comparisons as it is not uncommon that you will find prices hundreds of dollars less (or more) that come from reputable dealers. If you know exactly what you want, it may be worthwhile as well buying from one of these dealers if your store will not at least come close to matching their price. This approach is a little more risky as it will be much harder and more expensive to exchange the mattress if it is wrong for you and any kind of warranty issue will usually cost you money and a lot of frustration and effort to ship the mattress back. For many people these inconveniences and risks are worth it, for some they are not. This is all part of what gives a mattress value besides the materials themselves.
Talking about warranties, most of them are worthless in practical terms. A warranty deals with manufacturing defects, not the suitability of the mattress for your circumstances. It is in no way a real indication of how long a mattress will be suitable for you. Body impressions, hills and valleys, and loss of comfort or support are not considered manufacturing defects unless they are measured as greater than a certain depth (usually 1.5" - 2") ... without any weight on them. Foam breakdown that leads to loss of support and comfort is not part of a warranty. Even the slightest stain on a mattress voids the warranty. In other words, in the real world, warranties are not really worth the paper they are written on and have more to do with marketing than they do with protection. Even on valid warranty claims, you are usually out of pocket due to the expense or difficulty of returning the mattress (at your cost). A warranty will protect you against obvious manufacturing defects but these usually show up very quickly. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a mattress with a 20 year warranty means that you will have a good mattress for 20 years and if you don't you will be able to get another one. You won't. It also doesn't mean it is any "better" than a mattress with a 10 year or 5 year warranty. Your real protection (outside of manufacturing defects) and the real factor in determining how long you have your mattress is the quality of the materials in it and your willingness to follow proper maintenance and care.
It is also well worthwhile doing some research on some of the smaller manufacturers that are all over North America. Some of these offer true factory direct pricing, are very knowledgeable about mattresses in general, and often offer tremendous value. The better ones that have been successfully in business for a long time can come very close to duplicating the feel of a mattress when you know the specifications of what is in it. They can also make smaller adjustments (replacing a 3" layer for example with 2.5") and will often offer a variety of different quilting materials and fabrics which can lead to getting the feel "just right". Be a little careful here though because you will not have the chance to actually lie on the mattress (unless they are local and you have the best of both worlds) and any returns ... even on warranty issues ... will be difficult and expensive if it involves shipping. To go this route ... no matter how much money it saves you and no matter how much more "perfect" you believe your mattress may be ... you need to both be sure you know exactly what you want and be aware of the difficulty in changing that decision after it is ordered. Do a little research here and be aware as well that some "manufacturer direct" outlets actually do offer factory direct pricing that is significantly lower than other outlets however in other cases "factory direct pricing" may be an advertising gimmick and is not much different from other places you could purchase your mattress from. In general terms, and assuming that you are dealing with a true factory direct outlet and reputable manufacturer, most people are truly amazed at the values that are available here. Custom made is not necessarily expensive and can often mean very inexpensive. Smaller sleep shops that also purchase their mattresses through a shorter supply chain and carry in many cases a wide selection of quality mattresses also offer particularly good value.
There is also another very valid approach that has been highly successful for some that can also save you money in many cases. This is the "build your own" approach. This involves buying your mattress from a reputable online source that offers mattresses with zippered covers and your choice of layers and materials inside the mattress. These are becoming more popular and many of them are increasing the range of choices they are offering. If through your research you are clear on the overall makeup of the mattress you want, it becomes much easier to order a "build your own" that will come close to the mattress you preferred in your "lie on bed" research. The advantage of these outlets (in some cases they are also an outlet for a factory) is that you can usually do a "layer exchange" for a very low cost which means returning a layer of the mattress and exchanging it with a softer or firmer layer to get closer to your "perfect feel". This is much less expensive than shipping the entire mattrress. Because the mattress also has different layers, it also gives you a chance to re-arrange the layers to see how different arrangements change the feel of your mattress ("soft medium firm" compared to "soft firm medium" for example). Many of these offer very high quality materials and covers that will compare favorably to mattresses costing much more from other sources. The range of value different companies and outlets offer varies widely so do your homework before you choose to go in this direction.
One other issue may come up with this option is that some people have not done their "lie on bed" homework before they order from these sources and are not clear on the type of layering or mattress that will suit them well. In this case the choices can become so confusing and overwhelming, and they have so little idea of how a certain layer change may change the feel of their mattress, that they never get it "right" and end up giving up in frustration ... even with layer exchanges. The "trial and error" approach is not very effective and can be very frustrating. In most cases, make your own outlets do not offer the same degree of customization that is available from a smaller manufacturer (the layers tend to be a standard thickness ... usually 2" or 3" which may limit to a small degree the feel that can be accomplished) and will not have the same choice of quilting and fabrics that are offered by more custom manufacturers, although the services some of them offer varies widely here as well. This can also be a source of tremendous value if you have the information and confidence you need to go in this direction and make your purchase from a reputable and knowledgeable dealer.
These are your sources and more information about them is of course available from "The Mattress Underground" section of our website. If you make your purchase from a member of the mattress underground, then you will of course not only know that you are dealing with a high quality outlet that shares our values, but you will receive a discount just for being a member.
That's it ... 5 steps as detailed as you wish to finding your perfect mattress. There is one further page with some tips and tricks that you may find helpful, our forum is always open, and we hope that you will choose to take one further step when you have purchased your mattress. This is to post your experiences for the benefir tof others on our forum. By sharing what you have learned and your own personal and unique experiences in buying a mattress, you will be helping many others do as you have done and help The Mattress Underground to help more people just like you.