Mattress topper vs new mattress – which one do you need?

Could a topper transform your uncomfortable mattress? We investigate

Mattress topper vs. new mattress. Double bed in pale grey bedroom with wooden floor, cream and white bedding and white curtains dressing floor to ceiling windows.
(Image credit: PAUL RAESIDE LTD)

When deciding between a mattress topper vs a new mattress, you should consider the capabilities of a mattress topper against the state of your current mattress.

If you've recently invested in one of the best mattresses but find it too firm, your bed can be made more comfortable with the addition of one of the best mattress toppers. In fact, any new mattress can last years longer with the addition of a topper.

On the other hand, a new topper might not do the trick if your mattress is old, saggy or lumpy. It may well be time to replace it altogether. However, there are exceptions to the rule. With the help of a group of sleep and bed experts, we settle the mattress topper vs new mattress debate to help you find which one you need.

What can a mattress topper do to improve a mattress?

So, when to buy a mattress topper?

To add a layer of comfort

Mattress toppers can transform a bed, adding a cozy layer of comfort and support. They're perfect for softening a mattress that you find too firm. 

Byron Golub, Vice-President of Product & Merchandising at Saatva says, 'mattress toppers are a great way of adding performance benefits to a mattress. There are plush toppers for comfort, memory foam toppers for contouring, latex for a more responsive contouring feel, and even toppers designed to help you sleep cooler and more comfortably. 

'Mattress toppers can help provide pressure-point relief, reduce motion transfer, and soften up a too-firm surface. 

Best mattress Avocado

(Image credit: Avocado)

To extend a mattress' life

They can also be a great way to extend the life of your mattress, protecting it from wear over time, and is a much cheaper option that purchasing a brand new mattress. As Jill Zwarensteyn, editor at Sleep Advisor, explains, 'Toppers will cost significantly less than most top-quality mattresses, even by as much as $1,000. Some people may not have the budget to invest in a new mattress at the time but want to make their bed more comfortable. This is where a mattress topper could help. Toppers can provide extra pressure relief, support, and even cooling at a more budget-friendly price point.'

If your mattress is in good shape but you want to make your bed softer, firmer, or even cooler, then a mattress topper could be the right solution for you.

'However, even the best mattress topper won’t revive a mattress that needs to be replaced,' says Byron.

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Tempur-Adapt Topper | was $419, now $251.40 at Tempur-Pedic
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When should I buy a new mattress?

If your mattress is old and lumpy

Whether you've had your current mattress for a long time, or a mattress topper has failed to make your bed feel more comfortable and supportive, sometimes a new mattress is the only answer.

Susan Miller, lead researcher and certified sleep expert at Sleep Mattress HQ says, 'a brand new mattress should be considered instead of a mattress topper when your existing mattress has sagged or there are indentations that are not aligning the spine properly'. 

Carl Walsh, sleep specialist and owner of Bed Guru supports this, and says that if your mattress is sagging, or you can feel lumps and springs through the mattress, it is time to invest in a new one.

'Over time, mattresses begin to sag and develop indentations, and a mattress topper will not remedy this. Lumps and springs are also both signs that your mattress is deteriorating and not providing full support anymore. While a mattress topper will provide a temporary solution it won't provide a long-term solution.'

Choosing a mattress is completely subjective as we all have different sleeping needs. Just like toppers, there are many different options to explore. But once your mattress is more than 7 years old and you notice the signs of wear and tear, it's important to do the right thing for your sleep and invest in a new one. 

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DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid Mattress | was $1,199, now $899 for Queen, plus $599 worth of free gifts at DreamCloud
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Can a mattress topper revive an old mattress?

The short answer is no. The right mattress toppers can revive a mattress, but if your mattress is too worn-down you'll need to invest in a new one. The longer answer is that it depends on the age of your mattress and how uncomfortable it's become.

John Davies, Sr. Director, Brand Editorial & Sustainability at Avocado Green Mattress says, 'whether it’s too soft or too firm, toppers are great for adjusting the feel of your mattress to better fit your body's needs. But they’re really intended for tweaks and customizations — a topper can’t replace the essential nightly support your mattress should be delivering to support your sleep. That support system can wear out after a while, so if you have a saggy bed or you’re feeling achy — or if it’s just old — it’s probably time to replace your whole mattress.'

A topper is ideal if your current mattress isn't too old, and you want to adjust the softness or firmness, but they cannot replace the enduring and proper support that a new, fresh mattress provides.

A white bed in a white room

(Image credit: Sheridan)

How often should a mattress be replaced?

Generally, a mattress should be replaced every 7-10 years, but it depends on the quality and state of your mattress. If you notice your mattress is starting to sag or has indentations, these signs usually mean it will probably need replacing.

Aleksandar Petrovic, Content Executive at Sleep Advisor also advises, 'if the mattress you have is somewhere in the middle, say 3-4 years old, I suggest looking at it from the point of comfort. If the mattress is still rather comfortable but just a bit lumpy, buying a topper and getting a few more years out of the mattress is probably your best decision. However, if the mattress was never all that comfortable and/or you wake up with phantom bruises and covered in sweat, it's better to click the reset button and just get a brand new mattress.'

How often should a mattress topper be replaced?

Jill Zwarensteyn from Sleep Advisor advises that 'a well-made topper should last about 3-5 years. That being said, it’s a temporary solution that gives you more time to save up for a new bed. Once your current mattress and topper can no longer adequately support you, it’s time to invest in a brand-new mattress.'

The bottom corner of a white bed, long grey curtains in a darkened room

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Is it better to get a new mattress or a topper?

Rise Science co-founder Jeff Kahn says, 'there’s consensus that the best “sleeping system” for you should have the characteristics of (1) minimizing and distributing body pressures, (2) maintaining a straight spine, (3) avoiding muscle fatigue, and (4) maintaining a suitable body temperature.'

As we have explored, when deciding on a new mattress or a mattress topper, it completely depends on the age of your mattress and how comfortable you feel in your bed.

A mattress topper can be a great solution when you want to enhance your existing mattress with further support and softness. If your mattress isn't too old — between 3-4 years — it's always worth trying out a topper before investing in a brand new one. 

However, if your mattress is older than 5-7 years and lumpy, then a topper won't be enough. Ultimately, if you can't sleep properly, it's time for a new mattress. 

Zara Stacey
Managing Editor

Zara is the Managing Editor at Homes & Gardens. She joined the brand in February 2022 as an Interiors Content Editor, specializing in writing content on interior color trends, decorating ideas and design inspiration. After studying English Literature at University, she worked as an Ecommerce Website Editor, Content Writer and Buying Intern at multiple independent businesses within the luxury retail and lifestyle sectors. She enjoys nothing more than discovering new trends, brands and products, whether that be in fashion, interior design or lifestyle.