Can a mattress topper save you money and revive an old mattress? We asked the experts

Deciding whether to buy a new mattress or a cheaper mattress topper? Here's everything you need to know

Small bedroom with double bed with black bedhead, pink, green and grey bedding, grey painted floorboards with a rug and retro suitcases at the foot of the bed.
(Image credit: Future PLC/Jon Day)

If you’re someone who loves their sleep (who isn’t?), then the mattress topper vs. new mattress debate is something you’ve probably had a few times before. After all, there are positives and negatives to both… but which one do you really need?

If you’ve recently bought yourself the best mattress, then you’re probably not going to ask this question for the next few years. But there comes a time in every mattress's life when you start to wonder whether it’s time for a change - and that’s when people start to think that they can bypass the hassle of buying a new mattress by using the best mattress topper instead. 

New mattress vs mattress topper

In theory, using a mattress topper in lieu of a brand-new mattress sounds like it could work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right choice for you and your bedroom. That’s why we decided to ask mattress and sleep experts alike whether they’re team mattress toppers or team new mattresses. But their final verdict might surprise you. 

What is a mattress topper?

As you can probably tell by the name, a mattress topper is designed to sit atop your mattress. And while it won’t affect the mattress itself, the thin layer of cushioning does serve as an extension to the mattress. 

‘Whether looking for a softer or firmer mattress, toppers can be used to enhance the comfort layers of a new or existing mattress for the intended outcome,’ explains Rebecca Swain, mattress expert at Winstons Beds

Typically, people place mattress toppers on top of their mattress when they want extra comfort for a better night’s sleep or when their mattress is getting too old for their liking. In fact, a mattress topper can extend the life of a mattress - often offering a cheaper alternative to buying a brand new mattress. 

A bedroom with a bed with colourful bedding

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

But that's not all. Pam Johnson, Head of Buying from Bensons for Beds says, 'Our comfort requirements can change as we move through life. Our body weight can reduce or increase, health issues can mean a new requirement for added pressure relief, for example, and a topper can be a great option in these instances where your mattress is not very old and still in very good condition - but just needs some comfort finessing to your new comfort and support requirements.'

Because of this, there are so many things to look out for when buying a mattress topper - including the material and the thickness. These things can all affect user experience and affect how comfortable you find your sleeping spot. 

Yes, just as you can buy memory foam mattresses and memory foam pillows, you can also buy memory foam mattress toppers. But that’s not the only option. You can also buy mattress toppers made from synthetic materials such as hollow fibre or microfibre (which are the best option for those who suffer from allergies), as well as those made from real feathers. 

Finding the right mattress topper for your own needs is essential, though, which is why it’s always a good idea to understand the specifications of each product, read reviews, and opt for brands that offer sleep trials. 

Of course, it may be that a mattress topper isn’t the right option for you at all. And that’s why we’ve written this guide. 

Expert picture
Pam Johnson

Pam has worked within Bensons for Beds for 16 years and has a great deal of experience in both developing and sourcing new product ranges. As Head of Buying specialising in mattresses, divans and headboards, Pam is dedicated to providing solutions that help customers to get a great night’s sleep.

How can a mattress topper improve a mattress?

‘Traditionally, if you wanted to improve your comfort levels in bed, you’d simply start afresh and invest in a brand new mattress. But today, not every mattress that’s been well-loved and slept on for a few years is beyond salvage,’ explains Victoria Cedeno, Sleep and Brand Specialist at Zinus.

In fact, a mattress topper can give your mattress a whole new lease of life and even re-ignite the spark your mattress has lost over the years. This is how:

It can add an extra layer of comfort: Everyone has their own personal preference when it comes to the firmness of their bed, but after a while, old mattresses can become lumpy, misshapen and hard. And if you find that your mattress has become too firm, a mattress topper can add an extra layer of comfort that will breathe new life into your old mattress. 

It can cool you down: Do you wake up covered in sweat? If you do, you’re not alone. So many people run hot during the night, and it could be that your mattress is making that worse. The best cooling mattress toppers are specifically designed to cool you down during the night while also adding that extra layer of comfort your old mattress is lacking. 

Small bedroom with double bed with black bedhead, pink, green and grey bedding, grey painted floorboards with a rug and retro suitcases at the foot of the bed.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

It can tackle back pain: While the best mattress for back pain can certainly help to alleviate any aches or pains you have, a mattress topper can also do the same. If you find that you wake up with a bad back, investing in a memory foam mattress topper could be the pain relief you really need. That’s because the memory foam material will offer your spine much-needed support (even if you’re prone to tossing and turning) while also moulding to the natural curvature of your body.

It can increase the lifespan of your mattress: According to Rebecca, By adding a deep cushioning comfort layer to a mattress, the topper will also improve the longevity of the mattress so that it isn’t worn down as quickly, allowing people to save money in the long run and get more use out of it.’ Of course, this will also save you money in the long run. 

Victoria Cedeno headshot
Victoria Cedeno

Zinus’ Sleep and Brand Specialist Victoria is perfectly placed to comment on all things home and sleep. From the latest trends to top tips for encouraging good sleep health, the South Korean brand is already well-established in the USA and is looking to make its mark on the UK and EU markets.

When should you buy a new mattress?

In the mattress topper vs new mattress debate, you also need to focus on the mattress that you already have. After all, knowing how often you should change a mattress is just as important as knowing how to get rid of a mattress

According to the experts, a good-quality mattress has a lifespan of around seven years. But you may start to notice signs of general wear and tear after just a couple of years. It may be that your mattress starts to become lumpy, starts to sag, or you start to feel the springs through the upper material. 

These are all signs that your mattress needs some TLC. After all, you need a mattress that supports you and gives you the best night’s sleep possible. 

When you start to suffer from pain or sleepless nights, it’s time to consider whether it’s time to buy a brand new mattress or whether a mattress topper will suffice. 

White bed with red throw on a natural rug

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

What is the price difference?

When comparing the price of a new mattress topper vs a new mattress, it’s easy to see that there’s a clear winner. You can buy a mattress topper for as little as £20 - although, obviously, you’ll pay more for a higher-quality product. 

A new mattress will set you back an extra £100, at least, and that’s for one of the cheapest mattresses on the market. It’s this price difference that leads many people to lean more towards a mattress topper than a mattress.

But which one is better, really?

The final verdict: Which one do you need?

Although we wish we could provide you with a quick and easy answer to this question, the answer is completely dependent on your own personal situation. 

For some people, a mattress topper could be the perfect solution to sleepless nights and an uncomfortable bed. For others, however, it might not be worth it. 

As Victoria explains, ‘Sometimes, there are issues that simply can’t be fixed by adding a mattress topper to your bed, meaning a new mattress is ultimately the right choice.’

‘If your mattress is seriously old or really misshapen, we’re afraid that a mattress topper can’t deliver a magic fix. As it’s essentially masking symptoms instead of correcting the root of the problem, adding a topper to a poor-quality mattress is often a waste of time and money, so you’re better off biting the bullet and treating yourself to a new mattress instead.’

Of course, that’s not to say that a mattress topper wouldn’t work for you. If you have a relatively new mattress (between 3-4 years old), then we’d suggest trying out a mattress topper first before investing in a brand new mattress. But if your mattress is older than that and reaching the end of its life cycle (around 5-7 years old), it’s probably best to invest in a new mattress. 

Which mattress to buy

Which mattress topper to buy


Can you use a mattress topper instead of a new mattress?

Yes, you can, but it’s important to remember that the mattress topper vs new mattress debate isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. 

Although a mattress topper can make a bed more comfortable, more breathable, and even less painful, it won’t work for everyone.

It’s generally suggested that if your mattress is less than four years old, you should opt for a mattress topper before buying a new mattress. If your mattress is older than that and nearing the end of its natural lifespan, however, it’s probably not worth buying a mattress topper. 

Instead, it’s best to bite the bullet and buy a new mattress - as most mattresses only last around seven years, anyway. 

Can a mattress topper make a mattress better?

A mattress topper won’t fix the problems you have with your mattress, but it can certainly provide a comfier base on which to sleep. Mattress toppers are particularly beneficial for those who struggle with back pain or overheating at night, as you can buy mattress toppers specifically designed to support your spine and cool you down. 

Ultimately, though, nothing will change the makeup of your mattress. If you’re having real problems with your old mattress and you’re noticing that it’s become lumpy and started to sag, it’s generally a sign that your mattress is coming to the end of its life. 

Remember not to automatically default to the cheapest option, as you could end up paying for it further down the line. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.