King vs. California King Beds

What’s the difference between a king and California king mattress, and which one is right for you?

By Alesandra Woolley

Many people often confuse California king beds as being larger than king beds, but this isn’t the case. 

Want a trick to help you remember the difference from a king vs. California king bed? California kings are longer, just like the shape of the state! 

While California kings are longer, king sized mattresses actually have a larger surface area.

king vs. California king

If you’ve decided it’s time to treat yourself to one of the kings, here are a few things to help you decide which of the mattress royalties might be best for you, along with some things to consider before taking the plunge.

California King Mattress King Mattress
Size 72” wide x 84” long 76” wide x 80” long
Surface Area 6,048 square inches 6,080 square inches
Summary Offers the most length for taller sleepers, but not as much width as a king Offers the most width for couples who want more space between them
Good for… Taller people who need extra length Couples who need more space

If you’d like to learn more about bed sizes, check out our mattress size guide.

Should You Buy a King or California King Mattress?

As with most mattress decisions, deciding between a king or California king mattress really comes down to personal preference. But there are a few practical things to consider, like the size of your space, the size of the people who will be sleeping on the mattress, and cost.

Room Size

Upgrading to a king size bed or California king mattress might seem like a great idea, but in order for it to be practical it needs to at least fit in your bedroom space

Before committing to a bigger mattress, make sure it a) fits easily in your bedroom, and b) still gives you space to navigate around your room.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is there room to walk around the bed?
  2. Can you reach your clothes hamper?
  3. Do your dresser and nightstand drawers still open?
  4. Does your bedroom door open freely? Can you open the doors to your en suite bathroom or closet?
  5. Can you reach the windows to open or clean them?
  6. Is there an easy flow of movement around the room?
  7. Is any furniture blocking your HVAC registers and returns?

If your bedroom orientation is long and narrow, then a California king might work better for you. 

If it’s wider, then a king might do the trick. If you’re not sure, you can use an online planning tool like Roomstyler 3D Home Planner to help you visualize your space. It’s free and easy to use (we tried it ourselves).

Who is Sleeping on the Mattress?

Tall people may prefer a California king because it provides more length. However, this also means you’re sacrificing width and stretching out space by sleeping on a mattress that’s 4 inches narrower. 

If you’re sharing the bed with another person, a king mattress will provide more personal space for each individual so you aren’t hanging off the bed. A king is the only size that allows each sleeper as much space as a twin offers someone who is sleeping alone. 

If you have permanent or periodic guests, like pets or small children, you should also consider how and where they fit into the equation.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide:

  1. If you’re tall, do you mind if you have to deal with your feet hanging off the bed?
  2. Do you spread out or move around a lot while you sleep?
  3. Will you share your mattress with pets or small children? If so, where do they typically sleep?

Cost

If you’re upgrading from a queen mattress to either a king or California king, you can expect to pay around 15 – 20% more for the mattress alone. However, a king and California king mattress of the same make and model are almost always the same prices.

But don’t forget, investing in a bigger mattress also means a new bed foundation, and new bedding accessories like sheets, a mattress protector, and comforter. These will be more expensive than your standard queen accessories.

Other Shopping Considerations

We’re not trying to scare you, we promise. Sleeping on a king or California king bed can be glorious. And we think you deserve it! 

But we just want you to be prepared. No one likes surprises when it comes to buying a mattress.

Here are a few more things to be aware of before you commit to a larger mattress.

  • Aside from being more expensive, accessories for king and California king size mattresses can be more difficult to find, particularly for the Cal king.
  • If you’re in temporary housing or are expecting to move soon, then keep in mind that a bigger mattress is going to be harder to move. You may need to recruit more muscle power.
  • The bigger your mattress, the more important it becomes to have a strong, solid foundation. You don’t want sagging to occur. If you don’t have one already, you’ll want to invest in a sturdy platform foundation for maximum support. Slatted foundations and box springs can work, assuming they’re in great shape. For some mattresses, the floor can be a viable option as well. 

Still have questions about king or California king mattresses? Drop us a line in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we wake up from our nap.

FAQs

What kind of bed frames are best for king and California king size mattresses?

Larger mattresses require more support, meaning kings and Cal kings should be supported with a solid foundation like a platform bed frame or a strong slatted foundation. You may also consider placing it directly on the floor.

How long is a California king bed?

California king beds are 84 inches long. King mattresses shorter at only 80 inches long.

How wide is a California king bed?

California king beds are 72 inches wide. King beds offer more width at 76 inches wide.

Who should sleep on a California king bed?

California king beds are ideal for taller people because they are designed to add more length to your bed.

Who should sleep on a king sized bed?

Couples enjoy king sized beds because of the added width. This allows each individual to have the same amount of space they would have if sleeping on a twin size mattress alone.


Comments (2)

  1. As a 6’5″ tall individual, I made it a point to upgrade from a queen to a Cali king with my new mattress purchase. I was always under the impression that a Cali king was simply larger then a king (and more expensive). I also thought that 4″ of extra length doesn’t sound like much, but what a difference those extra inches make! No more cold toes 🙂 Highly recommend one for all those giants out there!

    • Stanley – sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a California king! Your assumptions about the size and cost difference are a common misunderstanding for many people, but we’re glad you’ve made the upgrade and are now able to keep your toes warm and covered!


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