Whether you’re designing the primary bedroom for your brand new house or finally making the bed-size upgrade you’ve dreamed about for years, buying a king-sized bed is an exciting luxury. 

However, mattress shopping gets a little more complicated once you see all your options. Even if you’ve already decided you want the largest mattress on the market, it may not be clear if that means a king or a California king-sized bed. 

King vs. California King

Contrary to what many mattress shoppers believe at the beginning of their purchasing journey, California king mattresses are not “bigger” than their king-size counterparts. At 6,048 square inches, a California king mattress covers less surface area than a king mattress, which covers 6,080 square inches. 

If California kings are technically “smaller” than kings, why do they have the reputation of the top-of-the-line option—and the highest price tag? 

While they have less surface area, California king mattresses are longer than king-sized mattresses. A California king measures 72 inches wide by 84 inches long, while a standard king measures 76 inches wide by 80 inches long.  

Essentially, deciding between a king-sized bed and a California king bed means prioritizing width or prioritizing length. 

Graphic comparing California king and king size bed

Pros and Cons of a King-size Mattress

In terms of total surface area, California king and king mattresses only differ by 32 square inches—but that doesn’t make it easy to choose between the two. To figure out which mattress size works best for you, you’ll want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Pros

  • Thanks to the 76 inches of width on a standard king, you can squeeze your whole family (including your pets) in bed.
  • If you tend to toss and turn at night or switch positions frequently, you’ll make use of the full width of a king-sized bed.
  • Plus-size sleepers tend to prefer the spaciousness of standard king-sized mattresses.

Cons

  • If you’re above average height, you may care more about your mattress’s length than its width.

Pros and Cons of a California Mattress

On the other hand, California king mattress owners tend to note the following pros and cons:

Pros

  • Taller individuals (especially those 6-feet tall or taller) often prefer the length advantage of California king beds.
  • Though not as wide as standard king-sized beds, California king beds still leave plenty of room for couples that want their space while they sleep.

Cons

  • If your kids and furry friends like to join you in bed for morning snuggles, a California king may prove rather crowded.
  • If you’re an agitated sleeper who shares a bed with a partner, you may find the 72-inch width of a California king a bit limiting.
  • California kings aren’t as common as king-size beds, so it may prove more difficult to find bedding and blankets.
  • Despite having less surface area than standard king mattresses, California king mattresses tend to cost more.

The Best King Mattresses

Before making the final choice between a king and California king mattress, you should spend some time browsing both options. Not sure where to start looking? Check out SleepMoment’s top recommendations for standard king beds.

  • Our Deluxe Recommendation– For sleepers who enjoy a sense of luxury and prefer a cooler mattress, we suggest the Nolah Evolution 15 mattress offered online by Nolah Mattress. This model packs in five layers: a quilted cooling top layer, graphite-infused air foam layer, high-resistance foam layer, a layer of tri-zone support coils (with added edge support foam), and an orthopedic support core.
  • Our Pick for Best Value– The Tuft and Needle Mint Mattress is a comfortable and affordable option that boasts a long lifespan thanks to its antimicrobial protective layer. For added support, the Mint Mattress features two layers of adaptive foam along with ceramic gel beads for a cushiony feel.
  • Our Eco-friendly Choice– The Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress from Awara uses Rainforest Alliance-certified natural rubber-tree latex, 100 percent organic wool from New Zealand sheep. Beneath the 4 inches of latex, this mattress features 9-inch, individually-wrapped coils for even more support.

The Best California King Mattresses

  • Our Deluxe Recommendation– The Loom and Leaf Mattress by Saatva includes a hypoallergenic and antimicrobial organic cotton cover, a cooling layer of gel-infused foam, a 5-pound layer of premium memory foam, and a high-density foam base. Together, these layers create a supportive, pressure-relieving mattress built to last. This mattress comes in two different firmness levels, firm and relaxed firm.
  • Our Pick for Best Value– The standard Nectar Sleep Mattress has a quilted Tencel cover for comfort and cooling, a gel memory foam layer for weight distribution, an adaptive transition layer for support, a memory foam base layer for stability, and a cover for the bottom of the mattress to prevent slippage. The company describes the product as a medium-firm mattress.
  • Our Eco-friendly Choice– The Avocado Green Mattress contains latex, wool, and cotton—all certified organic by the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This American Chiropractic Association-endorsed mattress offers pressure relief in the key areas needed for back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and the average-height side sleeper, according to the product description.

What Bed Size Works for Me—King or California King?

As previously discussed, you and your partner’s height, weight, and sleep habits, such as tossing and turning at night, should all inform your choice between a California king and king-size bed. However, the spaciousness of the mattress top isn’t the only factor to consider when making this decision.

Price

Generally speaking, California king mattresses tend to have a higher sticker price than standard kings. Still, many manufacturers do sell California king and king mattresses at the same price. For those that don’t, the difference typically doesn’t exceed a few hundred dollars.

However, the price difference between owning a king or a California king will be more apparent once you start shopping for accessories. Comforters and sheets for California kings almost always cost more than the king-sized options. Plus, they’re often harder to find in stores.

Moving

All mattresses, but particularly king and California kings, are large and wieldy. Moving a mattress of either size is a two-person job at the very least.

Fortunately, both mattress sizes fit through the standard doorway. However, the dimensional difference between a king and a California king may present a challenge when rounding corners or during transportation, depending on your vehicle.

Arranging a Room with a King or California King Bed

The difference in dimensions between a king and a California king can play a significant role in interior design and furniture placement, depending on the size and shape of the bedroom.

Regardless of which option you choose, you’ll want at least a few feet of clearance along both sides of the bed. Keep in mind that opting for a wider or longer bed may mean you have to rearrange or replace some of your bedroom furniture. You can click here to see a few bedroom designs that use the large bed as the focal point.

Your Space, Your Way

Ultimately, choosing between a king and a California king mattress should come down to personal preference. Either bed size will offer an abundance of space for individuals and couples alike. Still, it’s up to you to decide where you prefer the extra room—in length or in width.

The key to finding the right bed size is to consider the decision from all angles, including price, your body type, the bedroom shape and size, and your personal needs for a good night’s sleep.