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King vs. California King: What’s the Difference?

King vs. California King: What’s the Difference?

by

Aoife O.
 | 
Apr 02, 2020

King and California king mattresses are spacious options for shoppers who want maximum room for sleep and lounging. Both sizes offer plenty of space for two adults and kids or pets who climb into your bed from time to time. But what’s the difference between the two options?


Many people have the misconception that California king mattresses are bigger than their standard king counterparts. But that’s not the case. This guide will dive into the differences between the two, their dimensions, and how to decide which size suits you best.


What’s the Difference Between a King and California King?

King and California king mattresses have different dimensions. King mattresses measure 76 inches wide by 80 inches long, totaling 6,080 square inches. California king mattresses are narrower than kings, measuring 72 inches across. However, they’re longer, measuring 84 inches from head to foot.


Technically, California king mattresses are smaller than kings, with a total surface area of 6,048 square inches. But this difference is marginal. When choosing between a king and a California king, don’t ask yourself if you want a smaller or larger bed; ask yourself if you want a wider or taller bed.

King mattress dimensions: 80 by 76 inches
California king mattress dimensions: 72 by 84 dimensions

King vs. California King Dimensions

King

  • Width: 76 inches

  • Length: 80 inches

  • Surface Area: 6,080 square inches or 42.2 square feet

  • Best For: Couples or co-sleepers

  • Personal Space (2 Sleepers): 38 inches wide by 80 inches long

  • Minimum Recommended Room Size: 12x12 feet

  • Advantages: More space to spread out from side to side, great for couples who want more personal space to move around

  • Disadvantages: Less space to spread out from side to side

California King

  • Width: 72 inches

  • Length: 84 inches

  • Surface Area: 6,048 square inches or 42 square feet

  • Best For: Couples or co-sleepers

  • Personal Space (2 Sleepers): 36 inches wide by 84 inches long

  • Minimum Recommended Room Size: 12x12 feet

  • Advantages: More space to spread out from head to foot, great for tall people who want to stretch out

  • Disadvantages: Less space to spread out from head to foot


What Is a California King?

California or “Cal” king mattresses measure 72 inches wide by 84 inches long. This makes them the longest standard mattress size, measuring 4 inches longer than standard king, queen, and twin XL mattresses. However, they’re 4 inches narrower than king mattresses, the widest standard mattress size.


So, who should consider a California king bed over a king bed? They’re great for:

  • Couples, including sleepers over 6 feet tall
  • Anyone who sleeps with a pet at the foot of the bed
  • Narrow bedrooms


Pros and Cons of King and Cal King Mattresses

At first glance, the 32-square-inch difference between a king and a California king bed may sound negligible. However, 4 inches in either direction can make a big difference in your sleep comfort and your bedroom's overall feel. Below, we outline some of the advantages and disadvantages, similarities and differences between these two mattress sizes.

Technically, California king mattresses are smaller than kings, but this difference is marginal.

King

  • Width: 4 inches wider than a California king

  • Length: 4 inches shorter than a California king

  • Sleep Surface: Larger total surface area (6,080 square inches)

  • Single Sleepers: Plenty of space to stretch out

  • Couples: Plenty of space to stretch out, including plus-size sleepers

  • Kids: Plenty of room for kids to join you

  • Pets: Plenty of room for pets to join you

  • Price: Most brands sell their king and California king mattresses at the same price

  • Bedding and Accessories: Widely available

  • Bedroom Size: Best for wider bedrooms

  • Weight and Moving: Can be difficult to move because of its large size

California King

  • Width: 4 inches narrower than a king

  • Length: 4 inches longer than a king

  • Sleep Surface: Smaller total surface area (6,048 square inches)

  • Single Sleepers: Plenty of space to stretch out

  • Couples: Plenty of space to stretch out, including sleepers over 6 feet tall

  • Kids: Some room for kids to join, but not as much lateral space as a king mattress

  • Pets: Extra length is great for pets who sleep at the foot of the bed

  • Price: Most brands sell their king and California king mattresses at the same price

  • Bedding and Accessories: A bit harder to find, but still widely available

  • Bedroom Size: Best for narrower bedrooms

  • Weight and Moving: Can be difficult to move because of its large size


Should You Buy A King Mattress?

Best For: Couples who enjoy lots of personal space in bed, couples who occasionally sleep with children or pets, and plus-size sleepers.


Total Sleep Area: 6,080 square inches or 42.2 square feet


Room Size: You need a room about 12 feet wide by 12 feet long or larger to accommodate a king bed, additional bedroom furniture, and ample walking space.


King Bed Benefits: King-size mattress dimensions are 76 inches wide by 80 inches long. A king mattress has the same dimensions as two twin XL mattresses pushed together, providing plenty of space for two adult sleepers. If you share your king bed with one other person, you have 38 inches of personal lateral space to move around. That said, king mattresses are also great for couples who invite small kids or pets into bed with them. The king Nolah Original is a great choice for couples thanks to its excellent motion isolation.


Should You Buy a California King?

Best For: Couples who want plenty of room to stretch out and sleepers 6 feet tall or taller.


Total Sleep Area: 6,048 square inches or 42 square feet


Room Size: You need a room about 12 feet wide by 12 feet long or larger to accommodate a California king bed, additional bedroom furniture, and ample walking space.


California King Bed Benefits: California king-size mattress dimensions are 72 inches wide by 84 inches long. This provides plenty of space for two adult sleepers, and California king mattresses are particularly comfortable for taller individuals who need the extra length to stretch out. If you share your king bed with one other person, you have 36 inches of personal lateral space to move around. The California king Nolah Evolution is a great choice, offering active cooling for all-night comfort.


California king mattresses are particularly comfortable for taller individuals who need the extra length to stretch out.

6 Factors to Consider When Deciding Between a King and California King

1) Personal Space

If having personal space to move from side to side is especially important to you, consider a standard king. If you sleep with a partner, you’ll each have 38 inches across. This compares to 36 inches each on a California king mattress.

2) Height

If you or your partner are 6 feet tall or taller, consider a California king. The extra length will give you more room to stretch out.

3) Family Needs

Do you have young kids or pets that sometimes share your bed with you? If that’s the case, you may prefer a king over a California king because of the extra 4 inches in width.

4) Bedroom Dimensions

Make sure your bedroom can accommodate the mattress size you choose. We recommend king and California king mattresses for bedrooms at least 12 feet by 12 feet. That said, kings tend to work better in wider rooms, while California kings work better in longer rooms.

5) Price

Most mattress brands sell their king and California king mattresses at the same price, but that’s not always the case. You may pay a bit more for a California king.

6) Bedding, Bases, and Accessories

Keep in mind that king and California king accessories have different dimensions and are not interchangeable. If you’re switching mattress sizes, you’ll also have to replace accessories like your bed frame, mattress protector, bed sheets, and comforter.

Conclusion

King and California king mattresses are top-of-the-line luxuries with plenty of room for two sleepers. As long as you have the budget and bedroom space, you really can't go wrong with either option. Hopefully, this guide has clarified their differences and helped you decide which best suits your needs. Think a king or California king mattress is too big? Check out our King vs. Queen Bed Guide for insights into these two mattress size options.

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