What’s the Difference Between a California King vs. King Mattress?
Choosing a mattress size is an important part of selecting your next bed. If you’ve decided to go with a large, luxury feel, your choices are either king or California king. But what is the difference between California king vs. king? And which option is better for your situation?
The main difference between king and California king is that king offers maximum width, while California king offers maximum length.
It’s a common misconception that California king is the largest mattress size. The reality is that the standard king has the most total surface area, at 6080 square inches. The California king is slightly smaller at 6048 square inches.
There is a 4 inch difference between the two sizes. California king is 4 inches longer and 4 inches narrower. Standard king is reversed, at 4 inches shorter but 4 inches wider.
Who is a King Size Mattress Best For?
King size mattresses are typically best for couples who want ample space. A king has a full 16 inches more width than a queen, the most popular mattress size for couples, so it feels quite luxurious.
- Couples: Couples will have ample room with a king size mattress. Restless sleepers will appreciate the extra room that makes it easier to move around during the night without disturbing partners. King beds also provide plenty of space for sex. King mattresses are large enough that it’s possible to use two sets of twin-sized top sheets and blankets, which is helpful for couples constantly battling over the covers.
- Couples with Small Children: Parents will also appreciate a king size mattress. Most parents will inevitably end up sharing their bed with small children at least occasionally. Here, having maximum space is vital to maintaining comfort and personal space for both parents and the child.
- Couples with Pets: If you share your bed with a partner and a pet, you could be suited to a king or a California king, depending on where the animal tends to sleep. If you allow your pets to share your bed with you, think about where they typically end up during the night. If it’s at the foot of the bed, go with a California king. If it’s curled up next to you, the extra width of a normal king mattress is ideal.
- Larger people will find that having the king’s generous 76 inches of width is ideal. If you and/or your partner are bigger, you may find that small bed sizes feel cramped. However, do note that very tall people should likely opt for a California king, discussed below.
Who is a California King Size Mattress Best For?
California king mattresses are best for taller people, as they offer an additional 4 inches of legroom over the standard king. At 84 inches long (a full 7 feet), these beds can comfortably accommodate individuals up to 6 feet 9 inches tall.
And make no mistake: at 72 inches wide, a California king mattress will still feel quite spacious, despite being 4 inches slimmer than the standard king. A Cal king still offers a full foot of extra width over a queen, the most popular mattress size.
- Couples with Tall Sleepers: If you’re tall, you will greatly benefit from the extra legroom of a California king. While the 80 inch length of a standard king may seem sufficient, keep in mind that your pillow will take up several inches of space. A standard king bed is actually the same length as a queen, so tall sleepers should definitely opt for a California king.
- Couples with Pets: Those with pets who sleep at the foot of the bed will also benefit from the extra legroom. The extra space makes it easier to move around in the night without disturbing your pet (and vice versa). On the other hand, if your pet tends to sleep curled up closer to you, a standard king may make more sense.
- King Dimensions: 76 inches wide by 80 inches long. This is 6 feet 4 inches wide by 6 feet 8 inches long.
- California King Dimensions: 72 inches wide by 84 inches long. This is 6 feet wide by 7 feet long.
There is a 4-inch difference in dimensions between each size. The king is 4 inches wider and 4 inches shorter than the Cal king, while the California king is 4 inches longer and 4 inches narrower.
To be clear, both beds offer a lot of space. Considering a queen mattress is only 60 inches wide, even the smaller Cal king offers a full foot of extra width over the popular queen sized bed. What this means is that either option will be a huge upgrade in space over a queen.
Ultimately, 4 inches of extra width on the standard king will not be very impactful for most couples, as both sizes are spacious. Those with small children could benefit from the standard king’s width, but even then, a California king should also feel relatively spacious.
The biggest difference comes down to length. At 80 inches long, the legroom offered by a king mattress may feel cramped for tall people. If you’re over 6 feet 4 inches tall, consider going with the California king.
- King Surface Area: 6080 square inches
- California King Surface Area: 6048 square inches
Surface area is a measure of the total space each bed offers. It’s calculated by multiplying the length by the width.
While difficult to visualize in any meaningful way, these measurements give us a quick look at how the two sizes compare to each other.
Surface area measurements tell us that the standard king is actually slightly larger than the California king, despite a common misconception that the Cal king is the larger of the two.
The surface area measurements also show us another important fact: These two beds offer a very similar amount of space. There is less than a 1 percent difference in total space between the two sizes. The difference, of course, is how that space is spread out (extra length for the Cal king, extra width for the king).
Split King Mattresses
When comparing Cal king vs king, there’s one more thing to consider: There is a third version, the split king mattress.
Split king mattresses are two twin beds that can attach to one another to form a king bed. Measurements vary, but typically manufacturers use the longer twin XL size of 38 inches by 80 inches. When put together, split king dimensions are around 76 x 80, the same size as a standard king.
A split king mattress may be a good choice for a number of reasons:
- They are far easier to move
- They are more versatile, as they can be split into two twin guest beds
- They have less motion transfer between sides
- It’s possible to get two different firmness levels to accommodate different preferences
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to split king mattresses:
- They are more expensive, and less widely available
- There will be a noticeable seam in between the two beds, making cuddling and sex more awkward
- Making the bed is more awkward, as it requires two fitted twin XL sheets, and one king top sheet
Split kings are not very common in most countries, but specialty manufacturers online do offer them. For some, they present a great option — but most people will be best choosing between king vs California king.
Buying a new mattress is a major purchase. And for most, the ultimate cost of a mattress will influence their decision making process. So what’s the difference in cost, between Cal king and normal king?
For most manufacturers, California king and king are priced the same, or very similarly.
Occasionally you will see manufacturers charging slightly more for a California king, although it’s usually a small difference of $100 or less.
With that said, there are a few things to consider here:
- Both sizes are the two largest, and therefore most expensive beds
- Expect to spend $200-$500+ more for a king/Cal king than you would for a queen
- Accessories for the California king will typically be more expensive than king accessories
Because these are the largest beds, expect to pay a significant amount for either version. Mattress pricing varies hugely, but most king or Cal king beds will run you at least $1,500. If you’re on a tight budget, it may be worth considering a queen.
While this article is about choosing between California king and standard king, this decision is just the beginning on your journey to the perfect mattress. New beds come in all sorts of styles, ranging from traditional innerspring to all-foam to hybrid. Here’s an overview of the different mattress types:
- Foam: Foam mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, orpolyfoam. There is a huge variety of foam mattresses, from ultra-budget $200 beds to luxury mattresses.
- Innerspring: Innerspring mattresses are the traditional design that utilizes metal coils or springs to provide underlying support. Thin layers of foam, and often plush pillow tops, are also used to improve comfort.
- Memory Foam: Memory foam mattresses are popular because of their ability to closely conform to the shape of your body. They typically provide very good pressure relief and overall comfort.
- Latex: Latex is a natural material that’s produced from rubber tree sap. It’s used to create foam that is durable, dense, and comfortable for use in mattresses. Latex is a more expensive material than most other foams, however.
- Hybrid: Hybrid mattresses combine traditional metal springs with memory foam and other foam materials to create comfortable and versatile beds. Hybrids tend to be more expensive than all-foam or innerspring beds, but are very supportive and comfortable.
Both king and Cal king mattress sizes are typically available in all these styles. However, keep in mind that not all manufacturers produce every size. California king is certainly less popular than the standard king, so some manufacturers do not offer it.
What Else Should I Consider When Choosing a Mattress Size?
We’ve already compared the dimensions of Cal king and king size mattresses, but are there other considerations to keep in mind? There certainly are:
- Room Size: What are the dimensions of the room you plan to keep your new bed in? Both versions of the king take up a lot of space, and can make smaller rooms feel cramped. In most cases, space on either side of the mattress is more important than space at the foot and head of the bed. Because of this, California king mattresses may be somewhat easier to fit into smaller spaces, because they are a bit narrower. Either way, we recommend measuring your bedroom space to ensure that you’ll have adequate space for such a large mattress. Ideally you want to have around 18 to 24+ inches of room in between each side of the bed and the surrounding walls or furniture.
- Accessories and Bedding: If you’re buying a new mattress, you’ll likely need to also purchase a new bed frame or foundation, new bedding, etc. Despite being similar in size, both versions of the king definitely require different accessories. Generally speaking, accessories for California king mattresses are both more expensive and less widely available.
- Children and Pets: As we’ve discussed, families with pets and/or small children sharing the bed should think carefully about the best mattress size for their situation. If you have a pet who sleeps at the foot of your bed, go with California king. If you share your bed with a young child, or a pet who curls up near you, choose a king.