Box spring vs platform bed: which one is right for your mattress?

Tuft & Needle Essential Platform Bed Frame, Zinus 4" box spring
(Image credit: Tuft & Needle / Zinus)

Choosing between a box spring vs platform bed can be just as crucial a decision as picking the best mattress for your sleep style. Your bed base can either help you achieve restful sleep every night or leave you feeling worse for wear each morning. In this article, we'll be comparing these two common options to help you find the best bed frame or base for you, considering things like support and comfort, durability, ventilation, and cost. We'll also offer some of our top recommendations for box springs and platform beds.

Box springs have long been the standard due to innerspring mattresses being the norm. However, platform beds have gained popularity thanks to the rise of memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses, which require a different level of support. Both options have their pros and cons, so it's important to carefully consider each since the wrong bed frame can make even an amazing mattress feel uncomfortable.

Below, we'll dive into the details of box springs vs platform beds by breaking down the key criteria you'll need to consider when making a decision, from comfort and cost to style and function. Whether you're a side sleeper, a heavier person, or regularly struggle with back pain, knowing what each of these bed frames can offer can help you unlock consistent, quality sleep.

What's the difference between a box spring and a platform bed?

A box spring is an upholstered frame on which your mattress rests. Some as filled with coils, but it's perhaps more common now for the framework to be empty, with wooden slats running across the top. You can use it on its own, but often it'll be paired with a metal bed frame that doesn't have built-in support. A platform bed is a frame that has built-in support such as wooden slats or a solid foundation. Box springs are often recommended for innerspring mattresses, while platform beds are better for most hybrid, latex, or memory foam mattresses. That's the short version – read on for more detail. 

Box spring vs platform bed: what is it?

Amazon Basics Smart Box Spring Bed Base

Amazon Basics Smart Box Spring Bed Base (Image credit: Amazon)

A box spring is an upholstered wood or metal frame that supports and elevates a mattress. It features wire coils or a steel frame and often pairs with a metal bed frame or another bed base without built-in support – although you can also use a box spring on its own.

Box springs became popular in the 1930s alongside innerspring mattresses. They're still the best type of bed base to use with a traditional spring mattress as they absorb shock, prevent sagging, and increase airflow. However, the coils of a box spring can degrade quickly with regular use, with an average lifespan of 5 to 10 years.

When it comes to hybrid, latex, or memory foam mattresses, box springs aren't required because modern mattresses are designed to be steady and shock-absorbent on their own. Plus, many bed-in-a-box brands forbid the use of box springs with their mattresses, as it can void the warranty.

Simba Platform Bed Base

Simba Platform Bed Base (Image credit: Simba)

A platform bed is made of wood, metal, and/or upholstery and features built-in support such as wooden slats or a solid foundation. It comes in a variety of styles, and some even have integrated storage drawers to help keep your room organized. 

With the ability to support up to 1,500lbs, a platform bed can last for many years with proper maintenance and care. It's compatible with any modern mattress type, but its ultra-firm surface and lack of shock absorption make it a poor choice for innerspring mattresses. (However, you can use it with an innerspring mattress if you add a box spring.)

The typical height of a platform bed is between 7 and 12 inches, compared to 25 inches for a standard bed frame with a box spring. This low profile may look stylish and save space, but it could be challenging for individuals who have difficulty getting in and out of bed. Adding bed risers or a mattress topper can make it taller, though.

Box spring vs platform bed: support and comfort

  • Box springs give innerspring mattresses a more responsive feel
  • Platform beds support a lot of weight but make mattresses firmer

A box spring provides a stable, durable surface for innerspring mattresses, lending it a responsive feel that'll suit combination sleepers plus anyone with back or joint pain. It also absorbs shock and extends the lifespan of a mattress by preventing sagging. However, the coils in a box spring can deteriorate quickly – especially if they regularly support a lot of weight.

A platform bed can accommodate any type of modern mattress and is excellent for heavyweight sleepers who need optimal support and weight distribution. Conversely, it gives mattresses a firmer feel with little consideration for pressure points. Lightweight sleepers, side sleepers, and individuals with aches and pains won't find a platform bed comfortable without the aid of a plush mattress topper.

Box spring vs platform bed: style and design

  • Box springs look plain but add height to make a bed look more cozy
  • Platform beds are stylish and functional but not always practical

A box spring will elevate your mattress, which can help give give your bed a cozier, more inviting appearance. That said, box springs themselves can usually be quite plain. Typically made of wood or metal, a box spring is covered in fabric to conceal its internal structure, and appears similar to a mattress when placed on a bed frame. You'll find a variety on heights, ranging from 2 to 9 inches, with taller sizes being the standard.

ZINUS No Assembly Box Spring

ZINUS No Assembly Box Spring, on a frame (Image credit: ZINUS)

Platform beds come in various styles, ranging from minimalist (such as the Nectar Platform Bed Frame) frames or upholstered frames, to more statement options, some of which add headboards (see our Simba Sirius Bed Base review for an example). Some platform beds even feature built-in storage.

Platform beds share a design element of an integrated support base (wooden slats or a solid foundation). They're known for their low profile, usually sitting 7 to 12 inches off the ground, so they might not be the most practical solution for those with mobility issues.

Box spring vs platform bed: durability

  • Box springs typically last 5-10 years before the coils degrade
  • Platform beds can last for decades with proper care

On average, box springs last for 5 to 10 years, which outpaces the typical lifespan of a traditional mattress (5 to 7 years). Over time, the coils within the box spring will degrade, leading to a loss in support and comfort. When it's time to replace your mattress, you'll likely need to buy a new box spring with it, if not a year or two later.

Conversely, platform beds can last for decades with proper care and maintenance. They provide consistent support for any type of mattress, reducing the need for replacements. Though they're sleeker than box springs, platform beds can be heavy and hard to move, so are perhaps less ideal for frequent re-arranging or moving.

Box spring vs platform bed: ventilation

  • Both box springs and platform beds provide ventilation for mattresses
  • Either type of base will foster cooler, more hygienic sleep

Both box springs and platform beds improve your overall comfort by creating space for air to move around under your mattress. With box springs, air circulates in between the coils or slats, while platform beds featuring well-spaced slats (or a solid foundation with holes) will enable air to flow freely. Adequate ventilation of your mattress through your bed base will help regulate temperature and prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

That's not all you can do to improve your sleep hygiene. Add a mattress protector to wick away moisture and safeguard against spills. And if you experience frequent hot flashes throughout the night, consider a specialized cooling mattress.

Box spring vs platform bed: cost

  • Box springs are inexpensive but need to be replaced more often
  • Metal frames require box springs, which are purchased separately
  • Platform beds may have higher upfront costs but last a long time

The average box spring ranges from $100 to $250 / £80 to £200. You can buy it alone or with a metal bed frame, which will affect the total upfront price. Box springs often need to be replaced at the same time as your mattress (up to every 10 years), potentially leading to a higher overall cost of ownership.

In contrast, platform beds can cost anywhere from $100 / £80 to over $2,000 / £1,800, depending on the style, materials, and brand recognition. While high-end options may be more expensive upfront, they are built to last, potentially saving you money in the long run compared to buying a box spring with each new mattress. You can find today's best deals on bed frames below.

Box spring vs platform bed: which should you buy?

Choosing between a box spring and a platform bed largely depends on the type of mattress you own or plan to purchase, as well as your personal sleep preferences. If you have a traditional innerspring mattress (or plan to buy one), choose a box spring. Combined with a metal bed frame, this will provide optimal support, help absorb shock, and keep the mattress in good condition for as long as possible. However, you'll often need to replace your box spring at the same time you buy a new mattress – roughly every 10 years. 

On the other hand, if you prefer a foam, latex, or hybrid mattress, a platform bed will be the superior option. Its sturdy support will be advantageous for heavyweight sleepers and unlike most box springs, platform beds can last for quite a long time so you won't have to buy a new base with each replacement mattress. They also come in a variety of designs, with some even offering integrated drawers to keep your room clutter-free. However, if you have mobility issues, the firm surface and low profile of a platform bed will be impractical.

Regardless of the type of bed frame you choose, make sure to consider the condition of your mattress. If you spot some signs that it's time to replace your mattress, browse today's best mattress deals below for something new, or bookmark our mattress sales hub to learn about discounts as soon as they happen.

Alison Barretta
Freelance reviewer and writer

Freelance writer and editor Alison is an expert mattress tester for Tom's Guide, and hails from Philadelphia, USA. Alison has reviewed a wide range of mattresses, pillows and other sleep accessories for Tom's Guide, putting the latest hybrid, memory foam and cooling mattresses from Casper, Nectar, Awara, Brooklinen and other leading brands through their paces. Alison has been sharing buying advice and retail news for over a decade. When she isn't reviewing mattresses, other home products or hunting for great deals to save you money, Alison can be found teaching/training in martial arts, fawning over skincare, and indulging in her quarantine-borne hobby: cooking.