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California king vs king mattresses: Which size is best for your sleep?

California king vs king mattresses: image shows the Nectar Mattress on the left and the Dreamcloud Mattress on the right
(Image credit: DreamCloud, Nectar Sleep)

California king and king mattresses each offer acres of space, but which size is right for you? Here we explore the differences between them in terms of dimensions, cost, space for co-sleeping and different sleep positions. We also look at why you might prefer one over the other in terms of your body type, budget and the space in your bedroom. 

Every model featured in our best mattress guide is available in California king and king sizes, so both are easy to come by, unlike more speciality mattress sizes such as Emperor or split Cal king. And while Cal king is usually the more expensive of the two, you may be surprised to discover that some brands price them the same.

In our California king vs king mattresses comparison, we walk you through everything you need to know about each size and how they would best suit your sleep needs. If you decide you need something a little smaller, we also have a queen vs king mattresses article to walk you through the differences there, as well as full vs queen mattresses.

California king vs king mattresses: Key differences

  • Both comfortably fit two sleepers
  • A California king is 4" longer but narrower
  • A king size is 4" wider than a Cal king

Whether you’re after a memory foam mattress, a more traditional innerspring, a hybrid or an organic mattress, California king and king are two of the most common sizes you’ll come across. But there are differences between them.

For starters, a California king is longer and narrower than a king. So if you are tall or have a narrow bedroom, a California king might be more suitable. 

King mattresses are wider, so people who share a bed with a partner, pet or kids might be more comfortable with the slightly wider and roomier dimensions of this particular size. 

A woman with long black hair sleeps on her side on the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid mattress

(Image credit: DreamCloud)

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s easier to find bedding and bed frames for king mattresses, and that some California king bed sheets, frames and accessories can be much more expensive, so there is an extra cost to consider.

California king vs king mattresses: Dimensions

  • A king size is 76” wide by 80” long
  • A California king is 72” wide by 84” long
  • California king is better for narrower bedrooms

The dimensions of a king mattress are 76” wide by 80” long, while the dimensions of a California king mattress are 72” wide by 84” long. The good news is this does not usually impact the cost and both California king vs king mattresses often retail at the same price, though this isn’t the case

Luckily, most of the best mattresses in a box are sold with matching bedding, and these are frequently  discounted in the sales or included as part of a bed and bedding bundle. 

Another thing to consider is the size of your bed frame. If you’re looking to switch your bed from a California king to a king or vice versa, you will have to take the dimensions of the bed frame into consideration too. Again, there tends to be more choice for king size frames, but because California king is becoming more widely available, the choice of frames is improving.

California king vs king mattresses: Pros and cons

  • Both suit back and stomach sleepers
  • King size is better for two side sleepers sharing a bed
  • California king is narrower, but longer for tall people 

If you share a bed, both California king and king mattresses offer plenty of room. However, if you like to have pets on the bed or are often joined by your little ones, you may find it more comfortable to sleep on a king as these are wider. 

For narrower rooms, a California king might be the smarter choice with the four-inch saving on the width creating more space around the bed. While the dimensions are longer here – and more suitable for sleepers who are tall – this shape gives you all the comfort of a double bed without taking up too much extra room.

A young family of four lie on a king size mattress together

A king size mattress (pictured) is wider than a Cal king and better for co-sleeping (Image credit: Getty)

While both California king and king mattresses are usually the same price, California kings can sometimes be more expensive. As mentioned, bedding can be more expensive than that of the standard size Double as well, especially when it comes to the fitted sheets and comforters.

California king vs king mattresses: Prices

  • California king is is usually the same price as king 
  • Both are more expensive than queen size mattresses
  • You can buy great king mattresses for under $1,000

In the battle of California king vs king mattresses prices, the former is occasionally more expensive. However, each month there are plenty of mattress sales running on both of these sizes, so there’s always a bargain to be had.

Here’s a selection of prices for both sizes across popular models from leading sleep brands, and as you'll see, they are the same in nearly all cases:

Saatva Classic King: $2,095California king: $2,095
Casper OriginalKing: $1,945California king: $1,945
Tempur-Pedic Tempur-BreezeKing: $5,099California king: $5,099
Avocado Green Eco OrganicKing: $1,299California king: $1,299
Nectar Memory FoamKing: $1,199California king: $1,199
DreamCloud Luxury HybridKing: $1,399California king: $1,399

California king vs king mattresses: What is a Cal king?

  • California king mattresses measure 72” x 84”
  • They suit very taller sleepers
  • They are ideal for narrow bedrooms

A California king is suitable for two people and especially back and stomach sleepers who don't move around much during sleep. It measures 72” wide by 84” long, making it suitable for co-sleepers in narrower bedrooms or where one – or both sleepers – is taller than 6’2”. 

Because this size is four inches narrower than a king size, it might not have much space if you allow your pets to sleep with you on the bed, or if the kids like to jump in in the mornings. 

Not allowing yourself enough individual space on the mattress can lead to an uncomfortable sleeping posture, as well as sleeping hot if you are too cramped, so it’s always worth weighing this up first.

Here are three of our favorite California king mattresses:

DreamCloud Cal king: $1,199 + $499 of gifts at DreamCloud (opens in new tab)
The DreamCloud is a great choice for back pain support, and for back and side sleepers looking for cushioned comfort. It's made with a blend of memory foam and innersprings to relieve pressure, boost support and isolate motion. In the DreamCloud mattress sale (opens in new tab) there's $200 off plus up to $499 of free gifts.

Nectar Mattress Cal king: $1,199 + $399 of gifts at Nectar (opens in new tab)
This mid-range memory foam mattress is great value for a Cal king size. Not only do you save $100 on the bed itself, you’ll get free pillows, a sheet set and mattress protector in the Nectar mattress sale (opens in new tab). There’s also free shipping and returns, a 365-night risk-free trial and a Lifetime Warranty.

Casper Original Mattress Cal king: $1,695 at Casper (opens in new tab)
Casper’s innovative all-foam mattress offers super-size comfort and features for a wide range of sleeping positions. These include zoned support to help align your spine, AirScape foam for increased airflow, and premium foam for pressure relief regardless of how you sleep.

California king vs king mattresses: What is a king?

  • King mattresses measure 76 x 80” 
  • They are suitable for co-sleepers seeking plenty of room
  • They are also ideal for medium to large bedrooms

At 76” wide by 80” long, king mattresses easily accommodate two sleepers, as well as pets or kids. Side sleepers love king size beds as they have ample room to bend their knees without disturbing their partner and to stretch out during side sleeping. 

This size is suitable for medium to larger size bedrooms, although taller people who are 6’2” or above may struggle to get comfortable if they want to fully stretch out and are better off with a king.

Most brands sell king sizes, and while the cost of larger sizes is obviously higher, there are always excellent sales online and money off bedding bundles too. When it comes to bedding and bed frames, then there are limitless options available in this standard size, so you will always get the perfect fit. 

Here are three of our favorite king mattresses:

Saatva Classic king: $2,095 at Saatva (opens in new tab)
This luxurious innerspring hybrid comes in your choice of three firmnesses and two heights, so you can tailor it to suit your body and the way you sleep. As we explain in our Saatva Classic mattress review (opens in new tab), it’s designed with a durable dual-coil layer for support and ample pressure relief.

Cocoon by Sealy Chill king: $999 at Cocoon by Sealy (opens in new tab)
As one of the best cooling mattresses (opens in new tab), Sealy’s memory foam Chill is well-suited to hot sleepers. Choosing the larger king size gives you space to sleep comfortably, which is made easier year-round thanks to a cooling cover infused with temperature-regulating phase-change material that dissipates heat.

Bear Pro king: $1,399 + free bedding at Bear Mattress (opens in new tab)
The Bear Pro is a great mattress for side sleepers (opens in new tab) infused with copper for cooling and hygiene (copper is antimicrobial). It's a cozy option too, with a layer of responsive foam for body-hugging support while keeping your spine aligned during sleep to protect your posture.

Should you buy a California king or king mattress?

If you want plenty of room when you sleep then both California king and king are comfortable choices, especially if you share a bed. If you have a narrow bedroom, the slimmer width of the California king will give you more room, and is also a good option if you are taller than 6’2”. 

Sleepers of all sizes who love to stretch out will benefit from a king size mattress, especially if they allow pets on the bed or have young children co-sleep with you. Because king mattresses are more common, you will have a better choice of bed frames and bedding that fits the same dimensions. 

There are still plenty of bed frames and bedding to suit a California king, especially if you buy from the same company that makes your mattress – this can sometimes be more economical too, as brands usually offer big discounts when you buy a bedding bundle, while others give bedding away as free gifts.

Ultimately, the size you choose will depend on how much room you need  to sleep comfortably in bed, as well as the size of your bedroom itself. 

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Davina is an experienced sleep writer and mattress reviewer who also contributes to our sister site TechRadar, among other Future plc brands. Davina's a big fan of organic sleep products and has recently invested in a wool mattress topper that she quite happily describes as "life-changing." (Hey, we're serious about our sleep products). When she isn't testing mattresses or writing about sleep, Davina enjoys reading and creative writing, and incorporates meditation and yoga into her wellness routine.