King vs. California King

If you’re deciding between a King and California King mattress -- the two largest standard mattress sizes -- you’ve already decided that it’s time to go big. While it’s clear from the name that both are sizable beds, there’s a lot of confusion about the California King ranging from its name to its dimensions.

Though the origins aren’t perfectly clear, the name California King appears to date back to when an extra-long bed was marketed by a manufacturer in California. During that time, mattress sizes weren’t standardized like they are today, so the term “California King” was used to differentiate it from other King beds on the market.

Regardless of the origins, California King has come to refer to a mattress with specific dimensions. In this guide, we’ll review those dimensions and how they compare to a King. To help you decide which size is best for you, we’ll explore the key factors to think through and offer practical tips for making your selection.

Matters of Size: How Do King and California King Mattresses Compare?

A good starting point is comparing the dimensions of a King and California King bed. Looking closely at the numbers can definitively answer whether a King or California King bed is bigger.

This table lists the standard dimensions for King and California King mattresses in both Imperial and metric units.

King California King
Width 76 inches / 6 feet, 4 inches / 193.04 cm 72 inches / 6 feet / 182.9 cm
Length 80 inches / 6 feet, 8 inches / 203.2 cm 84 inches / 7 feet / 213.3 cm
Total Surface Area 6,080 square inches / 3.91 square meters 6,048 square inches / 3.78 square meters

There are a few key takeaways from this table:

  • In terms of overall surface area, the King is actually bigger than the California King. The difference here is minimal, though, as the King has less than 1% more total surface area.
  • A California King is 4 inches longer than a King, and at 7 feet in total length, can accommodate even most professional basketball players.
  • A King is wider than the California King by 4 inches.
  • A King bed has a more square shape while a California King is more rectangular.

What Are the Key Considerations for Choosing Between a King and a California King Bed?

While picking a mattress size might seem straightforward, in reality, it involves consideration of a range of factors. In deciding between a King and a California King, you’ll want to reflect on those factors and your own priorities.

In the following sections, we’ll outline the most important topics to consider and how the King and California King mattresses stack up.

Bedroom Space

Of all the factors that can influence your decision, first and foremost is the actual physical space available in your bedroom.

King vs. California King

There are two ways to consider the space requirements of a King and a California King.

  • Total footprint: as shown in the table above, a King mattress has a larger overall footprint, meaning that it takes up a slightly larger amount of space relative to a California King.
  • Bed shape: while the total footprint is comparable, the two mattresses have a considerably different shape. The extra length of a California King may pose a problem in some rooms, while the width of the King could be problematic in other rooms.

How to Decide

Before considering anything else, address the most straightforward question: could either of these mattress types fit, in terms of the specific dimensions of length and width, in your bedroom?

If only one type will fit, then you can end your deliberations now and opt for that size.

If both types will fit, then you need to think about the logistics and practicality of having a King or California King mattress in your bedroom. Think through the following questions:

  • Where do you want to place the mattress? Given the shape of the bed, can you fit it there?
  • Would the added width or length of either size limit your ability to access the bedroom door, bathroom door, or closets?
  • Would the dimensions and shape of either size make your bedroom feel cramped? Would either one obstruct easy movement around the mattress? How much free floor space would remain after the bed is in place?

If one size makes your bedroom feel like a tight squeeze, then it’s probably not the right choice. That’s especially true if movement in the bedroom or access to doors or closets is blocked.

In addition, most bedrooms have other furniture like nightstands, dressers, desks, lamps, and/or chairs that make your bedroom more livable. Bedroom furniture can add style and comfort as well. If either size closes off the possibility of having good complimentary furniture, it’s a strong reason to opt for the other option.

Sharing the Bed With Children and Pets

Two people can sleep in a King or California King with room to spare. But that extra space can quickly disappear if you have kids or pets that come to snuggle up with you in bed.

King vs. California King

The King bed has more total square inches of sleeping surface, and for that reason, is technically more adept at providing space for any person or pets that come to share the bed. The width of a King can help accommodate nighttime visitors as well.

Depending on where your children or pets sleep on the bed, though, the added length of the California King can come in handy.

How to Decide

In many situations, both the King and the California King will provide sufficient space for a couple and a child or a pet. These are large mattresses that are conducive to sharing.

That said, if multiple children and/or pets are climbing into bed, or if you want to maintain as spacious a feel as possible when sharing the bed, then it’s worthwhile to evaluate whether the King or California King is likely to best serve your needs.

If you’re usually sharing the bed with children, a King bed is usually the better option. It’s greater total space can give everyone some breathing room even when sharing the bed. In particular, the extra width lets children sleep by your side without getting too cramped, and since children are not as tall as adults, the shorter length of the King has no ill effects.

If you share the bed with pets, especially if those pets sleep around your feet, then a California King, with its added length, makes it easier to create space for them without a tight squeeze. If your pets take up space in the middle of the bed, then the added width of the King will offer the most benefit.

Body Shape

Body shape has a major influence on what size bed is the best fit. In the case of a King vs. California King, the central issue when it comes to body shape is your height.

King vs. California King

The fundamental difference in dimensions is the key element to keep in mind. In both cases, it’s a matter of 4”. A California King is 7 feet long, 4 inches more than a King. A King is 6 feet, 4 inches wide, 4 inches more than a California King.

How to Decide

The California King is the mattress size of choice for very tall people. While a King can accommodate most tall people, a California King is long enough to let even most very tall people sleep with their feet still on the bed. If you’re 6’3” or less, a King mattress will normally be long enough. If you’re over 6’3”, a California King provides meaningful extra length.

If you’re very tall but can’t fit a California King in your bedroom, all is not lost. The extra width of a King does give extra space to sleep at an angle so that your feet don’t dangle off the edge of the bed.

Sleeping Position

The way that you occupy space on your bed is not just about your body size; it’s also about your sleeping position. People who love to stretch out have different needs than people who curl up in a ball. Combination sleepers, who may change sleeping positions multiple times in the night, often need more space to move around and to assume the various sleeping arrangements that are most comfortable.

King vs. California King

A King provides more overall space to relax into almost any sleeping position or to change positions during the night. The extra 4” of length of a California King gives a buffer at the bottom of the bed for those who like to really stretch out.

How to Decide

The majority of sleepers in the most common sleeping positions will have plenty of space on either a King or a California King. The difference takes on importance for a few specific types of sleepers.

Some sleepers, based on their preferred position, take up more horizontal space (width). Some of the main examples of these sleepers include:

  • People who extend their arms out to the side and away from their body. Most often these are back sleepers, but there are some side and stomach sleepers who do this as well. This takes up significant horizontal space at the top of the bed.
  • Back and stomach sleepers who spread their legs wide when sleeping. People who sleep this way occupy lots of horizontal space at the bottom of the bed.
  • Side sleepers who pull their legs upward and push their backside out, putting their body in the shape of a comma, question mark, or a hook. These sleepers reduce available space in the middle part of the bed.
  • Combination sleepers who are frequently changing positions can take up space as they toss-and-turn and move between positions in the night.
  • Other people who move a lot in their sleep, such as by flailing their arms or kicking their legs when dreaming, will require more horizontal space on the mattress.

Some sleepers take up more vertical space (length) on the mattress. Most often these are people of above-average height. Examples include:

  • Sleepers in any position who don’t place their whole head on the pillow. In this way, they lower the overall placement of their body away from the head of the bed.
  • People who sleep with their legs fully extended and toward the foot of the bed. This is a common position for stomach and back sleepers and some side sleepers.

People who tend to take up more horizontal space in their preferred sleeping position(s) will get more benefit from the extra width of a King. People who need more vertical space will do best with a California King and its 4” of added length.

Personal Space

People who share a bed frequently learn that not everyone shares the same idea about personal space for sleep. Some people like to be snuggled up next to another person, and other people want to maintain a “personal bubble.”

Personal space preferences in bed can be tied to a person’s sleeping temperature and their sensitivity to being awoken during the night. People who have a tendency to sleep hot may want more room for cooling airflow around them. People who are easily startled awake might want more space so that they don’t get accidentally woken up by a partner’s movement.

King vs. California King

There is quite a bit of room for personal space on a King and a California King. A King has a slight edge in terms of surface area.

How to Decide

If your goal is to have as much space as possible, then a King provides a minor benefit over a California King. In addition, the added width offers more usable space to have a buffer for personal space.

Having the right amount of personal space when sleeping relates to more than just the size of the bed. In many cases, people sharing a bed have different preferences about the space that they need, and that difference can create problems if it is not addressed. Anyone sharing a bed should have an honest conversation about how to do so in a way that works for everyone.

If personal space is wanted in order to promote airflow and keep cool, it may be helpful to consider a cooling mattress or a cooling sheet set.

If the need for personal space comes from worries about being woken up by a partner’s movement on the bed, a mattress with excellent motion isolation can bring welcome relief. All of the options in our guide to the best mattresses for couples offer motion isolation that is above-average or better.

Bed Frame and Bedding

In addition to buying a mattress, you’ll also need a bed frame (and in some cases a box spring) as well as pillows, sheets, and blankets to get your bedroom sleep-ready.

King vs. California King

The difference in shape between a King and California King means that in most cases, bed frames, sheets, and blankets are not interchangeable between the two sizes.

In general, there is a greater availability of bedding products in the King size than in California King, which means there is a wider range of materials, designs, and prices for King products. The price point for California King bed frames and bedding can be higher than for a King.

King pillows, which measure 20 inches by 36 inches, are generally designed for use on either a King or a California King mattress.

How to Decide

If you want to be able to have the widest selection of bed frames and bedding products, then a King mattress is the wiser bet. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have options if you go with a California King, but the range of choices can be reduced. For some shoppers, though, this may actually be a benefit as it can decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many choices.

If you are working with a limited budget, take into account that there may be some additional costs when buying a bed frame and bedding for a California King mattress.

If you already have a King or a California King and are considering switching it up, keep in mind that you will not be able to continue using the same bed frame, sheets, and comforters.

Setup and Moving

To get your bedroom set up, you’ll have to install and position your King or California King bed. Some mattress companies offer white-glove delivery (either for free or for an additional fee), but if not, you’ll have to unbox and install the mattress yourself.

If and when you move, you will need to transport the mattress, including lifting and carrying it out of your current bedroom and home and into your new one.

King vs. California King

Both King and a California King mattresses are likely to be heavy and unwieldy. Most often, they have roughly the same weight.

Because they do not share the same shape, moving a King and California King can pose distinct challenges. Which one is easier to move is dictated primarily by the dimensions of your home and which shape can pass more easily through doors and hallways.

The flexibility of the mattress can play a role in the ease of moving it as well. Some mattress types, like all-foam mattresses, usually have more give than hybrids or innersprings. The material will affect the total mattress weight. In many cases, King and California King mattresses come with handles to simplify the moving process.

How to Decide

If you’re choosing between a King and a California King, you’re going to have a relatively large, heavy, and unwieldy mattress to set up and move no matter what. It will likely take two to three people to safely maneuver either one.

The biggest issues to consider are the dimensions and layout of your home. If certain hallways, doorways, or staircases will pose an added challenge for a wider or a longer bed, that may guide you to a decision about whether a King or a California King will be easier to navigate through your home.

If you expect to move after purchasing your new mattress, it may be advantageous to look for a mattress that comes with solid handles sewn on the side of the mattress. Whether you move it yourself or hire a moving company, handles can make it easier to carry the mattress and avoid accidental damage to your housewares.

If you have limited ability to lift and position a mattress of this size, look for a mattress seller that offers white-glove delivery services. Some local furniture or moving companies may offer mattress set up services even if you don’t buy the mattress directly from them.

If you opt for a bed-in-a-box mattress that gets delivered to your home, don’t forget that it is easier to get the mattress into your home than to get it out. Upon delivery, the mattress is compressed and sealed in plastic, but once set up, you can never get the mattress back to that size. It’s prudent to make sure that the dimensions of your home allow you to safely remove a King or California King mattress before you open the box and install one.

Price

The price range for mattresses is enormous, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Determining your budget is an important part of narrowing the field and determining which mattresses are an option for your home.

King vs. California King

Most manufacturers offer the same price for a King and a California King; however, this is not universally true. In some cases, the price for a California King may be slightly higher. Only rarely is a King priced higher than a California King.

How to Decide

Normally price won’t be a determining factor in your decision between a King and a California King. Even if there is a price differential for your preferred mattress model, it probably won’t be a huge amount. Nevertheless, make sure to carefully look at the price when shopping just to make sure, especially if you are working with a very strict budget.

Interior Decorating

While a mattress is primarily for sleeping on, it also forms part of the decor of your bedroom. If you’re focused on home decor, you want the mattress to fit nicely into the visual arrangement of your bedroom.

King vs. California King

With a more square shape, a King bed can alter the perception of space in your bedroom for good or for bad. The more classic rectangular shape of a California King offers more flexibility for arranging it in ways that influence the perceived dimensions of your bedroom.

How to Decide

There are two steps to deciding which size will offer the most benefit for your home decor. First, think about the look that you are going for and your own personal style. Second, consider the shape of your bedroom, the shape of these two mattress sizes, and the possible arrangements of the mattress along with any other bedroom furniture that you plan to use.

Once you have a sense of the look and feel that you want to create with your bedroom decorating, it will be easier to select a King or California King based on how well it fits that interior design approach.

Need to improve your sleep? Read our in-depth, unbiased mattress reviews to find the perfect bed.

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