King vs California King: Which One Is Better for You?

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 14 minLast updated on March 2, 2023

Let me say it straight away:

The difference between King vs California King mattresses is in their dimensions. A standard King mattress measures 76 x 80 inches, which makes it the widest option available. A California King bed, on the other hand, is the longest option and measures 72 x 84 inches.

Now, this difference in dimensions might not seem so drastic but in some cases, a couple of inches can play a huge role in your comfort.

So, let’s see who will benefit the most from each of these two mattress sizes.

Key Takeaways:

  • The main difference between a King (76 x 80 inches) and a California King (72 x 84 inches) mattress is that a King is wider, while a California King is taller.
  • King mattresses tend to be helpful for couples or families, while California King mattresses tend to be helpful if you’re taller or have a narrower room.

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What is a King Size?

A king-size mattress is one of the largest standard mattress sizes, measured at 76 by 80 inches, making it larger than a queen-size mattress. King-size mattresses tend to benefit couples most or if you like to use a wide width while sleeping.

What is a California King Size?

A California king mattress (also known as a Cal King), is taller and narrower than a king mattress. A California king mattress measures 72 by 54 inches, which is 4 inches narrower and 4 inches longer than a king mattress. A Cal King tends to be of most benefit to taller individuals who need more leg space while still giving enough space for coupled sleeping.

King vs California King Side by Side

 KingCalifornia King
Dimensions76 x 80 inches72 x 84 inches
Surface area42.2 square feet42 square feet
Recommended room area13 x 13 feet minimum13 x 12 feet minimum
  • good pick for those who sleep in a starfish position and their partners;

  • can offer enough space to fit up to three adults for occasional sleeping;

  • suitable for large sleepers and couples;

  • relatively easy to find sheets and other sleep accessories for

  • suits taller individuals and couples;

  • can fit into narrower bedrooms;

  • works for compact sleepers and those who don’t toss and turn a lot

  • Cons
  • may look disproportionate in some bedrooms;

  • may not work for taller people

  • lower market demand — harder to find bedding of this size;

  • offers less width per person;

  • tends to be more expensive

  • Similarities Between King and Cal King Mattresses

    Before we dive into the differences between the largest mattress sizes on the market, let’s check out what they have in common.

    Similarities Between King and Cal King Mattresses


    People often overlook mattress weight when shopping, and that’s easy to understand:

    Most mattresses arrive at your doorstep in a compressed state, and their weight is lower than advertised until you rip off the seal on the plastic and let the mattress inflate.

    However, since every mattress needs basic care like rotation and regular cleaning, large weight can be an obstacle for doing it single-handedly.

    And both King and California King mattresses are among the heaviest on the market. Especially if you go for a thick hybrid. 

    King and Cal King mattresses, on average, weigh between 130 and 180 pounds. That’s the average weight of an adult human!

    Adding the bulkiness of the mattress, you will probably need to ask your spouse or relative to help you rotate it.

    Also Read: How Much Does a Mattress Weigh


    Along with being the heaviest mattresses on the market, both King and Cal King sizes are usually the priciest. Most manufacturers have the same pricing for these mattresses, while others may add a couple of hundreds of bucks to a Cal King due to its lower market demand. 

    But the average price point of a medium-quality King mattress starts at $1,200 and goes up to $3,000-4,000 for lux brands. You can find King and Cal King mattresses lower than $1000 but their quality might be questionable.

    Also Read: Alaskan King Bed: Price, Buyer's Guide, and Where To Buy One Online

    King vs California King: Main Differences

     King MattressCalifornia King Mattress
    Surface AreaOffers 0.2 square feet more surface area.Offers 0.2 square feet less surface area.
    Space Per PersonOffers 4 inches less leg space for taller individuals.Offers 4 inches more leg space for taller individuals.
    Motion TransferHas better motion isolation due to more width.Has slightly worse motion isolation due to less width.
    Required Bedroom SpaceNeeds 1 foot extra in width for a bedroom.Needs 1 foot less in width for a bedroom.
    FoundationHas more foundation options.Has fewer foundation options.

    It’s not a surprise that people keep confusing King-sized mattresses and their California cousins because they both look pretty similar, even despite the difference in dimensions.

    But looks can be deceiving, you know.

    That’s why I’ll try to familiarize you with the main features of both bed sizes right below so that you’ll be more confident when shopping for a new mattress.

    Surface Area

    You already know that the main difference between King and California King mattresses is in their dimensions. Basically, you get a California King mattress by subtracting 4 inches from the width of a standard King mattress and add them to the length.

    Turns out that this simple shuffle affects the total mattress surface area.

    Let me do the math here:

    King mattress: 76 x 80 inches = 6080 square inches or 42.2 square feet;

    Cal King mattress: 72 x 84 inches = 6048 square inches or 42 square feet.


    Cal King appears to be even a bit smaller than King!

    Still, the difference in surface area between the two sizes is tiny. But things get more interesting when it comes to space per person.

    king vs california king mattress sizes

    Space Per Person

    Despite almost identical surface area with Cal King, a King mattress gives you 38 x 80 inches of space per person, which is an equivalent of a Twin XL mattress. Cal King, on the other hand, is slightly narrower and longer than that, measuring 36 x 84 inches per single sleeper

    Although Cal King gives some extra space for legs, the width might not be sufficient for some sleepers.

    If you are considered co-sleeping with a small child as well as your partner, looking at an Alaskan King versus a California King may be worth it. It is good to consider all mattress sizes before going ahead with any particular one, as sleeping alone or coupled will impact how comfortably you can sleep, depending on the mattress size.

    In my experience, I have found the few extra inches at the end of the bed are enough to properly stretch out, especially since I’m slightly taller than average (6.5”). However, I do prefer the extra inches of width on King mattresses when I am not sleeping alone.

    Sleeping with my partner on a mattress
    Sleeping with my partner on a mattress

    Motion Transfer

    This aspect is often overlooked, but motion transfer is crucial for partnered sleepers (especially if one of them tends to be restless). 

    Now, mattresses that give each person more space perform better in terms of motion isolation. In other words, wider mattresses allow for less motion transfer. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that standard King beds would perform better in this case, as they are slightly wider than Cal King models. Yes, the difference isn’t that big, but it may still play a role when it comes to partnered sleep.

    If you’re consider you want more motion isolation, and need the size that a California King mattress provides, you could consider a Split California King mattress, and see what works better for you.

    In my experience, King mattresses work better for motion isolation as the extra width put more space between my wife and I, and I noticed less disturbances during the night overall.

    Testing a pillow-top mattress's motion transfer
    Testing a pillow-top mattress's motion transfer

    Required Bedroom Space

    Another important thing you should consider when choosing between King and California King is whether your bedroom is actually able to fit such a large bed in.

    Fortunately, the required bedroom space is an equal parameter for both mattress sizes:

    To comfortably place a King or Cal King bed in your bedroom and still have enough space to walk around and lay out your furniture, your room should measure at least 13 x 13 feet.

    A California King mattress technically can fit into narrower spaces, such as 13 x 12 feet. However, it’s advisable to downsize the mattress if you live in a small apartment so that the bedroom won’t look disproportionate and cluttered.

    “Speaking of the cost, both King and California King beds tend to be the priciest. However, thanks to the diverse mattress market, today you can easily find a decent Cal King or King mattress under $1,000 that will serve you for years.”

    Room Decor Options

    One of the main differences between a King and a California King mattress is in their customization options for your bedroom, as a King mattress has over 11 times more options for bed frames than a California King. As an example, googling “king bed frame” brings back over 429 million results, while “california king bed frame” only brings back 37 million. That means if you have a particular style and design for your bedroom, you are much more likely to find the perfect bed frame to suit it if you choose a King mattress instead of a California King mattress.


    The foundation or bedframe is slightly different between king and California king mattresses, as king-size mattresses are more popular and therefore have more manufacturers making foundations in its size. California king mattresses are not as popular, so they may not have as wide of a selection of bedframes to choose from.

    Wooden bed frame
    Wooden bed frame

    My Experience with King vs. California King Mattresses

    My experience with King and California King mattresses is a bit unique as I’m 6’5, so I am able to utilize the extra inches a California King offers. However, King mattresses tend to be better for sleeping with more than one person, as the extra width minimizes motion a bit more.

    The Pros and Cons of King vs Cal King

    Now, it’s obvious that King and Cal King mattresses were designed with different users in mind. So, let me outline the main features and drawbacks of each size so that you would understand which one is better for you personally.

    Pros and Cons of King

    So, what does a King mattress holds for us?

    I’ll start with the good:

    • Comfortable for couples and families. The surface of a King mattress can easily accommodate two adults, and even if your little one asks to sleep with you, you will still feel comfortable.
    • Suits heavy sleepers. Due to a wider surface, King mattresses can accommodate larger sleepers more comfortably and give them more room to move.
    • Easy to find sheets and accessories for. Most of the bedding brands have King-sized sheets in their lineup, so making your bed shouldn’t be a problem.
    • More affordably priced. King mattresses are, for the most part, less expensive than California King mattresses due to them being a more standard size. This can be helpful if you’re on a budget.

    And now, the bad:

    • Requires a larger bedroom. If your bedroom is a bit smaller than 13 x 13 feet, a King mattress might look disproportionate in it, so California King could be a better option to avoid feeling cramped. 
    • May not work for taller people. If you’re a tall individual who loves to curl up in the fetal position, then a King mattress may offer you enough space. In other cases, your legs might uncomfortably hang off of the bed.

    “Both King and California King are often available in a Split configuration. That means you can buy two separate halves of a mattress and customize each one for each sleeper personally.”

    Pros and Cons of California King

    Now, let’s look at Cal King beds.

    First, the pros:

    • Great for taller individuals. If you’re 5’5’’ and higher, then definitely choose a Cal King bed. Some extra space for legs will really pump up your comfort.
    • Perfect for those who sleep in the log position. If you don’t toss and turn much, or prefer to tightly hug your partner during sleep, then less space per person than what King offers won’t bother you.
    • Good for narrower bedrooms. Technically, a Cal King mattress can fit into a 13 x 12 feet bedroom — as long as you keep other furniture minimalistic and don’t clutter the room.
    • May work for taller, lighter-weight couples. A California King mattress can be a great option for couples who are taller but don’t need a lot of widths to be comfortable.

    And here are the weak points:

    • Harder to find sheets and accessories for. Some major bedding brands still consider Cal King a non-standard mattress size, so they might simply not offer sheets of this size. 
    • Offers less space per person. Larger sleepers and those who toss a lot might find a California King mattress less comfortable.
    • More expensively priced. California King mattresses tend to be more expensive than King mattresses as they are larger in size, and are a more uncommon mattress size.

    How to Choose Between a California King and a King Size Mattress

    The best way to choose between a California King and a King mattress is to consider your personal situation and preferences, such as if you’ll be sharing the bed, or if you’re a taller individual, and then choose a mattress with a trial period. According to a study by Sean O. Hogan, testing a mattress in-store does not mean you will choose the right one (2). So, a trial period to test the mattress and see if a California King or a King mattress works is one of the best ways to get around this.

    Another factor to consider is what mattress materials are used in your California King or King mattress. Memory foam is known for its ability to isolate motion and reduce pain (3), while latex is known to relieve pressure and support (4). However, memory foam in a California King may be more motion isolating than a latex King mattress due to the differences in mattress size.


    How can you tell the difference between a king and a California king mattress?

    The easiest way to tell the difference between a King and a California King mattress is in their measurements, as a King measures at 76 x 80 inches, and a California King measures at 72 x 84 inches. This makes the King wider, and the California King taller.

    Can you use a California King mattress on a King-size bed frame?

    No, as the California King mattress will cause a gap on the sides of the king bed frame, and overhang the frame at the bottom by at least 4 inches. This could jeopardize the integrity of the mattress as it does not have a solid, fitted base.

    Can you use a King comforter on a California King bed?

    Yes, however there will be a gap where the comforter doesn’t reach the foot of the California King bed, and excess material at the sides of the mattress.


    1. NINA SHEN RASTOGI (Aug. 12, 2011), Is the California King Bed the Sexiest Kind of Bed?, Retrieved from
    2. RTI (2011.) Choosing the Best Mattress: An Experiment in Testing Whether Individuals Choose a Bed That Leads to Improved Sleep Retrieved from: 
    3. NIH National Library of Medicine (2015.) Effects of an adapted mattress in musculoskeletal pain and sleep quality in institutionalized elders. Retrieved from: 

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