California King vs Eastern King

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People tend to think of the California King as a larger mattress than a King. It’s not.

Overall, the California King mattress has a smaller surface area than a regular King mattress. The California King is 4 inches longer, but 4 inches narrower than a regular or “Eastern” King. (See where we do the math below.) That means a King mattress has more overall surface area and will offer more space between you and your partner than a California King does.

One overall rule of thumb when mattress shopping and deciding between the two sizes: If you’re on the tall side, taller than 6’2”, get the Cal King. It has the length you need. If you’re sleeping alongside another average height partner and just need more space, the Eastern King is your choice. It has the surface area you want.

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Pros of a King Mattress

A regular King mattress is the “standard” version of the size, so the reasons to get a regular King sized mattress instead of California King will apply to more people. King is the big mattress for most people. For example:

  • The King has more overall space. A standard King (76″ x 80″) covers 6,080 square inches. A California King (72″ x 84″) covers 6048 square inches.
  • If two people are sleeping in the bed, there will be less partner disturbance in a King. If you have a tosser/turner sleeping next to you, the extra overall space can make a difference in how much sleep each partner gets. This is also useful if you allow kids or the dog to sleep with you.
  • Mattress stores stock King mattresses a lot more than California Kings. While you can usually get a King mattress immediately, a California King might take a few weeks to arrive. (Note: This won’t necessarily be true if you live in California. Because, as the name implies, they are more abundant in the state.)
  • It’s easier to find sheets and other accessories for King mattresses. You’ll have a lot more choices and an easier time getting them. (This is not as big of a problem as it used to be with the internet.  Amazon has a big selection of Cal King accessories.)

Pros of a California King Mattress

Those are all compelling reasons to choose an “Eastern” King, but the California King would not exist if it didn’t offer different characteristics that serve other sleeper needs. For instance:

  • A California King is great for tall people. If you’re taller than about 6’3″ or so, your feet might hang off of a regular King. A California King gives you an extra 4 inches of length. No more sleeping with cold toes.If you have a long, narrow bedroom, a California King might fit into the room a little better.
  • Though less likely, sometimes you can get a great clearance deal on California King mattresses. Some people get a California King special-ordered, only to realize that they needed a regular King. That California King mattress might sit in the store’s warehouse for months, because California Kings are more rare. People can pay under $600 for a $3500 California King mattress because it was discontinued for so long that the store just wanted to get rid of it.
  • If you have slept in a King size waterbed, you were actually sleeping in a bed the size of a California King. So if you want to replace the waterbed mattress and keep the platform, you’ll need a California King mattress.

What is a Split King Mattress?

Yet another variant on the traditional King size is the Split King. The Split King is roughly the same size as a regular King but it comes in two pieces instead of one. It’s essentially two twin-sized beds placed side by side on a single box spring, base, and/or frame. Everything we’ve said about the traditional King applies to the Split King.

Using a Split King is also great with an adjustable base. Each partner can adjust their mattress to their liking.

We talk a lot about motion transfer here at Mattress Nerd, because it’s important! When partners share a bed, you want to feel as little of their movement as possible in order to sleep deeply and well. With two mattresses on the base, it’s like having two pockets of space that isolate movement and do a better job confining it to that area. Regular King size mattresses have one single area that must work to isolate movement from two people on the same slab.

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Measurement, weight, and space

Before you get too excited about buying a bigger bed, slow down and consider the actual space in your bedroom.

With a King or a Cal King in the room, can you still open the doors to the room and your closet? Will you still be able to walk around the bed? Do the drawers of your dresser and/or nightstand still open? Is the bed blocking anything important like the vents to the AC or the heater?

One way to visualize the space a King or Cal King will take up and determine if there is enough left is to use an online room planning tool. There’s one called the Roomstyler 3D Home planner that is available for use free of charge.

It’s also important to consider your own size when choosing between a California King or regular King. Though taller people might find the Cal King a better fit, heavier people may want more surface space that you get with a King.

Consider the costs of the upgrade

If you’re upgrading from a queen-sized mattress, you’ll normally pay 15-20 percent more for an upgrade to either the King or the Cal King. But the same make and model of a King and the Cal King are usually priced similarly across the board.

Also remember, if you’re going from a queen to any king, you’ll need a new frame and platform, as well as blankets and other accessories. 

Our Favorite King Mattresses

See all of our top picks for the best king mattresses!

Brooklyn Bedding Plank Firm Mattress

brooklyn bedding plank firm hero

The Plank mattress by Brooklyn Bedding is one of the firmest mattresses on the market. It's a flippable mattress with a Firm side (7.5/10) and Extra Firm side (9/10). It has firm foam layers on both sides and dense foam core in between.

Nerd Score 4.0/5
Read Full Review

Material

Foam

Trial Period

120 nights

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Firmness

Multiple firmness options

Warranty

10-year warranty

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Back Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from back pain.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.8/5
Watch Our Video Review

Brooklyn Bedding Plank Firm Mattress

brooklyn bedding plank firm hero

The Plank mattress by Brooklyn Bedding is one of the firmest mattresses on the market. It's a flippable mattress with a Firm side (7.5/10) and Extra Firm side (9/10). It has firm foam layers on both sides and dense foam core in between.

Nerd Score 4.0/5
Read Full Review

Material

Foam

Warranty

10-year warranty

Firmness

Multiple firmness options

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Trial Period

120 nights

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Back Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from back pain.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.8/5
Watch Our Video Review
brooklyn bedding plank firm hero

Brooklyn Bedding Plank Firm Mattress

The Plank mattress by Brooklyn Bedding is one of the firmest mattresses on the market. It's a flippable mattress with a Firm side (7.5/10) and Extra Firm side (9/10). It has firm foam layers on both sides and dense foam core in between.

Nerd Score 4.0/5
Read Full Review

Material

Foam

Firmness

Multiple firmness options

Trial Period

120 nights

Warranty

10-year warranty

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Back Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from back pain.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.8/5
Watch Our Video Review

See our full Puffy mattress review for more info.

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

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The Helix Midnight Luxe is a luxury cooling version of the original Helix Midnight mattress. It works for people of all sleep positions and body types. Read our full review to learn more about this bed.

Nerd Score 3.8/5
Read Full Review

Material

Hybrid

Trial Period

100 nights

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Firmness

Medium-firm: 6/10

Warranty

15-year warranty

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Seniors
This bed is perfect for senior sleepers.
Hip Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from hip pain.
Back Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight back sleepers.
Side Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight side sleepers.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for lightweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.7/5
Watch Our Video Review

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

_wp_attachment_image_alt

The Helix Midnight Luxe is a luxury cooling version of the original Helix Midnight mattress. It works for people of all sleep positions and body types. Read our full review to learn more about this bed.

Nerd Score 3.8/5
Read Full Review

Material

Hybrid

Warranty

15-year warranty

Firmness

Medium-firm: 6/10

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Trial Period

100 nights

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Seniors
This bed is perfect for senior sleepers.
Hip Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from hip pain.
Back Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight back sleepers.
Side Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight side sleepers.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for lightweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.7/5
Watch Our Video Review
_wp_attachment_image_alt

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress

The Helix Midnight Luxe is a luxury cooling version of the original Helix Midnight mattress. It works for people of all sleep positions and body types. Read our full review to learn more about this bed.

Nerd Score 3.8/5
Read Full Review

Material

Hybrid

Firmness

Medium-firm: 6/10

Trial Period

100 nights

Warranty

15-year warranty

Shipping Method

Free shipping

Price Range

$$$$$

We recommend this mattress for the following sleeper types:

Seniors
This bed is perfect for senior sleepers.
Hip Pain
This bed is perfect for anyone suffering from hip pain.
Back Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight back sleepers.
Side Sleeping
Ideal for average weight and heavyweight side sleepers.
Stomach Sleeping
Ideal for lightweight stomach sleepers.

Financing Options

Financing options are available for this mattress.

Average Customer Rating
4.7/5
Watch Our Video Review

See our full Helix Midnight mattress review for more info. 

Conclusion

For most people, a King sized mattress is a correct size to get. You don’t need to get a California King unless you have a very specific reason to do so (e.g. you’re exceptionally tall, you’re replacing a waterbed, etc). But if you’re considering one, make sure to take all these factors into account!