Are you having difficulty deciding what air mattress to buy? I really don’t blame you, because there are so many different factors to take into consideration.

I have written this extensive and in-depth guide that should provide you with all the answers on how to buy an air mattress. It’s a long article so you can either read it all from start to finish, or just jump to a certain section by using the Table Of Contents below.

 

Introduction

You would think that there isn’t much to think about when it comes to buying an air mattress. After all, it is just constructed from several components that consists of an air bladder, a pump, foam rail support, an outer top and a remote control. Not exactly rocket science right?

However, when it comes to sleeping, everyone has their own habits, sleeping patterns and comfort levels. Some people can fall asleep like a baby under almost any circumstances, while others toss and turn until they eventually slowly dose off.

And when it comes to air beds, there are several things that people are concerned about, and if these issues are not addressed, then it could result in money wasted, and also terrible sleeps.

In this article, I will be addressing all of the common issues that myself and others have come across in their experience with different air mattresses. Not all of these are major concerns, but some of them may be something you may want to take into consideration.

Ok then, let’s get started!

 

How Will You Be Using The Air Mattress?

One of the first things you must ask yourself before you buy an air mattress is, what will you be using it for?

  • Will it be a temporary bed for visitors? If so, then you won’t need to spend as much since you likely won’t be using it very often (read about the best air mattresses for guests here).
  • Do you plan to take it camping or traveling often? If this is the case, it makes sense to get an air bed that is lightweight, can be inflated and deflated quickly, and maybe even have a waterproof flock (read the top 10 travel/camping air mattresses).
  • Is it a permanent bed for you and your partner? If you plan to use it every night, then you need one that is known for its high quality and durability (read about the best air mattress for everyday use).

Please note: There are certain types of air mattresses designed for permanent use. These type of air beds cost thousands of dollars, but this website specifically addresses air beds that are designed for temporary and/or travel type use.

Knowing the answer to these questions will determine exactly what type of air bed you should go for, how it’s constructed and what features it has. All of these are covered more in-depth in the below sections.

 

What Brand Should You Go For?

Just like with most products that have high defect rates, it’s essential that you go for a reputable brand. They have the resources and experience to properly construct an air mattress that will last, and they also have good customer service to deal with any warranty claims (if the product has a warranty).

Some of the most reputable and popular air mattress brands are Intex, Coleman, Aero-Bed and Insta-Bed. However, just because they are well known, it doesn’t automatically mean all their products are great. As a matter of fact, they can too be accused of poor products, but many of their selected models are well-made.

Their best air mattress models can be found throughout our website in the form of in-depth reviews, top-rated comparison charts and lists in each specific category.

 

What Bed Size Is Right For You?

Size matters. At least in the case of an air mattress. But the size of it all depends on your own personal preferences, sleeping habits and of course, physical size.

Type Of Bed

There are only a few size types of air mattresses, and it can be very confusing knowing which one to choose because some terms are used interchangeably, and some even look like there’s no size difference from images.

I will break down the real meaning of each size, which consists of:

  • Single: Just like the name suggests, a single air mattress is designed for a single person only. There is no standard size, so sometimes, they seem like they’re big enough to sleep two people. Also, the term “single” is used interchangeably with “twin”, and most manufacturers or air mattresses just used the term twin bed nowadays anyway, which is why I’ve not included this as a category on this website.
  • Twin: Back in the day, a twin mattress consisted of two single mattresses for couples. Nowadays, it’s combined into one unit and can fit two small sized and lightweight individuals (though space will be limited), a large adult, or someone that just needs a good amount of sleeping space (see my top 10 twin air mattresses).
  • how to buy an air mattress

    Queen size raised air mattress.

    Full: Also known as a double or regular, a full size air mattress is the next step above twin, and can sleep two regular size adults. This size is not very common for air mattresses, since the size is not far from the queen size.

  • King: The largest air mattress is the king size, which is considerably wider than the queen size. Ideal for very large couples, or two adults that move a lot while sleeping.
  • Toddler: Adopting safe materials and design, a toddler size air mattress are ideal for kids transitioning to a big bed. They’re usually slightly narrower than a twin bed, and considerably shorter in length (see my top 7 toddler & kids air mattresses).

The general rule of sizing are shown below:

  • Twin Mattress Size (large single): 39″ x 75″
  • Full Mattress Size: 54″ x 75″
  • Queen Mattress Size: 60″ x 80″
  • King Mattress: 76″ x 80″

Bear in mind that these sizes do not always apply, but I’ve just put them there to give you an idea of how it’s standardized.

Low Or Raised

The choice of a low profile or raised bed all depends on how you like to sleep. The main differences are:

Low Profile

  • Cheaper than raised air mattresses.
  • Normally between 4 – 10 inches high.
  • Lower to the ground, making it ideal for kids or people who roll off the bed during sleep.
  • Lighter and more portable, making it better for camping and travel.

Raised Profile

  • A raised air mattress gives the feeling of a conventional bed.
  • Normally between 18 – 24 inches high.
  • Easier to get in and out of bed, making it ideal for people with certain physical conditions.
  • Sometimes includes a remote control which allows adjusting the amount of air.

Weight Capacity

You would need a bed that is able to easily withstand the weight of the person or people that will be sleeping on the air mattress.

Typically, a twin air mattress can withstand around 300 lbs while a full, queen and king size air mattress can hold between 400 – 600 lbs of weight. They vary from model to model, but it’s a good idea to get one that can take MORE than your weight just to be on the safe side.

 

Construction & Materials

The strength of an air mattress lies upon what material is used, and the thickness of the material. The higher the quality, you can expect the price to go up.

The most common (and not so common) materials used to construct air mattresses are:

  • Vinyl: This is the cheapest and least durable material used on air beds, and you’ll find that many inexpensive air beds are constructed from vinyl. They can stretch easier than other materials, which causes the air bed to appear deflated after sleeping on it night after night.
  • PVC (polyvinylchloride): This is a strong plastic that is also used for plumbing pipes among several other things. It stretches less than vinyl and is also more durable.
  • Polyester On PVC: Even more durable is the added polyester on PVC, which provides it with resistance to stretching and punctures. The material is double the price of standard PVC and takes a month longer to manufacture, but as a result, the air mattress will last 3-5 times as long. You will see this material used on more expensive air mattresses.
  • TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane):  The least common material used in air beds is TPU, which is more durable than PVC, lighter, less stretchy and is able to handle different ranges of temperature better. It’s also oil, grease and abrasion resistant, and avoids the use of chemical additives during production.

Gauge Of Material

Aside of the type of material used, you must also take into consideration the gauge or thickness of it. The thicker the material, the better it can withstand pressure. Anything under 0.4mm gauge is more likely to tear under an average adult’s weight.

Though thicker is better, it doesn’t mean that a vinyl air bed with a thicker gauge will automatically be more durable than a PVC air bed with a thinner gauge. The same goes for all other materials used for air beds.

Air Chambers & Coil Design

The use of air chambers and different coil designs (the pattern on the top of the air bed) affect how evenly air flow is distributed, which provides more support to the frame of the air bed as a result.

Don’t get misled into thinking that the more air chambers that an air mattress has, or the more complex the coil design, means the more support and comfortable it is. This is not true.

Numerous tests and studies has shown that it doesn’t really make much difference. In actuality, the less air chambers there are, the less likely that there will be air leaks because there will be less adhesive materials used at the seams and along edges of the surface.

However, an adequate amount of air chambers and a simple coil design is a good thing to maintain the shape of an air mattress, especially when you’re sitting on the edge or sleeping in certain positions.

 

Air Mattress Features

There are a number of features that an air mattress has, some of which are important while others are rather more of a personal preference.

Pump Type

The air pump is one of the most important components of an air bed, as it helps to inflate and deflate the air bed, and even maintain inflation consistency. Some air beds have a built-in pump while others use an external air pump, which is sometimes included with the air bed.

  • Built-in Air Pumps: This is powered by either batteries or an AC. Some built-in pumps are advised to be kept on overnight to ensure consistent inflation, and some air pumps are nosier than others.
  • External Air Pumps: If the pump doesn’t come with the air bed, you have to use a specific air pump to fit the product model you have, and you can usually find this information in the manual.
Built-in Air Pump

Built-in air mattress pump.

Due to constant complaints about leaks in valves and fittings, you’ll find that most of the built-in air pumps used nowadays are robust and generally reliable.

Many of them have features such as heat prevention to prevent overheating and automatic shutoff after inflation. These type of self-limiting abilities can largely increase the lifespan of an air bed and the pump.

If you want to find out more about air mattress pumps, I recommend that you read my article on How To Choose An Air Mattress Pump.

Inflation & Deflation Time

The quicker it takes for an air mattress to inflate and deflate, the better, especially when it comes to camping out or if you’re traveling.

For most air mattresses, you’ll see inflation times of between 90 – 180 seconds. Anything that inflates faster than that is exceptional, but if an air bed takes longer to inflate, it isn’t a reflection of the quality of the bed itself. However, it does sometimes reflect on the quality of the air pump.

Deflation times are a bit more difficult to measure because it relies on how you get all the air out (applying weight, rolling it etc.). Each model should come with instructions of how to inflate and deflate the air bed properly. In any case, you shouldn’t sacrifice quality for a faster inflation and deflation time.

Remote Control

A few air beds will come with a remote control that allows you to adjust the amount of air within the mattress, which is intended to give the user with different levels of comfort. Sometimes, you’ll find these settings built into the air pump itself.

Integrated Pillow

For added convenience and comfort, some air mattresses have built-in pillows, which is just an elevated cushioning area that is usually the same texture as the rest of the surface.

I’ve always preferred air beds without the pillow section, as it hurts my neck to have an elevated section. However, it is quite convenient if you’re going camping or traveling, and don’t want to bring extra pillows along.

Sleep Surface

Some air mattresses maintain the same surface material throughout the entire bed. This is not really an issue if you decide to put bed sheets over the surface anyway. Though if you were to sleep on certain types of material such as vinyl, it will produce more noise than others, as you’re moving around.

Certain surfaces adopt a flocked or suede material, which can provide specific benefits including waterproof, extra comfort, insulation and slip-or-grip friction.

Smell

Due to the nature of materials such as vinyl and PVC, it’s often susceptible to odors. This means that when you first open the box to your air bed, you probably will get a whiff of a plastic smell, which can sometimes linger for a while.

Some people are affected by it more than others, and if that is the case, you have to search for an mattress that is phthalate-free. This is difficult as they are very few and far between. One example is the Lightspeed Outdoors Deluxe Air Bed which is constructed from TPU which avoids chemical additives, resulting in low odor levels.

In any case, it’s important that you let your air mattress air out, and not be kept in direct sunlight or in hot temperatures. These can all affect the smell of the bed.

Camping Suitability

Most air mattresses are intended for home use, while certain air mattresses are more suitable for camping, with some being specifically designed for camping.

camping air mattressIf you plan to purchase a camping air mattress, you should consider the following points:

  • How durable is it?
  • Is it puncture resistant?
  • Does the air pump require an AC outlet?
  • How quickly does it inflate and deflate?
  • Is it lightweight?
  • Is it waterproof?
  • Does it come with a carry bag?

Not all of these points may concern you, but if you want the best air mattress for camping, then you should take all of those factors into consideration.

If you want to see my recommendations for some great camping air mattresses, you can check out my comparison chart.

Accessories

The majority of air mattresses just come with a manual and quite often, a storage bag that may or may not have a shoulder strap attached.

Some manufacturers also include a basic repair kit, just in case you accidentally puncture the bed. You can also purchase the repair kits separately, which is a good idea if you’re going camping.

 

What Is The Warranty Period?

It’s said that around 7.5% of air mattresses are defective or are more prone to tears and air leaks. Not surprising since they’re having a lot of weight pressure on top of it for extended periods of time.

I believe this is the reason why certain manufacturers do not offer warranty on their products, unless it’s proven to be a genuine manufacturing fault. Some manufacturers that do offer warranty, only cover the air pump, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a manufacturer that offers anything over one year.

With that being said, you may want to deal with a company that has good customer service, whether it’s directly from the manufacturer or the retailer. Notable suppliers with good CS are Comfort Boulevard who supply their range of Quick Luxe air beds, and Coleman.

 

How Much Should I Spend?

The real questions should be how good of an air bed do you want and what is your budget? Air beds below $50 (RRP price) are considered to be the lower end, and often do not perform better than more expensive models.

Mid-range air beds are from $50 – $100, which in my opinion, is a good spending range for a good product, and air beds over $100 you can expect to be very decent as they will likely be using better materials.

If you’re lucky, you can find an air mattress that has a good discount on the RRP price which provides even better value for money. If you want good deals, I recommend that you sign up to my newsletter as I’ll help you seek out what I consider to be great offers on air mattress related products.

 

Where To Buy An Air Mattress

Buying Direct From Manufacturers

One way of getting an air mattress from a reliable supplier is to buy it directly from the manufacturer’s website. Many of the major brands such as Coleman and Intex have an online presence, and they usually have demo videos and FAQs on their websites.

Buying directly from manufacturers give consumers a sense of security that many chain stores and second hand stores cannot. However, manufacturers usually sell their products at the MSRP, meaning that you won’t necessarily get the best price.

More often than not, online retailers such as Amazon have better prices due to their great offers and discounts.

Buying From Reputed Retailers

Since the big retailers buy stock in huge bulk quantities, they’re able to provide discounts and good deals, thus passing their savings onto their customers.

Large chain retailers and wholesalers such as Sears, Walmart and Costco occasionally will have good deals if you catch them at the right time, but their selection is usually limited and you may live too far from these stores. Shopping online provides better convenience, more information and a much wider selection.

Amazon is the largest and most well-known online retailer, and one of the largest retailers in the world. They constantly have great promotional deals and offer a huge product selection from a large number of third-party retailers, as well as their own store.

I’ve purchased most of my products from Amazon and in my honest opinion, Amazon.com offers the lowest prices, has superb customer service and provides the best online shopping experience.

Remember that it’s always a good idea to check online reviews and feedback from real life customers before you make your purchase. Their shared experiences can also help you decide on what the best air mattress is for you.

 

Final Thoughts

First of all, thank you for reading my guide on how to buy an air mattress. I put in a lot of time and effort into writing this guide and hopefully, it has helped answer most of your questions.

The next logical step is to check out the range of air mattresses that’s available. I’ve filtered out many of the poorly constructed air mattresses and arranged the best rated models into comparison charts. Please feel free to take a look.

If you’re in doubt of anything else, you can always contact me and my team of researchers. Alternatively, you can also read my other guides which may provide any other questions you have.

If you liked this article, you would also like How To Keep An Air Mattress From Deflating and How To Find A Leak In An Air Mattress.