King vs. California King: What’s the Difference?

The clearest distinction between a king and a California king mattress is a difference of four inches. A king mattress is 4 inches wider, but a Cal king is 4 inches longer. That’s a small enough difference that some people have trouble deciding between a king or Cal king mattress when they’re shopping for their master bedroom.

King

A king size mattress, or an Eastern king, is 76 inches wide by 80 inches long. It’s the widest standard size mattress available, giving couples and even solo sleepers room to sprawl.

King mattresses offer you plenty of sleeping space, but we cannot recommend them for any bedroom smaller than 12 feet by 12 feet.

California King

A California king size mattress, also known as a western king, measures 72 inches wide by 84 inches long.

Some think a California king is a more luxurious version of a standard king, but that’s not true. A California king has a slightly smaller surface area than a king mattress. It has 6048 square inches, while a standard king has 6080 square inches.

Though a Cal king mattress is narrower than a king, it offers more legroom for tall people. If you’re more than 6 feet tall, you may find a California king more comfortable.

Which Should I Buy?

King and Cal kings are so similar that deciding between them can be difficult. Their prices are comparable. Both share the drawback of being heavy and awkward to move.

When you’re debating which is the best mattress for you, think about the size of your bedroom, your personal space needs, your height, and the bedding accessories you’ll require.

Room Size

Both a king and standard king mattress should be in a bedroom that’s at least 12 feet by 12 feet. We recommend leaving about 2 to 3 feet of walking space around the sides and foot of the bed.

Once you account for walkway space and bedroom furniture, you can determine if either a king or Cal king fits better in your space.

Personal Space Needs

If you’re sharing a bed with your partner, you may need some space apart to sleep well. Maybe one of you tends to toss and turn and might nudge the other awake if there’s not enough space in between you two. A king mattress is 4 inches wider, offering more personal space than a Cal king can.

Your Height

As we mentioned earlier, a California king features an extra 4 inches of length. A small difference but enough to keep your feet from dangling over the edge if you’re taller than 6 feet.

Bedding

Bedding accessories for a California king mattress—bed frame, box springs, sheets, and blankets—are more difficult to find than a standard king’s. Bedding for a Cal king can also cost more than similar bedding for a standard king mattress.

Other Size Options

If you’re looking for a bed fit for a master bedroom, you have more to choose from than a king or California king mattress. You can also consider a queen mattress, a split king, or an oversized king mattress.

Queen Mattresses

Queen size mattresses are the most commonly bought bed size for a few reasons. Queen mattresses cost less than a king or Cal king, and a queen bed fits in smaller master bedrooms. Single sleepers may find a king mattress feels too big, while a queen mattress may offer sprawling space without feeling too large.

However, both a king and Cal king mattress offer more personal space for couples than a queen mattress. You have roughly 6 more inches on a Cal king and 8 more inches on a regular king mattress.

If you want to learn more, see our article comparing a queen to a king mattress.

Split King Mattresses

Do you like to sleep on a firm bed while your partner prefers a soft mattress or vice versa? If you don’t want to compromise on your sleep needs with a medium feel mattress, a split king mattress lets you customize your side.

Split king mattresses also work well on adjustable bed frames. Each half of the bed can move independently. You can adjust your half one way, and your partner can set their half up differently.

Split king mattresses tend to cost a little more than a standard king. Additionally, split king mattresses need specialized bedding—two twin XL fitted sheets and a king cover sheet and comforter.

You can also buy a split Cal king mattress, although it is harder to find than a split king. Split Cal king mattresses also require specialized bedding.

If you’re interested in learning more, read our article comparing a king to a split king.

Other King Sizes

King and California king mattresses are the largest standard size mattresses available. However, there are other, larger sizes that are more difficult to find—your best chance of obtaining one is from an online seller.

  • A Texas king mattress, also known as a super king or a grand king, measures 80 inches wide by 98 inches long
  • A Wyoming king measures 84 inches by 84 inches
  • An Alberta king measures 96 inches by 96 inches
  • An Alaskan king measures 108 inches by 108 inches

Frequently Asked Questions

Do California king sheets fit on a king size bed?

Since a California king mattress is 4 inches narrower than a standard king, its sheets will not fit properly on a king size mattress. Once you’ve picked out the right size of sheets, don’t forget to wash them about once a week to remove allergens and promote a healthier rest.

Do two twin beds make a king?

No. A king is the same size as two twin XL mattresses, which are five inches longer than a standard twin mattress.

Why is it called a California king?

California king mattresses were invented in Los Angeles as another option for master bedrooms.

Did We Help?

If you’re looking to upgrade your mattress, you can’t go wrong with a king or California king mattress. Each provides a large amount of sleeping space for two people to share. Taller people may sleep more comfortably on a California king bed, while couples who need some personal space might prefer a standard king.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

James Nguyen, Sleep Expert James Nguyen

James Nguyen is Zoma's resident sleep expert and staff writer. James enjoys learning about the newest technologies in the mattress industry and doing deep dives into the science of sleep. He's tried nearly every gadget and gizmo in an effort to determine which sleep-promoting accessories can truly enhance your shut-eye. Outside of work, James takes his dedication to get healthy sleep seriously, and has even declared himself an "expert napper."

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