In writing about and recommending mattresses, I have noticed a pattern that is fairly consistent among all makes and models. The usual cost by mattress size comparison is as follows: Queen < King < California King < Full < Full XL < Twin < Twin XL. Like many other products, the value of what you pay for versus the amount you get follows an exponential formula. That is, the amount of mattress you get for the price of a King is more than twice as much as you get from a Twin, but the King usually only costs around 150% as much as the Twin. This concept is much the same as buying in bulk at the grocery store: the more you buy, the more you save. You have to consider the process of creating a King probably doesn’t take twice as long as creating a Twin, and since time is money, that brings the total cost of the two nearer to each other than just considering the cost of materials alone. Overhead costs like shipping the mattresses also don’t work on a linear model, so those costs close the gap as well. It is these factors that seem to support the pattern of larger mattresses being a better value (merely in regards to size), HOWEVER, something strange happens in the mattress market where the mid-size Queen actually tends to be the best value overall.
You can see from the math below that in 3 out of 4 cases, the Queen is actually a better value than the King or California King (and I can tell you from looking at these numbers all day that the Queen size is almost always the best value, more than 75% of the time as represented here). Now from an economics/business standpoint that seems odd. That would be like buying milk at the grocery store, with a quart costing $0.99, a half-gallon costing $1.89, and a gallon costing $3.99. That doesn’t make sense. It would be cheaper to buy two half-gallons than a single gallon. In reality, the gallon would probably cost closer to $2.49 or $2.99, so the more you buy the more you save. So why then are Queen size mattresses usually more cost-effective than the larger King and Cal King sizes?
The reason why is that the Queen is the most popular and most advertised price. Companies can essentially compete for the lowest price on their new model by lowering the cost of the Queen to beat out their competitors, without actually lowering the price of the entire line. And since Queens are the most popular, that means most customers actually benefit from this more aggressive Queen size competition. But if you think about it, the Queen makes sense. No one really needs a King. Couples should have plenty of room in a Queen, and in fact, the Full (also known as the Double) was standard for couples until less than a century ago. So if you care enough to spend extra on the luxurious size of a King, you probably aren’t overly concerned with buying in bulk to save a little value.
On the flip side, companies can charge a little more for specialty mattresses like the California King, Extra-Length Full, and Extra-Length Twin. These more specialized mattresses are less common, and therefore those who need them are willing to pay a little more for them. In fact, many models charge the same for the Queen size and Full XL size, when the only difference is the Queen is 6-inches wider! Unless you physically cannot fit the Queen into your room by a matter of 6-inches, why not upgrade for little to no more cost to you? Again, these occurrences are not without exception. Companies like Stearns & Foster who use different manufacturing processes have a price system that is tiered differently. But look at the numbers when shopping for your next mattress and consider the price of upgrading and the potential benefits of having a larger mattress.
This isn’t meant to say that everyone should be sleeping in a Queen because you get more square inches of mattress for your money–that would likely be wasted money for most single sleepers–but especially if you are shopping as a couple and thinking you will save money by going with a Full or Full XL instead of a Queen, you might actually be saving only $50 or less on something you will likely be using for the next 10+ years. Don’t cheat yourself!
In conclusion, the general order of price per square inch for the standard mattress sizes is as follows: Queen < King < California King < Full < Full XL < Twin < Twin XL
You can find the math and measurements below.
Twin: 39″ x 75″ = 2925 sq. inches
Twin XL: 39″ x 80″ = 3120 sq. inches
Full: 54″ x 75″ = 4050 sq. inches
Full XL: 54″ x 80″ = 4320 sq. inches
Queen: 60″ x 80″ = 4800 sq. inches
King: 76″ x 80″ = 6080 sq. inches
California King: 72″ x 84″ = 6048 sq. inches
TX: $1,349 / 3120 = $0.4324 per sq. inch
F: $1,399 / 4050 = $0.3454 per sq. inch
Q: $1,574 / 4800 = $0.3279 per sq. inch
K: $1,999 / 6080 = $0.3288 per sq. inch
CK: $1,999 / 6048 = $0.3305 per sq. inch
Q < K < CK < F < TX
T: $797 / 2925 = $0.2725 per sq. inch
F: $846 / 4050 = $0.2089 per sq. inch
Q: $895 / 4800 = $0.1865 per sq. inch
K: $1,196 / 6080 = $0.1967 per sq. inch
CK: $1,196 / 6048 = $0.1978 per sq. inch
Q < K < CK < F < T
T: $596 / 2925 = $0.2038 per sq. inch
TX: $648 / 3120 = $0.2077 per sq. inch
F: $648 / 4050 = $0.1600 per sq. inch
FX: $697 / 4320 = $0.1613 per sq. inch
Q: $697 / 4800 = $0.1452 per sq. inch
K: $948 / 6080 = $0.1559 per sq. inch
CK: $948 / 6048 = $0.1567 per sq. inch
Q < K < CK < F < FX < T < TX
TX: $2,677 / 3120 = $0.8580 per sq. inch
F: $2,744 / 4050 = $0.6775 per sq. inch
Q: $2,767 / 4800 = $0.5765 per sq. inch
K: $3,149 / 6080 = $0.5179 per sq. inch
CK: $3,149 / 6048 = $0.5207 per sq. inch
K < CK < Q < F < TX