The top 10 best air mattresses for 2019

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Making people sleep on the floor should always be a last resort, but sometimes you have more overnight guests than beds. When space is limited — or when you’re camping or traveling — blowing up an inflatable air mattress is usually the best solution for accommodating folks. And even if it’s not quite the same as a traditional mattress, with an air bed, you’ll still be able to offer your guests decent comfort and a good night’s sleep. 

However, the air mattress is a dizzyingly crowded product category, with more than 10,000 search results on Amazon alone

We’ve taken the most popular and the best air mattresses we’ve found on Amazon and other major retailers (including Target and Walmart) and put them through a battery of hands-on testing. This includes repeatedly inflating and deflating them, evaluating their construction and durability, and subjecting them to the rigors of camping and a series of acrobatically inclined children’s sleepovers to test them for air pressure, comfort and how puncture resistant they are. 

To narrow down the best air mattress, we confined our testing to Queen-sized models rather than twin size to standardize size, comfort and price comparisons.  

Best air mattresses, compared

You can find most of the warranty information and basic specs, including dimensions and weight capacity, on manufacturer or retailer websites. I’ve included that kind of information here as well as the kind of qualitative details that are harder to glean without first-hand use. This includes specifics that range from comfort, such as high airbed and aircoils, to how long an air mattress takes to inflate to how firm it can get, as well as my impressions of its durability and pungency (yes, that’s a thing). Have a look.

Read: Finding the best mattress online: 11 top brands compared

Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.


Best overall: SoundAsleep Dream Series


Amazon
  • Price: $120
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 19 inches
  • Warranty: One year

This popular, highly rated best air mattress isn’t cheap — but it does what it’s supposed to do. Priced at $120, it’s more expensive than most of the other models we tested in its height range, but it’s a durable air mattress. Though we take Amazon customer reviews with a grain of salt, this mattress has more than 11,000 five-star reviews testifying to its durability and comfort. (Fakespot, which grades the trustworthiness of Amazon testimonials, gives this bed’s reviews an “A.”)

SoundAsleep calls this a “double-height” mattress, and it is on the taller side — you’re sleeping a good 18 inches off the ground. Like many models that come with an integrated electric pump, it’s plenty heavy, weighing about 19 pounds. The pump is loud but powerful. It took a reasonable 3.5 minutes to fully inflate the mattress — and I mean fully — and about the same to deflate it.

The SoundAsleep Dream is made of rigid plastic that’s still easy enough to fold up and stuff into the included nylon drawstring sack that serves as a carry bag, which is great for camping. But it’s also one of the more pungent beds I tested, and people who are sensitive to off-gassing may want to choose an alternative.

When you order directly from SoundAsleep, there’s a 30-day no-questions-asked return period. If you buy from Amazon or SoundAsleep, you get a limited one year warranty that covers manufacturer’s defects (but not punctures or holes made on your watch). You’ll need to pay for shipping the mattress back to SoundAsleep.

The bottom line: It’s not cheap — but it’s worth the money. Inflates fully, well-constructed, strong customer reviews, slightly more pungent than others. Recommended. 


Best value: Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam

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Amazon
  • Price: $47.50
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 22 inches
  • Warranty: None

Intex has struck a compelling balance between price and value with the Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam. Though it’s on the cheaper side, it’s sturdy, impressively firm and ultimately comfortable enough to sleep on.

The integrated, plug-in pump isn’t as fast an inflater as others — but it’s plenty powerful, and the bed ranks among the firmest we tested. The top and sides of the mattress are coated in a velvety treatment that Intex says it makes it more puncture-resistant. That may be true, but it also means that if you do spring a leak, you’d better hope it’s on the bottom panel, which is the only place a patch will stick.

It’s also one of the tallest air mattresses we tested, measuring 22 inches high when fully inflated. There’s a little lip around the periphery that suggests there’s a protective barrier designed to keep you from rolling off (it won’t). But the bed is quite stable. The movements of a person on one side shouldn’t bother a companion. And, compared to the others, I didn’t find it particularly pungent.

The Amazon price for this mattress varies between $50 and $60. There are plenty of customer reviews that mention leakiness but there are many more five-star customer reviews on the site than lower-rated ones. Still, Fakespot rates it a “C,” which suggests that there may be some degree of “deception involved.” Intex covers this air mattress with an exclusion-filled, 90-day warranty.

The bottom line: This is a reasonably priced, tall air mattress that’s relatively comfortable to sleep on. Recommended.


Best warranty: AirExpect Airbed

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Amazon
  • Price: $80
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 19 inches
  • Warranty: Two years

AirExpect’s AirBed has a built-in electric pump that’s loud but fast and powerful. It took about 3 minutes to fully, and I mean fully, inflate it — an accomplishment that positions it in the upper tier of our group.

AirExpect says that this mattress is 19 inches tall. My tape measure says it’s 17 inches tall; the raised lip that runs along the top edge is closer to 18 inches tall. It’s constructed out of a plastic that feels a bit more durable than others — but also comes with six vinyl patches included. That’s generous, but I’ve wondered whether it doesn’t signal a lack of confidence on behalf of the manufacturer.

One nice touch: beside the integrated pump controls, the AirExpect AirBed has a plastic valve that you can open to deflate the mattress more quickly. Also, in a pinch, if you find yourself without power, you can use the valve — and a pump (not included) — to inflate the bed.

This air mattress has hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon, but Fakespot gives its listing it a “D” grade, which suggests that its rating may be less stellar in real-life. That noted, AirExpect offers one of the longest warranty periods of any air mattress manufacturer, two years, and will provide a full refund within 30 days. The company says it also provides 24-hour customer support, though many of the unflattering reviews cite customer service communication woes.  

The bottom line: Powerful pump delivers high degree of firmness, valve gives you options, superior warranty terms. Recommended.


Least pungent: Lightspeed Outdoors 2 Person PVC-Free Air Bed Mattress

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Amazon
  • Price: $79-$100
  • Pump type: Battery-operated
  • Height when inflated: 7 inches
  • Warranty: One year

Designed for camping, the Lightspeed Outdoors Air Bed Mattress lives up to its name: At 6 pounds, pump included, it’s undeniably lightweight. It comes with a compact, battery-operated pump, which takes four D cells (not included). Compared to a typical plug-in pump, the Lightspeed bed comes up short. I let it run for more than 6 minutes but could never get this mattress as fully inflated as I wanted. (The pump’s “deflate” setting is similarly inefficient. I’d recommend saving the batteries and rolling up the mattress to expel air manually.)

Lightspeed Outdoors emphasizes that this air mattress is Phthalate- and PVC-free, constructed instead out of Thermoplastic polyurethane — which feels more durable and smells less plasticky than the material used for most other air mattresses. If you’re sensitive to chemical smells, or offgassing, this mattress deserves special consideration.

This air mattress measures 55 by 79 inches — slightly smaller than the technical queen dimensions of 60 by 80 inches — but I didn’t have any problem getting standard sheets to fit snugly. And though Lightspeed doesn’t specify its weight capacity, I suspect it’s more or less in line with the others I tested. My two kids and I (combined weight: roughly 320 pounds) assembled comfortably on it.

Note that I observed that the Amazon price for this mattress varied between $65 and $100 while I was working on this article, with some colors more expensive than others.

The bottom line: Best suited to car camping, the lightweight and reasonably priced Lightspeed Outdoors air mattress is noteworthy for its use of alternative materials and will make a good choice for those sensitive to the pungent off-gassing of many plastic air mattresses. 


Luxury pick: REI Kingdom Insulated Sleep System 40

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REI
  • Price: $280
  • Pump type: Manual
  • Height when inflated: 6 inches
  • Warranty: One year

According to REI, this is not an airbed — it’s a “sleep system.” And, at $280 for the queen bed, an expensive one at that. But we found it worth the price if you’re looking for a super firm, durable mattress that comes with dedicated linens and a comforter.

The sleep system includes an insulated air mattress, a fitted sheet, a top sheet, a quilted comforter and, somewhat surprisingly, given the price, a hand pump. The mattress is sturdy and well-constructed. And using the included Bravo hand pump, I was able to inflate it until it was absolutely taut. Yes, it took about two and a half minutes of vigorous, aerobic pumping — and that doesn’t include multiple hands-on-knees timeouts — to inflate it.

Still, the degree of firmness you can get from the Sleep System is distinctive. Most of the other air mattresses we tested, and especially those that came with a battery-powered pump, were impossible to fully inflate, making for a sleeping experience that ran the gamut from slightly saggy to fully dispiriting. Though it requires hard work, REI’s manual pump is by far the most powerful and effective one we tested. Deflating was quicker and easier, and the mattress itself — separate from all of the included linens — is relatively light and compact.

REI’s bedding is bulky but nice. The fitted sheet includes elastic bands at the corners, to keep it in place, and the comforter and top sheet can be connected with the kind of toggle and loop you’d find on a tent fly. As a result, everything stays where it’s supposed to. REI says that the sleep system’s insulation (3.6 R-value) will keep you warm in temperatures down to about 40 degrees. That’s more than adequate if you’re sleeping inside a house or apartment, but I suspect cold weather campers would want additional blankets or a sleeping bag.

The bottom line: This is a very expensive air mattress — but it’s well-made, comfortable to sleep on and suitable for both indoor and camping use. The manual pump takes a lot of work to operate but gets the mattress firmer than any other we tested.


Other air mattress options

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Walmart

Bestway Airbed

  • Price: $25
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 12 inches
  • Warranty: Unclear

The epitome of a cheap air mattress, the $25 Bestway Airbed is is compact, lightweight and, with its integrated pump, relatively quick to inflate.

On the downside, it’s not comfortable — at all. It sits low to the ground at just nine inches high, and the pump isn’t remotely powerful enough to inflate it fully, so it makes for a rather squishy ride. The tubular design gives it the look of a pack of hotdogs, and the one raised, horizontal hotdog that’s meant to approximate a pillow, sets the mattress askew, which makes it even more unstable.

The Bestway Airbed has plenty of negative reviews on Walmart.com that cite slow leaks, fast leaks, burst seams, spontaneous bubbling and terrible customer service — as well as dozens of very positive ones. And though Bestway’s comically vague manufacturer’s warranty doesn’t instill confidence, given the price, warranty isn’t a crucial consideration here. Still, Walmart’s policy states that most products can be returned, with their original packaging, for a full refund within 90 days.

The bottom line: If you’re looking for the least expensive air mattress available, this is it. Unless you’re a narcoleptic, don’t expect to get a good night’s sleep on it.


Simmons Beautyrest Hi Loft

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Walmart
  • Price: $51
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 17 inches
  • Warranty: 90 days

The Beautyrest Hi Loft comes equipped with a plug-in electric pump that screws on to the body of the mattress. Once attached, it inflates the mattress quickly — it takes about 2 minutes — though not as fully as I would’ve liked. Once it’s inflated, you need to quickly unscrew the pump and replace the valve cap. It’s not the most elegant solution.

The Beautyrest has the same pack-of-hotdogs design as the Bestway Airbed, and has the precarious feel of a pool float. (Many companies that make air mattresses also make pools and pool accessories. Go figure.) It lacks the stability of other air mattresses and I nearly tipped it over by laying too far to one side. Simmons lists its dimensions at 80 by 60 by 17 inches, but my measurements put it closer to 76 inches long, which means that anyone taller than 6 feet will likely hang off the end.

The mattress is constructed from a softer type of vinyl than others, which is easier to roll up and fold into a compact, storage-friendly shape.

The bottom line: Other air mattresses are more stable and more comfortable in the $60-range.


Serta 16-inch Raised Queen Size Airbed with Internal AC Pump

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Target
  • Price: $110
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 16 inches
  • Warranty: 90 days (exchange only)

This air mattress retails for $110 but we bought it on sale for $80 from Target. I wouldn’t recommend it at either price.  

That’s not to say that the Serta 16-inch AirBed doesn’t have anything going for it. The built-in electric pump quieter than some of the other integrated electric ones we tested and its 8-foot power cord is longer than average, which might be an important consideration for some.

Still, even inflated to capacity, this air mattress is squishy, less supportive and more pungent than other models we tested. And it deflated to a surprising degree during the 80 minutes that my kids laid on it while watching the movie “Boy and the World.”

We bought our Serta air mattress from Target, which won’t accept it for return once it’s opened, but will exchange it for a new one within 90 days.

The bottom line: There are better and less expensive air mattresses than this one.


Not recommended

King Koil Luxury Raised Air Mattress

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Amazon
  • Price: $120
  • Pump type: Electric
  • Height when inflated: 20 inches
  • Warranty: One year

The King Koil Luxury Raised Air Mattress consistently ranks in the top 10 on Amazon’s category bestseller list. But this may have as much to do with the company’s mastery of search engine optimization and Amazon review gamesmanship as its ability to design a quality product. Fakespot currently gives this bed’s customer reviews — of which there are thousands — a “C” grade for authenticity, which is better than the “F” is received previously.

Still, there are a few reasons to like the King Koil Luxury Raised Air Mattress: the built-in pump is powerful enough to completely inflate the mattress in just over 3 minutes and it’s quite tall, measuring about 21 inches high.

But there are issues. This was one of the most pungent, plasticky-smelling air mattresses I tested. It’s also heavy. The queen-sized King Koil weighs nearly 21 pounds, though Amazon lists it at 17. Even when fully inflated, this mattress squishes down significantly when you try to get up from it, and I found that it repeatedly lost considerable amounts of air overnight. For these cardinal sins, Consumer Reports has savaged the King Koil, singling it out as one to avoid — and I concur.

The bottom line: Overpriced, odorous and less capable of remaining fully inflated overnight than others.


Coleman Airbed Cot

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Coleman
  • Price: $220
  • Pump type: Battery-operated
  • Height when inflated: 22 inches
  • Warranty: One year

I’m not a fan of the Coleman AirBed Cot. It’s expensive, heavy and unwieldy, hard to set up and, worst of all, uncomfortable to lay on.   

Coleman’s air mattress isn’t particularly distinctive in any way — other than for being one of the most pungently plastic-smelling I tested. To say that Coleman’s included QuickPump, which takes four D batteries, is underpowered would be an understatement. It was unable to fill the air mattress to anything close to its capacity, and I gave up after 10 increasingly frustrating minutes. (Some Amazon reviewers have resorted to using their mouths to inflate this mattress.) The pump nozzle doesn’t fit snugly into the mattress valve, and you’re forced to hold it in place throughout the whole disheartening process.

But the steel backbone is something else: It makes the whole package absurdly heavy — it weighs about 42 pounds, which is about twice as much as any other we tested, which makes it a poor choice for camping — though it comes with a wheeled, but ultimately unwieldy, carry bag.

The steel frame unfolds sort of like a pack and play — that is, not easily — and has no locking mechanism. But it does have a steel bar running down the middle — which is a huge, body-wrecking bummer, especially when you’re sleeping on a half-deflated air mattress. I suppose if two people are sleeping in this bed, each supine and occupying one of the trenches, as it were, it might work. But I wouldn’t want to be either one of them.

There are a few thoughtful touches — including a zippered pocket that holds the air mattress in place on the frame, and two foldable side tables, each of which has an integrated mesh pocket to hold a drink. But they’re not nearly enough to salvage Coleman’s Airbed Cot.

The bottom line: Hard pass.


What to look for in an air mattress

There are a few general things to consider when looking for the best air mattress. Price will be a primary criteria for most people searching for the best air mattress; you can get a queen-sized bed for as little as $30, while the most expensive air mattresses can cost hundreds of dollars. But a higher price doesn’t always mean a high airbed, a better air mattress, better air pressure, more comfort, or a good night’s sleep.

Most air mattresses have a built-in electric pump that plugs into a wall socket. Some have battery-powered pump, which usually runs on four D-cells. And a few come with a manual hand pump. The plug-in pumps are usually powerful but heavy and loud. Battery-operated pumps are lighter and don’t require a wall socket but are typically less effective and less capable of fully inflating a mattress. A manual pump, on the other hand, can deliver a degree of firmness the others can’t match and needs neither batteries nor outlet — but will require a significant amount of physical labor to operate.

Though most of queen-sized air mattresses measure approximately 60 inches wide and 80 inches long, height is both a variable and a selling point. In fact, it may be a primary consideration for older or disabled people who would have trouble getting on or off a bed that’s too low to the ground. Likewise, a mattress that’s overly mushy will be harder to dismount.

Of course, if you’ve ever slept on a crappy air mattress before, you know that the touchstone for quality is how reliably it holds air. And nearly every air mattress is beset by customer reviews complaining about leaks. You can tell that this is an industry that’s been traumatized by these complaints: Every bed we tested was imprinted with disclaimers, pleading about how all air mattresses stretch when you inflate them, and that you shouldn’t just assume that they’re leaking if they temporarily lose that initial level of firmness.

And yet many air mattresses, whether they’re stretched out or not, do leak over the course of a night. Repeatedly. And even if you top them off. This mitigates the credibility of some manufacturers’ claims. And there are some beds that are simply more durable and well-constructed than others. But airtightness is tricky to judge, even after you inflate an air mattress, and may reveal itself only over time. As such, most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty or guarantee. A few extend that to two years. Others will give you 90 days and throw in a few vinyl patches to cover up a puncture wound.



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