Futon vs. Air Mattress — Which One Is Better?

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If you’re reading this, you’re likely confused deciding between a futon and an air mattress. But before that, let us figure out why you’re in this dilemma, to begin with. Maybe you’ve got a spare room in your home, and some guests are visiting your place for a few days, but you don’t want to spend on a typical fully-fledged bed.  You want an economical, budget-friendly solution.

In this circumstance, you’re left with two sensible alternatives: a futon vs. air mattress. Both are inexpensive and practical. Said that it’s a challenge to conclude which one is better. There are no clear winners here—they both have their pros and cons, and which one will have the place in your room depends on your situation and personal preferences.

Overview: Air Mattress vs. Futon

Typically a futon is more expensive than an inflatable mattress. But, if you get a premium air mattress, you’ll get a pillow top, comfortable surface, a built-in electric pump, and a carrying bag. That said, they both share the same characteristic that has made them popular and ideal for homes with limited space.

A futon can be folded and doubled as a couch, whereas a blowup mattress can be deflated or moved around. Furthermore, both are lightweight, making them easy to move around, but an air mattress scores an extra point because you can carry it with you while going camping.

Now that we gave a short overview of a futon and an air mattress let’s get into the details.

What Is A Futon?

Foldable Futon Tatami Mattress Soft Thick Japanese Student Dormitory Mattress

Futons originally in Japan in the 1700s and the original Japanese futons had simple designs and thinly padded that unrolled onto the floor. Today’s futons have evolved tremendously to low-profile couches with intricate frames and multiple sizes. There are also multi-functional futons that can be used both as a bed and a sofa.

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1. Cleaning & Maintenance

Owners have always complained about futons being difficult and expensive to keep clean. See, most futons don’t have removable covers as if including one with a new unit have been so expensive for the manufacturers. If your futons have spills or need cleaning, you need to wash the whole thing. If these things had removable covers, the process would have more manageable and less time-consuming. Manufacturers claim that putting removable covers on futons will make them less attractive. Therefore, it becomes evident that you’ve to sacrifice convenience for style if you want to have futons in your homes.

2. Affordability:

Regardless of the size and quality, futons have always been more expensive compared to traditional mattresses, and in this case, an air mattress.

3. Firmness Levels:

Traditionally, futons had a being a bit too firm for most sleepers, but that has changed. You can now get futons in multiple comfort levels, ranging from soft to extra firm.

4. Versatility:

Versatility has always been the selling point of futons. Futons are incredibly flexible and versatile, particularly if you live in a small room or home with limited space. Futons are also ideal for spare bedrooms, a home office, or a college dorm room. Some futons models come with an adjustable frame allowing them to be used as a couch or sofa in the daytime and flatten out to convert into a full-fledged bed at night.

5. Design:

Ever since futons were used in Japan as mattresses, futons have evolved and come a long way. No longer are futons made with a flat slab of cotton with a bland cover. Modern futons now resemble high-end sofas. The materials have changed as well. You can now buy futons made of wood and metal with various designs, colors, and finishes.

6. Futons: Pros & Cons:

Two Thumbs Up For
  • Futons are versatile; they can be used both as a bed and folded to resemble a couch
  • They’re stylish
  • Premium futons are durable and can last for a long time
  • Available in a variety of sizes and frames
What's Not To Like
  • Premium futons are expensive
  • Typically costs more than an air mattress
  • The mattress is heavy
  • Requires assembly
  • Cleaning them can be a hassle sometimes

What is an Air Mattress?

Serta Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump

An air mattress is what it sounds like. Also known as an inflatable or blowup bed, this is a bed that is filled with air. Air is pumped in using a built-in or a separate air pump. It’s lightweight, portable, and costs less than a typical futon. However, it has a few caveats, such as it not as comfortable and durable (can be punctured easily) as a futon.

If cheap air mattresses aren’t your thing, but you want a proper bed under $1000, we have some excellent mattresses that all cost under $1000 Check it out!

1. Cleaning & Maintenance:

Unlike futons, air beds are easy to clean. Most air mattresses have a waterproof top layer. If it is dirty or something spills over, wipe it off clean with a simple washcloth.

2. Affordability:

Air mattresses are super budget-friendly. You can get one from as low as $10 with the premium ones maxing out at a couple of hundred dollars, tops.

3. Firmness Levels:

Inflatable mattresses are soft, and because they’re filled with air, we would recommend stomach sleepers or have back pain to avoid this bed as it won’t provide adequate support to your chest or lower back.

4. Versatility:

An air mattress is incredibly versatile. Want to carry it with you for camping—just deflate it, put it into the provided carrying bag or case, and take it with you. Plus, they come in several sizes, including king and twin sizes.

5. Design:

The design and build of air mattresses are simple and utilitarian. Air mattresses are designed for portability. However, you can place an air mattress on a frame and use quality bedding to make it look and feel like a real bed.

6. Air Mattress: Pros & Cons:

Two Thumbs Up For
  • Lightweight than a futon
  • Easy to store. You can pack the deflated air mattress and put it inside the provided carrying bag, allowing it to store in a closet, or carry it for camping
  • It doesn’t cost much
What's Not To Like
  • Air mattresses are not as comfortable as a futon or a regular mattress
  • An air bed provides less support
  • It common for air beds to have durability issues. A small puncture or a cut can render the air mattress useless
  • Inflatable mattresses have longevity issues and has a limited shelf-life
  • Air mattresses need to be inflated regularly as air leaks over time due to issues with the deflation
  • Some models of air mattresses with added features like smart pumps tend to be more expensive


As we mentioned in the title, there is no clear winner when choosing a futon and an air mattress. It all boils down to your exact situation and what works best for you. If you’ve got a spare room with limited space and want something that serves a dual purpose like a sofa and a bed, then I highly recommend you go for a futon. If you’ve visiting guests or family members once in a while but don’t have a spare room and need to make a bed for them in whatever limited space you’ve in your living room, I suggest you go for an air mattress.

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Jennifer R. Heller

Jennifer is the Sleeping products expert and merchandise testers. She features a vast selection of experiences to effort from when creating the standard information our visitors come to seek out. She handles the daily operations of the site, and you'll also see her in plenty of reviews, from mattresses to travel pillow and bed pillow reviews. She's adamant about sleep health and knows just how important it's to our well-being. Jenifer reports, writes, and edits sleep health and sleep industry news on her site. She will be found reading or traveling when she gets leaser time.

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