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We've slept on some of the best air mattresses from Intex, Somnio SoundAsleep, Lightspeed Outdoors and other brands.
Justin JaffeManaging editor
Justin Jaffe is the Managing Editor for CNET Money. He has more than 20 years of experience publishing books, articles and research on finance and technology for Wired, IDC and others. He is the coauthor of Uninvested (Random House, 2015), which reveals how financial services companies take advantage of customers -- and how to protect yourself. He graduated from Skidmore College with a B.A. in English Literature, spent 10 years in San Francisco and now lives in Portland, Maine.
Air mattresses tend to have a bad reputation for being uncomfortable, but it's unrealistic to always have a spare bed for overnight guests. An air mattress makes a compact and convenient alternative. The very best air mattresses are surprisingly comfortable, so you may end up using yours a lot more than you think.
Finding the best air mattress for you means balancing adequate back support, overall comfort and feeling at least somewhat secure that the whole thing isn't going to deflate overnight. Air mattresses are traditionally convenient for camping when you don't want to put your sleeping bag on the cold, hard ground -- you could even throw one in a truck bed for sleeping under the stars.
Here are our picks for the best air mattresses you can buy.
Mattress price scale:
$ = Budget: $799 and below
$$ = Average: $800 to $1,699
$$$ = Premium: $1,700 and up
These reflect MSRP or list prices. Sales might make a mattress less expensive, but are always changing.
This popular, highly rated SoundAsleep Dream Series inflatable air isn't cheap -- but it does what mattresses are supposed to do. Priced at $150, the SoundAsleep air mattress is more expensive than most of the other models we tested in its height range, but it's durable and if you ask us, it's the overall best air mattress on the market. 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 high air bed, and it is on the taller side -- you're sleeping a good 18 inches off the ground. An air coil design helps the mattress to maintain its shape but like many inflatable bed models that come with a built-in pump, it's plenty heavy, weighing about 19 pounds. This quality air mattress has 40 internal air coils for added durability and support. The built-in 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 strong-smelling 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: This SoundAsleep Dream series mattress is not a cheap mattress, but it is worth the money. It is a raised air mattress when fully inflated, well-constructed and has strong customer reviews. Recommended.
SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress with ComfortCoil Technology & Internal High Capacity Pump - Queen Size
Intex has struck a compelling balance between price and value with the Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam air mattress. Though it's on the cheaper side, the Intex Comfort Dura-Beam air mattress is sturdy and impressively firm, with horizontal air chambers. While it may not be the overall best air mattress, it's comfortable enough to sleep on and a great pick for everyday use.
The integrated, plug-in pump isn't as fast to inflate as others but it's plenty powerful and the bed ranks among the firmest blow-up mattresses that we tested. The top and sides of the mattress are coated in a velvety treatment that Intex says 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.
The Intex Comfort Dura-Beam is 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. The mattress comes with a duffel bag for storage. And, compared with the others, I didn't find it particularly smelly.
The retail price for this mattress varies between $50 and $135. There are plenty of air mattress reviews for this model that mention leakiness but there are many more five-star customer reviews on the site than lower-rated ones. Still, Fakespot rates the reviews a "D," 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 when compared with a regular mattress. Recommended.
Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam Airbed with Built-In Electric Pump, Bed Height 22", Queen
The epitome of a cheap air mattress, the Bestway air bed is compact, lightweight and relatively quick to inflate with its integrated pump.
On the downside, this air mattress is only available in one size -- and it's not comfortable at all. It sits low to the ground at 12 inches high, and the pump isn't 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 hot dogs, and the one raised, horizontal hot dog that's meant to approximate a pillow rest sets the mattress askew, which makes it more unstable.
The Bestway air bed has plenty of negative reviews on Walmart.com that cite slow air leaks, fast air 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, warranty isn't a crucial consideration here given the price. 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 and don't need to have the best air mattress for comfort or quality, this is it. But unless you're a narcoleptic, don't expect to get a decent night's sleep on it.
Bestway 12" Tritech Queen Air Mattress with Built-in Pump
The Beautyrest Hi Loft twin air mattress comes equipped with a plug-in electric pump that screws on to the mattress. Once attached, it inflates the mattress in 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 air mattress has the same pack-of-hot-dogs design as the Bestway air bed and the precarious feel of a pool float. (Many companies that make air mattresses also make inflatable pools and pool accessories. Go figure.) It lacks the stability of other air mattresses and I nearly tipped it over by lying too far to one side.
Keep in mind it may not be the best air mattress for you if you're tall. Simmons lists its dimensions at 80x60x17 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, making it easier to roll up and fold into a compact shape for storage.
The bottom line:Other inflatable air mattresses in the $70 range are more stable and more comfortable.
Beautyrest Hi Loft 17" Queen Air Mattress with A/C Pump
We tested the best mattresses the only way you can -- by sleeping on them. We've taken the best air mattresses that are highly rated on Amazon and other major retail sites (including Target and Walmart) and put them through a battery of hands-on testing to see which might potentially offer comfortable sleep. This included repeatedly inflating and deflating air beds, evaluating their durability and construction, and subjecting them to the rigors of camping and a series of acrobatically inclined children's sleepovers to test them for comfort, air pressure and how puncture-resistant the air chamber is (after all, air leaks are counterproductive to a great night's sleep). We also made sure to assess each air mattress on its price and reviews. We wanted to know if people experienced punctures or low leaks during use.
To narrow down the best mattress options, we confined testing for our buyer's guide to queen size mattress models, and included comfort and price comparisons.
CNET editors pick the products and services we write about based on editorial merit. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read more on how we test mattresses.
What to look for in an air mattress
There are a few general things to consider when shopping for the best air mattress.
Price will be the primary criteria for most people searching for the best air mattress. You can get a queen-size 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 tall air bed, a better air mattress, better air pressure, a self-inflating mattress, a better sleeping surface, more comfort or a decent night's sleep.
The best air mattresses have a built-in electric pump that plugs into a wall socket. Some have a battery-powered external rechargeable 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 or a flat 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 queen-size air mattress options 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.
If you've ever tried to get a good night's rest on a bad 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 air leaks. You can tell that this is an industry that's familiar with these complaints: Every bed we tested was imprinted with disclaimers 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 better 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.
How to find a hole and patch an air mattress
Nothing is worse than dragging out your air mattress for a guest and then the next morning they wake on the ground. Holes are the death of air mattresses. And unfortunately, they happen all too often. The good news is that you can find and patch holes in air mattresses. Let's go through how.
How to find a hole in an air mattress:
Fully inflate the air mattress, try not to over inflate it. Over inflating an air mattress with a hole in it can make it larger.
Take a sponge or rag and apply soapy water across the surface of your air mattress. Make sure you get the seams.
Watch for places where bubbles grow, which can indicate a leak.
If there is no leak on the surface, move on to the sides and valve and finally the bottom of the air mattress.
When you locate the leak, mark it with a permanent marker.
How to patch an air mattress:
Just because there is a hole in your air mattress, doesn't mean that you have to buy a new one. There are air mattress patches you can use. However, if you're looking to go down the DIY avenue, there are plenty of options. Start by deflating your air mattress and degreasing the area around the hole.
Patch method: You can make an air mattress patch from any thin plastic, like a shower curtain or pool liner. Once you have your material, cut out a patch large enough to cover the puncture entirely, with an excess of about one inch on all sides. Then use a generous amount of glue to seal it to the air mattress. Press it tightly with your hand.
Super glue: If you have a small hole along the seams, a good amount of super glue may be all you need to patch the hole. It's best to do a couple of layers to make sure it completely covers the puncture.
Duct tape: While it's not a long term solution, duct tape can help you repair an air mattress in a pinch. The adhesive on duct tape does generally lose its grip over time.
Comparing the best air mattresses
Best space saver
SoundAsleep Dream Series
Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam (22-inch)
Bestway Air Bed
Simmons Beautyrest Hi Loft
See at Amazon
See at Walmart
See at REI
See at Walmart
Price (queen size)
Inflated height (inches)
One-year manufacturer's warranty
90-day warranty, limited to manufacturer defects
Air mattress FAQ's
How do I choose the best air mattress?
When shopping for the best mattress, always look at product and customer reviews. It's beneficial to get the perspective of real customers and product reviewers who have physically slept on the air mattress because they can give more honest insight on whether or not it's a good product.
Can you sleep on an air mattress every night?
No, you shouldn't sleep on even the best air mattress as your main bed. Air mattresses are a good short-term solution when you need a comfortable place to sleep that's not the ground or a couch, but they aren't meant to be slept on every night. Air mattresses can lack proper support to keep your spinal alignment over the long term and promote back pain.
Where can I buy an air mattress?
You can find air mattresses both online and in stores, it just depends on how you prefer to do your shopping. Amazon has some great options, but you can also check your local Walmart or REI.
How can I make an air mattress more comfortable?
Air mattresses are a great option for guests and short term use, but the reality is, they will never be as comfortable as a normal bed. Thankfully, there are a couple of tricks you can use to make your air mattress more comfortable.
Put your air mattress on a soft surface, like carpet or a rug.
You can also put it on a box spring so it isn't flat on the ground.
Add a mattress topper or mattress pad. It adds a layer of comfort to the air mattress while taking away the rubbery feel of air mattresses.
How long do air mattresses last?
How long your air mattress will last will depend on how much you use it. Regular and consistent use offers more opportunities for punctures or holes to develop in your mattress. Alternatively, if you only use it once a year, you can expect to hang on to it for a long time. You should expect to get at least two to five years out of a regularly used air mattress and up to 10 if you don't use it often.
How do I keep my air mattress from deflating?
There's nothing worse than an air mattress that deflates while you're sleeping on it. A few things to keep in mind is that you don't want to over-inflate your air mattress, which will put excess strain on the seams. You should also make sure to pay close attention to the weight limit of the air mattress. Finally, deflate the air mattress every morning after use.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.