Today’s air mattresses are comfortable to sleep on and easy to set up. All the products in our hands-on tests have built-in inflation pumps, a very handy feature. They’re easy to fold up and put away, too, and they all fit easily into their included stuff sacks. Leaks are not generally a problem with today’s products. We tested queen-sized mattresses for consistency’s sake, but all are available in other sizes.
For this comparison, we looked at the most popular queen-sized air mattresses for home use that are available on Amazon. In addition to the products in our top five, we also considered three other products, which did not make the final cut:
The most important consideration when buying an air mattress is comfort. None of these products feel like a standard mattress, but some are notably more comfortable to lie on than others. Structure (how well the mattresses hold air) also plays a role.
To test comfort, we inflated each mattress to its firmest setting, put a sheet on the top, and had a panel of four people test the products “blind” (without knowing which product they were lying on). Their notes and ratings informed our results. We also read user reviews on Amazon and expert reviews from elsewhere, and reported where those results differed from ours.
Mattresses should be easy to unfold, inflate, deflate, and store. All of the mattresses in this comparison have built-in air pumps that run on electricity from wall outlets. You can also get products without pumps, or with battery-powered or 12-volt pumps, which are better for camping.
Each product in this comparison comes with a storage sack that’s sufficiently large. Stowing the folded mattresses in their bags was easy.
We tested each product for its ability to hold air by weighing each down with 240 pounds of concrete mix (3 80-pound sacks) as a simulation of people lying on top. We did this for 6 hours per mattress in a temperature-controlled room, and measured the distance from the top of the sack to the ceiling at the beginning and end of the test.
We evaluated each product’s price-to-value proposition, given their other measurable factors.
We tested queen-sized air mattresses designed for in-home use. For this roundup, we only chose products with internal, AC-powered pumps, which makes them simpler to store: You don’t have to go searching for a pump, or hassle with plugging into air portals, or fuss around with tricky valves. We think buying an air mattress with a built-in pump is the best way to go for home use.
Mattresses designed for camping (if you haven’t camped with an air mattress, you’re missing out) don’t have AC-powered, built-in pumps. They might have battery-powered pumps, or none at all: You have to hook up a separate pump, one powered by your car’s cigarette lighter plug, batteries, or your own muscle (a foot pump). Camping mattresses are sometimes also made of lighter materials so they’re easier to transport.
Most mattresses are also available in other typical bed sizes. We standardized on queen beds for this comparison.
Bill has been a hardware store owner, locksmith, and general home repair guru for over 40 years. His ability to solve problems and repair every item in every situation is a true gift. In his spare time, you may find Bill working in his garden, tending to his perfectly manicured lawn, or riding his bike.
The Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump and the Serta Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump are identically constructed products, as far as we can tell. Their test scores were the same and our testers rated them the same for comfort. They differ only in branding, color, and warranty -- which may be important. Both air mattresses are made by the same company.
Both rated #1 (a tie with the SoundAsleep) in comfort by our testers, the Insta-Bed and Serta provide stable air coil columns with horizontal and vertical reinforcements. Like all the other products in our top 5 list here, the flocked top surface adds a little warmth to the mattress and grabs onto sheets so they don’t slide around.
Unique to these products is the Never Flat system, a secondary pump that can come on during the night if the bed starts to droop due to a slow leak, or if cooler night air causes the mattress to contract. Never Flat is supposed to keep the bed sufficiently inflated. The Never Flat fan is separate from the main inflation fan and much quieter (and less powerful). When it comes on, its sound level is similar to a refrigerator humming in the next room, which some people may find disruptive. But considering that the pump is literally inches from your ear, it’s impressively quiet. Many people will never notice it.
Never Flat comes on when internal air pressure in the bed drops. However, the weight of a person on the bed can keep pressure on the sensor high even when the volume of air goes down, so Never Flat won’t necessarily keep a bed totally topped up overnight. But if the bed does start to deflate significantly, the feature will keep the bed comfortably pumped up.
During our testing, our theory on the efficacy of the Never Flat system was borne out. Both the Serta and the Insta-Bed lost about half an inch of loft during our 6-hour controlled tests with bags of concrete standing in for people. As the manufacturers of airbeds say, some settling and expanding of new beds is to be expected, and as we said above, the Never Flat system doesn’t kick in as long as the pressure in a bed stays constant, which we believe it did under our 240 pounds of unmoving concrete sacks. We find the half-inch of sag acceptable.
A side benefit of Never Flat is the pressure-sensitive main pump switch. To inflate these beds, you turn one dial to the desired firmness, turn a switch to “inflate,” and walk away. The bed inflates (or deflates, as you wish), and the switch pops to “off,” shutting off the pump automatically when done and enabling the Never Flat system. Only the Insta-Bed and the Serta have this feature. The other beds’ pumps have to be turned off manually.
While the Insta-Bed and Serta mattresses are physically identical except for color, their prices are different. When we checked last (February 2016), the Insta-Bed was $108 and the Serta was $137. The Serta has the better warranty, though: two years, vs. the Insta-Bed’s one. If you plan to use your air mattress a lot, the extra $30 may be worth it for peace of mind. If not, save yourself some money.
Either way, these mattresses are among the best in our test for in both comfort and ease of use. Highly recommended.
The tallest bed in this list is the easiest to get into and out of and might be the best selection for elderly people or those with limited mobility. But, while sufficiently comfortable, this product was not rated as highly as some others. On the plus side, it has a nice topography on the top that is comfortable to lie on (some of the other beds have “coil” systems that make them feel lumpy), and its flocked surface grips sheets so they don’t move around.
Despite the bed being much taller than a standard mattress, we found that ordinary fitted sheets still worked on it, since the flocking keeps them in place. Slight waist-like cut-ins in the mattress also gave the elastic bottoms of fitted sheets something to cinch into so they stay put.
Like the other air mattresses in this review, the Intex is easy to use: You remove the bed from its storage bag (included with all products), unfold it, plug it in, and switch on the pump. When the bed is fully inflated, in 3 to 4 minutes, you can tell by sight and by the sound of the pump straining; you then shut off the switch. Deflation is just as easy. You reverse the switch, use the pump to suck the air out of the mattress, and then fold it up. Other than a few minutes of annoying fan noise, there’s nothing at all difficult or annoying about using these products. This Intex is a little taller than the other beds, but that doesn’t affect its ease of use.
The Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam Airbed didn’t lose any air in our temperature-controlled tests. All manufacturers state that new mattresses stretch a bit during their first few uses, so this is impressive.
When we checked the price of this product, it was about $60, which makes it a great value in this category. You can pay more for additional features or comfort, but you won’t make a mistake by getting this bargain air mattress.
Intex says its Raised Downy Airbed is designed with comfort and stability in mind. The bottom chamber is said to provide the same support as a traditional box spring, while the flocked upper chamber offers comfort coils that feel a lot like traditional mattress springs. This low-priced Intex mattress sits slightly higher than the other products in this test, at 20”. It’s second only to the other Intex model, which was 22” high. Note that the full product name of this model on Amazon is the ‘Intex Raised Downy Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump, Queen, Bed Height 22”,” but we measured this product as only 20” high. The other Intex in our test measured the full 22” off the ground.
We found the bed very good in terms of comfort. It was reasonably flat to lie on, and its ridges and textures run the long way down the mattress, not across it as some others, so it feels more flat.
As with the other products here, flocking on the top of the mattress helps sheets grip, and the fact that the mattress is over-deep is not a problem.
Like the other products in this comparison, the mattress was easy to set up. The fan seemed quiet, although we did not test sound levels. The bed was among the fastest to inflate, at two and a half minutes in two separate tests.
In our six-hour controlled concrete load test, this low-priced Intex lost a quarter inch of air, which is good for a new mattress. However, on Amazon, this model had the lowest score and the most negative reviews of all the products in our test, mostly due to reports of limited durability over time.
At only $40 (when we checked prices), the Intex Raised Downy Airbed is a screaming bargain. It may not last as long as the others or be quite as comfortable and convenient as the Insta-Bed or Serta, but if you only need a bed for a quick emergency guest and don’t plan on using it a lot, it’s a very good purchase.
Some SoundAsleep owners report that this air mattress is actually more comfortable than their regular bed, attributable to its 40 internal air coils that keep the mattress firm and free from sagging and buckling. Our testers found the bed comfortable, too. When tested side-by-side with the Insta-Bed (our other top pick), testers did not consistently pick one over the other. While the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress has the Never Flat Pump system, with the SoundAsleep does not, otherwise the mattress portions of the beds appear to be constructed the same same way. The SoundAsleep was the slowest bed to inflate (by a small margin), however.
The bed has the same dimensions as the Insta-Bed and Serta, and similar flocking on the top for sheet grip. The blue color is also more attractive than the brown of the Insta-Bed. If you use dark or thick sheets, this is moot, but the shade of the mattress top does show through if you’re using thin, white sheets.
As with the other beds without Never Flat, the SoundAsleep’s built-in pump must be turned off manually once the bed is inflated. You can tell when it’s time to turn it off by listening to the pitch of the pump motor change.
The SoundAsleep lost a half-inch of air in our controlled 6-hour concrete sack load test. We consider this acceptable for a new mattress, as they all are supposed to stretch out a little when new.
Of special note — and the reason the SoundAsleep is our top pick in this comparison — is that the percentage of people who review this bed who complain about leaks or manufacturing defects is lower than for any other bed tested. There is nothing worse when sleeping on a giant airbag than having that bag not be air-tight. Based on buyer comments, SoundAsleeps seem to fail far less frequently than other products. That factor weighs significantly in our selection for the best product in this category.
Currently, the SoundAsleep is $119, in line with other top-quality air mattresses.
Our top pick for air mattresses, based on hands-on tests in February 2016 combined with over 8,000 user reviews, is the $119 SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress with ComfortCoil Technology & Internal High Capacity Pump. It’s supremely comfortable for an air mattress, easy to set up and take down (as are all the beds in this comparison), and boasts the best reports for durability of all the products tested. Comfort and quality: It’s a combination worth buying.
A strong second bet is the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump and its corporate twin, the Serta Raised Queen Air Mattress with Never Flat Pump. Also very comfortable, these beds have a more convenient pump system and the Never Flat feature — a quiet, secondary pump that keeps the beds inflated should they start to droop overnight. They’re both excellent products, and some people might find the Never Flat enough of a benefit that they choose one of these beds instead.
At $52, you can get the very solid Intex Raised Downy Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump, and your first guests at least will be happy. We had no issues at all with this bargain air mattress. It survived all our tests. But buyers do raise issues of long-term durability.
You might also check out the still-bargain-priced Intex Comfort Plush Elevated Dura-Beam Airbed. It was $60 when we checked prices. Its higher-than-standard top surface makes it easier to get into and out of for people with limited mobility, and it’s comfortable enough. It might not be as durable as other models, but it’s another good product for very occasional use.