Everything You Need to Know Before Buying an Airbed

Although they’re certainly not the most popular model of mattress on the market today, airbeds come with a surprising number of advantages.

Far from the short-term, poorly-support air mattresses you’re probably more familiar with, airbeds offer an intriguing combination of customizability and comfort that sets them apart from any other kind of mattress.

Here’s everything you need to know before making your next big buy!

What Is an Airbed?

Image: A woman seated on a cloud soars off into the skyAt its most basic level, an airbed is mostly just a really advanced version of an air mattress.

They’re made of materials like PVC, nylon, rubber, or urethane, which are filled up with air via a pump and can typically be controlled with a remote or a smartphone app.

Unlike your typical air mattress, most airbeds come with at least a couple inches of comfort layer (usually made of polyfoam, memory foam or latex).

At the very least, the cheaper model will at least feature a cover.

This upper layer allows for much more comfortable, supported sleep, and makes airbeds a much more sustainable option than that big vinyl mattress you pump up whenever your in-laws are in town!

Most airbeds also come with adjustable inflation levels, which means that you can actually customize your mattress’s firmness to the exact level you need.

This is often touted as one of the great advantages of airbeds, especially since almost all modern models come with at least two bladders—one on either side of a queen-sized bed.

If you’re sleeping with a partner, this means that each of you can select your own firmness level without troubling the other’s sleep.

This not only is this a helpful option for partner’s with different firmness preferences, but it can sometimes offer a cheaper alternative to clunky, pricey adjustable beds.

The Biggest Advantages of Airbeds

As you can probably guess already, there’s no shortage of advantages when it comes to airbeds.

They’re a neat idea, and if your manufacturer can pull it off, you might be about to settle down for one of the best sleeps of your life!

Airbeds Are Easily Adjustable

Image: Girl holding out a remote control

One thing a lot of consumers like best about airbeds is their adjustability. 

Unlike innerspring, memory foam, or latex mattresses, airbeds don’t rely on any physical material in their core support structure—they just need air!

In addition to manual adjustability, some airbeds will also automatically adjust to your body and movements.

This can be a real bonus if you’ve got the right model—though if you’re looking at some of the more budget options, “automatic adjustment” often doesn’t work out so good as it sounds on paper.

Airbeds Are Highly Durable

In addition to adjustability, airbeds’ bladder structures also make them highly durable.

If a part wears out in your typical mattress, that usually means your product is kaput—nobody can just reach inside your old innerspring mattress and replace a couple fatigued coils!

If you’re up to the challenge with an airbed, though, you can typically just disassemble the entire structure, find the problem, and send off for a repair or a replacement part.


Airbeds Have Solid Motion Isolation

Another advantage to airbeds is that, because you and your partner are sleeping on different air bladders, you’re typically not going to be woken up if your partner tends to toss and turn or likes to get up in the middle of the night.

Customers usually report fairly high satisfaction levels when it comes to airbed motion isolation.

Overall, airbeds get pretty owner satisfaction scores, and rank decently well when compared with other mattress types.

The Biggest Problems With Airbeds

It’s not all sunshine and roses in the airbed world, though.

No mattress is perfect, and despite their many advantages, airbeds most definitely have their fair share of drawbacks.

Airbeds Are Costly

The biggest of these is probably price.

While it is possible to find some reasonably affordable airbeds if you search hard enough, you get what you pay for.

Cheaper models tend to come with lots of problems and overall poor customer satisfaction.

If you want to get a decent airbed, in fact, you’re probably going to be looking at a price tag of around $2,000.

That’s substantially higher than most other mattress varieties, though it’s not entirely crazy if you’re in the market for a truly luxury sleep experience.

They’re High-Maintenance

And although airbeds are typically fairly easy to repair, the flipside of that is that they’re often fairly high-maintenance. 

Over 25% of owners report replacing at least one part of their airbed at some point during its lifespan, and replacement parts can often be fairly expensive.

And even if you’re willing to tighten your belt a little bit to keep a quality sleep, remember that if a part needs replacement, that can sometimes mean your airbed is totally out of commission until you can get the fix you need.

Not exactly ideal!

Airbeds Can Be Noisy

A minority of airbed users also complain about noise.

Some of these mattresses may squeak when you move around on them, while others give off small sounds throughout the night as the pumps adjust.

Most people either don’t notice or get used to this sort of thing, but it can be a serious problem for some. 

They’re Hard to Come By

Finally, another major problem with airbeds is their unavailability. 

Image: Man holds hand to his forehead, gazing off into the distanceThere just aren’t that many brands of airbed on the market right now, and of those that exist, a lot of them don’t have enough reviews to develop an educated opinion on their quality.

Only five manufacturers, in fact, have enough reviews to be properly compared about other models of mattress.

What Are Your Options When It Comes to Airbeds?

If you’re considering making an investment in a quality airbed model, there are a few things you’ll need to know about the options on the market today.

Even though there aren’t that many varieties of airbed out there, it can often be pretty difficult to cut through the noise and recognize the things that actually matter.

Here are the most important considerations.

What’s the Material?

Airbeds can be made from a whole slew of airtight materials, but not all materials are created equal.

For instance, synthetic materials like nylon, PVC, and urethane don’t tend to offer the kind of flexibility most people want out of a mattress.

They get tight and inelastic at higher pressures, which can lead to a very uncomfortable sleep.

Because of this, fabric-backed rubber is often your best option when it comes to materials!

What’s the Comfort Layer?

Comfort layers also make a big difference when it comes to the quality of your airbed.

The options here are typically pretty similar to what you’ll find in a typical innerspring mattress (and you can read more about the specifics here).

In general, you don’t usually need more than a couple inches of comfort layer on your airbed.

Bladder Count Doesn’t Matter

Some airbed companies like to hype the number of bladders their product has, claiming that these can allow for even greater customizability than most airbeds already have.

Unlike the traditional two-bladder model, six-bladder airbeds provide a different amount of pressure for lower, middle, and upper body.

Different parts of your body tend to require different amounts of support, so on paper, this sounds like a revolutionary idea!

The thing is, though, those six layers of bladder are all usually covered up by a thick comfort layer.

This means that you usually can’t even feel the different pressures in the bladders under you, and they’re mostly just an unnecessary added price.

What’s the Best Airbed?

Although there aren’t too many airbed brands out there with enough reviews to make a fair comparison, there are a couple products that really stand out from the pack.

According to our analysis, the best airbed of all is the Natural Form Refresh.

This mattress is especially good for people with back conditions, and our calculations give it a whopping 4.9 out of 5 stars!

The downside, unfortunately, is that it is definitely on the pricier side.

Some somewhat more affordable products include the Personal Comfort A8 and Innomax Luxury Support Medallion.

These are both pretty high-quality mattresses, scoring 4.5 out of 5 stars by our metric.

To see a full comparison of the best airbeds out today, be sure to check out our complete guide here.

You’ll also find top-quality mattresses of any kind, if you decide airbeds really just aren’t your thing!

Conclusion About Buying an Airbed

By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what you’re doing when it comes to shopping for airbeds.

They’re not the most popular type of mattress out there, and they definitely come with some unique challenges, but there are a couple perks to this style of sleep product that you just can’t find anywhere else.

They’re highly durable and easily adjustable to your precise needs, and if you can just find the right manufacturer, you’re sure to get a product you can really love.

But don’t get discouraged if you decide an airbed just isn’t for you!

The right mattress is out there.

It’s just up to you to find it.

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