Sofa beds comparison and buying guide

Make a comfortable decision about the sofa bed you choose.
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  • Updated:1 Jul 2008

02.Sofa versus bed

The kind of sofa bed you buy — and how much you spend — will depend largely on how you’ll use it.

If it's going in your lounge room and will be used mainly as a sofa, its comfort, style and practicality (durability, cleanability and so on) will be your prime concern. You might want to spend more on a good sofa and less on the bed mechanism. One with a foam mattress may do the trick for the occasional guest (though innersprings aren’t a great deal more expensive).

If, on the other hand, it’s going in the spare room, to be used more as a guest bed than a sofa, put more value on the bed mechanism and mattress, and get a simpler sofa, perhaps without separate back cushions.

Other things to consider:

  • If you regularly host couples, consider going queen size in a three-seater sofa. This may not be an option at furniture chain stores with standardised production.
  • For kids, you could get away with a foam mattress instead of innerspring.
  • If you’re pushed for space, look for an armless sofa (use bolsters on the seat ends), or get an ottoman with a fold-out bed.
  • When you’re checking what will fit, don’t forget to measure the distance from the back of the sofa to the end of the opened bed.

Put it to the test

When you're shopping, take someone with you (preferably of a different weight), to try out the sofa beds from the point of view of a heavier or lighter person.

To try out the bed:
  • Lie on your back and both sides, and move around while the other person lies still.
  • Consider whether it is comfortable.
  • Think about whether there is more movement than you'd like.
  • Do you roll into the middle?
Also test the sofa part of the unit:
  • Do you tip sideways when sitting?
  • Is it too firm to sit on comfortably?
  • How close to the arms can you get before it becomes awkward or uncomfortable?

Some sofas we tried were very hard and uncomfortable with the sofa bed inside, yet the non-bed version of the same model was much more comfortable. The message here is that you should never choose a sofa bed without testing the complete package.

CHOICE sofa bed verdict

Get your priorities right: if you’re mainly going to sit on a sofa bed, make sure it’s comfortable and well built as a sofa. If it’s mainly going to be used as a bed, concentrate on the bed mechanism and the quality of the mattress.

You seem to get better cushions if you pay more, and probably a better mattress. Other than that the differences between a $750 and a $1300 sofa bed seem fairly small. Both of our sofas at these prices arrived with cracks in their frame. Only in the $2000+ price range did we start to see attention to detail and to quality. So if you’re going to live with the sofa on a daily basis, rather than hiding it in a spare room, it’s worth buying at the high end of the market.


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