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Box Spring or Platform Bed (Which One Should You Choose?)

Choosing the right bed frame can be a dealbreaker for a good night's sleep. Since box spring beds and platform beds are the two most common choices, it's important to dig deeper into these two and get to know their distinct features to find the one that best meets your needs.

So you’re choosing a new bed. Perhaps you figured that choosing a mattress would be the most complicated part. Think again. You also need to choose what kind of bed frame you want, and there are more factors involved than most people realize. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the choices, but don’t worry. We’re here to help.

Now, you have a lot of options here. There are Murphy beds, trundle beds, and all kinds of others to choose from. We’ve spent our fair share of time in furniture stores weighing the pros and cons of each, and now we’re here to share what we’ve learned. The two most common types of bed frames are platform beds and box spring beds. You’ll be able to find both types in virtually any furniture store, and one of the two is probably going to meet your needs. But which one will work best for you? We’ve put together some pros and cons so you can make the best decision for yourself.

What’s the Difference?

Box-spring mattress

Let’s start with some basics.

First, there’s the box spring. The box spring we know has been around since the 1890s, and it’s stayed popular in the US and Europe ever since. A box spring is almost exactly what it sounds like. It’s a rectangular bed base that contains springs. Simple, right? It looks similar to a mattress from a distance, but it’s built differently. Box springs have a wooden frame, evenly-distributed springs on the inside, and a cloth covering stretched over the whole thing.  The box spring sits on top of the bed frame, and then the mattress sits on top of the box spring.

Person unrolling a mattress on a platform bed.

Next, there’s the platform bed. Platform beds are essentially just beds without box springs. They’re designed to support mattresses on their own. Nobody knows for sure how far back their history goes, but we do know that platform beds are some of the earliest beds in history. As soon as humanity got tired of sleeping on the ground, we invented the platform bed. These beds went out of fashion in the US and Europe when box springs took over, but now they’re seeing a comeback. They have a frame, often made of metal or wood. The frame has evenly-spaced wooden slats at the bottom, and those slats hold up the mattress. Obviously, platform beds don’t have springs, which means that the kids won’t have nearly as much fun jumping on it.

Features

Box spring beds and platform beds have a lot of similarities, but they have a lot of differences, too. When you know what each one has to offer, you can make an informed decision and get the bed that you truly need. Let’s take a look at the different features you can get from box springs and platform beds.

Mattresses

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Box-spring bed

The mattress is the most important part of the bed, so you’ll definitely want to take that into consideration. Now, box springs and platform beds will support almost any kind of mattress. However, take note if you have or want a memory foam mattress. These mattresses are the reason why platform beds have seen a comeback recently. Memory foam is a relatively new invention, and the traditional box spring wasn’t designed to handle it. Platform beds, on the other hand, work well with memory foam.

Comfort and Durability

Next up is comfort and durability. You’ll want to find the right balance for your bed. Obviously, most of your bed’s comfort will depend on your mattress. However, the way that your bed holds your mattress’s weight will also play a part in your comfort, so don’t take this part too lightly.

Box springs are designed to absorb and distribute weight evenly, so they provide a comfortable sleep. They also accommodate people who move around a lot in their sleep. If you flip back and forth like a human pancake at night, a box spring will make those movements easier. If comfort is your top priority, and you’re not using a memory foam mattress, then a box spring bed is probably your best bet. If you use a regular mattress on top of a platform bed, then your mattress may sag through the slats and create an uncomfortable sleeping experience. However, if you need a memory foam mattress for comfort, then go for the platform bed. The memory foam won’t sag like a regular mattress, so comfort won’t be a concern.

Now, if your priority is durability, then platform beds have what you need. They’re stable and tend to last for a long time. Box springs tend to lose their supportiveness over time. While box springs are easy enough to replace, a lot of people want to make a one-time purchase and be done with it. If that’s you, consider getting a platform bed.

Bed Height

Low platform bed

Platform beds and box springs beds usually have different heights. A box spring will obviously add a bit of height to your bed. As a matter of fact, box springs provide the height that most Americans have come to expect from their beds. If you prefer a bed of average height, then consider a box spring.

Platform beds, on the other hand, usually sit lower to the ground. However, a few options, especially the ones with a lot of extra storage space, are actually quite tall – even taller than most box spring beds. For some people, these height differences are not a problem. However, if you’re disabled, elderly, or suffer from aches and pains in the morning, a box spring may make it easier for you to get in and out of bed.

Design and Storage

Now, what about design and storage? Well, both types of beds come with a wide range of design options, but there are a few subtle differences. Box springs are best if you want to add a separate headboard and/or footboard. You can still get headboards and footboards for platform beds, but many of them already come with these features built-in.

Box spring beds also usually have a strip of cloth that surrounds the bottom edge. This cloth is called a “dust ruffle,” and it’s completely optional. It’s mostly there for aesthetic purposes, although it’ll definitely come in handy if you kick messes under the bed right before guests come over. There’s nothing like a dust ruffle to hide piles of laundry.

Platforms are best if you want storage space. A lot of platform beds come with drawers, shelves, or even space for a trundle bed. They can help you save space in a small apartment or any other place that doesn’t have a lot of extra room. Book lovers have used the space under platform beds to show off their reading collections. Collectors have used the space for displays. If you have a pet, you can find a platform bed with a special nook for your furry friend to sleep. As a side note, if the space under your bed is taken by drawers or shelves, that means there’s no room for the imaginary monsters to hang out. Go for one of these options if you want to stop doing that flying leap into bed after you turn out the lights.

Other Considerations

Platform bed with canopy in a luxury tent.

Is there anything else you should think about when choosing between a box spring or a platform bed? Yes. Here are a few extra things you may want to consider before you buy your new bed.

Stability vs Breathability

All other things being equal, box spring beds give you the most stability. Like we said above, box springs cradle your weight more evenly than platform beds. This will give you a feeling of security as you fall asleep at night. If you’re not looking for a high-end mattress, then this stability can also save you from some aches and pains that come from putting too much pressure on one spot.

Platform beds give you more breathability for your mattress. The wooden slats at the bottom give your mattress plenty of air exposure, which can make the cleaning process a lot easier. However, just because they’re airy doesn’t mean they’re light. As a matter of fact, platform beds are usually quite heavy. If you have to move your bed without professional movers, you should take this into consideration.

Classic vs Contemporary

Do you like a classic look or a contemporary look? How much do aesthetics matter to you when choosing a bed? If you want something more classic, you’ll find it in a box spring bed. If you prefer contemporary, you’ll find better options among platform beds.

Bed Life vs Mattress Life

Box springs don’t last quite as long as platform beds. They’ll eventually start to sag and wear down. However, because they do distribute weight evenly, they can make your mattress last longer. Your mattress will go through less wear and tear if it sits on top of a box spring.

Platform beds are more durable than box springs, so they’ll last longer. However, the uneven weight distribution means more wear and tear for your mattress. You may end up replacing your mattress sooner than if you had chosen the box spring option.

Cost Differences

Wrought-iron box-spring bed embellished with flowers.

Now, what about the cost differences between a box spring bed and a platform bed? There are a lot of factors to consider here, from bed sizes to added features. You can find either type of bed from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Without any added bells and whistles, there’s not much of a cost difference between box spring bed frames and platform bed frames. Either way, the average full-sized bed frame will cost somewhere in the ballpark of $300-$600. However, the box spring itself will cost about $100-$150. Note, however, that we’re talking about bed frames without extra features. If you go for a platform bed and want features like drawers, a trundle, or a bookcase, you could easily spend $800 to over $1,000 on a full-sized bed.

All of that said, take your time to shop around. Like we said from the start, virtually any furniture store is going to carry both platform beds and box spring beds, so look for stores that have great prices and discounts.

The Bottom Line

Platform beds are good for:

  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Storage space
  • Durability
  • Breathability
  • A long bed life
  • A contemporary aesthetic

Box springs beds are good for:

  • Mattresses other than memory foam
  • Comfort
  • Bed height
  • Stability
  • A classic aesthetic
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