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How to buy the best bed

What type of bed is best for your bedroom? We give the pros and cons of divan beds, storage beds and bedsteads, and outline the key things to think about when buying a bed.
Tom Morgan

The average person spends a third of their life asleep – that's around 200,000 hours of snoozing. If you want to sleep soundly and feel recharged when you wake, you'll want to get the best possible bed for you. Our guide explains how to choose the perfect bed and highlights the important features to consider when you're shopping.

For satisfyingly deep sleep, a sturdy bed frame is key. As we'll explain, there are a couple of different bed types to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. You'll also need to consider cost, storage space and how easy your bed will be to assemble. Read on for our top tips.


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Choosing the best bed frame: divan vs storage vs bedstead

Looking for a space-saving bed with storage to put in a smaller bedroom, or a stylish four-poster bed? Your bed is likely to be the most prominent piece of furniture in your bedroom, so choose a bed type that fits with the style and size of the room.

There are three main types of beds: divan beds, bedsteads and storage beds. Read on as we explain the differences and how much you can expect to spend.*

Divan beds explained

Divan bed in a bedroom

What is a divan bed? This is the most popular and simple style of bed – and there are countless varieties on sale. Essentially, a divan is a base. You then add a mattress and, usually, a headboard, sometimes as part of a bed package. There are two types of divan base: 

  • Pocket-sprung divans, which have springs in the base, offering a softer top and extra comfort
  • Cheaper, platform-top divans have a hard top and will give a firmer feel, although the overall firmness of the bed will depend on the type of mattress you choose.

How much does a divan bed cost?* For a single divan base, expect to spend between £150 and £300. Doubles and larger sizes typically start around £300 and can rise beyond £3,000.

Pros and cons of divan beds

  • Pros: The most widely available type of bed; tend to be cheaper than other types of bed; lots of sizes, shapes and storage options to choose from
  • Cons: Tend to be less ornate and stylish than other types of bed; not all divan beds offer additional storage

Bedsteads explained

Bedstead in a bedroom

What is a bedstead? Bedsteads are built from slatted frames, as opposed to solid bases. They're usually made of metal or wood and are comprised of a base, legs and headboard. 

If you're looking for bed that makes a decorative statement, a bedstead could be a good option. They're available in a range of different colours, finishes and styles, from a traditional pine bedstead to a luxurious four-poster. Upholstered bedsteads, clad with real or faux leather, are an increasingly popular option.

How much does a bedstead cost? Expect to spend anywhere between £90 and £1,200 for a bedstead. You shouldn't have too much trouble finding a double for less than £500.

Pros and cons of bedsteads

  • Pros: Lots of styles available; no need to buy a separate headboard; different slat types offer a harder or more flexible feel
  • Cons: Storing items under the bed can look messy; usually need to be self-assembled; tend to be more expensive than divan beds

Storage beds explained

Storage bed

What is a storage bed? As the name suggests, storage beds offer just that – lots of tidy storage options underneath the bed. They're a great option if you're short on bedroom space but want something a bit more stylish than a standard divan bed. 

If you're opting for a storage bed, you can pick between a classic style (with pull-out drawers) or an ottoman. An ottoman bed has a piston-assisted lift mechanism – the foot of the bed lifts up to reveal the storage space underneath.

How much does a storage bed cost? You can get an affordable double storage bed for around £150-£300. Premium ottoman-style beds can cost over £1,500.

Pros and cons of storage beds

  • Pros: Lots of storage space; well suited to smaller bedrooms
  • Cons: Ottoman beds can be heavy and awkward to move

Beds for children and guests 

The three bed types we've outlined above will be the main choices for most people's bedrooms. But if you have kids, or want a bed for occasional use by guests, then you might be in the market for one of the options below. 

Sofa beds

Sofa bed

What is a sofa bed? A multifunctional bed that folds back up into a sofa when not in use.

Compact sofa beds work well in a spare room where a bed won't be used every day, or if you occasionally put up guests in your living room. Most sofa beds are two-seaters, but you might find that a corner-shaped sofa bed works better with your layout.

How much does a sofa bed cost? Most sofa beds cost less than £500 – you'll find plenty of options between £300 and £500. But we've also seen 'luxury' corner sofa beds selling for as much as £3,000.

  • Pros of sofa beds: Space-saving; convenient if you have guests staying over
  • Cons of sofa beds: Can be particularly heavy; usually not as comfortable as a regular bed.

If you only have people stay over now and again, a blow-up air bed might be more suitable than a sofa bed. Discover the best air beds

Bunk beds

Bunk bed

What is a bunk bed? Essentially one bed frame built on top of another, with a ladder on one side allowing easy access to the top bunk. They're a popular pick with parents or those looking to save space.

Before you buy a bunk bed for small children, make sure they can safely climb the ladder on the side of the bed, and ensure that the barrier at the top is high enough to stop them from easily toppling over the edge.

If you're only buying for one child but space is tight in their bedroom, you could also consider a mid-sleeper bed or a high-sleeper bed. These are raised beds that have space underneath for toys or a small desk.

How much does a bunk bed cost? You should expect to spend between £150 and £500.

  • Pros of bunk beds: Two beds only take up the space of one; fun for kids
  • Cons of bunk beds: Can be a pain to assemble; potential safety hazard if not used correctly

Cot beds

Cot bed

What is a cot bed? For smaller children, cot beds are convertible cots that can help your little one make the transition from cot to bed.

Cot beds are suited to little ones that have outgrown their Moses basket or bassinet. Cot beds feature removable sides and a removable end panel that can be converted into a toddler-sized bed. Online, we've seen a selection of cot beds that come bundled with a dresser, where you can store baby clothes and nappies.

How much does a cot bed cost? A basic cot bed can cost as little as £100, although most are on sale for around £300.

  • Pros of bunk beds: Cot beds last years longer than a cot (as they also function as a junior bed); more space than a cot bed so your baby has room to stretch
  • Cons of bunk beds: Larger than a standard cot and therefore not ideal for a very small space

For more tips on choosing the perfect cot bed, see our guide on how to buy the best cot bed or cot. We also have details on the best cot bed brands.

Buying a bed: important questions to consider

How much free space do you have?

You'll need to work out how large or small a bed you'd like – or can fit – in your bedroom. This seems obvious, but bear in mind that some bed frames are larger than others, and you'll need to allow enough space to walk around the bed without the risk of bashing your knees on a regular basis. 

Measure your bedroom if you're moving into a new home, allowing ample space at either side of where the bed will fit to accommodate bedside tables or other furniture. If you're buying online, check the measurements of the bed in the product description.

Take a look at the table below for details of popular mattress dimensions. Depending on the type of bed frame, it may take up a bit more space than this, especially if you opt for a bedstead.  

UK bed sizeWidth and length (cm)
Single90 x 190
Double135 x 190
King150 x 200
Super King180 x 200
Emperor215 x 215

What type of mattress is best?

Choosing the right mattress is crucial to ensure you get a long-lasting bed that gives you a comfortable night's sleep while properly supporting your body. A mattress doesn’t have to be firm as a rock to be good for you – you just need to make sure it has a good supporting structure.

When trying out a bed in-store, lie down on it in the same way as you'd lie on your bed at home, to see how it feels. Ideally, the mattress should mould to the shape of your body while also supporting it. If you're looking for a bed for two, you should ideally try out potential purchases together. 

Mattress

In our expert mattress tests, we measure the shape of a person's body at 36 different points when standing, and when lying on their back on the mattress. 

The perfect bed frame needs to be combined with the perfect mattress. Use our mattress reviews to find a mattress that will support your back and last for years and years – our Best Buys start at less than £200.

What's included in a bed's price?

Exactly what you get for your money may vary depending on the retailer. Make sure to check, for example:

  • Does the bed come fully assembled, or will it need putting together?
  • Is a mattress included?
  • Does a divan bed come with a headboard?
  • What does the bed's guarantee cover, and for how long?

How will your new bed get delivered, and what are the costs?

Unless you've got access to a van, you'll need to arrange for the store to deliver your bed. There's likely to be a charge for this, so get a quote for delivery before parting with any money. Not all shops offer evening or weekend delivery slots, so check before you buy if this is important to you.

Mattress delivery

Where to buy a bed

There are countless bed shops to choose from – including specialist high street brands, such as Dreams and Bensons, small independents, and general furniture shops including Ikea, Furniture Village and Habitat.

Whether you're shopping online or in-store, make sure you pay attention to the shop's returns policy.

Popular online retailers that stock beds include:

  • Argos sells a selection of divan beds, ottoman beds, storage beds and sofa beds. Its divan beds start at around £170 and rise closer to £1,500.
  • Bensons for Beds stocks ottoman beds, divan beds, sofa beds and adjustable beds. The retailer's divan beds start at around £170.
  • Dreams has a wide selection of bed types, filtered by frame size and type. If you're looking for storage, its ottoman beds start at around £250.
  • Dunelm is home to a selection of storage beds and divan beds. Prices for its Comfort Divan Bed with Mattress range from £400-£780.
  • Ikea will appeal if you're on a budget. Its cheapest double bed frame, the Neiden, is £55. The retailer also sells sofa beds, children's beds and cots.

Find out which retailers are rated highly by Which? members with our expert guide on the best and worst furniture shops.

How to save money on a bed

If you see a bed marketed with a big discount, it could be tempting to think you need to snap it up. But it's sensible to approach offers on beds with a healthy dose of cynicism. Check if a 'sale' might be coming up – you could benefit from a an even bigger price cut by waiting a few weeks longer.

Bed shop

That said, there are some good bargains to be had if you're willing to spend a bit of time shopping around. If you go into a store armed with a better deal you've found for the same spec model online, some shops might be prepared to offer a price match. 

Don't be afraid to haggle either, particularly in an independent store where the shop assistants may have more power to reduce the price or throw in a freebie.

How to dispose of your old bed frame and mattress

Ask the shop you're buying from whether it will pick up your old bed when delivering the new one – some may charge extra to do this. Alternatively, you can ask your council to collect bulky items such as mattresses, but again some charge a small fee for this service.

Wooden bed frames can be recycled – contact your council for details of your nearest neighbourhood recycling centre or to arrange a pick-up, or get in touch with the Furniture Re-use Network to donate your bed.

For more information on getting rid of mattresses, see our guide on how to dispose of a mattress.

* Based on average prices from the popular online retailers listed under 'Where to buy a bed.'