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Updated: 25 May 2022

How to buy a sofa bed

A sofa bed should be space-saving, stylish and equally comfortable for sitting and sleeping on. Here's everything you need to know about how to choose a sofa bed.
Paula Flores

If you're planning to have guests stay over frequently but don't have the space for a spare bed, a sofa bed can be a great space-saving solution. We'll guide you to find the best. 

If you think sleeping on a sofa bed means a night of tossing and turning, and a sore back the following morning, fear not. Brands now offer a range of sofa bed solutions that are extremely comfortable. And there are many options on the market for different budgets and spaces, with brands responding to growing demand for multifunctional furniture. 

Read on to find out what you need to consider before buying. 

Prefer to buy a standard sofa after all? Discover the best and worst sofa shops according to our survey

What to consider when buying a sofa bed

  • How often it will be used as a bed Think about how frequently you're likely to change it from a sofa to a bed, and back again. If you're going to be unfolding it often, it's especially important to make sure you can do so easily. If it's only for the occasional guest, you may consider a less expensive option than if you have a more regular visitor. If your sofa bed will spend most of its time as a sofa, prioritise what type of sofa you'd like instead. 
  • Measure and measure again You will need to carefully measure the space to make sure it will nicely fit your area. Lou Petersen, design director at DFS, told us: 'Ensure that you have taken into account the dimensions of your chosen sofa bed when it's a sofa and when it's fully extended into a bed, and that you have left enough room to be able to move around it with ease in either configuration.' 
  • How many people will be staying in it Is the sofa bed just to host a single visitor or a couple?
  • The bed size A large sofa doesn’t necessarily mean a large bed, so you need to check both the sofa and the bed to ensure it will be large enough for your needs.

The most common types of sofa beds are two-seaters. But you can find three-seater and corner sofa beds.

Corner sofa beds can be a great way to get use out of difficult areas. And they'll often include room for storage. 

If you're pressed for space, consider a chair bed rather than a sofa bed. 

Unsure about what type of bed to buy? Check out our guide to buying the best bed, including divan beds, storage beds and bedsteads   

Sofa bed mechanisms

Sofa beds can have a variety of mechanisms, from simple fold-out to pull-out beds.

  • Click-clack. This is the simplest type of mechanism and one of the easiest to manoeuvre. In this type of sofa, the bed 'appears' when the backrest is clicked out of position and folded down flat. Therefore, you need to consider the space you have available, as you will need space at the back (or moving the sofa towards the front of the room to allow the back to drop). The downside is that these are not the most comfortable, but there are many comparatively cheap options on the market, so they're perfect for the occasional sleep-over.
  • Pull out bed. The bed is hidden inside the sofa and you need to pull out the bed and mattress from within. Unlike the click-clack (where you will sleep on the sofa's cushion), in this sofa bed mechanism there is a separate mattress to sleep on. Make sure to check how comfortable it is, as many mattresses can be thin.
  • Fold out. In this easy-to-operate mechanism, you unfold part of the sofa, which then becomes the bed itself. You will be sleeping on the sofa's cushions, so it is key to check the frame and fillings when choosing. You will also need quite a bit of space in front of the sofa as these usually unfold into the largest beds.

If you frequently have a couple sleeping over, you may want to consider a king-size bed, as that will offer most comfort.

If, on the other hand, you only have people stay over occasionally, an inflatable air bed might be better, as you can store it in a cupboard between uses. Check out the best air beds that are comfortable, easy to set up and – rather importantly – won't deflate in the middle of the night. 

Which type of mattress is best for a sofa bed?

Most sofa beds will come with a mattress. If you need to choose a sofa bed mattress, you should choose one that's as thick as you can afford, so that your guests don't wake up in discomfort. 

Typically the most comfortable mattresses are between 10 and 14 cm. Most mattresses are made from memory foam or pocket springs. Memory foam mattresses mould to your body, but some people find memory foam warm to sleep on.  

You may not be able to use a regular mattress for your sofa bed, for a number of reasons. It may not be the right size, it may not sit comfortably or safely on the sofa bed structure, or you may void the mattress warranty by not placing it on a suitable bedframe. 

And, of course, you'll need to find somewhere to store it when the sofa bed is folded up. 

Need a mattress for a regular bed? Visit our best mattresses 2022 guide for our Best Buy recommendations and expert buying advice.

What is the best material for a sofa bed?

Just like any other sofa, fabric and fillings in a sofa bed will be important, especially if you have a click-clack, as you will be sleeping directly on it.  Foam-filled sofas offer a firmer seat and look more structured.

Leather and cotton are the most common materials, but there is plenty of choice. If you will be using your sofa relatively often, consider opting for a hardwearing man-made fabric or leather, for extra durability, to keep it looking its best. If the sofa bed is going into a secondary room or is only likely to be used every so often, there are more fabric options available to you. 

Remember you can order swatches to make sure your sofa bed matches your home perfectly.

One thing you need to look at is the frame as it provided support for the sitting as well as the bed. A solid frame in a sturdy material such as wood is preferable.

If you're looking into a sustainable way of shopping, see our tips for buying eco-friendly furniture.

Sofa bed guarantees

As with other big purchases, check what you'll get from the guarantee. 

Furniture Village and Sofology sofa beds come with a 20-year guarantee, whereas DFS offers a 15-year guarantee. Ikea and Next sofa beds typically have a 10-year guarantee. 

Want to buy a new sofa, rather than a sofa bed, after all? Discover the best sofa retailers.