The Difference Between a Futon and a Sleeper Sofa

How are futons and sleeper sofas different, and which is each best for?

Futon or Sleeper Sofa? Key Differences and How to Choose

When you have an unexpected guest, nothing beats a quick sleeping solution like a futon or a sleeper sofa. These items function as comfortable seating areas by day, but can quickly switch to a bed when the sun goes down. Here's what you need to know about the difference between the two, and what sort of space and function each is best for.

What is a Futon?

A futon is a Japanese style mattress (generally quilted) that can be rolled out on the floor or used on a low, wooden sofa frame that can fold out from a sitting position to a lying position.

What is a Sleeper Sofa?

A sleeper sofa, or sofabed, is (typically) a loveseat or couch that has a metal frame and foldable mattress hidden inside it, generally under the couch cushions and pillows.

Comparable Features

The Set-Up

A futon can come in a couple of ways, either put together or in a box. If the futon comes pre-built, the hardest thing may be finding a place in the room for it. However, most futons, because of their affordable pricing, come unassembled, and in a box. Some tools may be provided, such as a small Allen wrench, but other tools may be required and not provided.

Futons that are not pre-built should also come with an instruction manual. Readability on instruction manuals, and how easy they are to assemble, will differ by brand.

A sleeper sofa comes premade, pre-built, and depending on personal choice, can be delivered. Setting up a sleeper sofa would take no effort, except for finding a place in the intended room.

Most of the sleeper sofas are suited for larger spaces and have a retractable metal frame. This frame will retract in and out of the couch space--to be hidden when needed and to be pulled out when a visitor comes.

A sleeper sofa folds out of the sofa and can, technically, be looked upon as “more work” because the owner has to remove all cushions and pillows.

The Clean-Up

Cleaning a futon can be viewed as an easy task as most futon mattresses come with a slipcover that zips and unzips for machine washability.

A sleeper sofa will always need a more intense or deep clean as it requires the cleaning of an entire couch, which may need to use a carpet cleaner for a deeper clean.

Typical Framing

Most futons are lightweight and made of either wood or hollow, yet stable, metal. The framing of a futon makes it easier to move and much lighter than a sleeper sofa, which has a starting weight of 175 pounds.

The sleeper sofa is heavier as it has the frame of a couch or loveseat coupled with the metal frame of the hidden sleeper, not to mention the mattress. These frames are generally made of metal even though a couch is made from thick, durable wood.

Typical Pricing

A futon can range from $100.00 and up. Mid-range for futons (again, depending on where the item is purchased), is from $500 to $700. A futon can be bought in many places, from a discount store to furniture stores.

A sleeper sofa will cost more, as it is a combination of a bed and a sofa, than a regular couch—most times. The average pricing is roughly $800 and up at furniture stores, however, buying a sleeper sofa online can cut down the cost substantially.


While the comfortability of mattresses can be seen as subjective, a few things to keep in mind when purchasing a sleeper sofa is that there is no changing the mattress. What comes from the manufacturer, is (typically) all that can be used with the sleeper sofa. Technology for sleeper sofa mattresses is advancing and changing to ensure a good night's sleep for everyone. However, the mattress has to be able to fold back into a couch to stay hidden.

A futon mattress does come with options when choosing the mattress. These options are soft, medium, hard. Almost all futon mattresses are quilted for comfort. However, keep in mind that while lying down on a futon could be comfortable because there are choices with firmness, the frame is low to the ground--the average height is about 21 inches--and in sitting position is far enough back where it could be difficult for an elderly person or a small child to get out of.

In the end, it all depends on what you are looking for that will help you decide what style works best for your needs. And if neither of these work for you, there's always the option of a wall bed!

Resources— Best Mattress ReviewsFuton LifeThe Sleep Judge

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