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Air Mattress Guide
Uses, Pricing and More
Man examining air mattress
Image of Zach Gentry
Zach Gentry
Helix Customer Experience Manager / Mattress Guru
Updated: January 8, 2020
An air mattress, also known as an airbed, is highly portable, and they are available at economical prices. These are arguably the simplest mattresses that you can purchase because they get filled with one component: air.
Of course, it is not quite that simple. Air mattresses have different features. Most have pumps that automatically fill the airbed. Some have multiple chambers and controls that allow you to fill them to your desired level of firmness.

What is an Air Mattress Made of?
Air mattresses use inflatable materials. One of the most common airbed materials is polyvinyl chloride, which is more commonly known as PVC. People usually associate PVC with pipes, but the PVC in airbeds is significantly softer. You may think of these as vinyl air mattresses.
Some higher-end airbed options use rubber, rubber composites, or thermoplastic polyurethane, which is better known as TPU. Rubber airbeds are often more durable, but the durability can vary from model to model, and the lifespan of an airbed depends on how you use it.
While all mattresses have air and durable material to encase the air, there is one more component that people often overlook: a pump. In past decades, users inflated some air mattresses by blowing into them. Those days are thankfully over, but some air mattresses still have manual pumps that you use for inflation. Most models now have electric pumps that use a small motor with battery power to draw air into the airbed.

Why Air Mattresses are Not an Everyday Bed
People purchase air mattresses to use as guest beds, temporary beds, and beds for camping or traveling.
There are definitely a few reasons they’re not everyday beds:
They do not provide adequate support compared to traditional mattress types.
They will eventually leak or get punctures and require repairs.
The vinyl or rubber can be noisy when you shift your weight.
You will need to refill the mattresses very often as air will come out from regular use.

How Long Does an Air Mattress Last?
The lifespan of an air mattress depends on its quality and on how heavily you use it. With occasional use for camping, guests, or temporarily, the average airbed should last for between five and 10 years. If you use it frequently, for example, if you camp often, then the life span may be shorter.
Another factor in the longevity of an air mattress is your ability to make repairs. Air mattresses get punctures and leaks, primarily if you use them while camping or in another outdoor setting. These problems are inevitable, but you can get repair kits to patch your airbed rather than purchasing a new one.
Some mattresses come with patches and instructions when you buy them. With these patches, you should get a full 10 years or more of occasional use out of a quality airbed.

Price Range for Air Mattresses
You can get a basic airbed for around $50. Premium models can cost as much as $450 or $500. For some airbed models, you need to purchase a pump separately. These devices can add between $10 (manual pump) and $50 (electric pump) to the cost of your airbed.
However, many airbeds get sold together with the mattress. When you purchase an air mattress, you need to account for the pump before you buy the product.
Air mattresses are cheaper than other types of mattresses because they are not really for nightly use, though you could technically use them every night. However, the price range between a cheaper air mattress and a premium model is still significant.

Air Mattress vs. Hybrid Mattresses
Hybrid mattresses are not comparable with air mattresses. Hybrid models are for nightly use. They provide excellent support and offer a high level of comfort, especially when compared with airbeds.
On the other hand, hybrid mattresses cannot compete with air mattresses when it comes to portability. You can take an airbed with you everywhere and fold it down to fit in a backpack when deflated.
The one area where these two products are comparable is for temporary guest beds or extra mattresses. Again hybrid models offer more comfort to guests, but air mattresses have a much cheaper price tag. A quality air mattress will last for 10 years, or perhaps longer if you only use it occasionally. If you only use the bed sometimes, an air mattress could be a more economical option, even if you get a premium airbed model.

How Firm is an Air Mattress?
One of the advantages of an air mattress is that you can adjust the firmness by adding air or letting the air out. You can make an airbed quite firm by filling it all the way, and you can make it much softer by letting the air out.
You may also be able to get a larger airbed that has more than one air chamber. For example, if an airbed has two sides, you can adjust the firmness by adjusting the amount of air for each side. Such adjustments are more manageable if you have an electric pump, which is usually available separately or sold together with higher-end airbed models.
Take The Sleep Quiz To Find Your Match
There’s a lot that goes into finding the best mattress—so much so that it can feel a little overwhelming. Luckily, you can try the Helix Sleep Quiz today to get started on your journey for the perfect mattress according to your body size, sleep style, and unique preferences.