Adjustable Bed Review: Hugely Popular & The Bedding Industry’s Fastest Growing Trend-Tips For Getting The Best Deal And How They Work

Turn Your Mattress Into A Gravity Defying, Fully Adjustable, Body Conforming Miracle Machine, But Don’t Get Caught Up In Gadgets, Over Rated Fluffy Ingredients And Flimsy, Rickety Components.

As pricey as they might seem, you can actually get a great deal on an adjustable base for your mattress, if you don't need all of the bells and whistles. When it comes to shopping for and selecting an adjustable, flexible, or articulating bed base, most folks tend to get caught up in the appearance and design of an adjustable bed much like they would when shopping for a TV or major appliance, and forget to spend time making an educated decision on why they need an adjustable bed and incorporating those needs into their purchase.

Remember one thing- it’s much like buying a car. Most of what you’re paying for, you can’t see. And manufacturers are very clever about skimping on materials and spending more on curb appeal that the real deal.

Adjustable bed bases vary greatly, with more and more manufacturers designing sleeker, less clunkier versions than the old "Craft-Matic" variety with which we are all familiar. Also, our aging baby boomer population has discovered the benefits of having an adjustable bed, which can be inclined to help with everything from back and neck problems to managing acid reflux issues.

But even more interestingly, younger people are buying adjustable bases to make their bed more media friendly. They look cool, have race car lines, upgraded fabrics, sleek legs and all kinds of tech stuff, if you want it.

Whether you’re a video gamer, serious reader, TV or movie buff, or simply need to elevate your legs after a vicious workout, an adjustable base turns your horizontal bore into a flying, flexible, fun, and functional, media machine. All age groups can have back and neck problems, either from the result of trauma, surgery, or occasional kinking, and there’s nothing more pain relieving or relaxing than being able to precisely adjust how your body is floating in space to get the relief you want.

Adjustable bases are also easier to transfer in and out of than most conventional mattresses, and can often be raised or lowered by merely adjusting the leg height, or by purchasing different leg and caster combinations, making them extremely versatile.

Here’s our advice on looking for a good deal, and making an educated purchase on an adjustable base. We’re going to assume that you already have a mattress that will work with an adjustable base. Without question, the best kind of mattress to use is some kind of foam or air bed mattress. Innerspring mattresses simply do not have the flexibility, or tend to “pop back” when the base begins to fold, elevate, or raise/lower. Latex, memory foam, and air beds that are properly designed for use with adjustable bases make the best choice, since they have the flexibility and weight to stay put as the base adjusts.

It’s What Underneath That Counts – A Solid, Sturdy Chassis, Or Superstructure

When you walk into a brick and mortar store, what is the first thing you see when you look at a typical adjustable base? The pretty exterior fabric, the sleek looking remote controls, that’s probably pretty much it. And remember, the salesperson is keenly aware of the fact that a typical customer is clueless. They want you to see the curb appeal, not be concerned about what’s under the hood. Armed with the right tools, you can stand on the same level playing field with your salesperson, and feel confident that knowledge is power, giving you a bit of an upper hand when shopping for this rather pricey bedroom accessory.

Without question, the most important element of an adjustable base is the superstructure underneath. Usually, this is a steel frame consisting of two rails that the carriage of each adjustable base section rides upon. These rails are attached to either a plywood or solid panel deck surface over which a series of layered upholstery is applied, and then the entire chassis is wrapped with a foam rail system forming the outside edge, or perimeter. The dead giveaway on the quality of a unit is the lifting capacity, that is the heaviest weight of a person and a mattress that the unit can lift routinely. Typically, on a queen base, for example, the average lifting weight on a half way decent unit will be at least 700 lbs.

On a higher end adjustable base,  the lifting capacity is often up to 850 lbs. on each side,  indicating that the unit is made with stronger motors, heavier steel chassis, and also a heavy duty, plywood base for the platform, rather than particle or fiber board. For example, oneThe L&P base is made in the USA, which is a plus, since they operate a network of certified technicians that can repair units as required. An imported system will not have the infrastructure to help you if a motor, a piston, or a guide rail mechanism failed on the base.

The motors that operate the movement of each panel of the base (there are typically 3-5 panels that articulate, allowing the base to assume an infinite number of angles and positions) are attached to the underside of the plywood decking. The mechanics, including the wiring harnesses and massage motors, are also attached to the underside of the deck.

Most important feature of an adjustable base: the deck system, that your mattress will actually sit on top of. I like to see plywood or a strong composite surface that is thicker than 1/2" to allow for resistance to warping or flexing, and to insure that attached elements are permanently fixed over time, don’t shake loose, or don’t simply fall out over time because there wasn’t enough thickness for a screw or hardware fixture to grab onto.

Motors on the underside, which operate the lifting elements of the unit and massage features if applicable, should be UL listed and rated, and look for practical high tech bells and whistles too, like app features for phones or tablets, USB charger ports on either side of the bed (like the ones found on some of Leggett & Platt’s biggest selling models). Also, programmable memory positions are nice, especially if you have one or two favorite sweet spots.

Massage feature, yes or no? We generally say, nah, not worth it…but technology moves forward as we know, and that asset in an adjustable base is getting better. Not just jiggling, but pulsing and deep penetration motors that can deliver a massage “like” quality. But, in general, it’s not quite there yet.

Problem is, on a really nice unit with lots of features, it’s going to be on the unit anyway, so you may not have a choice as to whether or not you can leave it off. Fun to play with, and on occasion, you may find a massage feature that offers some benefit.

Modular Design Makes It Easy To Replace Parts And Maintain Your Adjustable Base For Decades To Come

Probably of equal importance in general construction with an adjustable base is whether or not the base is built with a modular mindset, to allow you the end user, to remove parts and pieces that fail, and plug them back in again. Down the road, when the front end “full replacement and full labor” coverage has gone away in your warranty, and you need to replace a motor, or a piece of wiring, or a hinge, the more modular the system is, the easier it is for you the user to either replace the part yourself, or find somebody immediately.

Best brands for modular systems and ease of interchanging parts and components: Leggett & Platt, made in the U.S., and Ergomotion, imported but a pretty decent unit. I have familiarity with both of these manufacturers, and would rank them equal in quality, but: Leggett and Platt systems offer a nationwide service network of mobile technicians, and in their warranty, for a full year, you get free in home labor and parts, not found in imported systems like Ergomotion and others, where you are essentially responsible to handle all issues with parts-including being your own repair man or woman.

Ergonomics and understanding sizes-split king, queen, etc.

From an ergonomic and ease of operation perspective, look for remote controls that are wireless and back lit when touched, so in the middle of the night, you can operate them with ease. Also, if they are too small, they tend to get lost…sounds silly, but if they are larger, they get lost less.

Also, a good ergonomic feature to consider is how versatile the adjustability features of the base are. Zero gravity positions are popular, but there are no “pre-set” miracle positions that work for every user. You’ll likely hit the Zero G button, and then tweak the bed a bit to get it just right for your body. Also, get a wall hugging unit. This is an adjustable base that you can park right up to the wall, and it will operate in full range of motion without moving the unit.

 
 An example of a split king adjustable base doing what it is designed to do. Independent control and comfort on both sides of the system enable each user to find their perfect "sweet spot"...   

An example of a split king adjustable base doing what it is designed to do. Independent control and comfort on both sides of the system enable each user to find their perfect "sweet spot"...

 

A "wall hugger" feature with any adjustable base simply means that you don't need to move the unit and you can even install a wall mounted or even base mounted (on many models) headboard on your system to really give it a traditional bedroom look. Typically however, though, footboard pieces cannot be installed on an adjustable base. 

Note that all systems typically include legs, which attach to the underside of each unit. So, a split king will have eight legs, four on each side. There is also a connector strap which snugs up the two units as well, to minimize gaps and crevasses between abutting units.

Another often left out feature is the legs or casters. If you are putting your base on wheels, test the unit out in the showroom, or if you are buying one online (the most popular way to but an adjustable base these days), make sure the wheels are at least 3”, and the caster legs are steel, not aluminum.

If you love tech and are texting or browsing online, charging your gear, look for a model with built in USB ports, massage feature, LED down lighting, a back lit remote control with stand, and apps that allow you precisely monitor sleep hygiene and other features.

Weight capacity is often indicative of a quality unit, also,  and our rule of thumb, look for at least 700 lbs total max weight capacity on each side, although much higher weight limitations are typically seen on units these days. 

A queen size adjustable mattress and base is shown at right. One remote control operates the features of this system. Provided both partners have similar sleep habitats, having your system operate continuously across the entire mattress is a good way to go. This is a queen, so you may observe that it's pretty cozy, especially if you've got kids or pets. If your bedroom is a media facility for your family, and you don't have space considerations, strongly consider a split king system..they say once you go king, there's no going back.

queenadj.jpg

One element of confusion with sizes when purchasing adjustable bases is deciding upon a split system vs. non-split, and note that this applies to several sizes. Split systems require both two side by side separately articulating decks so that each side operates independently, and comes in handy if either you or your partner suffers with GERD or sleep apnea. Split adjustable bases also require TWO SEPARATE mattresses as well IF you are going to operate them as separate beds.. However, WHENEVER you buy a king system, the set is always going to include two side by side units, but if you choose to sleep on one mattress, meaning no independent adjustability on either side (you and your partner ride up and down together), you do what is called a "sync" which typically be done with the included remote controls to insure that both split units now operate together as one system, both moving in parallel at exactly the same time. Here's a chart showing all possible configurations of an adjustable base system. Simply remember that if you want your own separate adjustability on each side, you need two "split mattresses" to go along with the base(s). 

 

 Note that the largest size that is made in one continuous piece is a queen..this is because the weight limitations on a one piece king size are simply too much to manage a delivery and install (hint: always get a delivery crew to setup your bases, it's worth it). Note that the chart includes a queen, which would be one continuous piece with one mattress, and a split queen, which would accommodate two split queen mattresses and operate independently OR if they were synced, also accommodate a single mattress. This example would be applicable if you had a difficult entry way making installing two smaller pieces much easier. The image at lower left is not applicable in U.S.A.. Commonly ordered sizes include split king (each side measures 38x80 usable space) and queen (one piece at 60x80 usable space), and twin long (one piece, 38x80)

Note that the largest size that is made in one continuous piece is a queen..this is because the weight limitations on a one piece king size are simply too much to manage a delivery and install (hint: always get a delivery crew to setup your bases, it's worth it). Note that the chart includes a queen, which would be one continuous piece with one mattress, and a split queen, which would accommodate two split queen mattresses and operate independently OR if they were synced, also accommodate a single mattress. This example would be applicable if you had a difficult entry way making installing two smaller pieces much easier. The image at lower left is not applicable in U.S.A.. Commonly ordered sizes include split king (each side measures 38x80 usable space) and queen (one piece at 60x80 usable space), and twin long (one piece, 38x80)

before you consider a split queen or split california king, read this...

After selling adjustable bases on two separate web sites for almost 20 years, I learned an awful lot about what to recommend to customers...and what not to. A lot of taller people swear by their California King mattresses and although you do get an extra 4" in length on top of a regular king (80" long), you sacrifice on width. A regular king one piece mattress is 76" wide, while a California King is only 72" wide...which doesn't sound like much, until you start considering a split California King. A Split Cal King consists of two separate pieces a mere 36" wide each. I know, it's only two inches less than a regular split kings, which give you 38" each on width, but, incredibly, it makes a difference. If you can possibly do a split king in lieu of a split Cal king, go for it. Same applies to a split queen. Larger folks have a harder time on a split queen, because when you divide a 60" wide mattress into two pieces, you're dealing with a very cozy 30" side on each side. To test it, get out a tape measure and apply it to your existing mattress to see if you can make a much smaller width work for you. Factor in different positions, back, side, and sprawling.
 

Which Brand Is The Best? And Where Should I Buy Mine?

There are many brands to choose from. So, which one is the best? Some are very well known, and respected in the industry. Brands like Leggett And Platt, Ergo Motion, iComfort, Tempur-Pedic are all well known, slickly marketed, but vastly different in quality and performance. Generally, though, in the last few years, the adjustable base industry has become so competitive, that for a decent brand, you can expect to pay $1800-2200 or LESS for a queen size unit, probably with free setup thrown in. Many mattress suppliers want you to order an adjustable base with your mattress purchase, but keep in mind that you may get a MUCH better deal shopping from our list of Amazon retailers below since the adjustable marketplace is becoming highly competitive.

Again, as far as delivery and installation options, believe me when I tell you that these systems are heavy and cumbersome in most cases, as they should be. Most systems are made using a steel chassis which is much like the underside of a vehicle.  You don’t want to set these things up on your own, unless you've got a couple of sturdy guys with the right equipment. Look for a dealer that throws in free setup service.

Whether you buy them online or not is irrelevant, although since I personally buy everything online, and avoid the hovering sales person whenever I can, I do my own research on everything I buy, and with a couple of clicks, I’m done. Scroll down if you want my personal pick on where to buy an adjustable base. We've chosen a bunch of reliable models that we are very familiar with, especially Leggett and Platt, an American made system that has a very low failure or service rate. The stores we will send you too offer reviews, and in most cases free delivery and setup options, or at least setup service that is reasonably priced. Again, it is totally worth it to have your system completely set up while you simply watch..

 

Warranty, Guarantees, And Trial Periods

Warranties vary greatly within the adjustable bed industry, but they do follow general patterns. Most of the reliable, big names, like Leggett & Platt, Reverie, and Ergo-Motion offer good coverage on motor replacement for at least a full year. If anything is likely to fail with a base right up front, it will be one the motors, or an electrical problem. If they don’t fail quickly, they likely will never fail. Both major suppliers offer full coverage on parts AND labor for at least a year. This is considered the gold standard. One of the few brands made in the USA is Leggett and Platt, and while they may cost slightly more than imported units, they they operate an excellent technical support program with technicians who will actually show up at your door with components and pieces and parts.

Keep in mind though that many high quality imported units are out there, and may be substantially less expensive. That shouldn't scare you off, just make sure you get a decent warranty with the unit, and since most components are fairly bulletproof or at least modular and replaceable by the end user (you),  definitely consider systems that are less expensive. I personally love the idea of having a stateside service network though, so if you aren't handy or technical, I'd say stick with a brand like Leggett and Platt. 

 

Where To Get The Best Deal On A Quality Adjustable Base: Our Curated Selection Of Outstanding Dealers