- Futons are space-saving pieces of furniture that you can use as a couch or bed.
- If your home has limited space, buying a futon is an easy way to add a seating and sleeping area.
- The Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon is our top pick; it works well as a pull-out bed and couch.
Futons were made for small living spaces and are perfect for putting up overnight guests. The trick with picking out a futon is finding one that works as well as a couch as it does a bed. That’s especially the case when you’re trying to find a futon online, without testing it out first.
Despite their reputation as starter furniture, you can find some quality futons without spending more than you would on a couch. When picking a futon, think about how it will be used. Different futons are better suited for different tasks.
- Sitting: If the futon will primarily be used as a couch and only occasionally as a guest bed, look for a model that has legs, armrests, and a backrest that’s part of the frame for the most comfort. Also look for one with fewer ridges, which sometimes offer more support in the bed position but can be uncomfortable as a seat.
- Sleeping: Some futons take up a lot of floor space when they’re unfolded. If you plan to regularly use the futon as a bed, you’ll need to have clear space around it. You don’t want to put it in a spot where you constantly have to move other furniture to unfold it. You’ll also want to look for a thick and comfortable mattress, along with a supportive frame.
- Mixture: If the futon will be used for both sitting and sleeping equally, look for one that’s easy to convert from couch to bed and back again. Loveseat-style futons, which feature leg extensions that fold into the frame, tend to provide the most versatility considering how little floor space they take up, according to Futonland.
We’ve spent a dozen hours reading professional reviews, and below are our picks for futons in the under-$500 range.
Here are the best futons you can buy:
- Best futon overall: Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon
- Best small futon: Kodiak Futon Lounger
- Best Japanese futon: Fuli Japanese Traditional Shiki Futon
You’ll pay a bit extra for the Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon, but it’s an extremely sturdy and comfortable piece of furniture for both sitting and sleeping.
Pros: High-quality frame and comfortable mattress, several mattress colors available, full-size mattress, excellent back and neck support, large couch
Cons: Assembly is a complicated process, may be too large for some dorm rooms, comparatively pricey
If your budget can accommodate it, one of the most comfortable futons for less than $500 is the Jerry Sales Excelsior Futon.
This model uses an eight-inch thick innerspring mattress that offers plenty of support for sleeping. It’s a full-size mattress, which your overnight guests will appreciate. The couch is 80 inches long. As such, it may be better suited to an apartment than a dorm.
The wood frame includes armrests and good back support, making the Excelsior excellent for sitting, too. Several mattress colors are available to match the look of your apartment or dorm room. There are a few different wood stains available for each frame as well.
You can expect to spend some time on assembly with this futon, but for a futon with this kind of build quality, the extra effort is well worth it.
The best small futon
If you need a small futon for a dorm room that’s also stylish, the Kodiak Futon Lounger is a great pick.
Pros: Numerous color choices, should fit in many dorm rooms, can be set up as a lounger in addition to a bed or couch
Cons: Not much back or neck support as a couch, sleeper mattress is only 32 inches wide, thinner than some futon mattresses
If you want a splash of style in your dorm room or small apartment, the Kodiak Futon Lounger is the perfect answer.
This futon works better as a small sofa than as a bed because when the mattress folds out, it only measures 32 inches in width and 79 inches in length. If you mostly need it for seating, or your guests are comfortable with the limited amount of sleeping space, it’s a great pick.
The back cushions remain in place when you turn this futon into a bed, while the sides fold down, so you could choose to leave one side upright to create a lounger.
The mattress is almost six inches thick, so you may not want to sleep on it night after night. You also might want to place the futon against a wall for support when using it as a couch, as the back cushions don’t provide significant support.
The futon is small, too, measuring only 66 inches in width, so it’ll fit well in most dorm rooms. It’s not really made for more than two people to use at once, which makes it less than ideal for dorm life.
The best Japanese futon
Fuli’s futons come in sizes from twin to king and roll up to fit in your closet.
Pros: Affordable, storable
Cons: Not a ton of support, not a couch
Despite its association with a slatted, fold-out sofa stateside, a futon, which is a Japanese word, is by definition a quilted mattress that rolls out on the floor and is used as a bed. Japanese futons are portable, storable, and often much more practical than their American counterparts, especially in smaller spaces.
The Fuli Shiki futon is a three-layer piece made of 100% cotton fabric and 100% polyester stuffing. The queen size weighs only 10 pounds and can fold to 27 by 37 by 3.5 inches, which means it should fit in most closets and beneath most beds and couches.
It’s a pretty simple, quilted pad, which you’ll either put directly on the floor or atop a tatami mat. We recommend the tatami mat, both to add a little support and to keep your futon clean.
Keep in mind, though, that this is not a US-style futon and doesn’t double as a couch. It does not have foam, it does not have coils, and it will not offer significant support. It will, however, save you space and put up a friend or two in a pinch.
How to choose a futon
Once you’ve figured out how you plan to use the futon, you can home in on the specific features you want. Do you want to deal with a frame? Do you want a sofa? The options are endless, but here a few key considerations to keep in mind when shopping.
- Bifold mattress: Most futon mattresses are bifold cushions, meaning they fold once when used in the couch setup. However, a few cushions are trifold, which can be a little trickier to set up and use.
- Easy to clean: Pick a futon mattress that has an easy-to-clean surface material. Using a removable futon cover is a good solution because it’s easy to throw in a washing machine.
- Frame construction: For a futon that’s easier to move around, it’s helpful if the frame can be taken apart for transport and reassembled later. This can be especially handy if you’re moving a lot.
- Frame materials: Futons are available with wood or metal frames. Overstock says metal frames offer more durability than wood frames and are typically less expensive, making them perfect for dorm rooms. Wood futons often fit better into the décor of a room and can be more comfortable. If you do spring for wood, you may want to spend more than $500; the cheap particle board that’s often used doesn’t hold up well over time.
- Innerspring coils: For the most comfortable sleep, a futon mattress with innerspring coils inside — similar to a traditional bed mattress — is the right choice. Some futon mattresses are filled with foam or cotton batting, which isn’t as supportive.
- Size: You can buy futons in a variety of mattress sizes, based on your sleeping needs. Futon Life offers a great list of futon mattress measurements to help you decide what works best for you.
- Weight: If you want to move the futon and mattress regularly from room to room, you don’t want a heavy frame. Innerspring coil mattresses are heavier than their foam counterparts.
What else we considered
Room Essentials Futon Sofa: While this futon sofa looks like it could tie any room together, it just doesn’t seem to be built well enough for our recommendation. It’s made with inexpensive wood and assembled rather simply. It also may not be as sturdy as some futon mattresses since it lacks springs.
If you do go for this option, just make sure you assemble it well and tighten the fittings regularly. The particle-board frame will otherwise be prone to giving way. We recommend this if it’s something you’re planning on tossing in a year or two, but you can find better, especially if you’re willing to shop for used furniture.