Can You Put An Air Mattress In A Car


For most of us, there will come a time when we find ourselves sleeping in our vehicles. In the past, I have slept in my car during road trips to save money. Over the years, experience has taught me to plan, including finding a more comfortable way to sleep in a car, truck, or SUV.

One option that has become more popular recently is using an air mattress. As I have matured, the idea of finding comfort and saving my lower back makes these products more appealing.

Can You Put An Air Mattress In A Car?

An air mattress is portable and is often used in a car, as long as it fits, you can use it. That does not mean that any air mattress will work, though. Experience has taught me that you need to think about where and how before selecting an air mattress.

What size air mattress will fit in a car?

I have read that most “average” cars can hold a twin-sized air mattress in the back seating area. That might give you a general idea, but it is not accurate enough.

My suggestion would be to start by measuring the back portion of the car’s interior to get more precise dimensions. You will then have a good idea of the mattress sizes that will fit.

If you have an SUV or truck with a truck bed, there is room for a larger air mattress. I would still take measurements to be safe.

Buying a product that fits

A standard air mattress might leave gaps where you rest your head or feet. It might also have width issues, depending on the adjustability of your front car seats, as well as center consoles.

Manufacturers make “universal” back seat air mattresses. They often include separate support cushions that fill the spaces between front and back seats along the floor. That provides more width for sleeping, which makes for a more comfortable rest.

SUVs have seats that fold down, providing extra sleeping space. These spaces, and truck beds, can hold camping air mattresses. I discovered that a camping mattress offers plenty of room for two sleepers, where a back seat mattress can be cramped, even for one person.

How do you fill your car’s air mattress?

The first time I bought an air mattress, I used a cheap hand-powered air pump to fill it. It worked, but it took a long time and tired me out in the process.

While the hand-powered air pump makes an adequate backup, my suggestion would be to get yourself an electric air pump. Many air mattresses come with one, or you can buy one separately.

A 12-volt model is standard and will provide enough power to fill the air mattress quickly. The automotive auxiliary power outlet (the cylinder-shaped slot that housed cigarette lighters in a vehicle years ago) can provide electrical current, or you can use one that runs on a lithium-ion battery pack.

Motorized pumps can fill a mattress in under one minute, while a hand pump can take several minutes. It is worth spending extra on if you do not have one. Who wants to hassle with hand pumps after driving all day or trying to get settled during a storm?

What is an air mattress made of?

During my research, I have learned that the base materials used to make an air mattress have not changed much since I bought my first air bed. PVC vinyl appears to be the go-to material for most manufacturers.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) can be made unplasticized or plasticized. Unplasticized PVC is a stiff material, like PVC piping. Plasticized PVC is often substituted for rubber and makes up the body on most air mattresses.

Modern designs include the use of other materials with PVC plastics or in place of them. That includes rubber and urethane plastics. Specific areas on the air mattress have textile reinforcement that provides non-slip surfaces, additional thickness, and tensile strength.

These rubber and urethane mattresses are less brittle in extreme weather conditions. They also provide a stronger surface that can handle more pressure and abuse, especially with added reinforcement.

How many chambers does an air mattress have?

My first experience with an air mattress was a design with one chamber. Today, most products will have two air-compartments at minimum, with the full-sized beds having up to six.

Air mattresses designed for car interiors will use two separate “legs” that fit between the floorboard and the bottom of the sleeping mattress. Designs intended for truck beds and folded SUV interiors will not have “legs,” but their shapes may contour around wheel wells.

How long should an air mattress last?

I invested in a quality air mattress on my last purchase, and it works fine six years later. Manufacturers often offer guarantees on their products, and customer feedback from others seems to indicate that these beds often exceed the manufacturer’s coverage.

A quality air mattress purchased today should last you 8 to 10-years. That is longer than traditional mattresses, which need replacing after 6 to 8-years if you want proper sleep support.

Is inflatable car bed safe?

For adult travelers, an inflatable car bed will pose no serious safety risks. Older children and teenagers should be fine as well.

The only time that you might be concerned about safety is for infants and children with special needs. Infants require the same safety precautions on the road as they do at home. An air mattress provides a soft surface that can endanger a sleeping infant that is on its belly.

If a special needs individual is traveling with you, take into account their ability to remain supported. Your car bed needs set up in a way that prevents possible pinning between the mattress and the vehicle interior.

The materials used for the mattress construction will not cause health problems beyond allergic reactions. If your air mattress uses a non-slip textile, keep in mind that the material might be susceptible to heat.

Falling between the mattress and the floorboard can be a hassle, even for a perfectly able adult. Make sure you have adequate support beneath the air mattress. Filling gaps with additional cushions can prevent body parts from getting stuck, and make sleeping more comfortable in general.

Are air mattresses cold or hot to sleep on?

I have never become hot while sleeping on an air bed. These items will not hold heat, so you should never experience discomfort from an air mattress becoming too hot. That includes the hot nights of summer when sleeping in a vehicle can be unbearable.

Experience has taught me, however, that an air bed can become cold. That is due to the air within the chambers, which cools down in the evenings, and cold weather. These conditions will intensify when using a mattress in your vehicle.

To prevent discomfort, you need to create a barrier of material between you and the mattress. A foam topper or thick blanket can do the trick, and campers can make use of their sleeping bags or space blankets if needed. You can also wear extra layers of clothing, which helps keep your body heat from escaping from above the mattress as well.

Is it OK to sleep on an air mattress every night?

If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have said no. Older designs with a single chamber leaked profusely, provided no support, and felt miserable for anything beyond a weekend drive.

Today’s air beds are different. They have multiple chambers that provide evenly distributed support and reduce air leakage. Many mattresses are adjustable for various comfort levels for separate sleepers.

Another issue with older designs was flimsy materials. The products made today use strong PVC layers, rubbers, and urethane skins. Using multi-chamber mattresses also helps to distribute weight across more than one air pocket.

Modern air beds advertise as permanent sleeping options. Manufacturers build these mattresses to withstand constant use. If you are looking for an air bed to sleep on while you travel, you should be well-served by today’s builds.

Keep it inflated to a good level, protect it from damage, and use barriers between you and the mattress.

Are blow up beds good for your back?

The answer is maybe.

If you are reading this and considering a mattress for vehicle travel, I can see no problem with using an air mattress. For long-distance road trips and vehicle camping, they will serve you better than trying to sleep in your car’s front seat or on the hard surface of a truck bed or folded SUV backseats.

Your current health is a factor here, of course. Healthy individuals should be fine. If you are pregnant or have existing back problems, you will do better to find a motel for the night.

Improve Your Rest

You can use an air mattress in your car. Today, there are several designs available for road travel. Match a product to your budget and needs. My air bed makes road trips far more enjoyable, and I hope that yours improves your time on the road!

Scott Boyd

A semi-retired workaholic in Thailand is a challenge. It is too hot to keep building adobe and earthbag buildings so a new project was needed. I became interested in bed frames after purchasing a bamboo bed frame from a local supplier here and I learned there is little information about them on the Internet. So now I spend my days researching, testing, and reporting my findings to help others while having an occasional beer and istening to 60s and 70s B side rock, blues, and much more.

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