What is the Difference Between a Couch and a Sofa?

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When browsing second-hand furniture you’ll find many listings for both sofas and couches. What is the difference between these two items?

For the average consumer the difference is subtle. However, here is a quick tip on how to tell:


Used for lying down


Used for sitting down

This is a broad generalization, but for the average consumer these two concepts will keep it simple. With these generalizations, comes a few additional assumptions as well:


  • Couches tend to be smaller.
  • Couches tend to have tapered backs.

  • Sofas tend to seat more people.
  • Sofas tend to have a uniform back.


Brown Couch



How much are couches and sofas on Craigslist?

Sofas are listed 2x more frequently than couches. Sofas are also more expensive on Craigslist, listed at a typical price of $400 (sofas) vs $250 (couches).

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How do people use the terms every day?

The average American will use these terms interchangeably in everyday conversation. This is important because this is also how people will tend to list their furniture on online second hand marketplaces. Pro Tip: Be sure to search both terms when looking for a new couch or sofa, to be sure you don’t miss a miscategorized item.


According to Google Trend data, in 2010 people in the U.S. started using “couch” more frequently than “sofa”. This trend has continued to grow over time, to the point that couch is used almost twice as often as sofa.

Historical Usage of Couch vs Sofa

Why is “couch” now more popular?

It’s tough to tell. There could be a few reasons that the term couch may have become more popular. It could be due to frequently used sayings such as “couch potato” or “couch surfer.” It could also be an observation of a new trend of sales (i.e. couches are becoming more popular).

Where are “sofas” popular?

Interestingly, the term sofa is specifically popular in a few key states such as New York and California:

Where the term "sofa" is popular in the United StatesIt’s not entirely clear why these states use the term “sofa” more frequently. These states do tend to have a higher median income (sofas tend to be more expensive). If you’re in these states, be sure to check for sofas in the second hand markets.


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