Sofa vs Recliner

Okay so this may actually be a bit confusing, but trust me I will get you through it. So are you looking to buy a sofa or a recliner and you’re wondering what the difference is? Well look no further, I am here to give you the answers you seek. See, a sofa is many things, but not many things are sofas. 

Did that click? Well take for example, a recliner is a sofa, it’s called a reclining sofa right, but at the same time, a sofa is not a recliner. Doesn’t work like that at all. The term sofa is generalised, it will umbrella so many things and many pieces some are wrong but I’ll let it slide for today and concentrate on the topic. So let me give you a rundown of what we are on about today.

black leather recliner sofa

Seeing as though that part is over let’s move on and get down to business, you’re obviously in a hurry and don’t want to spend much time looking over explanations om sofas and recliners. So here we have a guide that’s going to see you through the differences between sofas and chairs, showing you why you’d rather go for a chair than a sofa and also why you’d rather go for a recliner than a sofa. So without wasting much time let’s get started.


Let’s look at the similarities between a sofa and a recliner before we move forward. So looking at a sofa you think of comfort and welcome. Looking at a recliner you see more of a luxury than necessity right? Here is the thing, A sofa is basically designed for homely use, to accommodate people and allow people living in a home together to have time to sit, relax and enjoy each other’s company. 

That basically how a recliner is. Recliners besides offering luxury they also offer comfort and bring people together as well. Another similarity is that sofas come in different shapes and styles. You can find sofas as traditional, classic, modern and so forth. We have sectional sofas, corner sofas and so forth which is exactly what you find on a recliner. 

two men carry a lady on a sofa

Recliners may as well come in the shape of traditional sofas, armchairs, sectionals and any other form you may think of. That’s why I said earlier that a recliner might as well be termed as a feature and not an actual piece because either a sofa comes with a reclining feature or it doesn’t.

Now that we’re with that part let’s look at what differentiates a recliner from a non-reclining sofa, and we’ll start with the basics, and move on to look at their costs, practicality and space efficiency.

What Is A Sofa?

Well, basically a sofa is a piece of furniture, convertible or stagnant that is normally used for lounging, sitting, napping and relaxing. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Sofas can come in different sizes, shapes and styles. Shopping for one can be one of the most frustrating things because it’s that one piece of furniture that will lout out in an entire room full of furniture. A sofa is that big elephant that you can’t miss no matter how much is actually surrounding it. 

A sofa will define so many things about you, from your taste to your style. At times it will accentuate, balance out or actually diminish an existing style in a room, which is why you need to be very careful when getting yourself one, but we’ll get to that later on. For now, I just need you to grasp the difference between a sofa and a recliner and to help with that, to aid with the picture here is a typical, modern sofa. 

Here’s a good sofa:

What Is A Recliner?

We should really give credit to the French, they are the ones who practically came up with the idea of reclining seats. The first model may not have been as modern and futuristic as the recliners we have nowadays but still, It’s all the French’s doing. So what is a recliner? 

It can be an armchair or a sofa that has a pushback or layback design that allows it to recline to the back, it can have an integral footrest. Or according to wiki, it’s a sofa that reclines when you lower its back and raise its front. The good thing about recliners is that just like sofas they can come in different shapes and sizes. 

We have reclining sectionals, loveseats, armchairs and so forth, is not limited to much really. On that tip, please remember that recliners are either electrical or manual, so you can either use a button or remote to control the reclining set or you can have a lever that you use.

Whatever style you find a sofa in you also find a recliner in. I think the term reclining refers to more of a feature than the actual piece. Here are two recliners, first we have the electric recliner that uses an advanced reclining system, and then we have the manual recliner that requires a lever.

Heres a good Recliner:


Moving on let’s look at how these two actually differ in terms of cost, practicality and space efficiency. So you can determine which one is actually best for you.


So your regular sofa can vary in shape and size but it can also vary in cost as well. Depending on the brand name and upholstery a sofa can either be quite affordable to the public or very expensive. On the bright side, there are so many variations that you will find a sofa for almost any budget you set. Sofas, however, depending on the style and type can actually be cheaper as compared to a recliner.

Recliners are more so modified sofas that are tuned to set in more of the luxury aspect to a regular sofa. You will find that regular sofa at their cost be it high or low will actually cost less when compared to the reclining model.

The thing with recliners is that they are designed basically for relaxing in luxury rather than they are designed for comfort. You know what special feeling where you just want to sit back, relax and have your legs raised? exactly that why recliners get so costly because they know that feeling all too well. So generally because of this added feature and mechanisms, a recliner will cost you more than the regular sofa, but all in all that cost will definitely be worth it. 


When it comes to functionality sofas and recliners draw a very bold line. Sofas are the basic go-to when you want to sit and you want to offer people somewhere to rest. very often, we offer guests, friends and family somewhere to sit in a living room because it seems more proper to have them on sofas than on couches. 

Sofas are just that, depending on their styles and types, we can have a sofa that is basically for seating and resting, you can’t really do anything else afterwards. I mean let us take for example a loveseat sofa. Besides it being a decorative piece it’s pretty much a furniture piece that’s practical for sitting only, its size can’t accommodate a fully grown human to sleep comfortably.

Then we take a look at sectionals, the best you can do with a sectional is a lounge and use the chaise as a footrest but it’s all pretty much the same, there’s not much one can actually do on a sofa.

Then we have the recliner, see recliners are almost the same with sofas, they don’t offer anything different besides the ability to recline and allow you that luxurious feel. The difference, however, comes in that recliners are mostly designed for luxury. You don’t offer guests a recliner when they come to visit, a recliner is for your own luxury and the fact that it can be used as a normal sofa, that’s just an additive. 

So see recliner comes in different models and types. Some are manual, meaning you have to use a lever and manual recline the sofa to the desired degree. The modern recliners however either come with an activating button or a remote, but these require a power source, either electricity or batteries. 

Lastly, we have the most luxurious of them all, the massage recliner. With this one, you actually get a therapeutic massage session that will leave you even more relieved and relaxed. So now you see, I mean with all these features that come with a recliner it’s pretty easy to note why it would cost more than your regular sofa right and worse off how they differ in terms of functionality.

Space efficiency

Sofas are such beautiful sets. If you have a small space then you can get a small sofa, if you have a big space then you can get either a small or large sofa. Point is with whatever room size and shape you have, you will always find a sofa to fill it. Sofas have recently been modified and we have the new trending style of an L-shaped corner sofa. 

This sofa here is designed to maximise its capacity and at the same time being space efficient. you will note that with a regular sofa you may not be able to set it directly against a wall, but with sectionals, they come with a corner shape so that they can fill up on that wall space living the whole centre-ground of your living room to other sets.

Talk about efficiency right, Most of these are actually wall huggers, they offer generous amounts of sitting space without actually using up your room space. We also have loveseats and other compact sofas that are small enough to not even disturb your room’s space but still offer amazing comfort and service.

Now looking at a recliner you’ll have to accept that whatever recliner type you get, whether its a loveseat, single chair, sectional or whatever, it will always take up more space than its regular counterpart. This is probably because your regular sofa doesn’t need space allowance to recline and function as a recliner does. 

I mean with a recliner you can’t set it against a wall, or it will cease its purpose as a recliner. Though some recliners do come as l-shaped sectionals, in whatever direction you set it in, you will need more space for the footrest and the power sources as well as the reclining allowance. So if you have a small room and you want to occupy it, do you still think a recliner is the best way to go?

Why a sofa

A sofa is one of the most important household pieces ever invented. Buying a sofa will likely be one of the most important investments you will ever make. So if you need a push to actually buy a sofa over a recliner then here goes. Recliners tend to be costly both in purchasing and maintaining. 

Let’s say you get yourself that electric recliner. It’s cool at first right until something snaps or there are glitches and money has to be set aside for repairs. Nor forgetting that depending on how long you use it, some recliners tend to use up a lot of power and that’s an addition to your bill. Sofas, however, have no worry for such, Even if there’s no power you’re still able to feel the comfort and use it to its full capacity. Be sure to check out our Sofa vs Chair post.

Secondly, sofas are very space-efficient, they don’t need that reclining allowance, you can set it directly against a wall and you’ll still be fine, no worries nothing. See with recliners they tend to take up more space. the space needed for a regular chair is less as compared to the one needed for the reclining chair. Same goes for the loveseats and sectionals. If you have a small living space then a recliner is most definitely not the best purchase for you. 

Let’s look at weight, sofas can be heavy depending on the construction, but also recliners are generally heavy. Don’t bet on finding a recliner you can lift on your own. They have added weight because of their reclining feature which requires more construction materials and mechanisms. So on the downside, if you are regularly moving your furniture then do you think a recliner is the best way to go? 

Why a recliner

Well, the simple would be that recliners are actually more functional and practical than a regular sofa. You know how at times you need more than just a nap. well, recliners offer exactly that. See recliners are designed for both comfort and luxury.

Very few sofas out there are designed for luxury, they all offer comfort and support but how many can actually fall under the term luxurious the way recliners do? Sofas are practical, but can they give you that kickback relaxing arch you need once in a while? I’m sure you already know the answer to that.

Let’s check on versatility, regular sofas are not as versatile. You will find that if a sofa has any extra feature it’s probably the modular sectionals or the reversible sectionals. They have chaises that allow you to move and configure them to different positions but that’s really just about it.

There’s nothing else you can actually do. With a recliner however not only can it be used as seating but with the adjustable design you may as well use it for sleeping depending on the degree to which it can recline.

Lastly, the sofas are very comfortable. Coming in different variations, some can be fluffy and warm, others creating cozy spots for you in your homes, but then again, can you really compare that to the comfort a recliner will give you.

Recliners are way more comfortable, and they are relaxing as well as therapeutic. Imagine the difference, with a sofa you actually have to twist and switch until you find a comfortable position for you to lie in. but will a recliner you just sit back, kick back and let it do the rest. What scale would you use to measure such comfort?

Final Thoughts

Well, this was fun, but like all journeys, they have to come to an end, and I believe this is where our journey ends. It’s time for the big questions now, why should you get a sofa or why should you get a recliner? Which of the two would actually make the purchase a wise decision?

Well I’m not going to answer that question for you, but I am going to show you a few things that might help you make the right decision depending on your own interest, so let us see, shall we? Now at other points, you could decide to get both a sofa and a recliner which is just as beneficial because both of them function differently and both of them cannot and will not let you down. 

Elissa Smith
Latest posts by Elissa Smith (see all)

Leave a Comment