How to Make Car Beds

Written by heather inks
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How to Make Car Beds
Make a car bed designed from your child's favourite car. (Police sports car image by Christopher Dodge from

Many little kids love car beds. Though it is convenient to buy a prefab car bed, you can make a car bed with some wood, paint and screws or nails quite easily if you have some basic sawing and building skills. Building a car bed is a fun project that takes less than a day to construct. It may take a several days to paint all the details on the car bed depending on how detailed you make the car image on the bed sides. The best thing about building a car bed yourself is that you can model the bed after any car that you choose.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wood
  • Pencil
  • Yardstick
  • Measuring tape
  • Saw (electric or battery operated will be faster)
  • Saw horse
  • Safety goggles
  • Drill
  • Nails
  • Screws

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  1. 1

    Measure the length, width and depth of the mattress for the car bed. Most car beds lay on the floor and the mattress is on the floor so there is not a box spring under it. You can make a car bed for a toddler mattress too. Add 2 inches for a snug mattress fit to the length and width measurement or several more inches for a looser fit.

    How to Make Car Beds
    Use a shop measuring tape to get accurate measurements. (measuring tape image by Rich Johnson from
  2. 2

    Cut (3/4 inch to 1 1/2 thick) wood boards so that their height is the depth of the mattress to prepare them to create the box to hold the mattress. Cut two boards according to the length measurement for the sides. Cut two boards according to the width plus two times the board thickness for across the top and bottom. Screw or nail (drill a pilot hole first) the side boards to the top boards. Now you have a rectangle that the mattress will fit into snugly.

    How to Make Car Beds
    You can cut the wood by hand or with a saw for the mattress box. (cutting wood image by Horticulture from
  3. 3

    Measure the length and width of the frame mattress box. Now measure the thickness of the board or thick plywood that the car shape will be cut from. Add the thickness of the boards to the length and width figures to get the measurement for the bottom or foundation of the car bed. Some car beds have a car image on both sides but if you put the bed next to a wall, you could have it on one side only. Some car beds have a design on the head board and foot board. Some headboards are designed to be the tail fin of a race car to which a little shelf is created out of the fin. You must decide how many decorative sides will be made for the car bed. Now cut a sheet of wood for the base and screw or nail (drill pilot holes first) the base to the mattress box frame.

    How to Make Car Beds
    Drill a pilot hole first regardless of whether you use screws or nails. (drilling a hole studio isolated over white image by dinostock from
  4. 4

    Draw the side profile of the car that you are modelling the car bed after on a sheet of wood. The car will need to be the length of the car bed and the height is flexible and can be accommodated to fit the car profile you have selected. Now determine the height of the head board and the foot board, a car with a rear fin will have a higher headboard and be able to accommodate a shelf integrated into the bed design. The foot board should be lower to make getting in and out of bed easy. Cut the car profile shapes, head board and foot board out of the sheets.

    How to Make Car Beds
    Use a pencil to draw the outline of the profile of the car on the bed car frame sides. (race car neon sign image by MAXFX from
  5. 5

    Paint the car--the outline, wheels, doors, windows and details--on the car bed cutout pieces. Don't forget touches such as a front number plate on the foot board or racing flames on the car body. Apply a spray on gloss sealer, a paint on artist sealer or for the strongest protection paint several coats of wood floor clear coat on the painted car to preserve it. Water based floor sealers will have less of a yellow tint than oil based, though oil base tends to thicker and stronger.

    How to Make Car Beds
    Racing flames on the side of the car bed is a nice touch. (SONY DSC image by Tim Osborn from
  6. 6

    Drill pilot holes through the car shapes pieces and the frame to prevent any of the pieces from splitting during the final stages of construction. Attach the car shapes to the mattress box frame. Then lay the car bed on one side and screw or nail (drill pilot holes first) the car shaped side to the base piece of wood.

    How to Make Car Beds
    Drill pilot holes to prevent the painted car bed sides from cracking or splitting. (drilling a hole studio isolated over white image by dinostock from
  7. 7

    Cut and nail a fin that can double as a light weight shelf to the tail of the car bed, if using.

    How to Make Car Beds
    A fin can double as a shelf for light weight objects. (car image by Edvin selimovic from

Tips and warnings

  • High quality plywood can be smooth enough to paint a car; however, if you use cheap ply, then cut and adhere smooth interior board that will be a nice white smooth surface to paint on. It is most like more cost effective to use high quality plywood or siding then purchasing interior board and adhesive.
  • Always use safety goggles and wear protection when sawing wood. It will be helpful to have a saw horse and a second person to help handle and hold the plywood when cutting the car bed car-shaped side pieces.

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