Best Refrigerator Reviews & Buying Guide

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The valuable features, desirable extras and frivolous bells and whistles available with a refrigerator today are so numerous and varied that it can be hard to know what you need and what you don’t.

For example, what is the best side by side refrigerator? We like the Samsung’s Counter Depth Refrigerator because it looks sleek and has many features including filtered water and ice dispensers, power cooling and freezing options, but it may not be budget friendly for you.

In this guide, we will discuss the many options when purchasing a new fridge, and we will provide solid advice to help you select the best refrigerator for your kitchen.

What Is The Best Refrigerator?

To choose the right refrigerator for your home, you will need to begin by carefully evaluating the needs of your household.

Points to consider include:

  • Price
  • Type
  • Capacity

Ask yourself the following questions.

How Much Do You Want To Spend?​

A brand new refrigerator can range in price from around $500 to $3000 depending on size, style, features, options and customization. Determine your budget in advance and stick to it when shopping.

Remember that operating costs also vary from one type of fridge to another. Think about how much you want to spend monthly on refrigeration costs and keep that goal in mind when making your choice.

Custom Colors Add To Cost

You can save a lot of money by purchasing your refrigerator from a big-box store or at your local home improvement center; however, you may not have a lot of color choice when you do this. Typically, you can find ready-to-buy choices in black, white and chrome.

Be advised that the addition of special color can add a thousand dollars or so to your price tag!​

If you want to match your kitchen color scheme, you will have to special order at a premium. You might also look into purchasing specially designed retro appliances, which are often available in a vast array of colors.

How Much Storage Space Do You Need?​

You may be surprised to know that a family of four can usually do quite well with a smaller refrigerator. Nineteen-to-twenty-two cubic feet is really an ample amount of storage.

Remember that smaller and compact refrigerators are not only less expensive to purchase, but also less expensive to operate.

While it may seem like a good idea to get a bigger refrigerator just in case, the fact is smaller fridges are significantly less costly to operate. Small fridges with a capacity of sixteen-to-twenty cubic feet of storage space are the most energy efficient.

When you consider that a family of four can typically do quite well with only nineteen to twenty-two cubic feet it’s easy to see that if your household consists of just one or two people, you might very well save a lot of money by using a smaller refrigerator.​

How Much Space Do You Have?

If you are replacing an old refrigerator and have a very limited space for your new fridge, take steps to ensure the perfect fit.

Begin by measuring the space accurately. Measure width, depth and height and then add one inch for clearance all around. Keep in mind that you will really need a couple of inched clearance between the hinged side of the door and a wall. This will allow the door to swing open freely.​

Be sure to choose a replacement fridge that has a door that swings in the proper direction for your space. Alternately, purchase one with a reversible door.

If you are renting or have an open kitchen layout that could offer flexibility in the placement of a refrigerator, look for one that has a reversible door. This will allow you to install the door so that it can be opened from left or right.

This feature provides you with flexibility if you move and need to change the direction of the door in your new home. If you decide to rearrange your kitchen, having flexibility in the door opening direction can give you more placement options.​

Types Of Refrigerators

Top Freezer Style

top freezer refrigerator

This is the style of fridge most people know and love. It has a large refrigeration compartment on the bottom and a smaller freezer compartment on the top. This is a classic combination that provides a lot of service for a reasonable price. The average storage capacity of this type of refrigerator is about twenty cubic feet.​

A simple refrigerator/freezer combo is also a good choice in terms of the amount of space it takes up in your kitchen. These units are typically quite slim, measuring between thirty and thirty-three inches wise.

With a basic, no-frills model you get a lot of storage space. Understand that adding special amenities such as an ice-maker or beverage dispenser will reduce the amount of space you have for food storage.

In terms of efficiency, this model could be improved upon. They are typically ten-to-twenty-five percent less energy efficient than some other types of fridges.

Examples include side-by-side refrigerator freezers and those that have the freezer on the bottom instead of on the top. Having a freezer on top allows cooler air to go down and help keep the fridge cool, rather than simply going to the floor.

Even so, the lower cost of this type of fridge may make it the right choice for you.​

Refrigerators With The Freezer On The Bottom

bottom freezer refrigerator

This type of fridge is convenient and easy to use because the elevated refrigerator compartment is at eye level. It’s easy to find what you want, and putting groceries away doesn’t involve a lot of stooping and bending.

The refrigerator compartment is typically a drawer that pulls out. This is a bit more energy efficient because the cold tends to stay in the drawer rather than “falling out” onto the floor every time you open the freezer.

This configuration also offers a lot of storage space with an average of twenty-two cubic feet. In terms of the size of the unit, thirty-to-thirty-three inches wide is standard.​

French-Door Fridge

french door refrigerator

This model combines the convenience of a side-by-side two-door fridge on the top and a freezer door below.

Storage capacity for this type of fridge is quite generous at twenty-four cubic feet. This type of refrigerator is usually quite wide, ranging between thirty-three and thirty-six inches.

Side-By-Side Fridge

side by side refrigerator

If you tend to freeze a lot of foods and don’t need as much refrigerator space, this may be an excellent choice for you. This type of fridge has two fairly equally sized compartments (refrigerator and freezer) set up side by side.​

These units are usually a bit wider, ranging from thirty-two to thirty-six inches wide. Their total capacity is approximately twenty-four cubic feet, but remember that about half of that is freezer.

Also, keep in mind that this type of fridge typically comes with space gobbling amenities such as a beverage dispenser and/or ice maker. Furthermore, the wall dividing the fridge from the freezer is quite space consuming.

Side-by-side fridges are rather costly, so they may not be ideal if you are on a budget.

4 Door Refrigerator

This model is an excellent choice for a large family. The typical capacity is about twenty-five cubic feet, and the configuration consists of lots of useful compartments.​

This type of fridge has two refrigerator doors on the top. Below that is a center door that covers a drawer. This is intended to store items you use most frequently. Below the center door is the freezer compartment.

This type of fridge typically has a beverage dispenser and energy saving temperature controls.

While this is an expensive choice, it is an infinitely practical purchase for a large, busy family. Unlike the side-by-side that has a lot of space consumed by its construction and design, the 4-Door fridge offers about eighty percent usable storage space.​

Cabinet or Counter-Depth Refrigerator

This type of unit is intended to help you create a smooth, seamless look in your kitchen, so you can customize by ordering a special overlaid exterior to match your cabinetry. They are designed to fit even with the front of your counter or cabinet. This means they run fairly shallow from front to back.

There are two styles in this configuration: Side-By-Side and French Door. Both options provide approximately twenty-eight feet of usable storage space.

This type of fridge often comes with features such as a chilled water dispenser, an ice dispenser and temperature controls in each compartment. These refrigerators offer a lot of storage and a lot of function, along with a customized appearance.​

Keep Energy Efficiency In Mind

When you buy a new refrigerator today, you can be certain that it is designed for energy efficiency. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) standards have increased sharply in the past few years, and more and more high efficiency Energy Star rated appliances are available.

DOE standards now ensure that new models of refrigerators and freezers provide twenty to thirty percent greater energy efficiency than those available prior to 2014. This means that if you are replacing an older model, you are sure to see welcome savings on your electric bill.

energy star

Energy Star rated appliances are required to be a minimum of nine percent more efficient than the standard established by the DOE, so choosing appliances labeled “Energy Star” is a smart way to save energy and money.

In fact, refrigerators that are more than ten years old can cost as much as forty percent more per year to run than modern, new Energy Star rated appliances.​

Extra Refrigerator Features

Practical features that add to function and value are worthwhile, and you should expect to pay a bit more for them. Others are unnecessary and costly to purchase and operate. Here are a few features you should avoid or use as bargaining chips when making your purchase.​

1. Dispensers

ice and water dispenser

Dispensers for ice, water and other beverages are handy; however, they increase your operating costs and decrease the value of your purchase. If you have these features, you can expect to pay quite a bit for incidentals.

For example, the filters for a water dispenser can cost you a hundred dollars a year. Using these features can cost you twenty dollars or more per year in electricity. Furthermore, these features consume your storage space and reduce the value of your purchase.

Typically, this kind of unnecessary feature adds to your purchase price. If you are going to bargain, this is where you should begin!​

2. Blast Chiller/Fast-Cooling Compartment

This feature is intended to quickly chill lukewarm drinks. The idea is that you can get your bottle of wine or can of soda icy cold in about eight minutes. Keep in mind that an ice bucket or cooler can do the same thing, and it won’t increase your energy usage costs by twenty percent in the process.

3. WiFi Refrigerator

This sort of feature is fancy and fun and entirely unnecessary. Having a Wi-Fi enabled refrigerator just adds an exorbitant amount to the purchase price and then provides one more thing to break down in the future. Keep it simple to keep your refrigerator costs low and function high.​

Worthwhile Functions & Features

It can be hard to decide which features are necessary and which might just be for show. Here are a few of the best and most useful features you may wish to consider in a new refrigerator:

1. Ample & Flexible Storage Options​

Features such as generous bins in the door, split shelves, flexible bin dividers and adjustable shelves make it easy to custom-configure your storage space to suit your needs.

2. Compartmentalized Humidity Controls

Being able to adjust the humidity in various compartments of your fridge makes it easy to customize your storage to accommodate the foods you have purchased.

For example, your whole fruits, such as apples and oranges do not need the same level of humidity as your salad greens. Being able to set humidity compartment-by-compartment enables you to store fruits and vegetables under optimum conditions.​

3. Enhanced LED Lighting

Instead of one dim appliance bulb in the top of the fridge, enhanced lighting options offer bright, energy-efficient LED lighting strategically placed to provide you with the best and most complete view of the contents of your fridge.

4. Warning Alarm

A chime or beeper on the door can alert you when the door is not fully closed. This can save you money in energy and replacement costs of spoiled foods.

All of these features are valuable and worthwhile and may reasonably incur a bit more expense. If the refrigerator of your dreams seems exorbitantly priced, try a little bargaining.

The worst that can happen is the dealer will tell you to take it or leave it and you’ll pay full price. More often than not, though, you can get a little shaved off the bill by simply asking.​

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a new refrigerator can be overwhelming, but when you take the time to evaluate your needs, determine your budget and assert your bargaining skills, you are sure to get the best deal possible.

Watch for sales and refer to the advice presented here to find the best refrigerator to suit your needs.

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.