Refrigerator Buying Guide: Which Model is Right For You?

Refrigerator Buying Guide

It’s probably safe to say that the refrigerator sees more traffic and hands-on use than any other appliance in your home. Kids as young as two or three years old are usually keen to figure out the magic of this snack-producing coldbox, and that’s to say nothing of the teens and adults that are already opening and closing the doors all day. In other words, every member of your family will have their hands in, on, and around the refrigerator every single day.

What does this mean for you? It means more thought goes into your refrigerator selection than you initially realized.

No matter which style of fridge you choose to add to your home, there are three main requirements that nearly every consumer wants out of this major appliance purchase:

  1. Reliability and Dependability – Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse of how involved refrigerator purchasing can be, you probably don’t want to do it again anytime within the next decade or two. Whichever unit you choose has to perform a single, but tremendously important task: it needs to keep your food cold, and it needs to do that without fail. Look for manufacturers with a long history of producing high-quality products. Be sure to read customer reviews, and speak to sales associates about their experiences with any refrigerator you are considering.
  2. Appropriate Price Range – If you’ve taken a stroll around an appliance showroom, you may have already realized how wide the price range is for refrigerators. On the lower end of things, you may be able to find a modest but still full-sized unit for under $1000, whereas the top-of-the-line models come in somewhere closer to $10,000 or more. Factors that will affect the price are special features, customization options, size, efficiency, and finish. There will be something for you within your budget – just do your research to make sure you are getting everything you need at the best possible price.
  3. Matching Decor – Refrigerators are large and very noticeable appliances. This means they have the ability to wonderfully enhance your existing decor, or clash with it terribly. It is important that your new refrigerator fits in with the stylistic choices you’ve made for the rest of your kitchen, or even the rest of your home. Given many of the customization options available out there, you may be surprised to learn just how seamlessly a refrigerator can blend into your kitchen.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the different styles of refrigerators available to you, to help you narrow down your selection even further.

 

Top Mount Freezer Models

Top Mount Freezer

If you were to think of a standard refrigerator/freezer combo, you would probably think of this model. This is a rectangular unit where the top third is freezer space, and the bottom two thirds are refrigerator space (approximately).

Pros: If cost is your main concern, the top-mount freezer model is going to offer you the lowest starting prices. This design also lends itself well to smaller setups, meaning if you are looking to save space in the kitchen by installing a shorter or narrower refrigerator unit, you are more likely to find them in this standard arrangement. Top-mount freezers also extend to the full width of the unit – so, unlike side-by-side freezers, you will have a nice broad space which can handle casserole pans and pizza boxes with ease.

Cons: The freezer is at eye level, but it’s the refrigerator that you need to access more frequently. Most people are reluctant to stoop all the way down to peer in, and this can lead to food getting “lost” at the back of the fridge. In terms of efficiency, cold air naturally sinks, so putting the coldest part of the unit up top might require unnecessary energy.

When to Choose This Style: If you are looking for a standard refrigerator that won’t cost a lot up front, or if you are working with compact spaces, this model will be your best bet.

 

Bottom Mount Freezer Models

Bottom Mount Freezer

Now, take that standard refrigerator model you are used to, and flip it upside down. The bottom third of the appliance will be freezer space, while the top two thirds are refrigerator space.

Pros: This design puts the refrigerator at eye level, making it easy to see the contents of your refrigerator at a glance. This can make writing shopping lists easier, and you are less likely to end up with spoiled food in a forgotten back corner. Having the freezer on the bottom is also much more energy-efficient than the classic, freezer on top models. These models also offer the full width freezer, meaning large items can fit in easily.

Cons: There are not as many design choices with this style of refrigerator as there are with some others. You will also see an increase in price for these models over the classic design, but remember that your overall energy costs will be lower.

When to Choose This Style: If you are looking to modernize your kitchen without breaking the bank, if you are looking to reduce your overall energy use, or if you would like a model that offers you a clear and easy view of your entire refrigerator.

 

French Door Refrigerator

French Door Refrigerator

These models are sometimes also referred to as “side-by-side” units. These refrigerators will be split not quite down the center, with the larger side being refrigerator space, and the smaller side being freezer space.

Pros: These models are often bigger than the top or bottom-mount models, because they need to allow for wider spaces on either side. This can be an easy way to increase your overall refrigerator space. French door refrigerators often feature lots of “extras” as well. If you are looking for icemakers, water dispensers, or touchscreens, you are more likely to find them on a side-by-side model. They also add a very updated and modern look to any kitchen.

Cons: Bigger isn’t always better, especially if you are working with a finite amount of space. Make sure you have your measurements exactly correct before trying to squeeze this wider refrigerator into your kitchen. Of course, more overall cold space means higher energy costs – but at the same time, a half-width freezer might still make it tricky to store large items. When it comes to price, you will notice that the absolute lowest cost options for French door models are still significantly higher than top-mount freezer models.

When to Choose This Model: If your refrigerator door blocks off a walk away, a French door model will cut that clearance in half, meaning you get a lot of floor space back. If you are looking to modernize the look of your kitchen, or add a few bells and whistles to your refrigerator set up, these will be the way to go

 

Counter-Depth Refrigerator

Counter Depth Refrigerator

If you take a look at the average kitchen, you will probably notice that the refrigerator sticks out several inches beyond the end of the counter. Sometimes, that can make for a clumsy or awkward set up, and that’s where counter-depth refrigerators come in. These units will have approximately the same height and width as other standard refrigerators, but they will only be about 24 to 26 inches deep. Only their doors will extend beyond the depth of the counter, to accommodate the hinges.

Pros: You can get this style of refrigerator in pretty much any door configuration you like. Freezer up top, freezer on the bottom, French doors, etc. these are also a smart solution for someone wanting the look of a built-in refrigerator, without the price tag. These models can open up valuable floor space, and present a more uniform look to your kitchen.

Cons: You may lose more refrigerator and freezer space than you realize when you downsize back to the depth of your countertops. You may also run into some difficulty with integrated icemakers or water dispensers, as they necessarily take up space in already-small setup.

When to Choose This Model: If your current refrigerator sticks out way too far, or if your doors swing so wide as to completely block off traffic, these are smart way to regain space. These are also significantly cheaper than true built-ins, while still offering a very similar look.

 

Built-In Refrigerator

Built in Refrigerator

Built-in refrigerators go a step beyond counter-depth models, meaning they are absolutely flush with your cabinet facing (whereas counter-depth units stick out an inch or two). Built-ins can also sport a finish which helps them blend in a bit more with your kitchen, such as a wood or plaster look. These units often compensate for their shallower clearance by going taller and wider than standard refrigerators. They usually require custom work to make sure they fit precisely with your cabinetry and countertops.

Pros: These can offer a very modern and uniform look to your kitchen, and in many cases, the refrigerator can seem almost completely obscured from view. Because you are building these into your kitchen, you will also have some customization options that aren’t available on other types of refrigerators.

Cons: There is no such thing as an “inexpensive” built-in. The prices for these begin much higher than your standard models, and many people may be priced out of this option altogether. These are also often installed as part of a complete kitchen renovation, so if you weren’t planning to take that plunge, these may be off the table.

When to Choose This Model: If you have plenty of room to install a large refrigerator unit, but don’t want it sticking out into the walkway. If you’re looking to update the look of your kitchen by blending your refrigerator into the cabinetry, or if you’re doing a complete kitchen remodel.

 

Fully Integrated Refrigerator

Fully Integrated Refrigerator

This option offers the most customization of all. Fully integrated units can be installed in standard configurations, but they can also be installed as separate refrigerator and freezer “columns.” Fully integrated means that your refrigerator and freezer completely disappear. This calls for some special placement of a compressor, and for custom cabinet faces to be created to perfectly hide your appliances.

Pros: Incredibly stylish, and fully customizable. Assuming you have the space and the budget, you could use fully integrated units as part of a true chef’s kitchen right in your home.

Cons: The biggest drawback to this type of custom work is obviously going to be the price. If built-ins were too expensive, then these are even more out of reach.

When to Choose This Model: If you want to completely customize your kitchen, either for maximum efficiency, beautiful style, or both, consider fully integrated refrigerator units.

 

Bar or Drinks Refrigerator

Bar or Drinks Refrigerator

These little refrigerators are half-size (or smaller!) setups, meant to handle lighter tasks. These are often used in home bars to keep beer bottles and soda cans cold, but many often have small freezer sections too. For this reason, you may also see these pint-sized fridges in dorm rooms, or in efficiency apartments.

Pros: They can fit almost anywhere, including on your countertop. Some units offer freezer capabilities in addition to refrigeration.

Cons: Unless you’re living on your own, these small setups can’t handle the food needs of the average household. They are best used as supplemental fridge space.

When to Choose This Model: If you want a separate refrigerator just for drinks, if you have a home bar, or if you have extremely limited space to work with.

You definitely have a lot to think about when selecting a new refrigerator for your home. It requires a bit more homework than some people realize, but it’s worth taking the extra time to get it exactly right. Just remember to stick to the three basics: reliability, price, and style. If you can find a model that works for you in all three categories, that’s the one you should go with.

Hopefully this list helped to take some of the mystery out of the shopping process. If you know someone who is considering a new refrigerator for their home, remember to share this article on social media so they can narrow down their options too.

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Niv Orlian

Co-Founder at Do Online Marketing
Niv Orlian is an online marketer and the Co-Founder of DO Online Marketing, a Chicago based company that helps local businesses acquire, manage, and retain local customers online.
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