Refrigerator Buying Guide

Your refrigerator is one of the most useful and necessary appliances in your kitchen. Bring the best to your home with a fridge that has all the space and features you've been looking for. Every home appliance plays an important role in your domestic life, but the one you probably interact with the most is your refrigerator. You trust your fridge to keep your food fresh, rely on it for cold beverages, and open its doors multiple times a day.

Your refrigerator is one of the most useful and necessary appliances in your kitchen. Bring the best to your home with a fridge that has all the space and features you've been looking for. Every home appliance plays an important role in your domestic life, but the one you probably interact with the most is your refrigerator. You trust your fridge to keep your food fresh, rely on it for cold beverages, and open its doors multiple times a day.

Refrigerator Considerations

You want a refrigerator that's reliable, spacious, and functional — one that complements your kitchen and adds convenience to your routine. That's why it's important to do some research before you buy. This guide will take you through the many available refrigerator styles and features so that you can make an informed decision when you buy your new refrigerator.

Large kitchen with stainless steel appliances, and large kitchen island
  1. Space: One thing's for sure — when buying a new refrigerator, you want one that's going to fit all of your groceries, beverages, and leftover Chinese food without any issues. Avoid potential crowding by planning ahead and calculating how much interior fridge space you'll need for your household. You should plan for at least 5 cubic feet per person. Make sure to check the interior measurements under the product details section when you shop online. You'll also want to ensure the exterior measurements fit your planned space. Make sure that it will fit through doorways and that you have a large enough spot to place it. A little spatial planning will save you from making any costly sizing errors.
  2. Style: The refrigerator style you choose will depend on both your functional and visual preference. You'll need to ask yourself questions like "How many doors do I want?" and "Do I want my freezer on top, on bottom, or to the side?" Think of what you're grabbing out of your refrigerator most often and how convenient it would be based on the different styles. The other factor to consider is how your fridge looks. Refrigerators come in a variety of colors and finishes, from polished stainless steel to textured wood grain. Decide whether you want it to stand out or mesh with the rest of your kitchen decor.
  3. Extra Features: Sure, you could stick with just the basics, but a refrigerator with some bells and whistles can bring a new level of convenience to your kitchen. Some upgrades, like adjustable shelving and deeper drawers, improve the basic function of your fridge. The inclusion of an in-door water and ice dispenser is one bonus feature that is almost expected in all new fridges. Other additions are more technical, like a built-in air filter for added freshness or individual temperature control for different areas of your refrigerator. Another feature that has been rising in popularity is door-in-door storage, which gives you access to frequently used items without having to open the refrigerator completely.
  4. Energy Efficiency: If you're environmentally or financially conscious, the energy efficiency of your new refrigerator is an important consideration. An easy way to explore this is to see if the fridge you're considering has earned an "Energy Star" rating. This certification is bestowed by the EPA on energy-efficient appliances in the top 25 percent of the market. Energy Star compliant appliances feature an "Energy Guide" sticker that will give you more detailed information about power consumption and an estimated yearly cost.

Types of Refrigerators

There are a variety of refrigerator types available, each of them uniquely designed to meet different needs. This means there are options for the family that might need just a little more freezer space or no freezer at all. We'll walk you through the different styles and see which one is right for you.

Top Freezer Refrigerator

For many, when they think of refrigerators, the top freezer model comes to mind. That's because it's been the basic style since the introduction of the home freezer in the 1940s. This traditional style perfectly fulfills the everyday home need, which is why it hasn't changed much since then. It makes the best use of internal storage space for its size, and it's generally the most affordable fridge style available. While its design is more basic, it also means this refrigerator is less likely to break down but is easier and cheaper to repair if it does. If you like keeping things simple and don't want to be bothered with extra features, a top freezer refrigerator is a solid choice.

Pros
  • Most affordable
  • Spacious interior, best for its size
  • Durable, easy to repair
Cons
  • Basic, not many extra features
  • Uncomfortable lower fridge access

Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

Like the name implies, the bottom freezer refrigerator simply flips the traditional configuration upside down. Bottom freezers will typically feature a pull-out drawer as opposed to a swinging door. This set up puts the majority of your fridge space at eye level, giving you convenient access to commonly used items. The tradeoff is that you'll probably have to bend over to rifle through the freezer compartment. These refrigerators also spacious and are considered to be more durable than other types of fridges. If you prefer your freezer section on the bottom but still want to keep it simple, then this refrigerator is a great option.

Pros
  • Easy fridge access
  • Spacious interior
  • Durable, easy to repair
Cons
  • Uncomfortable freezer access
  • Tend to be bulky
  • Basic, not many extra features

French Door Refrigerator

French door refrigerators keep the freezer on the bottom but switch out the large, single fridge door for two slim fridge doors. This benefits those with small kitchens and makes it more convenient to quickly grab items without having to completely open your fridge. However, you still have to open both doors to store wider items. This refrigerator style has become one of the most popular due to its space-saving door design, easy access, and variety of available bonus features. If you want a modern fridge with a focus on function and convenience, then this is the fridge for you.

Pros
  • Variety of extra features available
  • Spacious interior
  • Easy fridge access
  • Space saving dual-door design
Cons
  • Uncomfortable freezer access
  • Have to open both doors to store large items

Side-by-Side Refrigerator

Another popular style, the side-by-side is split into two narrow sections: fridge on one side, freezer on the other. Like the French door style, the narrow doors of the side-by-side make it a convenient option for smaller kitchens. Another advantage is that you have eye-level access to both your refrigerator and freezer. You can easily organize your fridge to have frequently used items within reach while placing less-used items in lower drawers or shelves. Plenty of extra features are available, so it's easy to find one with a water dispenser or adjustable temperature zones. If you want a space-saving design with a few additional conveniences, this fridge fits the bill.

Pros
  • Narrow doors fit small kitchens
  • Variety of extra features available
Cons
  • Difficult to store wide items
  • Less efficient use of energy and internal storage

Counter-Depth Refrigerator

If you're interested in a counter-depth refrigerator, then it's safe to say that the appearance of your appliance is important to you. These fridges are known for their sleek style and shallow design, which lend a streamlined look to your kitchen. Because these fridges aren't as deep, they tend to be wider to compensate for the loss of interior space. There are some sacrifices made to accommodate this style — these fridges aren't as energy efficient as other models and typically have a bigger price tag. Counter-depth refrigerators come in a variety of styles, including French door, side-by-side, and bottom freezer. If you want a fridge that fits in with your cabinets and decor but is still portable enough to install yourself, then a counter-depth fridge is worth a look.

Pros
  • Streamlined look, visually impressive
  • Slim design can fit small kitchens
Cons
  • Internal storage space compromised for style
  • Less energy efficient
  • Less affordable

Built-in Refrigerator

Built-in models are unique because, unlike other refrigerators, they become a part of your kitchen. Built-ins are complex and require professional installation, but they offer the most custom look and style. These units are designed to sit nearly flush with your surrounding cabinets and even have optional cabinet panels to match the color and feel of the rest of your kitchen. Due to their design, these fridges aren't as deep as others and may run wider to make up for lost space. If you're looking for an industrial fridge that can seamlessly integrate into your kitchen experience, a built-in fridge may be the perfect fit.

Pros
  • Fits flush with counters and cabinets
  • Optional panels to match surrounding cabinets and decor
  • High quality, long lasting
Cons
  • Higher cost
  • Stationary, not meant to be portable
  • Requires installation

Freezerless Refrigerator

For the household that doesn't use frozen foods or already has plenty of separate freezer space, there's the freezerless refrigerator. These units aren't very common, though they do exist. There aren't many style options available, but what this fridge lacks in customization it makes up for with sheer storage space. If you find yourself wishing you had more refrigerated space or just don't need a freezer, then this style is an obvious winner.

Pros
  • More fridge space
  • More affordable
  • Energy efficient
Cons
  • Limited style options
  • No place for ice cream
Andrew Schneider
by Andrew Schneider
Appliance Specialist
NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Andrew loves technology, especially when it's integrated with home appliances that make life more convenient. When he isn't exploring refrigerator benefits, Andrew enjoys reading, movies, and spending time with his family.