The Best Refrigerators

The truth is, all major appliance brands offer nearly identical refrigerators. The new models you’ll see today are far more energy-efficient than those produced even five years ago, and repairs are only as difficult as finding the nearest technician. So, how do you choose what’s right for you? First, you’ll need to measure your space, then figure out the refrigerator style and size best for your lifestyle. Don’t worry — we’ll show you how.

The 4 Best Refrigerators


Best Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
Whirlpool Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
Whirlpool
This style makes it easy to scan and grab food in the refrigerator, but the freezer is harder to organize.
Pros
Temperature system
SpillGuard glass shelves
Most food is easily stored at eye level
Cons
Poor freezer layout

Why we chose it

Temperature system

One feature that stood out to us was the Whirlpool Bottom Freezer Refrigerator’s temperature management system. Dubbed the Accu-Chill Temperature Management System, it uses built-in sensors to measure the internal temperature of the fridge and make necessary adjustments. Not only does this automatic feature take the guesswork out of proper cooling, but it also makes the fridge more energy-efficient.

SpillGuard glass shelves

Spills are inevitable, and cleaning out a refrigerator can be a real hassle. That’s why the Whirlpool’s SpillGuard glass shelves stand out. The raised edges of these shelves contain small spills and prevent dripping onto lower shelves, and the glass facilitates easy wipedowns.

Most food is easily stored at eye level

The greatest perk of bottom freezer model: All of your daily food items sit right at eye-level, so you don’t have to bend down to reach into the fruit or vegetable drawer. This makes bottom freezer refrigerators excellent choices if you don’t use your freezer very often, as well as for elderly people or those with joint issues.

Points to consider

Poor freezer layout

Unlike the two-door layout of top freezers, most bottom freezers have one door for the refrigerator and one large drawer pull-out for the freezer. This style of freezer makes it difficult to see and remember that there is food sitting at the bottom of the bin, and it can be tricky to rummage through layers of frozen food just to check for a pint of ice-cream. Even though most models include baskets inside the freezer to help organize your frozen food, you’ll still have place everything strategically in order to see it.


Best French Door Refrigerator
Whirlpool Double Drawer French Door Refrigerator
Whirlpool
These trendy fridges boast high-tech features, but they're typically less energy-efficient.
Pros
Fashionable and feature-heavy
Dual cooling
Space-efficient
Cons
Less energy-efficient

Why we chose it

Fashionable and feature-heavy

French door refrigerators are a modification of a typical bottom-freezer refrigerator. In addition to having two small doors for the refrigerator section, they frequently have an external water and ice dispenser. Some also come with up to two drawers that you can open — without opening up the rest of the refrigerator. This relatively new design (a variation off of the bottom-freezer refrigerator) has been gaining popularity over the last five years – Martha Stewart includes it in her kitchen – and can come in a variety of finishes (from stainless steel to matte black) to fit in with your home.

Dual cooling

A standout feature of the Whirlpool Double Drawer French Door Refrigerator is its dual cooling system, which detects the internal temperature of the fridge and adjusts humidity levels automatically. The end result is fresher food and a lower chance of freezer burn.

Space-efficient

Even though French door refrigerators tend to offer some of the most cubic feet for the space, both French door and side-by-side refrigerators are easier to use if your kitchen is on the smaller side. The doors are smaller than those on either a top- or bottom-freezer refrigerator, so they don’t open as far into the kitchen — you’re less likely to block yourself into the kitchen or block someone else out if you have a French door refrigerator.

Points to consider

Less energy-efficient

Because French door refrigerators are trending right now, even a basic model will be more expensive than a great quality top-freezer model. French door refrigerators are also typically more expensive to run, as they frequently use more electricity than refrigerators of a similar size but different design.

This might matter less if you live in a state with a low cost of energy, where the difference between running our best French door ($67) and our best top freezer ($44) refrigerators over a year is only $23. However, if you live in Hawaii (or another state with high energy costs), that difference might climb up to an extra $100 you’d have to spend annually.


Best Side-by-Side Refrigerator
GE Side-by-Side Refrigerator
GE
If you like to keep your freezer well-stocked, consider a side-by-side fridge.
Pros
Lots of freezer space
Cons
Narrow shelf space

Why we chose it

Lots of freezer space

If you tend to keep your freezer well-stocked, a side-by-side refrigerator is likely the best style for you — they offer the most freezer space of any style.

The GE Side-by-Side Refrigerator has more than 30% more freezer space than our picks for the best top or bottom freezer, and it still outcompetes the French door refrigerator for freezer space. Additionally, these refrigerators provide shelving units for your freezer, helping it stay more organized than any other style.

Points to consider

Narrow shelf space

Side-by-side refrigerators don’t give exactly even amounts of space to the refrigerator and the freezer — the refrigerator section will still be larger. However, while there is more freezer space in this style of fridge than any other, this space is tall and skinny. Depending on the height of the shelves in your freezer, you might struggle to store a full-size pizza box.


Best Top Freezer Refrigerator
LG Electronics Top Freezer Refrigerator
LG Electronics
The most basic style of refrigerator is also the most energy-efficient.
Pros
Cost-effective
Plenty of usable space
Cons
Fewer high-tech upgrade options

Why we chose it

Cost-effective

Top freezer refrigerators are some of the most plentiful on the market. Their basic, no-frills appearance means that they are easy on the wallet, too — you’re much more likely to find a good quality top freezer for under $1,000 than any other kind. Additionally, top freezers typically consume the least amount of electricity compared to other styles, so you’ll save most on your energy bill by choosing this option. The LG Electronics Top Freezer Refrigerator is a great option if you want to make the most of your investment over time.

Plenty of usable space

Top freezers are a popular design for good reason: They offer some of the best usable space. Many of them carry their simplistic design into their interior, with only a few shelves and a couple of drawers to help sort your groceries. This means that top freezers have some of the most usable space out of any refrigerator design. Manufacturers measure a refrigerator’s total cubic feet by calculating all of the space inside of a fridge when it is completely empty of shelving and food. So, by having fewer drawers, top freezers have less plastic and glass and more space for your food.

Points to consider

Fewer high-tech upgrade options

When it comes to basic, top-freezer-style refrigerators, what you see is what you get. While you may have a few color options (stainless steel, white, and black are common), you’re unlikely to find any kind of external water or ice dispenser. Some models don’t include an ice maker at all. Top freezers are a good choice economically, but if you’re building a state-of-the-art kitchen, their plain designs might not blend in with other high-tech equipment.

How to Find the Right Refrigerator for You

Measure your space

Fridges vary by height, width, and depth, and it's important to know exactly what size you need to be looking for. Too large, and you risk not being able to fit your new fridge through the kitchen door, let alone fit it inside your kitchen. Too small, and it might look out of place.

Depending on the amount of space available, you might find that certain types of refrigerators won’t work for your space. If you are working with a small space, your most likely option will be a top freezer. If there is only a narrow gap between your refrigerator and your kitchen island, however, a refrigerator with two doors will make it easier to reach in and grab the carton of milk without hitting the door on the cabinetry.

Consider your ideal depth size

After height and width, the most important measurement you'll need to note is depth. Most fridges are not counter-depth; most counters are 26 inches or shallower, while most fridges stick out at least 2 or 3 inches beyond that. If you prefer your fridge to blend in with your counters, look for counter-depth refrigerators. These typically have less space to hold food but won't stand out from the rest of your kitchen.

Determine your refrigerator type

After factoring in physical constraints, choose your fridge based on the features that are most important to you.

  • Top freezers are the most economical, but they don’t look particularly fancy and usually don’t come with ice or water dispensers in the door.
  • French door refrigerators look like they belong in Martha Stewart’s kitchen and typically have nicer glass shelving options and drawers. That said, they tend to be among the most expensive of the refrigerators.
  • Bottom freezers look fairly attractive, typically coming in stainless steel finishes, and are user friendly. By tucking away frozen foods at the bottom, they keep your everyday food at eye and hand level. This can make it more difficult to dig up your frozen peas, however, though some models come with freezer baskets to help organize the space.
  • Side-by-side refrigerators usually take up more space in your kitchen than other styles, in exchange for giving you more freezer space than with any other type of refrigerator. The freezer space tends to be slightly narrow, making it difficult to fit in large pizza boxes.

Choose the right size

When it comes to refrigerators, bigger is not always better. Your ideal fridge size depends first on your available kitchen space, and second on your household size and cooking preferences.

In general, you should estimate between 4 and 6 cubic feet of storage for every adult in your home, or around 20 cubic feet if you have a family of four. If your family makes a lot of home-cooked meals, or keeps a large stockpile of frozen or fresh food, err on the larger size rather than figuring out where to house a second freezer later on.

Locate your nearest repair center

One of the most important aspects of purchasing a major appliance is determining where you can repair it. We hope that our fridges will run smoothly for at least 10 years without repair; however, if your fridge won't stay cold or your circuit breaker trips frequently, having a repair shop handy can be the difference between a $130 service call and replacing your fridge entirely. Most manufacturers have refrigerator service centers across the country, and each company maintains a search page to help you find the one closest to you.

You’ll want to especially keep an eye out if you’re looking at either a LG or a Samsung refrigerator. These brands started in South Korea, which means that they have been slower to set up service centers in the U.S., and many repair technicians will refuse to work on them if they lack the expertise.

Refrigerator FAQ

How do I calculate energy savings?

You can estimate how much money you could save in energy bills with the Department of Energy’s Energy Star Refrigerator Calculator. If you know the year your current refrigerator was made and the approximate size of your refrigerator, you can see an estimate on how much energy a refrigerator of that age uses and how much it costs to run. The calculator works using the national average price for electricity, but you can specify either by selecting your state’s average electricity price or checking your utility bill for your home’s specific cost.

What features should I look out for?

To stand out against the crowd of stainless steel appliances, manufacturers try to add cool features to their refrigerators. In addition to picking out the style or two that would best fit in with your kitchen, keep an eye for features that are must-haves or absolutely-nots in your search.

  • Adjustable zones are more typically found in French door refrigerators, especially designs with four individual doors or an extra drawer. These spaces are compartmentalized so you can decide whether you want more freezer space or more refrigerator space – and can be switched at any time.
  • Water and ice dispensers ready cold water with a touch of a button. You’ll need to work with a plumber to help install them, and make sure to read your manual on how to keep these clean. However, depending on the model, they can help filter your water, too.
  • Dual icemakers practically guarantee that you’ll never run out of ice when hosting your summer parties, but expect the extra icemaker to take up extra space in your freezer.
  • Smudge-proof refrigerators have a coating to make it more difficult for little fingerprints to stick – a feature you can replicate with a bit of oil, vinegar, and occasional cleaning.
  • Multiple-door refrigerators let you have a window into the refrigerator portion to quickly grab the carton of eggs or some orange juice without opening up the entire fridge.
  • Adjustable shelving can either mean adjusting the height of each shelf layer or having split-level shelving. This makes it easier to adjust your fridge to your particular needs – in case you need to make extra space for a buttercream frosted cake.
  • Built-in tablets add an extra layer of “smart” to your refrigerator and sometimes mean that you can use a camera to check your fridge while you’re grocery shopping or see who’s been midnight snacking. The downside? These tablets are typically built into your refrigerator – adding a layer of complexity if you ever need to repair it.
How can I conserve energy?

Every time you open the door to your refrigerator and cold air rushes out, your fridge uses power to reach a cold temperature again. You can help your fridge stay cold by keeping it full. Each item in your fridge means there’s less air that is exchanged with the warm air in the kitchen — and your orange juice stays cold enough to help chill the new air, meaning your fridge doesn’t have to work as hard to stay cool. This can help you save on your electricity bill and help preserve food if you ever lose power — a full freezer can keep itself cold longer than even a partially empty one, since the food itself works as an insulator.

How do I install a refrigerator?

To keep your fridge under warranty, we recommend hiring a professional. However, it is possible to DIY installation. You’ll want to start by unpacking your fridge outside, holding onto the packaging (in case you need to make a return), and removing all of the inner shelves and drawers of the refrigerator to prevent them from falling out as you install your refrigerator. Then, use a dolly to wheel your refrigerator inside and into its designated location – if it’s too large for your doorway, remove the refrigerator doors before maneuvering the open refrigerator inside, and then reattach them.

The Best Refrigerators: Summed Up

Whirlpool Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
Whirlpool Double Drawer French Door Refrigerator
GE Side-by-Side Refrigerator
LG Electronics Top Freezer Refrigerator
The best
Bottom freezer
French door
Side-by-side
Top freezer
Price
Starting at $1,254.10
$3,886.65
$1,099.99
$1,199
Exterior water/ice dispenser
No
Yes
Yes
No
Size
22.07 ft3
25.76 ft3
25.8 ft3
23.8 ft3
Annual energy use
584 kWH
767 kWH
643 kWH
501 kWH