Refrigerator Buying Guide

A Refrigerator Buying Guide To Discover The Best Refrigerator For Your Needs

The Greatest Appliances Refrigerator Buying Guide shares all you need to know to make an intelligent decision before buying your next fridge.

image of whirlpool french door refrigeratorNowadays, when it comes to refrigerators, the amount of available options have far exceeded only getting water while leaving the door closed. This is why reading our Refrigerator Buying Guide is such a good idea. Now you can buy a refrigerator that has custom panels, you can get one that is built-in to match your cabinetry exactly, and you can even get one that has a ton of doors if that’s your thing. Our refrigerator reviews will help you with choosing the correct type for your kitchen. You should also check out all of our Appliance Buying Guides.

Our Refrigerator Buying Guide Helps You Select A Style

Every house has a matching configuration. Currently, the french door refrigerator is the most popular style. However, a lot of consumer appreciate the convenience of bottom freezers, however, side-by-side and top freezers are more useful in taking full advantage of usable space in a smaller kitchen. Below, you will find all you need to know in order to make the best choice for your needs.

Frigidaire top freezer refrigerator buying guideTop Freezer

This is the more traditional refrigerator and it’s ideal for storing a lot of goods in a little bit of space. These units usually provide you the most space for their overall size. The downside is you need to get used to kneeling or crouching down to grab items from drawers or lower shelves and you need to remember to allow room for a wide swing of the door.

Bottom Freezer

Bottom freezer fridges range in width from 30 to 36 inches. However, the amount of actual space you can use is typically less than what you get from a top freeze refrigerator.  As opposed to having the freezer level with your eyes, it is located at the bottom, meaning your shelves and drawers are higher up. Eliminating the need to bend and crouch when scanning the fridge for a late night snack. You will only need to do that when pulling something out of the freezer.

image of maytag french door refrigeratorFrench Door

The French door fridge comes with two narrow doors on top and the freezer is at the bottom. Often there is one or more drawers in between. They range in width from 30 to 36 inches. Manufacturers claim capacities reach up to 30 cubic feet, however space you can actually use doesn’t equal that of top-freezer models of comparable size. The space-saving small-swing doors offer the additional value of opening just half the fridge whenever storing smaller items. A larger number of these now provide the widely-popular in-door water/ice dispensers.


With the refrigerator located on one side and freezer on the other. These typically come with through-the-door ice and water dispensers and temperature-controlled bins. With widths that range from 32 to 36 inches, they say they provide roughly 30 cubic feet capacity (however just around 70 percent is usable). Narrow doors are a bonus for small kitchens. However, they will not open wide enough for, say, a pizza box. Also tall, narrow compartments cause items stuck at the back more difficult to locate. On the whole, they’re not real energy- or space-efficient.


Costly and built to fit almost even with cabinets and counters, these sleek, stylish fridges normally come in bottom-freezer and side-by-side styles, but often French-door or four-door. These are normally wide (36 inches plus), with 25 cubic feet capacity (only 70 percent or so is usable). Check for optional front panels that will match up well with your kitchen cabinets. Get the look cheaper with freestanding cabinet-depth models. Another built-in option: A column fridge, as narrow as 18 inches, to take advantage of every kitchen nook.

image of maytag mini refrigeratorCompact or Mini

Ideal for a dorm room, a kitchenette, or your office. Remember that a number of these models have only a quarter the usable space of a regular refrigerator, but are just as expensive to operate. Temperature performance can be shoddy in some units, so use these puppies for sodas and other beverages or just for temporary snack storage.

Our Refrigerator Buying Guide Helps You Consider Size

The majority of configurations are available in a range of capacities and sizes. Be sure to measure the area where the fridge will go prior to purchasing. Be sure that it’s able to fit through all doorways it will need to travel through to get there. Make sure there is ample clearance for the refrigerator door to swing open, and maintain a one inch gap on all sides to allow for proper airflow to the unit.

As far as capacity is concerned, the majority of manufacturers suggest 19-22 cubic feet for a family of four. However, if you like to do big shopping expeditions or prefer to buy in bulk, the amount of actual usable space you may want will be more than that. Be sure to check the specifications of the refrigerator you want to purchase and remember that the amount of actual usable space was usually about 70-80% of what the manufacturers claimed.

Our Refrigerator Buying Guide Helps You Understand the EnergyGuide Label

A huge selling point with a lot of consumers these days is that of energy efficiency. All new refrigerators are much more efficient than they were 10 or so years about, however, this is a little glimpse beyond the label to help you if you want to get as green as you can get.

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating is a solid starting point when shopping. It certifies that a product is in the top 25 percent in the market. However, efficiency varies by model (such as an unlabeled top-freezer being more efficient than an ES-approved French door fridge). Also, we check out the energy consumption, which could potentially add up to a $50-60 difference annually, or over $500 over the lifetime of the unit.

We place a score for energy efficiency on all the refrigerators we review. You can check our Refrigerator Ratings for details.

Our Refrigerator Buying Guide Helps You With Specific Features You Should Look For

Refrigerators at each price point is comes with options to help make your life more organized and easier. French door models are normally the most jam-packed with features. Remember that if you just HAVE to have a built-in wine rack or an in-door coffeemaker, you are going to pay more. Below are the features we believe you will be the most happy with. For additional information, check our Refrigerator Ratings.

image of through the door ice and water dispenserThrough-the-Door Ice and Water Dispenser

This is easily the most popular feature. Models that come with this feature need repairs more frequently. Also, the energy consumption rates are higher as well. Additionally, you are sacrificing storage space for cold ice water.

Door-in-Door Storage Access

This feature allows you to grab anything that you frequently go into the refrigerator for without having to open the main compartment. This ultimately saves energy costs over the life of the refrigerator.

Freshness Features

Dual evaporators aid in maintaining increased humidity levels in the refrigerated areas and keep freezer odors from migrating there. Air purifiers get rid of bacteria and mold spores. Vacuum-sealed crisper drawers are supposed to keep food fresh for a longer period of time.

Temperature Controls

This allows you the select how cold your fridge is in specific areas. As an example, you can set one specific drawer that you store meats in to be cooler that the rest of the refrigerator.

Better Shelves and Drawers

You are able to re-arrange split shelves to different heights independently, and adjust doors to fit taller items. But, if your door comes with deep storage bins meant for dairy, know that these items should probably remain on internal shelves. This is where cooler temperatures help to keep them fresh for a longer amount of time. Elevator shelves crank up and down, without having to be unloaded. Shelf snuggers attach to racks to secure bottles and jars. Pullout shelves or bins provide easier access to stored items.