Buyer’s Guide: Mini Fridges

Looking for a mini fridge to keep food and beverages cold? Read on to find out which features to prioritize in your new appliance and to get all the details on our top-favorite picks.

Best Mini Fridge

Photo: istockphoto.com

A space-smart decision for guest houses, offices, dorm rooms, cabins and many other settings, the mini fridge preserves food and keeps beverages cold while taking up only a fraction of the real estate that a traditional refrigerator would.

Many people rely on these compact appliances for supplementary storage, whether for beverages in a finished basement or for perishable dog food in the garage. Others buy this type of appliance as a budget-friendly alternative to a full-sized refrigerator in a single-person household—not only do mini-fridges cost less up front, they also consume less energy and save you money on bills!

Read on for info on how to select a mini fridge that can serve as a convenient, space-smart solution for keeping your food fresh and beverages at the ready!

Key Considerations for Choosing a Mini Fridge

Depending on their intended use, homeowners have many different factors to weigh during the hunt for the best mini fridge: interior and exterior size, storage capacity, portability, organization, number of doors, energy consumption, and accessories.

Size and Capacity

Mini fridges come in two basic configurations: cube-shaped and tall.

  • As the smaller design option, cube-shaped mini fridges fit well beneath a desk or cabinet. Most units weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds, making portability easy around the house for your immediate needs or when it comes time to change offices. These models top out at 22 to 24 inches in height, and they typically boast about 2 cubic feet of interior space—enough to hold about one case of soda, plus a few snacks or leftovers. Despite how well they fit into tighter spaces, these refrigerators tend to work less efficiently than larger options. Temperature settings can unreliably fluctuate, and freezer burn is common.
  • Tall mini fridges are considered a better value—and therefore more popular—thanks to the extra interior space and better shelving options. These appliances have anywhere from 3 cubic feet up to about 6 cubic feet of interior space, and they often come with a separate freezer compartment (although the freezer compartment usually isn’t as reliable as a normal freezer). With an average height between 32 and 36 inches, most tall units won’t fit under a standard desk, but they can hold a couple cases of soda or a few days worth of food. Given their larger size, tall fridges are heavier than cube fridges, weighing an average of 50 to 65 pounds.

Bells and Whistles

In general, most mini fridges have a similar design, although cube-shaped appliances have fewer shelves and door bins than tall models. Some models have adjustable or removable shelves and door bins, which come in handy when struggling to fit items in the fridge. A few mini fridge units include door-mounted dispensers that hold a vertical stack of cans, while others can accommodate tall soda bottles or milk containers. In addition, some mini fridges come with locking doors, which might be beneficial in a high-traffic, multi-use environment like an office or dorm room. Keep in mind that most mini fridges don’t include an ice dispenser or crisper drawer for produce.

Just like other appliances, mini fridges are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, including black, white, stainless steel, wood grain, and novelty looks.

Attached Freezers

If you’re looking for a fully functional freezer, it’s best to stick with a normal-sized refrigerator or purchase a stand-alone option. One-door mini fridges often have a small freezer box located within the main compartment, but most can’t maintain accurate freezing temperatures (especially when powered by thermoelectric systems). Plus, most freezers in one-door fridges are too small to be of any practical use. Two-door mini fridges, which have a separate freezer, generally keep frozen food colder and, therefore, safer to eat. These two-door models typically have a thermostat mounted in the fridge’s interior, so they maintain better temperature control than single-door models.

Energy Consumption

In general, mini fridges consume less energy than their full-sized cousins. Look for a unit that is Energy Star-certified, which means it consumes the least amount of electricity possible. Most mini fridges run on standard 120-volt A/C electric power. Some are designed for use in cars, vans, or RVs, and these typically come with D/C adapter, allowing the unit to run off of the vehicle’s battery power.

Mini fridges typically rely on two basic cooling systems: compressor-powered or thermoelectric. We recommend fridges with compressor-powered cooling systems (the same system used by regular-sized fridges) since they maintain accurate temperatures better than thermoelectric units.

Our Top Picks

Danby Designer

Photo: amazon.com

BEST OVERALL: Danby Compact Refrigerator

The Danby Compact Refrigerator gets high marks from us for combining a large interior storage area with a compact exterior size. Standing just under 33 inches tall, the Danby has 4.4 cubic feet of refrigeration capacity and is Energy-Star rated for efficiency. Interior features include a convenient beverage dispenser, a mechanical thermostat, a push-button defrosting system, adjustable shelves, a full-width freezer, and space for tall bottles. One last small-but-important detail: Because it has a smooth back, you can position this mini fridge directly against the wall.

Buyer's Guide - Best Mini Fridge

Photo: amazon.com

RUNNER-UP: Magic Chef Refrigerator

Besides an Energy Star rating, this Magic Chef Refrigerator also boasts 3.5 cubic feet of interior space, three easy-to-clean glass shelves, and a convenient can dispenser built into its door. Simple to set up and with a satisfyingly modest footprint. Though it measures only 32.5 inches high, the Magic Chef manages to fit in a full-width freezer.

Best Mini Fridge - Buyer's Guide

Photo: amazon.com

ALSO CONSIDER: Midea Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator and Freezer

For those looking for a small cube-style mini fridge, this one fits the bill. At 19 inches tall and 18.5 inches wide, the unit can slide easily underneath a desk, countertop, or cabinet. And, despite its small size, the fridge boasts 1.6 cubic feet of storage—enough to fit more than a case of soda. The unit also comes with a separate chiller compartment, which is half the width of the fridge. Even better is that the Midea is lightweight and quiet—just what you want from an appliance whose whole purpose is to be convenient and out of the way.