Buyer’s Guide: Mini Fridges
Looking for a mini fridge to keep food and beverages cold? Check out the features you should prioritize in your new appliance—and three budget-friendly options that hit the mark.
A space-smart decision for dorm rooms and tiny spaces alike, the mini fridge keeps food and beverage close at hand without taking up much real estate. Some homeowners rely on these compact appliances for supplementary storage, whether for their craft beer collection in a finished basement or their large supply of bottled water in the garage. Others buy the 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! Depending on the 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. Read on for how to select a new appliance that meets all of your needs, and you’ll end up with a space-smart solution for keeping food and drinks at the ready!
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—all for under $150. 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. Prices range from $100 up to $300.
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
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.
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
Do you want the best mini fridge for your space? Take a look at three of the top-rated and best-selling models on the market today, based on reviews by actual users and ratings by leading consumer testing sites.
Danby Designer DCR044A2 ($136.95)
The Danby Designer DCR044A2 receives consistently high marks for combining a large interior storage area with a compact exterior size. The unit received 4.1 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers, who call it a “good deal” and a “great beer fridge.” 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, mechanical thermostat, push-button defrosting system, adjustable shelves, a full-width freezer, and space for tall bottles. Wirecutter, which named the Danby Designer DCR044A2 the “best mini fridge,” raves about the built-in nine-egg tray and slide-out tray. But The Sweethome also warns that the freezer unit fluctuates temperature– a common problem in mini fridges that can result in freezer burn and unsafe temperatures for long-term meat storage. Thanks to the mini fridge’s smooth back, homeowners can position it directly against a wall. Available on Amazon.
For those looking for a small cube-style mini fridge, the Midea WHS-65LB1 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 with the temperature fluctuations typical to this style of mini fridge, it’s handy for short-term storage of frozen dinners. Amazon shoppers awarded it a 4.0 out of 5 stars, calling it “perfect,” “lightweight,” and “quiet.” Available on Amazon.
Magic Chef HMBR350SE ($169)
The Magic Chef HMBR350SE compact refrigerator features 3.5 cubic feet of interior space, three easy-to-clean glass shelves, and a convenient can dispenser built into its door. The Energy Star–qualified unit receives 4.2 out of 5 stars from Home Depot shoppers, who praise the “easy setup,” “perfect size for limited space,” and “constant temperature.” Measuring 32.5 inches high, the sleek Magic Chef mini fridge has a full-width freezer and a flush-back design. Consumers will enjoy the upfront interior analog controls, which allows easy adjustments to the temperature. The unit comes with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. The Sweethome notes that interior storage falls short when compared to the Danby Designer model, though. Available at Home Depot.