The kitchen plays host to more appliances than any other room in the house, and the king of them all is the refrigerator. Once a plain white box of no-frills functionality, the refrigerator has evolved to boast a range of stylish finishes plus an ever-widening assortment of features, some of which are more useful than others.
If it’s been years since you last shopped for a fridge, you might be surprised by how much the product landscape has changed. When shopping for the best refrigerator, keep these factors in mind to make a selection that meets your day-to-day needs, satisfies your style preferences, and fits within your budget.
- BEST OVERALL: Samsung 28.2 cu. ft. French Door Stainless
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: LG 20.2 cu. ft. Top-Freezer Refrigerator Stainless
- BEST UPGRADE: GE Profile 27.9 cu. ft. Smart 4-Door Refrigerator
- BEST SIDE-BY-SIDE: GE 25.3 cu. ft. Side by Side Refrigerator Stainless
- BEST BOTTOM FREEZER: GE 20.9 cu ft Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator Ice Maker
- BEST TOP FREEZER: GE 17.5 cu. ft. Top Freezer Refrigerator Silver
- BEST FOUR-DOOR: Whirlpool 24.5-cu ft 4-Door with Ice Dispenser
- BEST BUILT-IN: KitchenAid 25 cu. ft. Built-In Refrigerator Stainless
What to Look for in the Best Refrigerator
There is a wide range of factors to consider when choosing the best refrigerator for your space and your household. Below are the most relevant facts and features to take into account.
First, when deciding upon the ideal refrigerator configuration for your kitchen, don’t forget to account for a model’s door swing in relation to nearby walls, cabinetry, and other appliances. Another important consideration: Many appliances work best when installed with a certain amount of clearance on all sides.
Read the literature, measure twice, and, if using a pro, work with your contractor or kitchen designer. Make sure that the refrigerator you are purchasing actually will fit in your space.
Size and Capacity
When it comes to refrigerator size, two measurements matter most. The first is the appliance’s exterior size. If you’re buying a new fridge as part of a major kitchen renovation, you’re free to consider appliances that are larger or smaller than standard sizes because you can design your countertops and cabinetry to fit around whichever model you choose.
However, if you’re working within an existing kitchen layout, the new refrigerator needs to fit into the space vacated by the old one. Some kitchens might introduce a height limitation, but width typically is the crucial dimension. Standard refrigerators measure between 30 and 33 inches across.
Depth varies as well. Some designs cause the refrigerator to sit almost flush with the edge of the countertop. A counter-depth refrigerator yields a sleek, almost built-in look, although it has a shallower profile inside. These fridges might not offer as much storage capacity as full-depth models, but they’re still bigger than a mini fridge.
Once the refrigerator goes in, you’re going to care less about its exterior dimensions and more about its interior capacity. Standard-width refrigerators typically have interior capacities ranging from 19 to 22 cubic feet. Some models offer up to 33 cubic feet of capacity, but these measure wider (and sometimes taller) than the average model.
Compact refrigerators, some as narrow as 18 inches, are experiencing new popularity in smaller homes. While these so-called column refrigerators often lack a freezer, you can buy a separate (equally small) freezer to serve as a companion.
In their quest to build the best refrigerators, manufacturers have struck upon a bevy of innovative configurations, including adjustable shelving, lighting, and smart technology. Though the most common configuration remains the familiar freezer-on-top design, other styles include side-by-side, freezer-on-bottom, French-door, and even multidoor options. Consumers also can find built-in models to create a seamless kitchen look. The best configuration for one household is not necessarily the best for another household.
Appealing to those who reach into the freezer as often as the fridge, these side-by-side models feature a vertical, full-length split, with the refrigerator on one side and the freezer on the other. With a side-by-side fridge, users can arrange items they retrieve most often, such as beverages and yogurt cups, at eye level and within easy reach. Lesser-used items, such as condiments or produce, can stay cool on door shelves or in bins near the bottom of the fridge.
A side-by-side usually offers more freezer capacity than an upper or lower freezer unit so users can more easily see and retrieve frozen items. The downside to these units is the shelves are not as wide as they are in other fridges, which can make it difficult to store items such as large pizza boxes.
A refrigerator with a freezer at the top is a common configuration and the traditional go-to choice. This configuration costs less for manufacturers to produce, so it ranks among the most affordable styles for consumers.
A top-freezer configuration does the job for those who do not store large quantities of food in the freezer, since freezer space in these models is typically less than in side-by-side or bottom-freezer models. However, with a top-freezer option, frozen leftovers sit at eye level. What top-freezers make up for in affordability and convenience, they often lack in storage organization; this configuration seldom features as many pullout shelves or bins as other freezer options.
A fast-growing subcategory is the bottom-freezer configuration, which positions the refrigerator above the freezer. While the fridge portion often has hinged French doors, the freezer pulls out along sliding tracks. Bottom freezers are popular with those who want to freeze plenty of bulk items, such as wrapped cuts of meat, ice cream, or stacks of frozen vegetables.
Bottom-freezer units trend higher in popularity than top-freezer models, offering more freeze capacity. However, users might have to dig through the contents to get to items at the bottom. Many bottom-freezer units provide one or more shallow convenience trays near the top to hold frequently used items, such as frozen school lunches or ice cream bars.
A built-in fridge is the Cadillac of cold-food storage. The average built-in fridge is wider than a standard model, but it’s also shallower to sit flush with the fronts of the kitchen cabinets for a sleeker look. Whereas a standard fridge is 32 to 36 inches deep, a counter-depth, built-in fridge is 24 inches deep—the same measurement as traditional kitchen cabinets. But while standard fridges are 30 to 36 inches wide, a built-in fridge averages 36 to 48 inches width.
The most significant difference with a built-in fridge is that it requires professional installation, which substantially boosts the price tag. A carpenter or contractor typically installs trim around the refrigerator, making it look like a part of the kitchen rather than a separate appliance.
A French-door refrigerator features a pullout freezer drawer at the bottom, but instead of a full-width fridge door above, double side-by-side fridge doors offer access to foods. The bottom shelves in a French-door fridge are broad, and many models come with a full-width bin toward the bottom as well. Shelves and bins higher up tend toward a narrower profile and often adjust in height.
French-door refrigerator door bins usually offer enough spacious storage that they can hold gallons of milk or juice. The ability to open both doors at once gives cooks or hungry teens a clear view of the contents. The freezer functions like a bottom-freezer fridge, with the disadvantage of sometimes accessing an icemaker in the low freezer rather than in the fridge’s door.
We’re used to “four doors” being a descriptor for cars, but here the term refers to refrigerators that feature an extra drawer, called a snack drawer or deli drawer, that sits between the two-door fridge and pullout freezer on the bottom. The most common four-door configuration closely resembles a French-door model, with an additional pullout deli drawer just above the freezer and just below the double fridge doors.
This is a convenient design for stowing often-used foods, such as juice boxes, cans of soda, or prepared veggie-and-dip containers. With the added drawer, all household members can access items used most without opening the large fridge door, which conserves energy. Those who want added food organization should consider the benefits of a four-door refrigerator.
Energy Efficiency in the Best Refrigerators
In any product showroom, you’ll find that each refrigerator carries an Energy Guide label, summarizing the appliance’s energy requirements and annual operating cost (based on average natural gas and electricity rates). To minimize monthly energy bills, focus on models bearing the Energy Star designation. Such refrigerators exceed federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality. The Energy Guide label features:
- Estimated Yearly Operating Cost: This number estimates how much (in dollars) the fridge will likely cost per year to run. However, this number can fluctuate, based on the cost of electricity in different communities.
- Estimated Yearly Electric Use: For those wanting a better idea of how much it will cost to run the fridge, look for the yearly use estimate. This number is followed by “kWh,” which stands for kilowatt-hours. By multiplying the number by the kWh rate listed on a utility bill, a potential buyer can better understand how much energy the fridge will use.
- Energy Star Sticker: For added energy efficiency, look for a blue sticker with a white star and the words “Energy Star,” which indicates the fridge has been tested and meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) energy standards.
Bells and whistles are as prevalent here as in any other appliance category. The most popular bonus features typically are temperature-controlled drawers, adjustable storage shelves and bins, and through-the-door ice and water dispensers. Pricier models might boast wine-chilling compartments.
Bluetooth-enabled sound systems, touch-screen temperature control, and even integrated television and/or computer screens come on some refrigerator doors. In addition, most brands today offer a range of colors and finishes, from matte white to stainless steel and beyond.
Modern features also include filters to purify the water in the water and ice dispensers and see-through doors, enabling hungry users to figure out what they want before opening the door, thus saving energy. Other models feature an air purification system to keep odors at bay and high-humidity crispers to keep fruits and veggies fresh longer. With all these features in mind, you may wonder, “What are the best refrigerators?”
Our Top Picks
With 28.2 cubic feet of food storage capacity, the Samsung French Door Refrigerator suits large families. It features a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel finish and comes with double doors on the top and a single pullout freezer drawer at the bottom. A large-capacity ice maker, which holds up to 5.5 pounds of ice, sits in the freezer drawer. The fridge’s interior features adjustable shelves and large door bins.
The Samsung fridge includes high-efficiency LED lighting to help clearly see food even at the back of shelves when the door is open. Samsung’s multivent technology circulates cool air to help keep all items equally cold. The fridge measures 68.8 inches high, 38.2 inches deep, and 35.75 inches wide. This refrigerator has earned the Energy Star designation.
Store perishable foods safely without spending a lot of money. The LG Top-Freezer Refrigerator features a 20.2-cubic-foot capacity and comes with the traditional freezer-on-top design, which helps keep the cost affordable. The stainless steel fridge measures 29.75 inches wide, stands 65.5 inches high, and is 33.3 inches deep. Bright LED panels on the fridge’s sides allow users to see the contents inside clearly.
The fridge interior features three full-width shelves and two clear-front bins that come with humidity control to help keep produce fresh and crisp. The LG also comes with two door bins large enough to hold gallon-size milk jugs. This LG model features SmartDiagnosis: If something goes wrong, the user simply holds a smartphone near the fridge’s troubleshooting speaker to get an immediate diagnosis.
Take the kitchen to the next level with the GE Profile Smart 4-Door Refrigerator that’s packed with amenities. It offers 27.9 cubic feet of food storage capacity and comes with a filtered ice maker and water dispenser in the door. It features a nonsmudge stainless steel finish to reduce cleaning. A deli drawer, located between the main fridge compartment and the freezer, holds frequently used foods, such as snack boxes or veggie trays.
Bright LEDs illuminate the back wall for easier viewing of what’s in the fridge. The main fridge features adjustable bins and shelves for storing short or tall items. For the techie-inclined, the GE Profile fridge comes with smart-home capability and syncs with a home Wi-Fi network so users can check the interior temperature from a smartphone. The refrigerator holds Energy Star designation and measures about 69.8 inches high, 35.6 inches wide, and 36.75 inches deep.
Enjoy the convenience of a side-by-side fridge/freezer combo with the GE 25.3 cubic foot refrigerator, which comes with a nonsmudge stainless steel finish. The GE offers in-door water and ice dispensing, plus adjustable shelving and pullout bins in the freezer section.
The refrigerator side features both narrow and deep door bins and comes with three clear-view, pullout crisper bins and adjustable shelving for customizing to suit individual food storage needs. The GE model offers bright LED interior lighting. The freezer side boasts FrostGuard technology to keep frost from developing on frozen foods. The unit measures 69.5 inches high, 29.75 inches wide, and 35.75 inches deep.
For convenience in a trendy bottom-freezer model, the GE 20.9-cubic-foot refrigerator doesn’t disappoint. At 29.75 inches wide, the fridge is slightly narrower than some models, so it fits in small kitchens where linear floor space is at a premium. Height and depth are standard at 69.875 inches and 36.625 inches, respectively. The upper fridge compartment comes with three adjustable shelves and two large, see-through crisper bins. It also features a sliding snack drawer.
The door offers additional bins that are large enough to hold gallon-size milk jugs. The pullout freezer comes with a built-in ice maker, and the water used for ice goes through a filter to keep it crystal clear. The fridge’s interior comes with LED lights. It features a smudge-resistant, slate- gray exterior finish to create an attractive look in most any kitchen.
With a stylish silver exterior, the GE 17.5-cubic-foot refrigerator comes in a basic top-freezer configuration. It features amenities such as LED interior spotlighting and spill-proof glass shelves built with a slight lip to keep spills from running down in the fridge. The upper freezer compartment features an automatic ice maker and plenty of room to store frozen meals in both the main compartment and door bins.
Adjustable shelving in the fridge compartment and two see-through crisper bins add to convenience. Door bins are oversize and large enough to hold gallon-size jugs. This top-freezer model is Energy Star certified for using less electricity. Measuring approximately 67.4 inches high, 28 inches wide, and 32.6 inches deep, it should fit well in small- to medium-size kitchens.
Enjoy the convenience of a separate pullout deli drawer between the upper fridge and lower freezer compartments with the Whirlpool 4-Door Refrigerator. The deli drawer can store frequently consumed foods, like fruit cups or cheese sticks, eliminating the need to open the larger compartment. The double doors on the fridge compartment open to reveal a full-width lower shelf, two see-through crisper bins, and adjustable glass shelves.
Both doors feature additional bins. The Whirlpool fridge comes with an ice maker and water dispenser in the door for convenience, while the pullout freezer compartment features baskets for organizing frozen food. The fridge comes in smudge-free stainless steel, with other finishes available. The unit measures 70.125 inches high, 35.6 inches wide, and is 34.625 inches deep.
For a seamless look in the kitchen, check out the KitchenAid 25-cubic-foot built-in refrigerator. This countertop-depth fridge is only 24.75 inches deep, so it will fit flush with the front edge of the cabinets; however, it’s 83.4 inches high and 42.25 inches wide to offer plenty of interior storage capacity. With a handy side-by-side door configuration, this KitchenAid fridge comes with an ice maker and water dispenser in the door for convenience. Both the fridge and the freezer compartments come with easy-slide glass shelving.
The fridge also features crisper bins, door bins, and the KitchenAid ExtendFresh Temperature Management System designed to monitor and regulate the interior temperature to keep foods at their freshest. This built-in fridge features a smudge-proof stainless steel finish and bright interior LED lighting. This unit is designed for professional installation.
FAQs About Refrigerators
A refrigerator is often the priciest appliance in the kitchen, so shopping for one requires careful consideration. For those new to the world of refrigerator shopping, some questions are expected.
Q. Which refrigerator is best for a large household?
The Samsung 28.2 cu. ft. French Door Fridge, which is the best overall choice, is a great choice for a large household, with its large capacity and fingerprint-resistant finish.
Q. Must a built-in refrigerator be installed by a professional?
Because a built-in fridge is, as its name implies, built in, professional installation is recommended, which substantially boosts the price tag. A carpenter or contractor typically installs trim around the refrigerator, making it look like a part of the kitchen rather than a separate appliance.
Q. How long do refrigerators usually last?
Different models of refrigerators from the same brand can vary in reliability, but, in general, the most reliable brands also tend to be the most popular brands. Some may question how long refrigerators last, and the general answer is approximately 12 years.
A wide variety of refrigerators are available, and no one model is right for everyone. When choosing a fridge, look for one with high ratings, but also choose one that suits your household’s needs.