Refrigerators come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Did you know, for example, that it’s important to measure your existing space before purchasing a refrigerator? You should also think carefully about what you need in your refrigerator. Do you need a big freezer, or do you prefer a freestanding freezer and more space in the refrigerator itself? What style do you prefer: side by side, or with the freezer on top as in more traditional models?


You’ll save money the next time you purchase a refrigerator by taking the time to carefully research and compare available models and prices. Use this article as a convenient tool to help organize your search efforts. The first section of this guide describes the process for obtaining great savings and the second helps you compare styles.

Part One: A Smart Four-Step Approach

Today, several styles of kitchen refrigerators interest consumers. Many households buy additional units for shops, dens or pantries, too. During recent years, the number of features on a typical model has expanded considerably. To gain the most value from your available budget, consider following these four basic steps:

  1. Determine how you will use your refrigerator;
  2. Carefully research available styles using this guide as a starting point;
  3. Measure your space;
  4. Compare specific brands and features in styles that interest you.

How Will You Use Your Refrigerator?

Do you require a full-service food storage and ice-making refrigerator, or would a smaller compact fridge fit your needs better? Will this appliance mainly store household meals, or do you want it to keep beverages cold for entertaining purposes? Do you require a permanent built-in unit, or a mobile refrigerator?

The answers to these questions help you determine the style of appliance to evaluate in greater depth. Today, three basic categories of refrigerators dominate the marketplace:

  • Full-sized food storage models;
  • Compact models;
  • Bar/beverage storage refrigerators.

Within each category, several sub-types exist. Prices vary considerably within each broad grouping.

Use This Guide to Start Your Research

Use the materials in this guide to help start your in-depth research about refrigerators. You’ll discover very detailed information here to help you compare and evaluate each of the basic categories in light of your own circumstances and budget.

Measure Space Carefully

Whether you plan on adding a standalone refrigerator to a kitchen, or you require a portable minifridge for a recreational vehicle or boat, determining your space requirements carefully before shopping makes sense. You’ll minimize delays by considering this issue first.

Pay attention to height, width, and depth. When measuring, allow additional space of one to two inches in order to accommodate projections on the appliance for molding or protruding door hinges. Generous space estimations usually prevent disappointment later.

Finally, take a complete set of measurements along the route from your entrance to the appliance’s intended destination. People who purchase an expensive fridge do not appreciate discovering it will fit its designated spot in the kitchen but won’t squeeze through the doorway.

Compare Specific Models That Interest You

When you use the guide on this website as a starting point, you’ll gain a better idea of available price ranges and styles for each category of refrigerator. Most manufacturers supply very detailed information about individual models.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions before making a purchasing decision. The typical refrigerator represents a significant household investment. The average family uses this appliance for 12 years from the date of purchase, so the quality of manufacturing matters a lot.

Part Two: Types of Refrigerators

Not all refrigerators cost the same. Within each of the three major categories, you’ll find price variations.

Type Number One: Full-Sized Food Storage Models

Full sized standalone refrigerators typically open from the front. They fall into two main categories: custom-designed built-in refrigerators, and mass produced models. The built-in units typically cost more, and require close consultation between a builder or purchaser and a local manufacturer during the design and installation phases. Viking, and other high-end manufacturers supply built-in units tailored to specific kitchen dimensions. A custom-designed built-in refrigerator typically starts at prices in the $3,000 to $5,000 range and may reach $20,000 or more for a high-tech unit.

In terms of mass produced models, consumers choose between several basic styles. These generally range in cost from lower to higher prices. Standalone units intended for home use run from around $700 up to $5,000, or more. Some popular designs include:

  • Models Without a Freezer: The unit supplies refrigeration only and does not include a freezer;
  • Freezer on Top or Bottom: The freezer sits within a separate self-contained section;
  • Double Front Doors: The refrigerator doors open onto separate side-by-side units;
  • Ultra Thin Profile: A shallow interior accommodates easier retrieval of food and promotes space savings;
  • High Tech Equipped: The unit includes digital display capacities.

Savvy shoppers with a preference for a specific style may locate a bargain priced unit at a more affordable rate than a high-end unit in another, usually more expensive, style. Appliances carrying the coveted Energy Star label will return energy savings over the course of time during operation.

In general, design trends in standalone full-sized refrigerators in recent years have moved towards larger sized, capable of holding more food within individual types of compartments, such as crisp drawers and temperature-controlled sections. Many popular brands today include ice-water dispensers and ice makers as standard features, together with adjustable shelving and transparent shelving.

Additionally, models possessing attractive exterior surfaces in stainless steel or customized colors usually command higher prices. Some manufacturers offer stain-resistant exterior surfaces.

Pricier models increasingly offer owners high-tech options, such as digital panels displaying interior temperatures, or content menus. Some modern standalone units permit incorporation into computerized home networks. This feature allows owners to maintain grocery lists and to receive notifications about re-order requirements for specific food items at designated intervals.

Buyers need to consider that a computerized refrigerator offering extra options may necessitate specialized repair services. Today, a growing number of manufacturers require customers to use specific replacement parts or risk voided warranties.

Type Number Two: Compact Models

Recently, a revolution occurred in the compact refrigerator marketplace. Falling prices on these units contribute to their popularity as additions to boats, recreational vehicles, offices, hotels, home bar units, home workshops and college dorm rooms.

You should expect to pay anywhere from $100 to upwards of $2,000 for a unit with high tech features. Many of the inexpensive models contain warranties that extend between six months to a year.

Compact units typically open either from a door on the top, or from a more conventional right- or left-handled front door, just like a larger standalone unit. These space efficient designs may include interior freezer compartments on higher end models. You can also find units with adjustable shelving, transparent shelving for easier cleaning, crisp drawers and butter drawers.

A minifridge fits in small spaces conveniently. Some models sit safely on top of counters, placing the contents at eye level for most adults. It remains very important in this situation to evaluate whether or not the unit when filled to capacity will contain weight supported by the counter.

Households with very young children need to take particular care from a safety standpoint in placing minifridge units, since toddlers could sustain serious harm by playing with them or inside them. However, from the standpoint of single person households, a minifridge sometimes offers an economical alternative to a full-sized standalone unit.

Type Number Three: Bar/Beverage Storage Refrigerators

These appliances fall into two broad categories. Permanent cooled units that fit snugly under counter or bars called “bar refrigerators” and mobile entertaining carts sometimes referred to as “wine fridges.”

Bar Refrigerators

Frequently, restaurants, convenience stores, and other commercial establishments purchase these appliances to keep beverages cool. The typically glass-enclosed units will store soda pop, beer and bottled water conveniently. Private residences which conduct extensive entertaining sometimes add, or rent, bar refrigerators.

Size measurements matter enormously when someone shops for one of these units. Measure from the floor to the interior of the bar top and check available energy outlet requirements. Since some units function primarily in commercial settings, they may not adapt easily into residential environments.

Model features and prices vary widely, too. Expect to spend between $200 and $7,000 (or more) for one of these units.

Wine Fridges

Businesses and individuals storing vintages appreciate the convenience of a wine fridge for entertaining purposes. A wine fridge enables a host to offer chilled wine or champagne, or other alcoholic beverages, conveniently at parties. It typically won’t substitute for a permanent well-designed wine cellar. A caterer may circulate through the vicinity transporting cooled drinks to those in attendance using mobile versions of this restaurant equipment.

Many restaurants, retailers and caterers appreciate the convenience of wine fridges. Units open from either the top or the side, and may include either transparent or solid doors. In a mobile unit, the power supply matters in terms of cost and safety. Expect to spend at least $1000 to $3,000 for a new small electricity powered unit. A simple ice chest or cooler without a power source will open from the top and costs between $10 and $200.