"What's the best refrigerator?"
As a guy who spent five-plus years making his living testing refrigerators, it's a question that still comes my way pretty often. And -- I've gotta be be honest with you here -- I still don't have an easy answer.
Sure, there are lots of good refrigerators (and plenty that are just so-so) -- but fridges aren't one-size-fits-all, and every home, kitchen and budget is different. With so many different brands and models to choose from, it isn't always easy to find a fridge that feels like a perfect fit.
Read more:Repair pros tell all: Whirlpool, Maytag make the most reliable appliances
But if you're in need of a new icebox, don't feel overwhelmed. The trick is to focus on the features and designs that matter most (and, better yet, to figure out which ones you can skip). From there, it's just a matter of keeping an eye out for a good deal on a reputable refrigerator that fits the bill.
I've got plenty of tips to remember as you go, but first, let's take a look at a few of the best models we've tested in recent years, all of which would serve as good starting points for your search. I'll update this as we test new fridges.
Samsung RF23M8070DT French Door Refrigerator
The best French door fridge we've tested to dateTyler Lizenby/CNET
If you're looking for a modern-looking French door fridge with strong performance, plenty of room for groceries, and unique, helpful features, then take a close look at the Samsung RF23M8070DT. It's an updated version of the RF23M8090SG, which aced my performance tests a few years ago, and you can currently get it in Samsung's new, copper-toned "Tuscan Stainless Steel" for about $2,400, which is $600 off of the full retail price. Don't care for copper? It's available in regular and black stainless steel for the same price.
Along with outstanding performance, the RF23M8090SG offered sleek style and a nifty autofilling water pitcher that docks inside the left door. You get all of that with the new model, too (and presumably the cooling power as well, judging from Samsung's strong track record in our performance tests). The only major difference is that Samsung ditched the classic handles in favor of hidden, recessed handles.
The fridge also features a drawer with its own, distinct temperature controls -- and, importantly, that drawer is its own separate compartment beneath the fridge. Drawers like those almost always perform a lot better than similar drawers kept inside of the fridge itself.
Read our Samsung RF23M8090SG review.
LG LTCS24223S Top Freezer Refrigerator
A superior, king-size top freezer fridgeTyler Lizenby/CNET
Need lots of space for groceries, but don't care so much about following today's French door trends? You've got other options, and one of my favorites is the LG LTCS24223S. It's an old-school top freezer fridge, yes, but you can get it for significantly less than a comparably sized French door model, and it's available in black stainless steel, which will help it fit right in with a modern kitchen.
Best of all, it's currently available in all colors -- including that fancy black stainless -- for about $1,200. Buy in, and you're getting a 24-cubic-foot fridge with impressive durability and performance. And hey, nothing wrong with bucking a trend to save a buck (or, you know, a thousand bucks).
Read our LG LTCS24223S review.
Whirlpool WRB322DMHV Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
A bottom freezer model as French door fill-inChris Monroe/CNET
I tested the Whirlpool WRB322DMBB bottom freezer back in 2016 -- the performance was exceptional, but the design was a bit bland. Now, four years later, the updated WRB322DMHV stands a marked improvement. The interior doesn't feel as flimsy as before, and it's available in black stainless steel -- which, again, is nice to have if you want a modern-looking kitchen that you can show off to houseguests.
We haven't done a full, scored review of the newer WRB322DMHV just yet, but we've run our default setting tests on it, and it looks to be just as strong a performer as before (keep reading this post for a closer look at the data). Retailing for about $1,900 and currently on sale for a few hundred less, it's a very good middle ground pick between a French door model like that Samsung and a top freezer model like that LG. Downgrade from black stainless steel if you're looking to bring the price down even lower.
Read our Whirlpool WRB322DMHV review.
Like I said, recommended models like those can serve as a great starting point -- but before you get too deep into the process, there's a couple of things worth remembering.
Start with what you know
We use our refrigerators every day without thinking too much about them. The next time you open yours, ask yourself what you like and don't like about it. Maybe you fill your glasses from the water dispenser more often than you fill them from the sink or pitcher. Maybe your fridge has adjustable shelves that slide in or fold up out and out of the way -- but you never bother using them. Maybe you never seem to have a good spot for a specific grocery that you like to have on hand. Maybe your fridge is a top freezer or a side-by-side and you hate having to stoop down to get into the crisper bins.
Read more:Five fridge features that really make a difference
Little insights like that are really helpful, because they're informed by the best data you've got -- your own habitual fridge usage. It might seem obvious, but before you start browsing and talking to salespeople, make sure to stop and put some thought into what actually matters from your fridge, and what upgrades might be the most meaningful to you.
Narrow things down
Next, you'll want to break out the measuring tape and figure out how much fridge your kitchen can fit.
Beyond the basic width, depth and height measurements, you'll want to be sure to consider how much clearance you have for the doors. Side-by-side and French door models typically require a little less -- with the doors split down the middle, you only have to swing one half the width of the refrigerator open whenever you use one.
As for capacity, a good rule of thumb is to aim for four to six cubic feet of storage space for each member of your family, plus a couple of extra cubic feet as contingency. If you're married with two kids, for instance, then you'd probably want at least 20 cubic feet of total storage space. If you buy groceries in bulk or like to host lots of parties, then upgrading to something even bigger might be worth it. And don't forget to look up the capacity of the fridge you've already got. If it feels cramped when you squeeze a full load of groceries in, then a couple of extra cubic feet would probably go a long way.
Set a budget
Aside from size, the other big limiting factor for your buying decision is obviously how much you're willing to spend. Prices vary based on brand, time of year, and how new the model is, but in general, you should expect to pay about $700-$1,000 for a new top freezer fridge, $900-$1,500 for a new bottom freezer, and $1,200-$3,000 for a new side-by-side. French door fridges are the most popular with homeowners, so they see the highest markup -- expect to pay anywhere from $1,500-$4,000 for a new one.
Read more:Five fridge features that just aren't worth it
Manufacturers tend to focus on unique-sounding features and flashy designs to stand out from the competition, but for the most part, we haven't seen many dramatic refrigerator improvements over the past five years or so (and efficiency standards haven't gone up since 2014, either). In other words, a fridge made in 2020 isn't likely to be noticeably better than a comparable fridge made in 2015.
Get a feel for things
OK, you have a basic sense of what kind of fridge you need and how much you want to spend. Your best bet now is to head to the store and get your hands on the models that interest you. Literally. Open and close the doors and the drawers, press the buttons, try rearranging the shelves... whatever you want.
Your goal is to figure out if any of the fridges on your list feel cheap to the touch, or if there are any little things about the way they're designed that would put you off during day-to-say use. I like to start by focusing on all of the moving parts -- the crisper drawers, the hinged lid over the butter bin, any shelves that fold up. If I'm paying thousands, then all of them should move smoothly and comfortably (and as I'm sure you'll discover, lots of them don't).
I also like to reach into all of the drawers and feel the overhang from the shelf above. It's a common spot that manufacturers tend to overlook. In a lot of cases, it'll be a little bit rough or even sharp, and can scratch your hand as you're reaching in and out.
This is also a good time to get info from the stores you're shopping at about warranties. I'd recommend sticking with models that cover the sealed system (the refrigerator's condenser, compressor, evaporator and tubing) for at least five years and preferably 10.
Three fridges -- which would you buy?
Let's walk through a quick example of how you might want to approach a purchase. Let's say you're that happy couple with two kids I mentioned before, and let's also say that you're sick of your side-by-side refrigerator's narrow freezer, and the way you have to bend down low to get fruits and veggies in and out of the crisper bins. That puts you in the market for a refrigerator with a full-width freezer, waist-up access to all of your fresh groceries and at least 20 cubic feet of total storage space.
A French door feels like the obvious upgrade, and maybe that's the way you'll go -- but you shouldn't rule out bottom freezers, either. They aren't typically as fancy or feature-rich as French door fridges, but they still check all of your boxes, and you'll have a much easier time finding a good deal on a great one.
As I mentioned before, Whirlpool bottom freezers have traditionally fared well in our tests, so let's take a closer look at that Whirlpool WRB322DMHV bottom freezer I listed above. It's a 22-cubic-foot model that comes in black stainless steel for about $1,600 (or less, if you catch it on sale). We'll compare that with the equally sized Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2368TD, a black stainless steel French door model from a year or two ago that's currently marked down to about $2,700 at Home Depot, and also with the Electrolux EW23BC87SS, a high-end French door model that sells from anywhere from $3,500 to $4,500.
When I tested all three in our climate-controlled lab, I didn't find much separating them as far as performance is concerned. The Electrolux model had a few hot spots in the door shelves, and the Frigidaire saw its crisper bins affected by the temperature-adjustable drawer beneath them, which I dialed down to the minimum setting during the test. Neither of those issues are deal breakers.
The important point of note is that neither of those French doors outperforms the bottom freezer despite the difference in price. That's pretty typical, both in terms of cooling power and efficiency. There are definitely outliers, but most of today's fridges are playing in the same ballpark, regardless of what they cost. And again, all three of these are roughly the same size -- 22 cubic feet.
That leaves features and design as the key differentiating factors. The Whirlpool bottom freezer has an ice maker down in the freezer, but it doesn't have one in the door, and it doesn't have a water dispenser, either. And, unlike the Frigidaire and Electrolux fridges, it doesn't have a temperature-adjustable pantry drawer. It's up to you whether conveniences like that plus the appeal of French door design are worth the markup. Other high-end models might substitute in other nifty gimmicks to tempt you -- the autofill water dispensers in certain GE and Samsung models, for instance.
If it's my money, I'm either saving my cash and going for the bottom freezer, or -- if a French door model is a must-have -- looking around for one that's about two years old and marked down by at least $1,000, if not $1,500.
Want more buying advice? Check out CNET's full refrigerator buying guide.
4 Reasons Why Your Whirlpool Refrigerator Freezer is Cold but Refrigerator is Warm
When your refrigerator malfunctions the problem typically affects the whole unit. So when your Whirlpool refrigerator freezer is cold but refrigerator is warm, it can seem like a mystery. We’ll take the detective work out of troubleshooting the problem with common causes like an overstuffed refrigerator or failed defrost system.
Where to Start When Your Whirlpool Refrigerator Freezer is Cold but Refrigerator is Warm
If a Whirlpool refrigerator freezer is cold but refrigerator is warm there are often common part malfunctions that cause the problem. However, there are also some simple fixes you can do at home. We’ll discuss each possibility to help determine if a repair is necessary.
#1. Refrigerator is Overstuffed
If you’re wondering why my fridge isn’t cold but the freezer is your refrigerator may be overloaded. When a refrigerator is stuffed with too much food cold air can’t properly circulate between the compartments and individual items. Without proper air circulation, the refrigerator can’t maintain a cool interior.
Here’s how to improve air circulation in your refrigerator and prevent overstuffing:
- Dispose of old food containers and spoiled food
- Clean the refrigerator’s interior with a clean cloth and warm soapy water
- Rearrange shelves to allow for better airflow
- Keep refrigerator ¾ of the way full for best air circulation
Image Credit: Become Your Best
#2. Whirlpool Condenser Coils are Dirty
Condenser coils cool refrigerant to maintain a cool temperature within the refrigerator. If the coils become covered with dust and debris, they may not be able to do so effectively. Consequently, your refrigerator won’t get cold but freezer will still maintain its temperature.
Cleaning the condenser coils can restore cool air to the refrigerator and should be done every 6-12 months. Refrigerator coil cleaning can be accomplished with these simple steps:
- Disconnect refrigerator from power source and locate condenser coils
- With a narrow hose vacuum attachment, vacuum dust, and debris from the coils and surrounding area
- Remove stubborn particles with an appliance brush
- Vacuum up any remaining debris
- Reconnect refrigerator to power source
#3. Evaporator Fan Motor is Defective
When you find your Whirlpool refrigerator not cooling but freezer works fine a defective evaporator fan motor is a common part malfunction. This motor powers the fan that blows cold air over the refrigerator coils. Without this fan refrigerant won’t cool enough to maintain the refrigerator’s temperature.
If the evaporator fan blades don’t turn easily or the fan motor is especially noisy, it’s likely defective. While multimeter testing can confirm this with a lack of continuity, a faulty fan motor requires professional replacement.
#4. Defrost System has Failed
If any part of the refrigerator’s defrost system fails, ice can start to accumulate on the evaporator coils, making the refrigerator work harder to keep cool. These defrost components are often responsible when a Whirlpool refrigerator freezer is cold but refrigerator is warm:
- Defrost control board: dictates how often to run the defrost function. If it malfunctions the defrost function won’t operate.
- Defrost Thermostat: monitors the evaporator coils’ temperature. If it fails it may provide incorrect temperature readings and the defrost cycle won’t turn on when needed.
- Defrost timer: works with the control board to turn the defrost function off and on throughout the day. If it’s malfunctioning, the refrigerator won’t defrost as necessary.
Let the Whirlpool refrigerator experts help when your Whirlpool refrigerator freezer is cold but refrigerator is warm. Call us to schedule an appointment!
I really want matching stainless, counter-depth, all fridge/freezer combo in my new kitchen. Working within my budget there are three options: Frigidaire Professional, Whirlpool Sidekicks, and Electrolux. I had spent a lot of time thinking I was going to get the Frigidaire but the appliance salesperson told me Whirlpool was more reliable. Drawback is it's slightly smaller. The Electrolux technically puts me over budget and doesn't seem to be better reviewed than the Frigidaire. Anybody know much about the Whirlpool option? I've read lots on the Frigidaire/Electrolux debate but I didn't even know Whirlpool had an option until I visited the appliance showroom. If something catastrophic happens with the Whirlpool our kitchen design is flexible enough that I would only need to order new upper cabinets for above the fridge to accommodate a different size appliance. Although hopefully I wouldn't need to test that out! As much as I love the higher end options I just can't stretch another dollar out of my budget. Anybody familiar with the Whirlpool combo and even better yet can compare/contrast with the other two brands? Thanks!
How to Find Your Whirlpool Refrigerator Serial Number
The Whirlpool Refrigerator Serial Number is located on the side-wall inside the refrigerator or freezer compartment.
Your refrigerator is the kitchen monolith. It is the single largest and most important item in your kitchen. We can get by without a dishwasher, even a stove, but modern families need the fridge so that perishable foods and beverages stay fresh for a week or more between grocery shopping. The refrigerator might have been in the house longer than you – in fact, it probably has.
Most people are not aware of where or even when their home’s fridge was purchased, but if it has the ‘Whirlpool’ brand log on the door or side, you’re in luck. Whirlpool is a well-documented brand so if you need to know something about your Whirlpool refrigerator, you can find it. The answer is in the serial number – a combination model and serial number that tells you not only which design was used for your appliance, but also where and even when it was made.
Today, you’re here to find your refrigerator serial number and we’re here to help. The blurb at the top should lead you quickly in the right direction and we’ll walk you through finding that serial number plaque step by step soon. Let’s go into some depth on what a serial number is, how they are determined, and what you can use them for.
Appliance Model Numbers and Serial Numbers Explained
Your refrigerator’s serial number is actually made up of two parts – the model number and the serial number. The model number actually holds most of the information, while the serial number – like your house numbers – provides the final details on which appliance is which. The model number will tell you which appliance design was used and the region where the factory was located. The serial number tells you the variation of appliance and the exact unit that you have from each manufacturing batch.
Whirlpool and Whirlpool-family brands (including Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, and Amana) are all assigned model and serial numbers the same way so you can rely on this system for most domestic home appliances.
As for your whirlpool refrigerator, it’s model and serial number also follow the same rules. Here’s where to find it.
Where to Find Your Whirlpool Refrigerator Serial Number
- On the inner side-wall of the Fridge or Freezer
- Open the refrigerator and freezer doors.
- Look to the right or left inner walls, near the front and top of the compartment
- Find the serial number plaque
Your Whirlpool refrigerator has either a silvery plaque or a white sticker that will tell you everything you need to know about your fridge – or at least how to find that information. Your model number and serial number will be labeled clearly on the left-hand side of the sticker – usually just under the Whirlpool brand logo. The serial number sticker can be in the refrigerator or freezer compartment, but the process for finding it is both simple and the same.
Open both your fridge and freezer doors. Look to the two side-walls in each compartment. The sticker or plaque will be found near the door, to the front, and most likely in an upper front corner of the side-wall. It could be on the right or left side-walls, in the fridge or freezer compartment. Identifying the model and serial numbers should not be challenging, but they are labeled in different ways depending on the size and design of the sticker. Look for any one of the following markings followed by a mix of letters and numbers to find the model number and/or serial number.
- Model Number
- MODEL NO
- MODEL NUMBER
- Serial Number
- SERIAL NUMBER
Why Do You Need the Refrigerator Serial Number?
The serial number for your Whirlpool refrigerator is sometimes necessary. Most likely, you are here today looking for this information because you have need of that serial number right now. There are three primary reasons why a person might suddenly need to know the serial number of their otherwise ignorable refrigerator. You may need information in the users manual, you may be preparing for an appliance repair, or you may be considering purchasing parts to replace those missing or damaged.
Look Up the Whirlpool Users Manual
Every appliance comes with a printed owner’s manual – which most of us promptly lose or throw away. If your fridge was there when you moved in, then there is very little chance of turning up the original manual in a cupboard or junk drawer. But you can look it up online for things like performance issues, settings, and repairs. To look up an appliance’s owner’s manual, you need the model and serial numbers. Each appliance, even nearly identical appliances, are built differently with subtly different fasteners, features, and design elements. You need the serial number to get the right online owner’s manual – otherwise you’ll be looking up slightly wrong details and replacement parts from a manual for a similar-but-not-quite-matching Whirlpool refrigerator.
Reference for Appliance Repairs
The next issue is repairs. Most people don’t bother to look up the serial number for their Whirlpool refrigerator until something goes wrong. Whether your fridge is performing poorly or you plan to replace a broken piece – the serial number will help you look up the right information. With the owner’s manual, you can learn what the brand intended for you to know. But with the serial number on the open internet, you can seek (or ask for) precise information regarding the care and repair of your Whirlpool fridge.
If you are calling for appliance repairs, the serial number can help minimize your need for a consultation and ensure your technician arrives with the right manual and replacement parts on-hand. If you are planning to DIY, the serial number will help you find the exact guides you need to do the job well and safely.
Order Replacement Parts
Lastly, you need the serial number to order replacement parts. You can check the manual reference or you can use the serial number alone to search for appliance replacement parts online. Knowing the model and serial number will make it easy to search up the right parts and double-check for compatibility.
Fridge combo whirlpool freezer
How we researched
Why you should trust us
Our advice is based mostly on two big fact-finding projects we conducted to collect feedback from people who use refrigerators and then quantify and analyze that feedback. We did not physically test any refrigerators for this guide, but we think that our extensive research actually helped us identify important trends that we never would have found with testing alone.
Our first major research project was a survey of Wirecutter readers, with more than 5,000 completed responses. This survey gave us solid data on overall satisfaction by brand and door style, an idea of the refrigerator features that make the most people the happiest, and some info about refrigerator reliability.
This survey wasn't perfectly representative: For example, top-freezer refrigerators were massively underrepresented in our sample (10%) compared with their popularity in the US (41% of all fridges sold in 2020, according to statistics provided by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers). And we collected statistically significant data on only seven or so brands (out of dozens). But we’re confident that the survey results point toward some broader truths about the category, particularly among the best-selling styles and brands. (Massive, massive thanks to Wirecutter user research lead Raquel Hamias, who conducted the survey for us and crunched the results into usable numbers.)
The other major source of information was an analysis of 28,000 customer reviews on Home Depot’s site, across 34 different refrigerator models from all the major brands and spanning door types and prices, conducted with the aid of an artificial-intelligence-driven tool called FindOurView. Though this analysis looked at only a small fraction of all the fridges that are available, it gave us loads of detail about the features that owners appreciate most, as well as some idea of the things that specific models do particularly well or poorly. (For example, the platform helped us quickly figure out which LG fridges are especially prone to problems with their cooling systems.)
Our extensive research actually helped us identify important trends that we never would have found with testing alone.
We also read a slew of other refrigerator reviews, info about reliability, and guides on how to pick and install fridges. For previous versions of this guide, we also spoke to several industry experts, including brand representatives, dealers, and repair technicians.
To be very clear: We haven’t done any hands-on refrigerator testing of our own. That’s largely because of logistics and pandemic protocols, and because there’s simply not a ton to glean objectively from hands-on use. We have, however, touched most of the fridges we mention in this guide at appliance showrooms—we’ve yanked the handles and wiggled the shelves and so on.
This guide doesn’t have all the answers. We haven’t yet done as much research as we would like into topics such as built-in fridges, newer brands and those that sell small or moderate volumes of fridges, dual-evaporator cooling systems, mini fridges, all-fridge (no-freezer) models and other less-common refrigerator types, smart fridges, and best practices for maintenance. We plan to examine some of those topics in greater depth in the future. In the meantime, we think the research we’ve done can help a lot of people find a good fridge.
Senior staff writer Liam McCabe has covered home appliances since 2011, including a stint at Reviewed, and has worked on versions of this Wirecutter guide since 2014.
Why we don’t have refrigerator “picks”
We don’t have “official” recommendations for specific refrigerator models. If this were a typical Wirecutter guide, we’d highlight a handful of the “best” refrigerators that, based on our research and testing, would make the most people the happiest. Earlier versions of this guide took that approach, but it never felt like the optimal way to tackle the topic, so we’re trying something different these days.
In this guide we still point you toward brands and general styles that stood out in our research, and we link to examples of specific models (and we may still earn a commission if readers end up making a purchase through those links, which is standard for Wirecutter). But for now we aren’t calling anything a “pick” or “the best.”
This approach feels appropriate for a few reasons. For one, refrigerators are so diverse, even just in terms of size, that we’d struggle to fit a representative list of “picks” onto one page that’s easy to read. In older versions of this guide, we tried to work around that challenge by picking just a handful of the most popular sizes and types, but we heard from readers who couldn’t use those fridges and felt left out or confused. For perspective: As of late August 2021, the 10 best-selling models on Home Depot’s website included three different widths, four different door styles, three different finishes, and a variety of heights, depths, and ice-dispenser designs.
It’s also a very subjective category, and reasonable people can come to different conclusions about all kinds of features: door ice versus freezer bin, counter-depth versus standard-depth, French-door versus side-by-side, to name a few. There’s not really a useful performance metric that would separate good fridges from bad fridges, and there’s not enough strong data about reliability or longevity to make good predictions, either.
So you can use this guide to find a fridge in a couple of different ways. You might go with one of the specific models we mention, or you might use the filtered search function on a retailer’s website: Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowe’s, AJ Madison, Appliances Connection, and many, many others offer handy tools.
How to pick a fridge
First, find the right size. Tons of articles about this are all over the internet, though this video from Home Depot is especially helpful. Here’s our advice, with a couple of tips that are often missing from other guides:
- Take multiple measurements of your space (rather than the existing fridge) to find the maximum width, depth, and height. Seriously—take multiple measurements of each dimension in case your floors turn out to be crooked. Remember to measure any baseboards or trim.
- Build in some buffer space for ventilation. Make it about 1 inch on the top and sides and at least 2 inches at the back. If you jam your fridge in tighter, the fridge’s heat exchange might have to work harder than it was designed to. That can hurt its ability to hold the proper temperatures and might wear out the cooling system faster than its intended lifespan (usually 10 years, according to most manufacturers we’ve talked to).
- Think about measuring the rest of your kitchen. The layout of the rest of your kitchen matters, too. If you have a kitchen island, measure the distance from the wall to the edge of that counter to account for the door swing. In this situation, a counter-depth model, or one with half-width doors (like a French-door or side-by-side model) might make the most sense. If your fridge will sit close to a wall, think about whether the door will be able to swing open wide enough for you to pull out crisper drawers or deli trays. A single-door fridge (like a top-freezer or bottom-freezer model), with the hinge on the opposite side from the wall, might be your best bet.
- Measure your doorways. You can take the doors off the fridge to get a few extra inches, but there are some fridges that you just cannot get inside of certain kitchens.
As long as a fridge fits your space, there’s no wrong size. You can put a small, affordable top-freezer fridge in a big cutout meant for a humongous, expensive French-door model. It might look a little odd, but it’ll work fine. Bigger fridges do tend to make people much happier than smaller ones, according to our reader survey and analysis of customer reviews. Many people buy the widest fridge that fits their space and budget (often 36 inches) and often one that’s very deep (34 inches or more), too.
Determine the depth you want. Although bigger fridges tend to make people happier than smaller ones, customer reviews indicate that the benefits peter out around 20 cubic feet, which is roughly the size of a fridge that’s 36 inches wide but slightly shallower than usual—also known as counter depth. So, even if a deeper, standard-depth fridge fits your space, we think a counter-depth refrigerator is worth considering. According to our analysis of customer reviews, people who own counter-depth fridges (most models, anyway) usually find that the fridges have plenty of capacity, and they tend to be equally happy with their fridges overall. Counter-depth fridges are also arguably easier to organize and look better in most kitchens, plus they tend to use a bit less energy.
After size, you get to decide what else is important to you, in whichever order you choose. Here are the rest of the criteria that most people seem to focus on when they’re thinking about their fridges (in declining order of popularity, roughly), with some advice on how to navigate the choices:
Decide between freestanding or built-in. The only true difference between these types of fridges is that freestanding models have finished sides, while built-in fridges do not because they’re designed to sit flush with and attach to (or even blend in with) cabinetry. Built-ins also cost at least $4,000, can be much wider than freestanding fridges, and are rarely available in top-freezer configurations (but much more commonly available in all-fridge or all-freezer columns). This AJ Madison primer has some additional details on style and sizing options for built-ins. (AJ Madison is a major appliance retailer that carries most brands of refrigerators, both freestanding and built-in.)
Freestanding full-size fridges can be as cheap as $650 or cost thousands of dollars like some built-ins. Since freestanding fridges are much, much more affordable, that’s the type that the overwhelming majority of people buy, so that’s what we focus on in this guide. But some of this guide applies to built-in fridges, too.
Choose a door style. French-door models always dominate the best-seller lists at major retailers, and they were by far the most widely liked of the most popular types in our reader survey. Most people seem to prefer this style because the layout is convenient, and possibly because it looks trendy. But any style can be a good fit for the right kitchen and owner. Some people prefer a side-by-side model’s no-bend freezer access and ample shelving. Top-freezer models are a lot more affordable and can fit really small spaces. Bottom-freezer fridges usually lack the high-end look of French-door models but have a lot of the same practical advantages. Four-door models (equal-size half-width, half-height, swing-open doors) and column designs (all-fridge no-freezer, and vice versa) have their place, too.
Consider reliability. More than half of the respondents in our reader survey said that reliability was one of the top three most important things they wanted in a new fridge. Unfortunately, nobody has a crystal ball that can predict which brand or model—or especially individual refrigerator units on sale today—will last the longest and have the fewest problems. However, after digging through Wirecutter survey responses and retail customer reviews and examining other publicly available data, we have some leads about the brands, fridge types, and even specific models that may be most prone to problems.
Think through what you want for capacity, shelving, and organization. These closely related qualities are highly important to most fridge owners. More than half of the readers who filled out our survey cited one of these three things as a top priority in their fridge, and size or layout was mentioned in at least 25% of the customer reviews we analyzed for any individual fridge. For higher-end models with specialized organization features (such as a door-in-door system or a two-drawer French-door model), size and layout were usually cited in more than 50% of reviews, and the sentiment was largely positive.
If you want an enormous fridge, by all means, get one. But you might not need quite as much space as you think.
French-door models earn much more praise and less criticism related to shelving, storage, and organization than side-by-side or top-freezer fridges. One review (collected as part of a promotion) that encapsulates a lot of the praise: “I save on groceries because I can actually see everything,” writes JManigault201 about a French-door model on Home Depot’s website, adding, “I don't have to bend so low to get items out of my fridge. The [drawers] on the freezer make it easy to see my food without having to reach so far back.” The exception here is counter-depth French-door fridges with door dispensers: Owners are more likely to cite these models as being cramped or hard to organize, we found.
In general, we learned that most people are comfortable with the size of their fridge. Complaints about small capacity are just as common among huge 26-cubic-foot models as they are among 16-cubic-foot models, for example. It really has more to do with the shelving and layout. If you want an enormous fridge, by all means, get one. But you might not need quite as much space as you think. (Just to put the idea in your head: We think that if you’re looking for a 36-inch-wide fridge, you’ll probably be happy with a counter-depth fridge.)
Think twice about an ice maker and door dispenser. Automatic ice makers, especially the kind that dispenses ice through the refrigerator door, are both wonderfully convenient and one of the most finicky, problem-prone parts of a fridge. In our reader survey, 24% of respondents said that their ice maker had jammed or completely broken, by far the most common hardware-based failure. That’s particularly notable considering that 17% of respondents didn’t even have an automatic ice maker in the first place or said that they didn’t think about this feature.
But most people seem to think that a built-in ice maker is worth having. Some upscale fridges even have specialty ice features, like LG’s Craft Ice clear spheres (38% of the owners of one model whose reviews we analyzed cited Craft Ice as one of their favorite features).
We looked for patterns in the types of fridges that are most prone to ice-maker problems, but we couldn’t find any. Ice-maker reliability, as far as we can tell, depends on the specific model of refrigerator, not its brand, door type, or price.
For example: One Samsung French-door fridge, the RF28R7201SR, has a terrible ice maker, with 40% of owners complaining that it jams regularly, according to our AI-assisted analysis of customer reviews. (It was by far the worst service record we came across.) But the similar Samsung RF27T5201SR has far fewer complaints, with 10% of owners complaining about ice jams (still a bad rate). And then the nearly identical-looking Samsung RF28R7551S has essentially no complaints about its ice maker jamming. Similar trends play out among other brands (though none even come close to the failure rate on that first Samsung model).
Consider the finish. Stainless steel is still the trendy-yet-attainable choice, as it has been for a few decades, and is widely regarded as an option that looks good in most kitchens. (Though a common complaint is that it’s a pain to keep fingerprint-free, even for models with supposedly fingerprint-resistant finishes.)
Different brands have slightly different looks to their stainless—some are more reflective, some have more pronounced brushed-metal grooves, some are more fingerprint resistant. If this matters to you, check out some fridges in person.
There are plenty of other finishes to pick from, though they’re available on fewer models. Other neutral, brushed-metal finishes such as black stainless or slate are common. Glossy black and white are still widely available, particularly on cheaper fridges. Whirlpool and GE sell a bisque finish, though we aren’t sure whether this cream color is a throwback to or a holdover from the ’80s. Bolder, brighter colors (or even prints) are available, too, though they tend to be reserved for upscale models and only from certain brands.
Choose a model that maximizes efficiency and sustainability. Refrigerators are much more energy efficient than they were 15 and especially 30 years ago due to stricter efficiency regulations from the Department of Energy, as well as stronger incentives from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program. And as of summer 2021, all of the major brands now claim to use a climate-friendly refrigerant in at least some of their lineups—and a couple have transitioned all of their new fridges in that regard. So without even trying hard, you’ll probably end up with an environmentally sound refrigerator.
Less important factors
Cooling performance and food preservation: Some fridges are probably better at keeping foods fresher and more appetizing for longer, but we haven’t yet looked into the science of how that works or which features to look for. Consumer Reports tests and rates refrigerators for temperature consistency, defined as how quickly (and accurately) each fridge reaches the temperature on its thermostat and how well it holds that temperature as the ambient temperature around the fridge changes. This capability probably has something to do with maintaining freshness, so you could check Consumer Reports’s reviews if you think this will matter.
What we can tell you is that after analyzing more than 28,000 customer reviews across 34 different fridges, it is very uncommon to find criticism of fridges for doing a poor job keeping foods fresh, outside of cases where the cooling system was obviously defective or broken.
When people do complain, it’s usually because the temperature throughout the fridge compartment is uneven: Portions of the door are too warm for milk, for example, or the very top or bottom of the cavity gets so cold that lettuce freezes and turns into disgusting mush. This happens with only some fridges, even if they’re working properly. The problem seems more common among lower-cost top-freezer models, and higher-end models with a door-in-door feature might struggle to hold dairy-safe temperatures in their door shelves. Consumer Reports also tests for this type of temperature uniformity, if you’d like to see performance results for specific models.
Noise: When refrigerators are functioning properly, they do not make enough noise to irritate the vast majority of people. But any refrigerator can become kind of noisy when it’s malfunctioning, and certain models seem more prone to developing these nuisance noises than others. Low-cost top-freezer models tend to run a little louder in the first place and seem to be a bit more prone to nuisance noises, too. But certain larger, pricier models seem more likely to whine or thunk or whirr, and there’s no obvious reason that we’ve been able to discern. We’ve tried to avoid linking to those models in this guide.
LG: The major brand with the highest satisfaction
Among refrigerators from the five major brands, LG fridges seem to make their owners the happiest. In a Wirecutter reader survey, far more real-life LG owners said they were satisfied with their fridges than owners of other brands did, and fewer said they hated their fridges.
On the downside, LG’s customer service is bad (though its fridge reliability is above average, so you have a lower chance of needing to interact with customer service). A handful of specific models (all side-by-sides) have major reliability problems.
But on balance, LG as a brand stands out a bit from the other major manufacturers.
Reader survey: Overall satisfaction by brand
|Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied||10.3%||9.4%||3.3%||3.1%||7.5%|
LG’s customer ratings on big retailers’ websites tend to be slightly better than other brands’ too, and other major appliance reviewers generally rate LG fridges at or near the top of the pack.
The shelving and organization in LG fridges earned especially high ratings in our reader survey, as LG beat the other major brands in satisfaction with perceived capacity, storage ability, and accessibility of contents.
LG is also a front-runner in quietness and ice-maker quality, and owners are also very satisfied with the temperature accuracy and consistency—a finding backed up by Consumer Reports’s laboratory testing (“Refrigerators,” Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2021, pages 54–61).
Reader survey: Satisfaction with performance and features by brand
Shelves (storage ability and organization)
Accessibility of contents (in terms of height and depth)
LG doesn’t sell as many cheap refrigerators as some of the other brands, particularly Frigidaire, GE, and Whirlpool, so maybe it’s more accurate to compare the satisfaction with its higher-end French-door and side-by-side models against those of other brands. But even then, LG’s fridges make their owners happier than the other major brands’ fridges do.
Reader survey: Satisfaction among French-door refrigerator owners by brand
|Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied||6.0%||4.2%||2.8%||3.9%||5.7%|
The premium features on some of LG’s higher-end models are especially popular among owners. The Craft Ice feature on the LG LRFVC2406S, for example, earned high praise from nearly 40% of owners according to our customer-review analysis, and only a few instances of criticism. The door-in-door feature (also available from a couple of other brands) was widely liked, as well. (Reviewers didn’t remark on the InstaView translucent door nearly as often.)
We don’t have great data on LG’s reputation for top-freezer models—we got too few survey responses regarding such models to reach statistical significance. And LG doesn’t sell as wide a variety of that type of fridge as other brands do. But judging from the little info we do have, those models seem to be solid, too. LG’s bottom-freezer models also earned high marks in our reader survey.
LG models you may want to consider
The following models received generally positive customer reviews, according to our review analysis, and may be a good place to start in your search:
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The big caveat with LG refrigerators is that some of its larger fridges are more likely than those of other brands to stop cooling. It has been a big problem over the past decade, and although the company seems to have corrected the issue with most of its current models, there are still some side-by-side models with a really poor track record.
We found some evidence of this compressor problem in our reader survey: More LG owners (3.8%) than average (2.5%) said that their fridge or freezer had stopped cooling. (Samsung was the only major brand with a worse track record for cooling failures, at 4.6%.)
And when we analyzed customer reviews for nine available LG models, we saw clear evidence that two of them seem to have this same compressor-related no-cooling problem: the LSXS26326S and LSXS26366S, both of which are side-by-sides with the older bar-style handles (rather than pocket-style handles like those of the newer LRSES2706V). More than 15% of the reviews for those bar-handle side-by-sides cited compressor problems or cooling failures, which is a ton. When we asked LG for comment on this finding, representatives replied: “In this industry as a whole, refrigerator service issues often relate to cooling performance. When, on occasion, any such issue arises, LG is committed to taking care of its customers.” The reps also referenced LG’s warranty coverage.
For other current LG fridges (including the French-door models we analyzed) and other major brands, we saw those kinds of problems cited in only about 3% of reviews, give or take. So we’d guess (hope?) that as long as you avoid the older side-by-sides, the chance of a cooling problem with an LG is about the same as with refrigerators from other brands.
The big caveat with LG fridges is that some of its larger fridges are more likely than those of other brands to stop cooling.
LG customer service is worse than average, with one quarter of all owners who reported interacting with the company in our survey citing a negative experience. Not great! That’s about twice the rate of bad service compared with the results for Whirlpool or GE. One Wirecutter reader’s experience is representative of many complaints we read: “It took almost 2 months for a warranty repair, many service companies no longer handle LG, and we almost lost the one repair person due to LG’s poor response. LG was very bureaucratic and we spent at least 8 hours on phone calls and emails. Unresponsive.” LG told Wirecutter in a statement that the company was “surprised to hear this.”
LG’s warranty coverage is pretty typical for the industry now, with one year comprehensive parts and labor, and five years parts and labor for the compressor and cooling system. The company will also provide a replacement compressor for up to 10 years (as a couple of other brands will), though you’ll have to cover the cost of labor, which will be high. And again, if you ever need to make a claim under the warranty, you’ll be dealing with LG’s below-average customer service.
We did find that LG fridges were slightly less likely to break in minor ways that are annoying (though often tolerable). So with an LG refrigerator, you might be less likely to deal with nuisances like broken shelves, handles, doors, lights, ice makers, or water dispensers. Owners also cited temperature inconsistencies less often and were notably less likely to say that organizing the fridge and keeping track of items was difficult. Consumer Reports puts LG near the front of the pack for reliability, too.
GE: Somewhat better customer service
GE refrigerators are another good option if you don’t want an LG for whatever reason (fear of compressor failures, can’t find one you want in your area on your schedule, long-standing feud with the company over past transgressions).
Among the top five brands, GE’s French-door fridges earned the next-best ratings behind LG’s in our reader survey, with high overall levels of satisfaction and strong ratings for important characteristics such as capacity, organization, perceived reliability (with the fewest complaints about bad reliability), looks, temperature control, and ice-maker performance. These fridges also score very well in Consumer Reports’s ratings (“Refrigerators,” Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2021, pages 54–61), and their average customer ratings on major retailers’ websites are similar to those of LG’s refrigerators.
GE’s higher-end French-door models are particularly impressive. The GE Profile PVD28BYNFS earned massive praise in customer reviews for its versatile ice and water dispenser, which has auto-fill as well as a sensor that triggers a light when someone comes near it. According to our customer-review analysis, more than 25% of reviewers also said they loved the interior lighting, which shines from the back wall of the fridge (most models have strips of LEDs on the sides instead). And the PVD28BYNFS has a door-in-door feature, though owners seem to be less enthusiastic about it than LG owners are about their door-in-door features.
But the basic French-door models still earn great ratings, too. And GE also makes some premium models under the Café label that are less gadget-y and more design-y and earn strong reviews for their bold style. (The company also makes the luxury-level Monogram brand, which we didn’t research closely.)
GE is also one of the handful of brands whose customer service seemed to generate fewer negative sentiments among our survey respondents, especially compared with LG and Samsung. GE has its own repair fleet in some metro areas, which might have something to do with it. To be clear, our data suggests that GE French-door fridges need repairs at a rate similar to that of LG French-door models, and we did see some complaints about customer service among the analyzed reviews. Minor problems like noise may be slightly more common, and a small percentage of customer reviews still cite major cooling failures. But you might have a better chance of getting a repair done promptly under warranty.
GE’s side-by-side models received a notably mediocre satisfaction rating in our survey, and other reviewers are lukewarm on them, too. Our data suggests that these models have more nuisance-type problems with reliability than most other brands’ side-by-sides. However, most side-by-side owners in general aren’t exactly thrilled with their fridges (they’re content, maybe, but not “very satisfied” at nearly the same rate as French-door owners), and GE’s rating in this category is in the middle of the pack among the major brands.
Top-freezer models from GE are decent and can be some of the very cheapest full-size fridges available. We have more on these below, in our section about budget-friendly options.
GE also sells a bunch of affordable bottom-freezer models, such as the GBE21DSKSS, though we don’t have enough data on this category to have a clear picture of how they stack up against those of other brands.
Most current GE fridges (PDF) use the climate-friendly R600a refrigerant, and GE told us it plans to transition all of its freestanding models by the end of 2021 and its built-ins by the end of 2022.
GE Appliances is owned by Haier, which also sells the budget Hotpoint and city-sized Haier brands, though we don’t have much info about those.
GE models you may want to consider
The following models received generally positive customer reviews, according to our review analysis, and may be a good place to start in your search:
Whirlpool: Fewer bells and whistles, fewer complaints about bad reliability
Whirlpool’s French-door refrigerators (and Maytag’s, and to a lesser extent KitchenAid’s—same parent company and very similar products) are totally solid, though they don’t generate the same level of enthusiasm as those of the other brands we’ve covered. According to our reader survey, slightly fewer Whirlpool French-door owners than their GE counterparts said they were very or somewhat satisfied, and they trailed even further behind LG French-door owners.
We also found in our survey that, despite what looks like a similar capacity across the lineup, Whirlpool owners tend to be less satisfied with their fridges’ capacity, storage, and organization than owners of most other major brands’ models. Their ratings of the organizational features weren’t quite as high, either.
Satisfaction with Whirlpool Corporation’s side-by-sides followed a similar pattern: well behind the enthusiasm for LG and more neutral than GE, with fewer people very satisfied or very dissatisfied with their Whirlpools.
Bottom-freezer fridges are a bit of a hidden gem, offering a lot of the same advantages of French-door models but for a much lower price.
We also found through our survey and customer-review analysis that Whirlpool’s French-door and side-by-side reliability was similar to that of the other brands—although notably, the rate of major problems (like cooling failures) seemed especially low. As a brand, Whirlpool had the fewest complaints in our survey about truly bad reliability (though compared with LG, it had fewer reports of good reliability and more for okay reliability, which is a sign of annoying problems but not critical failures). In our analysis of customer reviews, we found very few reports of cooling-related failures—we actually found no such complaints reported in the past year for the WRF535SWHZ French-door model, which we had previously highlighted in this guide as a big, basic option that should work well for most people. Whirlpool earned solid marks for customer service in our survey, too, though we didn’t find customer reviews actively praising the service the same way that we did for GE.
Bells and whistles aren’t really Whirlpool’s thing: It doesn’t have models with a door-in-door option or spherical ice molds or a tablet built into the door. Its highest-end fridges, under the KitchenAid brand, are more about style than flashy features—a perfectly respectable approach.
Whirlpool was one of the few brands that had enough survey responses about bottom-freezer models to be statistically significant, and the ratings were strong. Bottom-freezer fridges are a bit of a hidden gem, offering a lot of the same advantages of French-door models but for a much lower price. We can’t say with confidence how Whirlpool’s bottom-freezer models (like the WRB322DMBM) compare to those of other brands in the eyes of most owners, but Whirlpool’s options seem like a solid choice if you need one.
As of August 2021, many (if not most) popular Whirlpool models use the climate-friendly R600a refrigerant, according to a list the company shared with Wirecutter, and Whirlpool plans to transition its entire lineup by the end of 2021.
And while few buyers are truly excited about top-freezer models, we have some evidence from our reader survey and customer-review analysis that a small, budget-friendly Whirlpool might be a slightly more satisfying, or at least a more reliable, option than other brands’ top-freezer fridges.
IKEA’s house-brand refrigerators are manufactured by Whirlpool and have mostly similar characteristics. They’re often on sale for lower prices than similar Whirlpool models, so if you see one you like for a good price, go for it.
Whirlpool models you may want to consider
The following models received generally positive customer reviews, according to our review analysis, and may be a good place to start in your search:
Other major brands
Samsung makes some good-looking refrigerators with some flashy features at lower prices than other brands’. But across its popular French-door models, we found double the rate of dissatisfaction compared with LG, GE, and Whirlpool models in our reader survey. It also had the highest percentage of owners who rated their French-door model’s reliability as bad overall (more than 14%). The ice makers seem especially failure-prone: More than a third of reviewers said they had problems with the ice maker on the popular RF28R7201SR, and the RF27T5201SR also had ice-related complaints in nearly 20% of its reviews. A class-action suit regarding the faulty ice makers is winding its way through mediation and courts as of August 2021.
One high-end feature that owners like a lot is the Family Hub, a giant tablet built into the door of a big fridge. Owners say they find it useful for all kinds of reasons: It’s good for managing grocery lists, monitoring a doorbell camera, looking up recipes, using it as a mirrored TV or digital picture frame, and so on. A few owners cite glitchy behavior, but for the most part, satisfaction seems pretty high. I remember scoffing at the idea of a tablet in a fridge when Samsung launched the first version about six years ago, assuming that it would be a reliability nightmare. But there are far fewer complaints about the tablet (or related software support) than I’d have assumed there would be by now. There are also several options for putting a screen in your kitchen that offer more flexibility than a giant panel mounted vertically to an immovable appliance that you’ll own for about a decade. But in general, people who have a Family Hub like it.
And in general, plenty of people are perfectly happy with their Samsung fridges. The side-by-sides in particular earned the second-best satisfaction ratings among the top five brands in our survey, behind LG’s (though they still had the worst rating for bad reliability). The premium Bespoke line is one of the few true counter-depth offerings we know of. If you need a fridge on short notice and a Samsung model looks like a top bet, it probably won’t be a disaster. It’s just not the first (or second, or third) brand we’d recommend.
According to our reader survey, this is the major brand with the lowest overall owner satisfaction, as well as the lowest satisfaction for each individual type of refrigerator (though it’s not far behind GE for basic top-freezer models). Frigidaire’s lineup really has no standout trait, except that some of its top-freezer models offer stylish pocket handles and glass shelves for lower prices than other brands’ top-freezer models with less-nice features. Some professional reviewers like some of the brand’s fridges (USA Today’s Reviewed, for example, has a Frigidaire French-door model at the top of its rankings as of August 2021), but generally the company doesn’t rate as well as the other big brands among owners or pro reviewers.
Beko and Blomberg are both made by one of Europe’s largest appliance companies (Arçelik) and have been nibbling at the fringes of the US market for about a decade. Our reader survey didn’t turn up any useful information on how they compare to other brands in the US, but the parent company has a good reputation in other countries. The challenge with these brands might be getting service under warranty or spare parts for repairs in the future.
Insignia is Best Buy’s house brand, and you can get some great deals on basic (but often big!) fridges. We did a little digging, and unlike refrigerators from other big store brands (such as IKEA or Kenmore) Insignia fridges don’t seem to be made by any of the other major manufacturers. The customer ratings are solid, though we didn’t get enough info from our reader survey to understand how Insignia models compare to those of other brands.
Based on the look and layout of the fridges, Kenmore’s basic top-freezer models appear to be made by Frigidaire, most of its other midrange models are probably made by Whirlpool, and its higher-end models seem to be LGs. Kenmore products can vary a bit from the major-label versions—sometimes they earn different performance ratings from pro reviewers, for example—but generally you can expect the same experience.
Brands like Hisense, Galanz, and Midea are less known in the US (at least for refrigerators) but are major players overseas. Unfortunately we just don’t have enough info about how they compare to the major brands. Are they probably fine? Yeah, they’ll keep your food cold as long as they aren’t defective. The real question: At what rate are they defective or prone to malfunctions? We don’t really know.
What about a budget pick?
If you’re looking for a fridge that works for the lowest possible price, get a top-freezer model. It’s okay to pick the cheapest model that’s readily available and fits your size requirements. It’ll do the job just fine.
Small models (10 cubic feet) from smaller brands, such as the Magic Chef MCDR1000WE, start around $400. The customer ratings for these lowest-end fridges tend to be decent, though some models (like this retro-styled Galanz) seem more prone to cooling failures than a typical fridge. You can find even cheaper fridges, but they tend to be very small, almost like mini fridges.
Family-size models (16 cubic feet or larger) from major brands including Frigidaire and GE start around $600. The customer ratings for these models are solid and sometimes even great, though these owners are more likely than normal to complain about noise, lack of shelving, and lack of capacity. The barebones GE GTE17DTNRWW, for example, has an average rating of 4.5 stars (out of five) on Home Depot’s site, beating out most side-by-side models, but a whopping 18% of recent reviewers write that it’s noisy.
If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, you could consider stepping up to a model with glass shelves (rather than wire), recessed pocket-style handles, or a stainless-steel finish—something like the Frigidaire FFTR1835VS. You can find some higher-capacity models, too. Even with all those upgrades, a top-of-the-line top-freezer model will almost always still cost less than any other style of refrigerator of comparable size.
Refrigerators from store brands, such as Best Buy’s Insignia label, can cost a little less than fridges from the major brands while offering similar features and similarly solid owner reviews, though we haven’t dug into the customer reviews as closely, so we’re not sure how they compare.
We don’t have enough evidence to say with confidence that one brand of top-freezer fridges is significantly better than others. In our reader survey, we didn’t receive enough responses about LG or Samsung top-freezer models, for example, for the results to be statistically significant, let alone for smaller brands like Insignia or Magic Chef.
We did spot a few patterns among Frigidaire, Whirlpool, and GE top-freezer models, though we’re not sure how conclusive they are. Whirlpool top-freezer fridges, for example, have significantly higher owner satisfaction and a very low rate of utter hatred. But maybe that’s because the brand’s slightly higher prices discourage people from buying the truly lowest-end models, so they don’t drag down the overall rating. Whirlpool’s reliability for this style also seems to be a little better than that of the other two brands. But we just don’t have enough data to say how these Whirlpools compare to similarly priced models with comparable features from LG or Samsung, so we don’t want to endorse one brand over another.
- Top-freezer fridge owners are more likely to complain that their fridges are loud, though it’s still a relatively low percentage, even among the noisiest models.
- Some of the lowest-end models technically do not meet the Energy Star efficiency benchmarks, but they still use less energy than most refrigerators because they’re relatively small, the top-freezer design makes thermodynamic sense, and they don’t have through-the-door ice dispensers.
- Most models, at least from the major brands, have reversible doors, so you can set them up to open in whichever direction works better for your kitchen layout.
What do you get when you pay more for a fridge?
The Café CVE28DP4NW2 has LED lights across its back wall for better visibility, an auto-fill water dispenser, and compartments with humidity controls. Photo: Café
When you knock twice on the tinted glass panel of the LG LRFVC2406S, it lights up to display the contents behind the door-in-door. This premium model also has a second ice maker in the freezer that produces large spherical ice. Photo: LG
A basic, 36-inch French-door fridge from a major brand starts around $1,500. Nice-to-haves, such as a through-the-door ice dispenser and a second drawer, can each add a few hundred dollars to the price, as can a counter-depth design. Then around $2,500, you start to move into truly premium territory. (For side-by-sides, the basic range is more like $1,100 to $2,000.)
Premium fridges come in a couple of different flavors that sometimes mix together. But roughly speaking, you can get a fridge that’s:
- Well equipped, with performance- and convenience-related upgrades. These include a second swing-space drawer (great for deli items and kids’ snacks), door-in-door compartments for easy drink access, high-end ice makers, translucent door panels, dispensers that can make tea and coffee, or a giant tablet built into the door.
- Well appointed, often counter-depth and without a dispenser. This style is more focused on an upscale design with sharper lines, bolder colors, or textured and accented handles. The doors can feel heavier (which some people associate with sturdiness), the shelves are more likely to have metal trim, and the crisper drawers might be glass instead of plastic.
It’s common among models of both types to have separate cooling systems for the fridge and freezer compartments (dual evaporators), which their makers advertise as an upgrade over the single systems used in most fridges. This design may improve food preservation, but we haven’t looked into the topic and can’t verify that that’s the case.
The lines between these styles are blurry and pretty much disappear around $4,000, where many freestanding fridges are both well equipped and well appointed.
When you buy a premium refrigerator, you’re paying for the look or the features, not a more reliable product.
In general, people who spend this much on a refrigerator tend to be even happier with their fridges, surpassing the already higher level of satisfaction among owners of the basic models. Customer ratings for these pricier models often reach 4.7 stars out of five on Home Depot’s site, whereas the midrange models tend to earn closer to 4.4 stars. And according to our reader survey, brands that exclusively sell premium fridges (such as Bosch and KitchenAid) have higher owner satisfaction than brands that sell fridges at a mix of prices.
Premium fridges do not seem like they’re built to last longer than basic models: The warranties are similar if not the same, the brands make no claims about longevity, and we’ve come across plenty of stories about expensive fridges breaking down within a few years. We couldn’t find clear evidence that premium models have fewer nuisance-type problems, either. Some of them work smoothly, others have bells and whistles that seem prone to malfunctions. So in general, when you buy a premium refrigerator, you’re paying for the look or the features, not a more reliable product.
You’ll find some different brand names between the well-appointed and well-equipped styles, though they often come from the same parent companies. KitchenAid is a Whirlpool Corporation label that makes good-looking but feature-light fridges. GE has its Profile line, which is feature-heavy, and the Café brand, which is style-forward. Electrolux is Frigidaire’s parent company. Samsung has its Bespoke series, and LG has the Studio and Signature lines.
So, what’s good in this price range? We don’t have perfect information about the best brands or models, but we do have a few leads.
If you want something well equipped, LG and GE (or the GE Profile sub-brand) are good choices. LG’s door-in-door and spherical-ice features (both found on the LRFVC2406S, among other models) and GE’s auto-fill dispenser (found on the PYE22KMKES and more) earn wide praise from their owners.
If you want something well appointed, we don’t have as much information. But Bosch seems like a category leader, with very high owner satisfaction and excellent reviews from owners—the 800 Series B36CT80SNS is one of its popular models. Owners like this Bosch model’s style and often say it seems to keeps food fresher a little longer (we have no clue whether this is true). The main complaint is that the doors feel heavy to shut. The GE Café line is also well liked among owners who have left reviews, mostly for its style. The CVE28DP4NW2 is one popular model and has strong reviews (though many owners find the interior water dispenser to be awkward).
You can spend a lot more than $4,000 on a fridge if you’d like to. At these high prices, you can find plenty of notable brands, some of which are sub-labels of the major brands, like JennAir (Whirlpool), Monogram (GE), Thermador and Gaggenau (both under Bosch’s parent company, BSH), and Dacor (Samsung). Sub-Zero, Liebherr, Smeg, Miele, and Fisher & Paykel are some other notable names, and there are plenty more. Since these lines are all sold in such low volumes, we weren’t able to gather useful amounts of info about most of them from our reader survey or our analysis of customer reviews. Other pro reviewers don’t have much info about them, either. So we can’t make good comparisons between brands.
What we can say, based on the limited data we collected, is that people who own luxury brands tend to be really happy with their refrigerators. Sub-Zero owners, for instance, gave the highest satisfaction rating in our reader survey, with 77% of owners answering that they were very satisfied with their fridges (LG French-door models earned such praise from 58% of their owners, for comparison’s sake), and another 16% said they were somewhat satisfied. Fisher & Paykel earned similar ratings. It wouldn’t surprise us if other luxury brands had similar ratings, but we just don’t have reliable information about enough of these brands to offer much specific, comparative advice.
What about built-in fridges?
As with luxury fridges in general, we don’t know enough about built-ins to offer useful advice, unfortunately.
Why are so many fridges out of stock?
As of summer 2021, the US is still dealing with some shortages of new appliances, a downstream effect of worldwide supply-chain disruptions. Our advice: You don’t need to stress out or overthink your new refrigerator, especially if you’re in a rush to replace a broken fridge. Most people are mostly happy (or at least not unhappy) with most fridges, so as long as you pick something that fits and won’t break (which is almost entirely out of your control anyway), you’ll probably think your new fridge is at least okay. In our reader survey, 78% of all respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with their fridges, while less than 5% were very dissatisfied, and no brand or style of fridge was immune from serious dissatisfaction. You may not be able to get the specific fridge you want in a timely manner, but you can probably get something similar. And after a week or two passes, you might forget you ever wanted something different.
Door styles: French-doors lead in popularity and satisfaction
You can find four popular styles of freestanding refrigerators, plus a few less-common types, all with some aesthetic and functional differences. Certain types aren’t available in certain sizes or at certain prices, so in choosing a model you don’t quite have carte blanche, but you usually have some wiggle room. Here’s what you should know.
This style has dominated the best-seller lists of most major appliance retailers for more than a decade, and in a lot of important ways, it’s the most comfortable and convenient type of refrigerator for most people (if it fits your kitchen, anyway).
In our reader survey, French-door fridges almost always had better ratings for owner satisfaction than the other two most-popular styles, side-by-sides and top-freezers, in everything from perceived capacity to storage and organization to temperature control to looks. Overall satisfaction is where we saw the most dramatic difference: All the little ways that French-door fridges are more comfortable to use and convenient for more people add up to a huge statistical advantage.
(Bottom-freezer models actually had the highest satisfaction of any type. But they just aren’t popular—constituting only 4% of fridge sales in 2020, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers—for reasons that we don’t fully understand. It could be that they aren’t available in a 36-inch width, which is highly popular.)
Reader survey: Owner satisfaction by door type
|Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied||3.3%||8.4%||14.5%||4.6%|
Size range: 36 inches is the most common width, while 33-inch and 30-inch models are also easy to find. A few 42-inch built-in models are available from luxury brands. Regular-depth and counter-depth models are widely available. Freestanding models are most common, but plenty of high-end built-ins are available, too.
Pros: All fresh foods stay near eye level for people of a wide range of heights, and you get easy wide-item storage (pizza, deli trays). The half-width doors are convenient in tight kitchen layouts, and models have a trendy look. You also have tons of options, such as two drawers, door-in-door features, premium dispensers, specialty ice makers, translucent panels, and door tablets.
Cons: The bucket-style freezer can be hard to organize, and retrieving frozen items requires bending. Tall-item storage is sometimes limited. Models are relatively expensive.
The most consistent complaint about the French-door design concerns the bucket-style freezer. One Wirecutter reader writes: “At first it seemed appealing, but I think the lower ‘chest type’ freezer compartment is really hard to organize and keep clean. It seems we only use the top 6 inches and the rest is a deep freeze that we never dig into. Who knows what’s at the bottom?!”
However, some upscale French-door variants (like the Whirlpool WRX735SDHZ) have a fourth door, in the form of a second drawer, usually a small tray between the fridge and freezer. Owners tend to find this style easier to organize, judging from what we’ve seen in our reader-survey results and customer-review analysis. It’s often used as a “kid’s drawer” for parent-approved snacks at a tyke-friendly height, but you can use it for anything you’d usually stick in a fridge—produce, deli items, canned or bottled or boxed drinks, whatever. One owner commented in our reader survey that it’s easier for small people to open lighter, separate drawers than one large bucket drawer. Usually such models let you adjust the temperature independently of the fridge or freezer, so you can turn it down a tick to help preserve meats and cheeses or nudge it up a bit to keep produce more appetizing or drinks at a better serving temperature.
Although side-by-sides tend to create much less satisfaction than French-door models, some people genuinely prefer this layout. Arguably the best part is that they tend to cost much less than French-door fridges while offering similar capacities and feature sets. “A $2,000 side-by-side is an amazing fridge. A $2,000 French-door is not as nice,” said Richard Hughes of Appliance Factory.
Price range: At this writing, side-by-sides cost about $1,200 for a basic model with or without through-the door ice, up to $3,000 for well-equipped freestanding models from major brands, and up to $15,000 for built-in models from luxury brands.
Size range: For freestanding models, 36 inches is the most common width, and some 33-inch models are available, standard-depth and counter-depth. For built-ins, 36-, 42-, and 48-inch widths are available.
Pros: Side-by-sides offer eye-level access to both the fridge and the freezer, plus plenty of shelf space in the freezer. Big capacity and cool features are available at reasonable prices, and the half-width doors are convenient in tight kitchen layouts.
Cons: The wide-item storage is limited, and the design is less energy efficient than other styles. Owner satisfaction is mediocre overall.
While some French-door owners dislike their fridge’s bucket-style freezer, the numbers suggest that a higher rate of side-by-side owners really dislike their half-width freezers. One Wirecutter reader sums up the common sentiment: “I hate the side by side style. There’s no room for anything—a frozen pizza doesn’t even fit flat in the freezer!”
People buy top-freezer models mostly because they’re affordable and can be compact (which also means they tend to use less energy). The downside is that owners tend not to be all that happy to own them. These fridges do their job efficiently, but they aren’t that ergonomic and tend not to have any upscale features or designs.
Size range: You get roughly 8 to 22 cubic feet of storage (anything smaller is really a mini fridge). These come in widths of 22 inches to 33 inches, and similar depths (most are roughly square-shaped).
Pros: Top-freezer models are affordable, available in a wide range of sizes, and efficient. No bending required to reach frozen items. These fridges are also more reliable than other types, according to some sources, though we found that they might be more prone to minor, nuisance-type problems.
Cons: Owner satisfaction is low. Fresh foods sit below waist height for most people, and the full-width doors may be hard to open completely in some kitchens.
Bottom-freezer refrigerators are a bit of a hidden gem. They aren’t as popular in the US as other types, so we haven’t seen as much feedback about them. But from what we can tell, owners tend to be really happy with them. They offer some of the same practical advantages as basic French-door models, for significantly lower prices.
Price range: At this writing, bottom-freezer fridges run about $800 for the smallest, most basic models, $1,200 and up for larger capacities and better creature comforts, $1,200 and up for narrow but tall European-style models, and $2,000 to $15,000 (and beyond) for built-in models.
Size range: A30-inch width and standard depth is the most popular size in the US for affordable freestanding models, though they get as narrow as 22 inches and as wide as 33 inches. There are plenty of counter-depth models, as well, though these tend to be on the thinner side. Built-in models are 24 inches to 36 inches wide.
Pros: High owner satisfaction, especially relative to the price. All fresh foods stay near eye level for most people, and wide-item storage (pizza, deli trays) is easy.
Cons: The full-width doors on wider models may be hard to open completely in some kitchens. These fridges also have fewer premium features than other styles. Bucket-style freezers (on some models) can be hard to organize, and swing-open freezers (on other models) are very low to the ground. Retrieving frozen items requires bending.
If the home is a family's universe, the refrigerator is the sun. Everything revolves around it, from breakfasts to-go, healthy lunches, and dinners around the table. That's why getting a new refrigerator is kind of a big deal. There are tons of factors to consider — everything from configuration and dimensions to finishes and special features. Of course, there's no getting around the price: They're expensive. But if you want a top pick from a reliable brand that will stand steady in your family's orbit for years to come, you're in the right place.
The Good Housekeeping Institute's Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab evaluates all types of kitchen appliances yearly, from gas ranges to blenders to toaster ovens and beyond. We rate fridges on their ability to regulate the best temperatures for grocery list staples like lettuce, deli meat, and frozen foods. For every model, we score for uniformity of temperatures from shelf to shelf in the refrigerator and freezer compartments, as well as for temperature variations in single areas over time. We test fridges' ability to maintain moisture on both refrigerator shelves and in crisper drawers. In addition, we evaluate each refrigerator's ease of use, including the helpfulness of the manual, the type and ease of use of the controls and the comfort of grasping the door handles.
We score interior features including the type of shelves in the refrigerator cavity and on the doors, the ease with which the freezer drawer and baskets could be opened, the presence or absence of crispers with humidity controls and the presence or absence of a meat keeper or deli drawer with temperature controls. All notable features including Wi-Fi connectivity were considered but not rated.
Our top Lab pick is the GE Profile Series French-Door Refrigerator, complete with a Keurig K-Cup Brewing System. It scored highest on temperature maintenance and uniformity testing and wowed our Lab experts with its smart design features. It's also Wi-Fi enabled, so you can adjust settings, preheat water for coffee, and more with the downloadable app. Here's a list of the best refrigerators to buy, according to testing:
How to find the best refrigerator for you
When shopping for a new refrigerator online or in a store, these are the main things you want to consider. Once you make your pick, don't miss our Test Kitchen's ultimate guide to organizing your fridge.
✔️Configuration: The big players are side-by-sides, top-freezers, and bottom-freezers. Side-by-sides require less space for the doors to swing open, but you need to bend down to find food at the base of the fridge and freezer. Bottom-freezers (like French-door models) put the most-used compartment at eye level. Top-freezer fridges cost less but require you to bend to get into the fridge.
✔️Dimensions: Your fridge typically has to fit between counter space, so you'll need to match the width to the layout of your kitchen. Built-ins and cabinet-depth models sit flush with counters and cabinets but may be more costly.
✔️Finishes: Stainless steel is the most popular because it has a sleek-yet-neutral look, but some prefer a white or black fridge (or the recently popular black stainless steel and even carbon fiber). Built-ins typically offer exterior paneling that matches your kitchen cabinets. Many modern finishes are fingerprint-resistant. At the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show this year, we saw a lot of customizable patterns, too; a trend to look out for!
✔️Features: Consider the shelving and internal drawers to see if they work for your family's eating habits. If you like to store a few bottles of wine in the fridge, make sure there's ample height and/or adjustable shelving; if you order pizza frequently, you'll probably want a fridge that can fit the box inside. Some fridges also offer humidity controls on crisper drawers, meat or deli drawers, and other features for keeping foods at the ideal storage temp.
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Best Overall RefrigeratorSeries French-Door Refrigerator
The GE Profile Series French-Door Refrigerator with a Keurig K-Cup Brewing System got top marks for temperature maintenance and uniformity. It also wowed our Kitchen Appliance Lab experts with its smart design features: You get a top-of-the-line fridge, plus a built-in Keurig coffeemaker in the door. It's Wi-Fi enabled, so after you download the app you can adjust settings, preheat water for coffee, and get alerts if the door is open. It works with Amazon Echo, too.
• Dimensions: 36 x 36 x 70 inches
• Available finishes: slate, black slate, stainless steel, black stainless
- Energy Star certified
- Smart design features like a built-in coffeemaker
- Wi-Fi enabled
Best Value RefrigeratorWide French Door Refrigerator
For a solid fridge without a hefty price tag, this Maytag model is the one to beat. It has slide-out shelves and a built-in water and ice dispenser with filter. In our tests, fridge and freezer temps held steady and door shelves were cool enough to safely store dairy (which is a no-go on most fridges). Lettuce lasted five days in the crisper, but the controls were a little tricky to adjust so keep the manual handy.
• Dimensions: 36 x 70 x 35 inches
• Available finishes: fingerprint-resistant stainless steel, white, black
- Energy Star certified
- Door shelves cool enough to store dairy
- Steady fridge and freezer temps
- Controls a little tricky to adjust
Best Smudge-Proof RefrigeratorFrench Door Refrigerator
In addition to steady temps, Kenmore Elite's French door refrigerator is the king of compartments. It delivers tons of storage space, shelves you can adjust for tall items, and two trays plus a drawer in the freezer. Useful climate-controlled bins help extend the life of produce, meat, poultry, and fish (in the crisper drawer, lettuce stayed as crisp as the day it was purchased for a solid week). We especially love the smudge-proof black stainless steel exterior option — it'll resist fingerprints for days!
•Dimensions: 36 x 70 x 36 inches
• Available finishes: stainless steel, black stainless steel
- Energy Star certified
- Steady temps
- Lots of storage
Best Door-in-Door RefrigeratorInstaView Door-in-Door Refrigerator
You can depend on the LG InstaView Refrigerator to do an excellent job of keeping your food fresh, but what really distinguishes it is the unique door-in-door feature: The easy-access compartment lets you quickly grab a snack or beverage without having to open the full door. The InstaView technology lets you knock on the window of the see-through door to make the interior lights come on.
• Dimensions: 32 x 70 x 36 inches
• Available finishes: stainless steel
- Energy Star certified
- Easy access compartment
Best Counter-Depth RefrigeratorCafé French-Door Refrigerator
GE's latest line of refrigerators stands out thanks to its extra elegant (and customizable) design. Select a matte white or black exterior, then choose between brushed bronze, copper, black, or stainless steel handles.
This model's counter-depth, so it'll fit flush with your kitchen's cabinetry and you can match the bar handles to your cabinet pulls. The French-door Café model has an internal water dispenser and is Wi-Fi connected, too.
• Dimensions: 36 x 70 x 31 inches
• Available finishes: matte white, matte black
Best Double Freezer RefrigeratorPerfectCool Series Refrigerator
Miele's gleaming PerfectCool French door refrigerator elevates the look of your kitchen and adds resale value to your home. We love the double freezer drawers — no more digging through piles of frozen meat to find your ice cream — and soft-close doors.
• Dimensions: 36 x 80 x 24 inches
• Available Colors: Stainless Steel
Best Side-by-Side RefrigeratorSide-by-Side Refrigerator
Whirlpool's 36-inch side-by-side model has excellent temperature control and uniformity. Features include a built-in water filter, water dispenser, and ice maker in the door. Minus the door open alarm (which is supposed to make noise!) the digital controls are very quiet. Stock its four door bins and slide out shelves full of your favorite foods.
• Dimensions: 69 x 36 x 33 inches
• Available finishes: monochromatic stainless steel
Best Top Freezer RefrigeratorSeries Refrigerator
We liked that Frigidaire's no-frills top freezer model still comes with humidity-controlled crisper drawers and bright, adjustable shelves designed to prevent spills, and internal LED lighting. In our testing, this model had excellent temperature control and uniformity.
• Dimensions: 70 x 30 x 33 inches
• Available finishes: stainless steel
Best Bottom Freezer RefrigeratorBottom Freezer Refrigerator
Much like the other top models on this list, LG's bottom freezer fridge had excellent temperature control and uniformity, and the digital controls were easy to use during our testing. There is an ice maker, but no water dispenser. The shelves inside are designed to prevent spills, and there is a door open alarm.
• Dimensions: 69 x 33 x 33 inches
• Available finishes: stainless steel
Best Refrigerator for FamiliesFamily Hub Refrigerator
Think of Samsung's Family Hub Refrigerator as your family's kitchen command center. With Bixby, Samsung's smart voice assistant, you can ask your fridge to add groceries to a shopping list, order food on Grubhub, or play Pandora (on the built-in speakers).
In our tests, we were impressed with its ability to maintain super steady temperatures in the fridge and freezer, which is a must to keep foods fresh.
• Dimensions: 36 x 72 x 29 inches
• Available finishes: fingerprint-resistant stainless steel, fingerprint-resistant black stainless steel
Best Smart RefrigeratorInstaView ThinQ Refrigerator
LG's latest addition to the InstaView line hasn't hit the market yet, but since its CES unveiling, it is the model our experts are most excited to try out. This refrigerator comes with Amazon Alexa, a Bluetooth speaker and an HD transparent LCD touch-screen all built in, allowing you to give simple voice commands, such as "open the refrigerator door," create shopping lists, view the inside of your refrigerator, and more. There's also an app to connect with your fridge wherever you are.
Like the InstaView predecessor above, the updated model offers a Door-in-Door design with a quick-access panel in front of the main body of the refrigerator, viewable through a glass panel to help you find what you're looking for without having to completely open up the unit. This model, however, offers a window that's 23% larger than that of older models. It also features new interior panels for better temperature management as well as LG's Craft Ice system.
• Dimensions: 38 x 73 x 39 inches
• Available finishes: Black stainless steel
- Responds to voice commands
Betty Gold, Good Housekeeping InstituteSenior Editor & Product Analyst, Kitchen Appliances & Technology LabBetty Gold is the former Senior Editor & Product Analyst of the Kitchen Appliances Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute where she evaluated and wrote about every type of cooking tool and food-related item on the market.
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