Refrigerator Buying Guide 2020


Find the Best Refrigerator for Your Needs

When considering refrigerators presently, options go far beyond simply having a glass of cold water without having to open the door. With custom panels, you can find a built-in that exactly matches your kitchen cabinets. And forget four doors some newer designs have five or even more. You may also pull out a refrigerated drawer to get it made up of icy beverages. Our guide will help you to choose the right type for your family, also might help you to find the perfect models—so you, and your groceries, can chill out.

How We Test Refrigerators

buying a refrigerator

Inside our labs, each refrigerator we check gets wired up with temperature sensors. Then we check them for more than a month in the temperature regulated chamber to examine temperature uniformity & thermostat control.

CR’s test engineers collect above 5.4 million temp readings for every single model to identify cold & warm areas and find out which refrigerators can keep your food fresh longest. The final results reveal that many refrigerators simply do not perform well in their primary tasks, and that could mean an extra waste of food and higher grocery bills.

To evaluate the freezer chambers of refrigerators, the specialists fill the appliances with boxes & boxes of frozen spinach, then analyze how well they keep the packages frozen.

Moreover, we calculate usable storage ability, which very rarely matches what manufacturers declare. Our specialists then start using these measurements to calculate energy-efficiency, which factors into a model’s general rating.

Pick A Style

There are refrigerator settings to match all households. French door models are expanding in popularity. Some consumers choose the convenience of bottom freezers, which placed fresh foods at eye level, but top freezers and side by side could make more beneficial use of space inside a smaller kitchen. This is what you should know to make the best choice.

Top Freezer

A standard refrigerator, that is perfect for lots of storage in a fairly tight spot. These generally offer the most space for their size (widths vary between 28 and 33 inches). Manufacturers claim approximately 23 cubic foot capacities, but our tests found average usable capacity is 17 % less. Allow for a vast swing movement of the doors, and get used to crouching down to achieve lower drawers & shelves.

Bottom Freezer

They range from 24 to 36 ins wide and claimed capacities process 30 cubic ft, however, average usable interior space is less than that of comparable top freezers (and top freezers are less expensive too). Instead of the freezer, which you simply useless, being at eye level, your refrigerator shelves are usually searchable. Simply get used to turning to rifle through frozen items.

French Door

They have two small doors on the top, as well as a freezer below. Typically there’s a single compartment (or more) in the middle. Widths range between 28 to 36 ins. Claimed capabilities climb up to 34 cubic feet, although average usable space is much less around 17 cubic feet. The space-saving small swing doors contain the added value of opening only half the fridge when stashing smaller items.

Refrigerator Buying
Top Freezer
Refrigerator Buying
Bottom Freezer
French Door
French Door


By using the fridge on one side & freezer on the other side, these normally have through the door ice & water dispensers. Having widths generally 33 to 36 ins, they claim approximately up to 28 cubic feet capacity (but only about 70 % is usable). Narrow doors are a plus for tiny kitchen areas but do not open wide enough for, say, a pizza box, as well as tall, small chambers make products stuck at the back difficult to find. General, they are not as energy or space-efficient as other styles.


Pricey and made to fit almost flush with counters & cabinets, these sleek beauties are available bottom part deep freeze, side by side, and French door models. These are generally wide (30 to 48 ins), with up to 27 cubic feet total capacity (which just about 70 % is usable). Check out optional front panels to fit your kitchen cabinets. Or have the search for a small less with freestanding counter depth versions. Another built-in option: A column fridge, as narrow as 18 ins, to help make the majority of a kitchen space.

Compactor Mini

Compact or Mini

Ideal for a kitchenette, a dorm room, or your office. Do not forget that some designs have a single quarter the capacity of a normal fridge, but the price just as much to operate. Temp functionality can be questionable in certain models (allowing it to rise above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which your food begins to develop harmful bacteria), so save these minis for soft drinks along with other beverages or for short-term storage of snack food items (instead of mayo, milk, or other perishables). Consumer Reports doesn’t presently examine compact and mini-fridges.

Consider Size

Most refrigerator configurations are available in a range of sizes & capacities. Always figure out the place where you decide to place the refrigerator before you shop. And check out that it may fit through doorways. Make room for the refrigerator’s doors to swing open, along with a 1-inch clearance around sides and back for adequate airflow.

As for total capacity, most providers suggest 19 to 22 cubic feet for the family member of four. But if you do a big weekly grocery shopping or buy in large quantities, you will need more up to 30 to 33 cubic feet.

Note: Our tests found that the amount of usable storage capacity was often less than the amount claimed.

Decode the EnergyGuide Label

Energy-efficiency has turned into a big selling point for clients. Brand-new refrigerators are a lot more effective than they were about ten years ago, but here is a look behind the label to assist you to proceed as green as possible.

The EPA Energy Star rating is an excellent place to begin when you go shopping; it means that a product is around or in the top 25% of the market, but efficiency differs through model (i.e. an unlabeled top-freezer might be more effective than an Energy Star approved French door model). Additionally, we test for energy consumption, which can add up to a $50-60 difference a year, more than $500 over the life of the unit.

For an apples to apples comparing of which models are most effective, check out the EnergyGuide labels of the refrigerators you are thinking about, and compare the yearly operating costs and also the kw hrs used each year.

We give all the refrigerators we test a general rating for energy-efficiency and list their approximated yearly energy cost. You can check our refrigerator ratings for details.


Five Features You’ll Want

Refrigerators after all price points are progressively tricked out with options to help make your life easier and even more organized. French door designs are usually the most loaded. Know if you can not live without flexible shelving or an indoor coffeemaker, you will have to pay a very high price. The characteristics below are the ones we believe will make you happiest.


Through-the-Door Ice and Water Dispenser

This is one of the characteristics most requested by customers. Caveat: We saw that products with these advantages also need the most repairs. Electricity costs are higher, too, and you also trade ice water regarding the storage area.

Refrigerator Buying Guide

Door-in-Door Storage Access

Without opening the actual door, you can get frequently used beverages & condiments. That will save on electricity expenses at the end.


Freshness Features

Dual evaporators maintain larger humidity levels in the refrigerated areas &  reduce freezer odors through migrating there. Air cleaners remove mold spores & bacteria, while vacuum sealed crisper compartments claim to maintain food fresher longer.


Temperature Controls

You select how cold your fridge is in certain areas. As an example, set a compartment to become cooler than the other countries in the fridge to better store fish, meat, and cold cuts.


Better Shelves and Drawers

You can rearrange separate racks to different levels separately, and adjust doors to install bigger items. However, if your door has deep storage-bins meant for butter,  eggs, or milk, remember that these products are better off on inner shelves where cooler temps keep them fresher longer. Elevator shelves crank up & down, without having to be unloaded. Shelf snugglers affix to racks to protect jars & bottles. Pull Out racks or bins make access to kept products easier.

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