6 things to consider when buying a new refrigerator

6 things to consider when buying a new refrigerator
(Image credit: Electrolux)

Buying a new refrigerator is a task that comes with plenty of considerations, from questions of size to suitably squeezing in the right amount of features. There’s certainly a lot at stake with investing in a refrigerator, as it’s not the sort of appliance you want to be paying out for again any time soon. That’s why we’ll be running through all the points worth ticking off your checklist before you decide on your new fridge, so you have the best possible experience.

There’s a world of choice when it comes to refrigerators, even beginning with which type of model you want to go for. That’s why we’ve broken down exactly what’s so great about the best side-by-side refrigerators in this piece, as well as the highlights of their more expensive counterparts, the best French door refrigerators. Both are an excellent choice in order to up the organizational stakes of your home compared to a regular refrigerator, even if they are more of an investment.

Of course, budget is a central concern for everyone when it comes to buying a new refrigerator. Besides shopping around for the best price, it’s also worth checking out our selection of cheap refrigerator deals, where you might find the model you’re looking for on offer. But before you get to that stage, take some time to consider the following essential things on the road to your new refrigerator.

1. Which type of refrigerator do you need?

There are four-types of freezer available to today’s potential buyers, five if you count “smart fridge”, but that’s a category that can be applied to any of the other four which include; Top Freezer, Bottom Freezer, Side-by-Side, and French Door. Once you’ve decided which one is best for your kitchen and your domestic needs, you’ll be well on the way to a successful purchase.

Top Freezer:  With the upper third dedicated to freezer space and the lower third to the main chiller section, Top Freezer style refrigerators remain hugely popular due to being compact, affordable, and versatile.
Pros: Great for small budgets and small kitchens
Cons: Lack of flashy features and a smaller capacity

Bottom Freezer: Much the same as the Top Freezer but with the freezer space at the bottom. They tend to be a little larger, with a 50/50 space split between chilled and frozen, this means chilled foods and ingredients are easier to reach but you’ll need to bend down for ice cream or peas.
Pros: Increased freezer capacity and easier-to-reach chilled items
Cons: Less variety, harder to access the freezer

Side-by-Side: Split right down the middle with the freezer section on the left and fresh/chilled foods on the right, allowing the two to be stored at any height. Most models favor chilled foods and offer a few extra inches on that side. For more ideas, you can read our round-up of the best side-by-side refrigerators.
Pros: Flashy features in a relatively compact unit
Cons: Sometimes difficult to store wider items, limited compartments

French Doors: By far the roomiest option, French Door fridges have a double-door chiller up top and a full-width, drawer-style freezer on the bottom. You’ll usually find at least a few fancy features inside such as ice machines and drinks dispensers, and the fact that French Door refrigerators are by far the most popular style means there’s a huge variety to choose from too. If you don’t believe us, take a look at our round-up of the best French Door refrigerators.
Pros: Size, massive capacities with plenty of features
Cons: Size, be sure you can get it into your house

2. What size of refrigerator should you buy?

This question can be answered by considering the following; Standard vs Counter Depth, size of the kitchen and cubic capacity.

Standard vs. Counter Depth: Regardless of other dimensions, refrigerators come in two sizes; Standard and Counter Depth. Counter Depth means the fridge is as deep as your kitchen counter tops, so it will align flush with counters, work surfaces and cupboards. Counter Depth fridges look stylish and neat but offer reduced storage space.

Size of the kitchen/property: OK, so that full featured, French Door, Smart Fridge will fit in the kitchen. But are you sure it’s going to fit through the front door, the hallway and kitchen door? Be sure to measure all the openings your potential purchase will have to go through on the way to the kitchen before you buy. It’s also important to check that there’s room for enough ventilation space around the fridge to prevent overheating once installed, you’ll need ½ - 1-inch around the sides and 1 - 2-inches at the back. Finally, double check you have enough space to fully open the refrigerator’s doors once it’s in place, especially if your kitchen features an island.

Cubic Capacity: A quick google search on "what size fridge do I need?" will reveal that you should allow four to six cubic feet of storage space per adult in the household. Once you’ve completed this equation it should give you a good steer on which type of fridge you should go for, with smaller households opting for Top/Bottom Freezer styles and larger ones going for French Door. Do bear in mind how often you entertain or host family gatherings and allow some leeway for this too.

3. Choose features you’ll use

It can be tempting to get swept away in all the fun features that new refrigerators have to offer especially with models that are now smart integrated. To avoid paying a hefty price for things you probably don’t need though, it’s best to spend some time thinking about the features you’ll make the most of every single day. That includes little things, like how technical your ice and water dispensers will be, as well as the fundamental questions: like if you really need a mega-capacity fridge for just the two of you. 

Of course, if you’re a smart home enthusiast, then that’s not to say you shouldn’t splash out on things that really will come in handy to you, like the ability to get notifications to your phone when the fridge door has been left open. If you’re not as technologically inclined however, then think about spending the money on other features you might love, like a full-length pantry drawer. 

4. Pick the perfect finish

Stainless steel is riding high as the most popular finish for contemporary kitchen appliances at the time of writing, but if you want extra hip points then black stainless steel will certainly bag them. Parents beware though, as many stainless steel finishes aren’t magnetic which may hamper displaying the kids’ artwork and those souvenir fridge magnets. 

Many standard, budget fridges are white, which means they can go in almost any kitchen style or set-up, so keep that in mind too.

5. Should you get a Smart Fridge?

Smart fridges were big news at last year’s CES and major manufactures are giving these connected coolers a firm push with more and more becoming available from stores and online retailers since. The benefits of having a refrigerator that’s connected to the internet are as debatable as they are numerous, and only the individual will decide what’s truly a ‘essential feature”. Here’s a few of our favourites though;

Energy monitoring: Some of the smartest fridges can sync with smart grids (where they’re available) and adjust energy usage accordingly, scheduling higher use at times when rates are low.

Reducing food wastage: When fitted with a built-in camera that can be accessed from a smartphone, users can check the contents of their fridge while out shopping to avoid over-stocking and subsequent wastage. Some smart fridges allow you to tag the images of your food with virtual timers that indicate use-by dates, so you can keep track of what needs using up.

Temperature and humidity controls: Different foods require different temperatures to keep at their best. So if you like your beer ice-cold but don’t want to freeze your iceberg lettuce, you might be interested to hear that smart fridges allow you to alter the temperature in different compartments. Very often, users can do this on the fly from the smartphone app, ensuring everything is perfectly preserved.

Connectivity: This could be the most persuasive argument for buying into the smart fridge revolution. Most smart fridges already support a voice assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant, allowing you to ask them everything from tips for recipes to whether the water filter needs replacing. You’ll also be able to add them to a wider smart home network for controlling from phone or tablet.

(Image credit: LG)

6. Check your budget

As well as being the right size and specification, the perfect refrigerator for your home should also fit within your budget, so you’re not forking out for an appliance that you can’t afford. It’s best to set a maximum price before you start shopping, and be strict with yourself about going above it. You might even want to draw up a list of essential features next to a list of features that it would be nice to have, to help you keep your thoughts organized. 

As well as the initial cost price, it’s crucial to think about how much your refrigerator will cost you in the long run, so you don’t get any nasty surprises when your energy bill arrives. As you’re checking out various models with retailers, take some time to compare prices on their Energy Guides, as well as checking out which have an Energy Star certification. 

You should be able to get an idea of yearly running costs this way, and work out if a particular fridge would be better suited to you. Often more basic models can work out as far more cost efficient than their snazzy competitors, which is good news if you’re trying to find a model on a tighter budget.

Dave is an Editor at Future PLC, and currently runs the site PetsRadar. He is keen on pet and personal health, and has a long history working across a wide range of print magazines. Dave has covered a number of subject areas for Top Ten Reviews including sleep, mattresses, and other aspects of personal wellbeing.