Your refrigerator is one of the hardest working appliances in your home. It keeps your family healthy and well-fed, and the results of it breaking down can be disastrous.
Choosing the best fridge means finding the “right” fridge for you—one that suits your home and your lifestyle. A fridge is one of the most important long-term appliance investments you will make, so it’s important to do your homework so you get the performance and features you want.
Whether you’re a large family who needs to prepare your meals in bulk or a couple who eat out a lot, your refrigerator can be as simple or advanced as you need it to be. From basic small refrigerators to smart refrigerators with internet connectivity, there’s a style to suit everyone.
Part of the challenge of selecting the right fridge is navigating the huge range that is available. Unfortunately, making the wrong decision can end up costing you a lot of time and money.
Let’s take a closer look at the important questions you should be asking when buying a new fridge, so you can feel the comfort and satisfaction that comes with making a great decision.
What is the Most Reliable Refrigerator?
First and foremost, not all refrigerators are equally reliable. Some great refrigerators may last you a decade or more. But if you make a poor choice, you may find yours dying far sooner than you would expect.
Refrigerator reliability depends on many individual factors. The manufacturer and its quality standards will play a large part in determining how long your refrigerator will last. Choosing a fridge from a reputable manufacturer that has excellent reviews and solid warranties and customer service is a wise choice.
The way you use a refrigerator will also play a part in how long your refrigerator lasts. So will your temperature settings, as overworking your fridge will shorten its lifespan.
What Sort of Warranty Does the Fridge Come With?
Reliability is always the most important factor in a wise decision, but even the top brand refrigerators can come with a few issues. That’s why the most reliable brands always offer good home warranty periods.
Most new refrigerators will come with a manufacturer’s warranty of one or two years. In that length of time, you may discover manufacturing faults. But a warranty of that length still doesn’t guarantee that your refrigerator will last for many years.
Warranties are necessary to ensure you get what you paid for. So, the longer the warranty period is, the more likely it will be to cover manufacturing errors.
An easy solution to this challenge is a home warranty. A home warranty is a renewable home service plan. With a home warranty, part of the cost of replacing parts or repairing damaged appliances is covered. That means that your new refrigerator has coverage for repairs or part replacements, even when its own warranty is over.
What Size Refrigerator do I Need?
The size and volume of your refrigerator will be one of its most important features in the long-term. You don’t want to end up with an over-stuffed refrigerator that makes organizing your food a nightmare. On the flip side, you don’t want to pay more than you need to for extra space.
Let’s look at how many people will be using the refrigerator. Here is a quick guide to choosing the right size fridge for you:
- If you are using it all on your own, you shouldn’t need more than 10 cubic feet of space.
- Two people or a couple typically won’t need much more than 13 cubic feet.
- If you have 3-4 people using the fridge, you’ll need to spend more for some extra space. For a group or a family of three or four, anywhere from 13 to 18 cubic feet should cover your needs.
- If more than four people will continuously use your refrigerator, you will need over 16 cubic feet of space. Refrigerators of this size will normally start around $1,000.
Consider How Often You Will Use Your Refrigerator
Second, your use of the refrigerator should count towards your decision. If you and your family or roommates eat at home the majority of the time, then the above guidelines should be considered. But if you seldom use a refrigerator, you can cut the requirements in half.
Which is the Safest Refrigerator?
Safety is always important, especially if there are children in your home. Good refrigerators are designed to avoid many of the safety issues that lower-quality refrigerators face.
Child Safe Refrigerators
Some refrigerators offer childproofing features for several of their important features. Water and ice dispensers may have childproofing settings to prevent injury or misuse.
If your refrigerator has a medicine compartment, child-friendly protections should be considered a necessity. Those compartments should be lockable and out of reach to small children.
Lastly, it can be very frustrating having your fridge’s contents destroyed because a child was playing with the temperature settings. Temperature controls should come with a child lock to avoid this potentially expensive problem.
A lack of cleanliness can also create health problems. A refrigerator should have simple, smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. Awkward corners and angles will make it more difficult to clean your refrigerator. Likewise, some sections, such as crispers, may be hard to remove and put back. For easier cleaning, you should consider refrigerators that come with removable and replaceable containers/drawers.
While it’s not the most important safety issue, a loud refrigerator can be a nuisance. Most refrigerators will only produce around 35 decibels of noise while running. But other factors can lead to more noise:
- Compressor start-up process
- Electrical fans
- Mechanical issues
Compare reviews of different refrigerators before making a purchase. A normal, 35-decibel-producing refrigerator will normally not be louder than a whispered conversation. But some louder refrigerators can cause health issues associated with noise pollution.
What Color Refrigerator Should I Buy?
There are many refrigerator finishes for you to choose from. They will affect how the look of your refrigerator blends with the rest of your home, and how easy it is to clean.
Classic White Refrigerators
White refrigerators are typically cheaper and easier to clean than other options. That means you can save some money while also spending less time removing fingerprint smudges from them.
If you like the classic appearance of the classic white finish, the good news is that there are many affordable options available to you.
Stainless Steel Refrigerators
Stainless steel refrigerators offer a sleek, modern appearance. Most of them are completely flat in the front, whereas other options are usually curved. They are also often non-magnetic, but many of them can have magnets.
There are a number of different levels of quality with stainless steel refrigerators. Lower-end refrigerators are prone to fingerprints and smudges. That means you’ll have to do a lot of wiping to keep the sleek look they are designed for.
Some higher-end stainless steel refrigerators come with fingerprint-resistant finishes. You can shop for these “matte” refrigerators so you don’t need to do as much to maintain your stainless steel refrigerator’s appearance.
Black or other dark-finish refrigerators are alternatives to the classic white finish. They can also serve as an alternative to stainless steel finishes in some kitchens.
A black finish will give your refrigerator a sleek, cool look, but be aware that they can seem a bit imposing in some kitchens. They are best used if your kitchen’s color scheme is on the darker side.
Glass Door Refrigerators
Glass finishes are a more modern option. Some beer and wine fridges come with clear glass doors so you can see the entire contents. Glass kitchen fridges often have a window into the refrigerator’s interior. Fingerprint smudging isn’t a big problem with most glass finishes.
Of course, you can’t attach magnets to them, but if you pick the right glass finish, you won’t want to cover any of its beautiful surfaces with magnets anyway.
What Features Does Your Refrigerator Come With?
Today, there are seemingly endless add-ons for refrigerators that are designed to make your life easier. Not all of these will be important to you, but these are some of the most popular features to consider.
Access to good shelves inside the refrigerator and on the doors will make your life easier. Well-made shelves are easy to clean. They also make it easy to store snacks, beverages, and other items you want easier access to.
Dairy & Meat Compartments
Adequate separation of food groups is essential. So, you’ll want to check for meat and dairy compartments that are sizable and well-sealed.
A meat compartment, or ‘chiller’, is where you store all meat, poultry, and fish that is fresh or cooked. The chiller should be close to 0 degrees and come with a separate temperature controller.
Dairy compartments are warmer than chillers, but should still be cool. You should have enough space to store all your butter and hard cheeses.
Water dispensers are convenient tools that filter water and dispense it from either the inside or outside of a refrigerator door. They save you time and energy, but they might come at a high cost. Some dispensers have to be connected to a tap. That means another tap must be available and another installation task must be completed.
Water dispensers come with filters that must be periodically replaced. That’s another maintenance task and expense to take care of. But a good water dispenser will make up for that with incredible daily convenience. This is especially true when they’re coupled with an ice machine.
Water and ice dispensers come with most medium to high-end refrigerators. They make it much more convenient to get ice than by just storing water in your freezer. But they can also break down or malfunction if your filter is clogged or your valve or water line has a problem.
Good crispers are great for your budget and the environment. They save you from needing to put vegetables in plastic bags.
The keys to a good crisper are:
- Being well-sealed
- Easy removal
- Good design that makes them easy to clean
- Having enough space to store all the fruits and vegetables you need
If you go through a lot of fruits and vegetables, you should consider getting a refrigerator with more than one crisper.
What are the Ongoing Costs of a Refrigerator?
Purchasing your refrigerator will be by far your largest single cost, but you don’t stop paying for your fridge after purchase.
Energy efficiency is a factor to consider if you’re concerned about your electricity bill and/or the environment.
In some cases, a refrigerator will add up to 13% of your electricity bill. Regardless of which one you buy, refrigerators are significant machines that use a lot of energy to keep your food stored safely, but some brands are better than others.
Overall, larger refrigerators use more energy than their smaller counterparts. But even among refrigerators of roughly the same size, manufacturing design will play a large role in how much energy yours will eat up.
Your choice in brand and refrigerator size is particularly important. If you’re going to store more temperature-sensitive items at low temperatures throughout the hottest months of the year, take the time to investigate the energy efficiency of all the brands you’re considering.
Energy Star certifies and rates the energy efficiency of refrigerators in the US. The refrigerators that are certified by them will save you in energy costs and are more environmentally friendly.
What are Refrigerator Maintenance Costs?
There are many ways in which your fridge can break down and require repairs, from the compressor to a refrigerant leak or a damaged door seal. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of repairing a refrigerator is $200-$330, however, it can be as much as $1,000.
Some refrigerators are cheap but don’t last as long. If your refrigerator has maintenance issues or breaks down shortly after the warranty period, you will still end up paying more. If your fridge completely breaks down, you will have to buy a new one which is a huge out-of-pocket cost.
Maintenance issues are unpredictable but inevitable. You can protect yourself from unforeseen maintenance issues with a home warranty. We offer home warranty plans that cover major parts of your home’s systems and appliances. The good news is you can get a warranty regardless of your appliances’ ages and maintenance records without needing a home inspection.
There isn’t one perfect refrigerator for everyone. The refrigerator that is best for you will depend on your living situation and refrigerator needs.
When you’re considering which refrigerator you want to buy, you should look at the factors we’ve covered here. Reliability is key to the long-term performance of your fridge, but your diet and lifestyle should also be front of mind when you’re shopping around.
One thing everyone can agree on is that a fridge full of spoiled food is a costly disaster and a major inconvenience. To avoid the costs and hassle of repairing or replacing your fridge, a home warranty plan that covers appliances can give you complete peace of mind.
With some careful research and consideration, your fridge should be a much-loved and much-used part of the family for many years to come.