If you or you child has just moved into a college dormitory, or are getting ready to, chances are you've thought about getting a mini fridge to keep snacks and drinks handy. First, check your school's housing policy to make sure you're allowed to keep a mini fridge in your room, and if so, whether the school imposes any restrictions on what kind or size you can have.
Got the all clear? Don't hit the store without a little background information--not all mini fridges are the same and some aren't meant for food at all. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help narrow down your choices. Once you've zoned in on what type of mini fridge you're looking for, read our report for the best models.
1. What space limitations do you have?
Measure the area where you plan to keep the mini fridge and look for a model with about those dimensions. Space is limited in a dorm room and you don't want to waste any. Think about sharing a mini fridge with your roommate so that you can get a bigger model. Plus, larger mini fridges are likely to be more energy efficient and have more flexible storage options.
2. Do you want or need a freezer?
The freezers in most mini fridges are tiny and don't work very well; at most you can make a tray or two of ice. A mini fridge without a freezer has more space for non-frozen items. If you need a freezer large enough to fit frozen food, a two-door mini fridge is your best bet. These are counter-height models with separate freezer and refrigerator compartments.
3. What kinds of things do you want to refrigerate?
Check to make sure that any mini fridge you're considering will hold the things you're most likely to want to put in it. For example, if you want to keep a two-liter bottle of soda cool, many mini fridges have door racks arranged so that there's room for tall bottles.
If you want to be able to store perishables, make sure the mini fridge can keep them cool enough--40 degrees Fahrenheit or below as recommended by the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Cube mini fridges don't generally cool as well as larger models, especially if they use thermoelectric cooling which is meant only for chilling drinks.
4. How much do you want to spend?
You can expect to spend from about $100 to over $200 for a mini fridge, the larger the fridge the more it will cost according to ConsumerReports.org. Thermoelectric cube fridges are the cheapest but they have temperature limitations (see above). The most expensive type is a counter-height model with two doors; there are several single door models with prices somewhere in the middle of the range.