Freezers can help you save money by stocking up on sale day
With the economy remaining uncertain and food prices continuing to creep upward, buying a stand-alone freezer to fill with food can be a good investment. Even if you don't want to freeze a whole side of beef, an extra freezer can be handy for families whose small, in-refrigerator freezer is packed to the max. Stand-alone freezers comes in two types: Upright freezers or chest freezers.
Upright freezers open from the front and have interior shelving much like what you'll find in a kitchen refrigerator. This is the type of freezer to get if you need frequent, quick access to whatever you're storing, because all that shelving and front-side access makes it easy to organize your frozen goods and see what you have stored away. On the downside, all those shelves and bins also eat up quite a bit of usable space; one professional reviewer says that an upright freezer can store as much as 20 percent less than a chest freezer of comparable size.
Many upright freezers have an automatic defrost feature. Self-defrost models generally do better at maintaining a constant temperature, but aren't as quiet or energy efficient as manual defrost freezers.
Chest freezers are shorter and wider than uprights, and open from the top -- like a large storage chest -- rather than the front. Most chest freezers have very little internal organization -- often a sliding basket or two is all you get -- so you can pack more into them than an upright freezer, but it can be harder to burrow in and find exactly what you want, and short users may find it difficult to reach items in the very bottom of the chest. Because of that, chest freezers are best for consumers who buy or hunt food in bulk and store it for long periods.
Chest freezers take up more floor space than upright models, so they're often kept in a basement or garage, or sometimes even on the porch. Most chest freezers are manual defrost only; plan to defrost them about twice a year, and make sure the model you choose has a drain to make the defrosting process easy.
Chest freezers generally cost a little less than upright models. They also run more quietly and tend to be more energy efficient, since cold air flows downward and the door opens from the top. That means less cold air is lost when the door opens.
Because chest freezers are better at retaining cold air, they can keep food frozen for longer during a power outage, and the food stored in them is less susceptible to freezer burn. However, if you expect to be getting in and out of the freezer frequently, you'll probably prefer an upright model for its superior accessibility.
Small freezers offer big convenience
Freezers with 5 cubic feet of space or less are known as compact or mini freezers; they come in both upright and chest versions. They're more affordable and are a good choice for people with small apartments, a small family or a limited budget. Some owners use them as a supplement to an in-fridge freezer compartment, while others keep a mini freezer for specific items like bulk-purchased meats or ice for parties. Small freezers tend to be less efficient than full-size models, and they don't generally come with as many features. A few mini freezers can also be converted into a mini fridge, offering you even more flexibility from one small appliance.
Whichever sort of freezer you end up purchasing, if you like to preserve fresh foods, having a good vacuum sealer helps cut down on food waste and better preserves the taste and texture of your frozen food. If you're looking for a different type of appliance to keep your food (or wine!) cold, take a look at our separate reports on refrigerators, mini fridges and wine coolers.
How we found the best freezers
There are a couple of good, expert sources for freezer reviews, namely, ConsumerReports.org and Reviewed.com. Both sites perform thorough testing and rate freezers both individually and against other tested models. To back up those experts' conclusions, we turn to user reviews, not only to evaluate how the freezers perform in real-world use, but also how they hold up over time. The results are our recommendations for the top stand-alone freezers for any space or budget.