Users with small families or limited living space often opt for small freezers, also known as compact or mini freezers, which range in size from just over 1 cubic foot to 5 cubic feet. Mini freezers can be either upright or chest-style models, although a chest freezer helps you make the best use of that limited space.
Of the small freezers we evaluated, the best performance came from the GE FCM5SHWW (Est. $199), a 5-cubic-foot chest freezer that's a little smaller than a household clothes dryer. This is a smaller version of the two GE models we discuss in the chest freezers section of this report. At a typical retail price of $200 or less (look for sales) and with lots of rave reviews for its quiet, dependable operation, this is an excellent combination of performance and value, and most users say it holds its own in terms of durability.
Owners say this model's size is perfect for really stocking up on sale goods or overflow from the in-refrigerator freezer, but it's not so large that you lose track of items or can't reach all the way down to the bottom; it comes with one lift-out sliding basket to help you organize smaller items. The temperature control and "power on" light are front and center where they're easy to see and use -- a good thing, because this model is so quiet that users say they really need the indicator light to be sure it's on.
The GE FCM5SHWW also has an up-front defrost drain for pouring out melted water. Because this is a manual defrost model, you can expect to need to defrost up to twice a year. The only substantial complaint we found about this model is that frost quickly starts to build up around the rear hinges on the lid. Some frost build-up is normal on a manual defrost model, and you can minimize this by keeping the freezer full and opening the lid infrequently. However, a few users did post that service decided they had a legitimate problem with the sealing gasket that caused extra frost build-up -- so contact service sooner rather than later if you notice some excessive frosting with this freezer. The manufacturer estimates yearly operating cost at about $26, or 218 kWh.
If you prefer a small freezer that opens to the front just like its larger upright cousins, consider the SPT UF-304W (Est. $300), which is also available in a stainless steel finish (Est. $370) . This petite Energy Star-rated model comes with a lock and key, a reversible-swing door, and three pull-out baskets that are large enough to hold large frozen pizzas. Users generally like the baskets, but say their mesh is large enough that small items may fall out.
Although it costs a little more than the other small freezers in this category, users say they like the accessibility and performance of the SPT UF-304W. It gets cold fast and stays cold, and is quiet enough to sit in your kitchen or other living space without being disruptive. We didn't find any complaints about durability, although some users say you should let the freezer sit upright for 24 hours before plugging it in. That seems to resolve the few complaints we saw about the freezer operating loudly or, in one case, heating up right after being plugged in. The SPT UF-304W has an estimated yearly operating cost of $28.80 or 240kWh.
If you can't make up your mind between purchasing a small refrigerator or a small freezer, you can get both in one appliance with the Edgestar Convertible Refrigerator/Freezer (Est. $180). This tiny, 1.1-cubic-foot upright converts between refrigerator or freezer modes with a twist of the temperature dial. The recessed-handle door can also be converted to open in either direction.
Users love this tiny fridge/freezer for its quiet operation and versatility; they put it to use anywhere that a full-size freezer (or fridge) would be overkill, and for niche uses from stocking an RV or home bar to freezing breastmilk and chilling meat by the barbecue. They're uniformly impressed with its ability to hit a deep-freeze of zero degrees, although a couple note that condensation will form when you use it in refrigerator mode. You'll also have to do any defrosting manually, which isn't a big deal since most people don't keep an appliance this small stocked for long periods. The built-in lock on this freezer is a particular hit, with reviewers saying they've used it to keep everyone from kids to roommates and nosy officemates out of the appliance's contents.
To give you a better idea of its size, this petite model measures 19.5 inches high by 18.5 inches wide on the outside; the interior storage space measures just 13.5 inches high by 14 inches wide and 13 inches deep. The Edgestar Convertible Refrigerator/Freezer is covered by a one-year warranty for parts and a 90-day labor warranty, and is best for sporadic or specialized use. If you need a freezer for continuous use, however, and can do without the refrigerator feature, you can spend the same amount to get our best-reviewed small freezer -- the GE FCM5SHWW -- which has about five times the internal storage space.