Manual-defrost chest freezers perform almost as well in tests as self-defrosting upright freezers (and better than manual-defrost uprights), but they're not quite as convenient to use. Depending on how you organize your chest freezer, you may also wind up frequently bent over, digging through the contents to find particular items. Also, all the chest freezers covered in our sources are manual-defrost, which means that once or twice a year you'll need to remove all of your frozen goods and defrost the freezer by hand. Still, chest freezers offer benefits: they're more budget-friendly than uprights, they're very quiet and they're available in a wider range of sizes, so you won't be forced to buy something larger than what you need.
The GE FCM15PUWW (*Est. $550) , a 14.8-cubic-foot chest freezer, earns high marks from both professionals and users. This Energy Star-rated freezer includes basic features such as an interior light, a keyed lock, a drain for defrosting and a power-indicator light. It also has four baskets that can be lifted out or slid from side to side to help with organization. It is backed by a one-year warranty.
In professional tests, the GE FCM15PUWW gets high scores for temperature control and efficiency. Testers say it's a bit noisy for a chest freezer, but users at HomeDepot.com find it quiet, as well as spacious and efficient. The sliding baskets are a much-appreciated feature. We saw a few complaints that the freezer lid does not seal well and, possibly as a result, the freezer tends to frost up quickly. We also saw a couple of reports of mechanical problems, though not that many considering the volume of user reviews. Overall, 95 percent of all users say they would recommend this freezer.
Another midsize freezer that gets good ratings overall is the 14.8-cubic-foot Kenmore 16542 (*Est. $530) . This model is almost identical to the now-discontinued Kenmore 16552, which was a strong performer in professional tests. The Kenmore freezer is Energy Star-rated and has interior and power-on lights, a defrost drain and a keyed lock. It receives favorable comments from owners posting reviews to Sears.com, where it earns 4.5 out of 5 stars overall from nearly 60 reviewers. Users say the freezer is quiet, and they appreciate its organizational features, which include two lift-out baskets and removable spacers. The most common complaints we saw are similar to those for the GE freezer: the lid does not hold its seal well, and frost has a tendency to build up quickly. The Kenmore 16542 is covered by a one-year warranty.
For those with more modest freezing needs, we found some good recommendations for the 8.8-cubic-foot Kenmore 16922 (*Est. $340) . It includes the same basic features and one-year warranty as the Kenmore 16542, including the keyed lock. It isn't Energy Star-rated, though it does use less electricity because of its smaller size. It's also a bit quieter than its larger sibling. In one professional test, the Kenmore 16922 receives high marks for temperature control and efficiency, and owners posting reviews to Sears.com rate it very highly (4.5 out of 5 stars overall from roughly 100 reviewers). Owners like its smaller size, quietness and storage baskets, and they consider it a great value. A few owners find the plastic key flimsy, and some would like to see more organizational features.
At the other end of the size spectrum -- if you need a huge amount of freezer space -- the Kenmore Elite 16582 (*Est. $940) is one of the largest residential chest freezers available. This 24.9-cubic-foot freezer has three lift-out baskets and removable dividers that make it easy to organize frozen foods. Other features include an interior light, digital power and temperature display, temperature alarm, keyed lock and a fast-freeze option that allows you to quickly freeze fresh foods to maintain optimum taste and nutrition. This freezer is Energy Star-rated and comes with a one-year warranty.
The Kenmore Elite 16582 performs very well in professional tests, with top scores for quietness and efficiency and very good scores for temperature control. The expert reviewer at ConsumerGuide.com also gives this freezer a top rating, although this assessment appears to be based solely on its features and not on hands-on tests. We found only a dozen or so reviews for this freezer at Sears.com, but they are generally positive. Most users are pleased with the large storage space and the included organization tools. Reports of reliability are mixed. A couple of reviewers say their freezers only lasted a few years before the circuit boards failed, yet we also read one review from a user who says the freezer is still going strong after 15 years.