The best freezer has

  • Useful features. The features owners appreciate most are an interior light, a power-on light, a locking door, and an alarm that goes off if the freezer becomes too warm inside.
  • Well-organized storage. Adjustable shelving in an upright freezer and hanging baskets in a chest freezer make the most use of space and make food more accessible.
  • Consistent temperature. The best freezers will hold the same temperature throughout all parts of the freezer, even if the temperature in the room varies.
  • Quiet operation. Manual-defrost freezers, which run the compressor less often, tend to be quieter than auto-defrost ones, but models vary within each category as well.
  • Easy defrosting. If you choose a manual-defrost model, look for one with a drainage hose, so you can empty water down the drain or out the door rather than soaking it up with towels.
  • Low energy use. Professional test results are a better guide to energy use than the yellow EnergyGuide labels, which tend to under-report power use by an average of 17 percent, according to the editors of ConsumerReports.org.
  • Reliable operation. A good freezer should get good reviews for durability, and it should also be able to keep food frozen for a full 24 hours during a power outage, so long as it stays closed.
  • Good customer service. If your freezer does break down, the experience will be much less frustrating if you can get it repaired or replaced quickly.

Know before you go

How will you use the freezer? If the freezer is meant to supplement a too-small freezer in your fridge, you may prefer an upright model, which makes the contents much easier to see and access. If your goal is to buy meat in bulk and store it throughout the year, a chest freezer gives you more storage space for its size and uses less energy. Also, consider which features will be most useful to you. A safety lock is handy if you have small children who might leave the freezer open. A quick-freeze feature, which can freeze large volumes of food quickly, can lock in the fresh flavor of garden produce, while a soft-freeze zone is nice for keeping ice cream at a scoopable consistency.

How much room do you need? Freezers come in four basic sizes: compact (around 5 cubic feet), small (6 to 9 cubic feet), midsize (10 to 18 cubic feet) and large (19 cubic feet or more). The larger the freezer, the more it costs to run, so don't buy more space than you can use. If you just want to store ice for parties, a mini freezer will give you plenty of room; if you want to store a whole side of beef, you'll need a midsize at least.

Where will the freezer go? Measure your space to see how large a freezer you can accommodate. Leave a few inches around the freezer for air circulation, as well as enough room to open the door. Also, check the path to and from the spot where you'll be moving the freezer and make sure that it can fit through doors and hallways. If you plan to keep your freezer in an unheated area such as a garage, check the freezer's specifications to make sure it can handle the range of temperatures to which it will be subjected. (In general, most freezers can handle temperatures between 32 degrees F and 110 degrees F.) By contrast, if you plan to store your freezer in or near living areas, consider a quieter model.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Will a freezer save you money? That depends on what model you choose and how you use it. A midsize chest, for example, will cost about $48 a year to run, so to pay for itself, it needs to shave at least $13 off your monthly grocery bill. You could achieve this kind of savings by freezing extra garden produce, storing meat during hunting season, buying meats and other groceries in bulk, or stocking up during sales. Another good strategy is to prepare big batches of food to freeze as a way to avoid less-healthy "convenience" foods.

Back to top