With the economy remaining uncertain and food prices continuing to creep upward, a freezer full of food might be a good investment. Even if you don't want to freeze a side of beef, an extra freezer can be handy for families whose small, in-refrigerator freezer is packed to the max.
Upright freezers have a smaller footprint and are a great choice as a secondary freezer or to freeze those "extras" you'd like to pick up when the price is right. These tall, narrow units have a footprint similar to that of a small kitchen refrigerator and a door that opens from the front. Many users prefer upright freezers over chest models because it is easier to organize and access the contents. On the downside, upright freezers can't store as much food for their size; one professional review says shelves and bins can eat up as much as 20 percent of the usable space. Many upright models have an automatic defrost feature. Self-defrost models generally do better at maintaining a consistent temperature, but they aren't as energy efficient. Prices for upright freezers range from $400 to $1,000, with the best-rated models generally falling in the $600 to $700 range.
Chest freezers are shorter and wider than uprights, and they open from the top rather than the front. They are best for consumers who buy 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. They are not generally available in frost-free versions, so chest freezers have to be manually defrosted from time to time.
Chest freezers generally cost less than uprights; we found good reviews for several models priced between $200 and $400. They're less expensive to run, as well. Since cold air flows downward and the door opens from the top, less cold air is lost when the door is opened, making these models more energy efficient. Also, since they're 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. Chest freezers tend to run more quietly than upright models and come in a wider range of sizes, so you won't be stuck buying a larger freezer than you really need. However, there are some drawbacks to the chest design as well. Users find chest freezers more difficult to organize because it is hard to see what's inside, and the low height of these freezers forces users to bend down to reach them. Short users may also find it difficult to reach items in the bottom of the chest.
Freezers with 5 cubic feet of space or less are known as compact or mini freezers. They come in both upright and chest versions. Priced between $150 and $350, they're a good choice for people with small apartments or small families. Some owners use them as a supplement to a fridge freezer compartment that's too small or narrow, while others keep one for specific items, like bulk-purchased meats or ice for parties. Compact freezers tend to be less efficient than full-size models, and they don't generally come with as many features. Few of them are included in professional tests, but we found several models with good reviews from users.
Comparing freezer reviews can be confusing because identical models are often sold under different brand names. For example, many Kenmore freezers, which are sold exclusively at Sears, are manufactured by Frigidaire and are sold elsewhere under the Frigidaire name. We have made a point of noting which freezers in our report are also available under other names so that you can check out both versions to find the best price.
Our editors looked at reviews for dozens of upright and chest freezers, considering both professional test results and opinions from home users. We evaluated each freezer's features, performance and reliability to narrow it down to our top picks. One of them will help you chill with confidence.