The best refrigerator has
- A convenient layout. A
refrigerator should have the ability to store wide and/or tall items with no
hard-to-reach or hidden spots.
- Useful features. The extras
that buyers appreciate most include ice and water dispensers, adjustable
shelves and humidity-controlled vegetable crispers.
- A well-lit interior. Most models have at least one light inside the
refrigerator compartment; some have additional lights in the freezer or
- Good temperature control. Any
refrigerator will keep food cool if it works properly, but side-by-side
and French-door models generally regulate temperature a little better than
- Durable construction. The doors
should be well-balanced and feel sturdy. The shelving units or bins should
not feel flimsy.
- High energy efficiency. With
updated, more stringent standards, Energy Star compliance guarantees the
least energy usage. Keep in mind that some older models might lack Energy
Star certification, but testing shows them to be very efficient as well.
Our highest rated top freezer in this report falls into that category.
- Straightforward controls. Controls
should be easy to reach (up front rather than on the back inside wall,
where you may have to empty a shelf to adjust them) and intuitive to use.
- Easy-to-clean surfaces. Solid glass
shelves, rather than wire ones, help keep spills contained; new finishes
such as "platinum" offer the look of stainless steel with less
vulnerability to smudging.
- Stylish looks. Some fridges
now come in a range of colors, from basic white to sleek stainless. Where
choices are offered, stainless can add $100 or more to the price of what's
otherwise an identical refrigerator
Know before you go
your space carefully. Shop with a tape measure and check height, width, depth, and door-swing
clearance. Check the direction of the door swing, too, and make sure the
refrigerator you choose opens in the direction that works best for your space (or
has a reversible door). Don't forget to measure the path to and from your kitchen
to make sure your chosen fridge can make it through the doorway.
assume that bigger is better. While larger refrigerators can store more food, they typically cost
more and use more energy to run. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy advises that refrigerators under 25 cubic feet in size will meet the needs of
about how you will use the refrigerator. For many people,
a bottom-freezer arrangement is most convenient, because the fresh food section
is on top, where it can be reached without bending. The freezer section is
harder to reach, however, so if you use the freezer at least as much as the
fridge, a top-freezer arrangement could work better. Side-by-side fridges often work best for
families with small children, as they can reach both the refrigerator and
freezer compartments without standing on a chair.
your noise tolerance. One of the most common
complaints about refrigerators is that they make too much noise. If your
kitchen is located near sleeping areas, or if you're especially sensitive to
loud noises, then a quiet fridge may be a top priority for you. On the other
hand, if you're looking for a second fridge that will be kept out in a garage
or somewhere else away from main living areas, noise may not matter as much.
Weigh extra features carefully. A through-the-door ice and water dispenser is the feature buyers
request most, but refrigerators with them are much more likely to require
repairs. Dispensers also boost energy use and steal space from the interior.
Value expectations: The dollars and cents
cost of a fridge includes not just the price you pay upfront, but also the cost
of the energy it uses. To compare the energy costs of different models, check
their yellow EnergyGuide label. Don't go by the Energy Star certification
alone; Energy Star standards vary depending on the type and size of the
refrigerator. Thus, a large side-by-side model with an Energy Star rating might
actually use more energy than a smaller top-freezer fridge without one. The
EnergyGuide label, by contrast, estimates energy usage in both kilowatt-hours
per year and dollars per year.
Buying tactics and strategies
hesitate to haggle. According to a ConsumerReports.org
survey, consumers who dicker over the price when buying a new appliance
save an average of $95. Knowing the market price can help your negotiating
position. However, it also pays to be polite; salespeople respond better
to courtesy than to aggressiveness.
the extended warranty. The experts at
ConsumerReports.org say that most shoppers report being invited -- or even
urged -- to purchase an extended warranty for a new appliance. However,
the editors say it's almost never worth the money, as products are
unlikely to break during the extended warranty period.
online first. Most appliances are sold in
retail stores rather than online. Shopping in a showroom allows you to
check size, features and finishes close-up. However, even if you buy in a
store, you can check the price online first (be sure to check multiple
sites) and invite the retailer to match it if it is lower.
Elsewhere in This Report:
Best Reviewed Refrigerators,