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Mini Fridge Buying Guide

By: Lisa Maloney on July 24, 2017

Choosing a Mini Fridge

Before you buy a compact refrigerator, keep in mind that they're not known for their freezing performance or energy efficiency. If having a solid freezing compartment is important to you, either purchase our Best Reviewed Frigidaire FFPS4533QM (Est. $330), which has a separately insulated freezer compartment with its own door, or consider purchasing a separate mini freezer, which will give you more space than the minuscule freezing compartment in most mini fridges. We cover those in our report on freezers.

Likewise, if energy efficiency is very important to you, consider investing in a larger refrigerator if you can put the extra space to work. Mini fridges use a lot of energy compared to larger refrigerators because the smaller size reduces the amount of insulation that can fit into the refrigerator's walls. Even Energy Star rated compact units are inefficient when compared to full-size refrigerators.

Here are some additional shopping tips:

  • Watch out for mini fridges that are labeled as "thermoelectric" or "superconductor" models. These are acceptable options if all you want the fridge to do is keep beverages cool, but they aren't capable of keeping perishable foods -- especially meat -- at consistently safe temperatures.
  • Check with your school before buying a mini fridge for a dorm room. Most colleges and universities permit students to have mini fridges in their rooms, but some have restrictions on size and energy consumption.
  • Buy the largest mini fridge you can afford that will fit. Not only do larger compact refrigerators hold more food, they almost always perform better and are more energy efficient than the smaller competition.
  • Glass shelves are better than wire racks. Solid shelves help contain spills, are easier to clean, and provide more stability for small items.
  • Choose a mini fridge with an interior configuration that suits your storage needs. Large door shelves work well for gallon jugs or 2-liter bottles, but they may be an inefficient use of space for storing small items like yogurt or soda cans. Adjustable shelves are useful for refrigerating big items.
  • Consider a two-door model if you plan to store frozen food. You'll sacrifice some space for the separate freezer, but at least your frozen pizzas and ice cubes will have a better chance at staying frozen.
  • Consider where you'll place the compact refrigerator. Some models can be installed into a "built-in" under counter space, but many offer standalone installation only. This means the fridge requires air space behind it and to the sides in order to ensure safe, efficient operation.
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