The Simple Refrigerator Buyer’s Guide for Homeowners

An open refrigerator

Are you having a hard time picking the right refrigerator for your home?

Welcome to the club! Choosing which appliance to spend a lot of money on can be a scary prospect, especially with so many options out there.

It’s estimated that around 215 million refrigerators are sold worldwide every year, which generates approximately $125B in market revenue. This means that there are hundreds of companies out there that want you to buy their product, so it’s hard to know which one is best for your home.

If that sounds familiar, don’t worry. You came to the right place for answers. With over 7 years of experience, I’ve seen my fair share of appliance-related issues, so I know how important it is to make the right choice.

After all, you don’t want to be stuck with a $600 bill to repair your refrigerator just a couple of months after making your purchase!

This is why I’ve prepared the guide below, where you’ll find all the information you’re looking for, as well as some useful tips and things to keep an eye on.

Read on to find a refrigerator you can rely on.

Refrigerator Types

Depending on how familiar you are with major household appliances, you might already know that there are six main different types of refrigerators. Each one has its own Pros and Cons, so it’s critical to consider them in order to make an informed decision.

Top Freezer

Top Freezers are the most common type of refrigerator out there, as it’s very convenient and effective at keeping your food fresh for longer. They’re typically among the cheapest variants and can fit almost anywhere.

A top-freezer refrigerator

This refrigerator type is ideal for smaller families that don’t need a lot of storage space or extra features, such as water dispensers or individual temperature controls for different sections of the appliance.

On average, you should expect to pay $500-900 for a unit like this.

Side by Side

Side-by-side models are a little less popular among homeowners due to their elevated price when compared to the top-freezer variants, but still, they’re not very rare either. They offer a lot of advantages, including increased storage space to freeze and refrigerate groceries.

A side-by-side refrigerator

This refrigerator might be the right one for you if you constantly find yourself running out of space to place your food or want a water dispenser you can rely on. Also, if an aesthetic look matters to you, it might not bother you to pay a couple of hundred extra dollars to put this model in your kitchen.

The price tag on these units tends to hover over the $1,400 mark.

French Door

French Door refrigerators appeal to several people due to the elegance of their design. They feature two separate doors for the refrigerator compartment and a single wide drawer for the freezing area. They’re typically not on the cheap side, so if you’re looking for an affordable option, this might not be it.

A French Door refrigerator

Typically, I would recommend a French Door model if you live with 4 or more people, or if you like buying and freezing several pounds of meat for later consumption.

A standard variant of this refrigerator type will cost about $2,200.


Undercounter refrigerators are not home favorites, but it’s not due to their price – in fact, these models tend to be quite “affordable”. The issue with these appliances is that they’re designed to take up as little space as possible, and as a result, do not offer a lot of storage space, which is typically necessary for larger families.

An undercounter refrigerator

If you’re using this as a secondary refrigerator or live alone, you’re likely in the clear. Thanks to their compact design, undercounter units can be seamlessly integrated into your kitchen’s cabinetry, offering an aesthetically pleasing look.

The price of this appliance can vary a lot depending on the model you want. Basic alternatives can go for about $500, whereas more complex and feature-packed variants will cost up to $2,000.

Bottom Freezer

Bottom Freezers are the French Door model’s younger siblings, as they feature the same basic layout and compartment positioning, but with a slight difference – there’s a single door for the refrigerator area, rather than two.

A bottom-freezer refrigerator

I recommend buying this unit if you live with 3–4 people and don’t need all the extra features in the world. Typically, bottom-freezer refrigerators offer that little additional space you might be missing with a top-freezer alternative.

These refrigerators are a little cheaper than their Side-by-Side counterparts, as the average cost of a unit like this is around $700-1400.

Quad Door

Quad Door models are rare, mostly because they tend to be the most expensive of this lot. There are many quad-door options out there that can cost twice as much as a French door unit!

A Quad Door refrigerator

These refrigerators come with many advantages, so if you can afford them and don’t mind having to look a little harder to find one, great! Quad Door models should feel right at home in households with 4 or more people who constantly need to refrigerate and freeze all sorts of foods at different temperatures.

On average, you should expect to pay anywhere between $3,000-4,000 for a refrigerator like this; however, the sky’s the limit, as there are other models that can go for much more than that.

Refrigerator Buying Considerations

To help you determine which model is best for you, think about which of these categories is most important as you read them. Then you can prioritize the fridge that offers the most in those you like.

#1 Price

Price is always one of the main decision drivers when it comes to buying a new appliance. These days, you can find entry-level top-freezer models for anywhere between $400-500. But if you want the best of the best, you could end up paying $1,500 or more.

The variant you choose will be dictated by your particular needs, so it’s a good idea to know what you want. For a home with 2 people, a basic top-freezer model will satisfy most storage, refrigeration, and freezing needs.

However, if your family is larger than that, you might need to buy a significantly larger model of the same type.

That being said, if you’re looking for a larger freezer compartment and love to have as many options as possible to clean your appliance and arrange it however you want, a quad door or French door model might interest you.

The only issue is that French door models go for about $1,500-3,000, whereas Quad door variants are typically priced in the range of $2,000-4,000, or more.

#2 Size

Size is rarely ever given enough importance when it comes to buying a new appliance. Not considering this prior to a purchase has put thousands of people in a tight spot over the years.

Depending on your kitchen’s layout, the designated space for your refrigerator might be very limited, or it might give you enough wiggle room to experiment. However, there are still other considerations you must keep in mind.

Moving refrigerator
No matter how nice a refrigerator looks, if it doesn’t fit in your kitchen with enough breathing room, look for another model

Even if the fridge you want fits into the area you want to put it in, it’s critical that you ensure there’s enough breathing room for the appliance to dissipate heat. Otherwise, the unit will have to work much harder to maintain its internal temperature, resulting in higher electricity bills every month, and overtaxed internal components.

Ideally, you want to have at least 3–4 inches between the edges of your refrigerator and the surrounding walls. So, if the designated area for the appliance is, say, 30 inches (0.76 m) wide, you should look for a refrigerator that is 26 inches (0.66 m) horizontally, and apply the same principle to the ceiling.

Measuring your living spaces beforehand is a good practice that can save you the trouble of buying the wrong unit and having to return it, or worse.

#3 Storage Capacity

Storage capacity tends to be overlooked by many people, as most buyers focus on money first, and everything else second. And while that’s understandable (especially in this economy), making sure that your appliance has enough space for all your groceries is key.

The design of the refrigerator type you choose will greatly determine this, as some of them are specifically aimed toward larger amounts of frozen foods.

Typically, there’s a strong correlation between the price tag on top-freezer models and their storage capacity. These units are known for offering very little space to place frozen goods without causing appliance issues.

Now, this might not be a problem if you’re not planning on freezing an entire supermarket. Smaller families and people living alone can get away with the reduced freezing and refrigerating area.

That being said, larger households might need a little more. Refrigerator types, like the French/Quad Door, tend to offer the largest storage spaces in the market. So, if you’re in the habit of buying lots of frozen foods, or cooking your meals for the week and storing them, you might want to check these out.

To put it into perspective, the average top-freezer refrigerator offers between 10-21 cubic ft. in the refrigeration compartment and about 4-5 cubic ft. in the freezer area, whereas French Door and Side-by-Side variants start at around 20-28 cubic ft.

To give you a clearer idea of which refrigerator type you need depending on the size of your family, here’s a small table you might find useful:

Number of Family MembersRecommended Refrigerator Capacity
1-2 People5-14 cubic ft.
3-4 People15-25 cubic ft.
5+ People+25 cubic ft.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all rule, taking the number of people you live with into account can make it a lot easier to purchase the right refrigerator

#4 Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is no simple matter, as there are many factors that can determine how much power your refrigerator draws.

The larger the storage capacity and the more features a refrigerator has, the more power it’s going to draw. This is mainly due to the Laws of Thermodynamics, as the larger an area is, the more energy that is needed to regulate and attain a certain temperature.

Different energy efficiency levels
Energy efficiency ratings should always be among your top priorities when looking to buy a new refrigerator

Top-freezer models are usually the variants that draw the least power, as both their refrigeration and freezing compartments are relatively small.

Also, given that they lack many additional features that other, more expensive models, such as Side-by-Side or French Door alternatives have, the energy drawn from the wall outlet is focused solely on cooling.

The average top-freezer refrigerator will consume between 300-600 kWh per year, whereas a French Door variant, for example, can go all the way up to anywhere between 500-900 kWh in that same period.

The average 2023 price per kWh in the U.S. is $0.1524, so you could be paying as little as $45 per year or as much as $137 based on your decision.

Note: It’s critical that you always buy appliances with an Energy Star rating, as they’re certified to be designed to use as little power as possible while meeting all the necessary requirements.

#5 Features

Features might not be as essential as price in many people’s minds, but since we’ve already taken that into account, let’s touch on what your money will be buying.

Top-freezer models are typically the least equipped, and as such, they’re priced considerably below their more sophisticated counterparts. With refrigerator types like these, you normally get a decent storage space, a single temperature control knob, and not much else.

On the other hand, when it comes to French/Quad Door and Side-by-Side units, you’re likely to encounter all sorts of bells and whistles, such as:

  • Independent zone temperature control: Many French/Quad Door and Side-by-Side units have different dials for separate sections of the refrigerator, which allows for greater control of the temperature in each one.
  • Water/ice dispensers: You’re probably very familiar with this feature, as it can be found on mid-high-end refrigerators out there. It might not be worth paying several extra hundred dollars for it, but if you can find an appliance that’s decently priced and includes this, all the better!
  • Independent section cleaning: People underestimate the importance of having full control over how they clean their refrigerators. Since French/Quad Door and Side-by-Side models have independent sections, you can clean a particular area of your unit without having to take out all the groceries in the appliance.
  • Wine cooling: This one’s restricted to high-end, luxury models. Certain refrigerators offer not only massive storage space but also a specialized section with detailed temperature controls to store your favorite bottles. I personally wouldn’t pay thousands of extra dollars for something like this, but hey – if you can afford it and love your vintage Merlot, go right ahead.

While many of these features are nice to have, they’re not particularly essential. When looking into buying a freezer, I’d look at decent pricing, energy efficiency, and storage capacity first, and at the features mentioned above second.

#6 Noise Level

Noise level might not be an issue for some people, but since the purpose of this guide is to help you buy the best refrigerator for you, getting a little nitpicky can’t hurt.

While there is no general rule that states that one refrigerator type is quieter than another, there are some factors that come into play that could determine your appliance’s noise levels.

Typically, the less complex a refrigeration unit is, the less noise it should produce. In theory, this would dictate that top-freezer models should be the quietest of them all. However, this isn’t always true.

A big part of what makes a refrigerator noisy or quiet is the quality of its compressor.

And while it’s impossible to make this component dead silent, the quality of its materials can make it quieter. This means that you could have a top-tier Quad door refrigerator be quieter than an average top-freezer unit, even when the former is more complex.

It’s always advised to buy appliances from reputable vendors that manufacture their products with high-quality materials under strict production standards.

#7 Ratings & Reviews

Ratings & Reviews are one of the most useful sources of information you can find online these days. Before the internet came along, we had to rely on word of mouth and the recommendations of a couple of people we knew. However, modern times have allowed for technology to help us make sure we’re making the right investment.

A 5-star review icon
Manufacturers are honest, but dissatisfied consumers are even more so. It’s always advised to read many ratings and reviews of a specific product before making a purchase.

Even reputable brands that have been on the market for decades can make mistakes now and then, which is why deep research always comes in handy before spending your hard-earned money on an appliance.

Buying from trusted brands is a must, yes. But if you want to make sure that the specific refrigerator you’re looking into buying is a good investment, try going to online marketplaces, such as Amazon, and reading what other people have to say about it.

I personally recommend reading 20 of the highest-rated reviews, 20 of the lowest, and also looking at the percentage of each one. Typically, if a product’s 5-star reviews are 80% or more, you’re likely making a great purchase.

Luxury Alternatives

Luxury alternatives are a tiny niche that most buyers won’t ever use. But still, I wanted to include this piece of information as a bonus, so you know what’s out there.

While you won’t see top-notch appliances like these in your average household, there are refrigerators that include wine-cooling sections, and massive storage capacities, as well as any other bells and whistles you can think of. Of course, these premium items are not cheap, as they can go for as much as $60,000!

Choosing Your Refrigerator

Now that you know all there is to know about the world of refrigerators and how each one can accommodate your needs, let’s get to the bottom of this discussion and answer the most important question of all.

What refrigerator is right for you?

Unfortunately, you’re the only person who can answer that accurately. However, using the information provided above can help you grasp each element better and ponder on what matters most in your particular situation.

To make this easier, I recommend assigning a number from 1-7 (1 being the least important and 7 the most relevant) to each of the elements mentioned above. This will help you determine whether you’re more inclined to buy your appliance due to the price tag on it, or based on the features it offers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Best Refrigerator Brand?

While the answer to this question is somewhat subjective, typically the best appliances will come from the most reputable manufacturers.

That being said, the 5 most popular refrigerator brands in America and their respective Market Share* are Frigidaire (17%), General Electric (17%), LG (12%), Whirlpool (12%), and Samsung (9%).

*The percentage of the American Refrigerator industry’s sales earned by a particular brand.

What Are the Best Settings for a Refrigerator?

There’s no one-size-fits-all setting, as the ideal configuration will greatly depend on several factors, such as the food you’re storing, the weather and humidity levels where you live, the model of your refrigerator, and the overall design of the unit.

To find useful recommendations and suggested settings for your particular appliance, please check your user manual or go to Google and search for “<Your Refrigerator’s Make And Model> User Manual” in case you no longer have it.

How Long Should I Expect My Refrigerator to Last?

Anywhere between 10–20 years. Refrigerators are one of the most durable appliances out there, which is why you must put a lot of thought into the model you’ll buy.

The 10-year gap between the lower and higher end of the expected lifespan of a refrigerator will be determined by things like proper use, timely maintenance, careful repairs, and other good practices.

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more