Fridge Review: Choices and Features

Posted by on Sep 13, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone, Product Information | 48 comments

french door fridge - bottom freezerOctober is when you  can get the absolute best deals on a new fridge (and other major appliances). This is the time new models are introduced – therefore current inventory will be discounted to make room for the new.  Great news for anyone needing to replace their fridge but they may find things a bit overwhelming once they hit the store. Fridges have changed a lot over the last number of years and there are now many more features and options available. As with all things, some features actually turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth, others add cost without providing any real value.

Of course, the very first thing to consider is will the fridge fit where you want to place it. Oddly enough this is often overlooked. To be sure you need to measure the space – width, depth and height – making sure you add 2 inches (about 5cm) to the depth and height to allow for proper air circulation.

Don’t rely on memory but start a notebook to keep track of all the information – such as the dimensions – and to list the questions you will have about the features and options you’re interested in.

Things to note:

  • Do you need extra room for the door to swing open?
  • What way do you want the door to open?
  • Can the door be reversed? If this needs to be done then it should be done before it’s delivered. 
  • How about bringing the fridge into the house?  Will it fit through the doors – exterior and interior? Does it needs to go down (or up) stairs, and if so, can this be done?
  • Is there an electrical outlet available?

The type and size of fridge will also depend on what you want it for – kitchen, garage, family room.

Next come the fridge choices:

  • fridgeFreezer on Top. This is the standard fridge that has been around for quite some time. This is a good reliable fridge which will have the best price. No extra features so fewer things to go wrong. The biggest disadvantage of this type of fridge – especially for seniors and disabled – is having to bend over to see what’s at the bottom and at the back of the fridge and in the crisper bins.  This could lead to food waste since items that aren’t in plain view could be forgotten.
  • Freezer on the Bottom. Personally I think this is the biggest improvement to have come along.
    • The fridge contents are at eye level, which means less bending over and easier to keep track of the contents, including leftovers, which in turn means less waste.
    • For the freezer part choose one that pulls out like a drawer and that easily lets you see all the contents.  There are some that open like the fridge door which will turn out to be a real hassle. You’re almost going to have to get down on your knees to see what’s inside.
    • Getting one with baskets will be a plus – they’ll help a lot with keeping food organized and easy to find.
  • Disadvantage. Some of these units tend to be a bit noisy so this is something to make note of and check before buying. 
  • Second Freezer Drawer. Some of these fridges come with a smaller freezer drawer, at counter height, which can hold those frozen goods used most often. I like this idea too – convenient and energy saver.
  • French Door – Bottom Freezer. This is the one I like best of all and when the time comes to replace my fridge I’ll be seriously considering one of these. By having the two fridge doors, you can use one side to keep those products used most often; and keep the other side for the less often used items. The pros of this type are:
    • Energy Savings – less air escapes when the door is opened.
    • Less Room Required – Doors are narrower so need less room to swing open.
  • Side by Side Doors. These look nice, but I can tell you from personal experience that they aren’t the most practical. The shelving in both the freezer side and the fridge side are narrow which really limits what can be stored. If you do decide on one of these, choose the largest unit you can afford, and that your kitchen can accommodate, to gain the widest shelves.
  • Counter Depth Fridge. Some of the new models are shallow so they sit flush with the counter and don’t stick out. The problem with these are that the fridge ends up with less storage space. The question here is  – does that matter? For a family probably yes, for a single person probably not so much.
  • Refrigerated Drawers. I really like this idea for convenience and  for saving energy. These drawers replace one (or more) of your kitchen cabinets drawers and hold things like cold drinks, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, basically all those often used products.

Other important considerations to make note of:

  • Lighting. All compartments should be well lit with the light placed in an easy to change location.
  • Thermostat Controls. Both the controls for the fridge and freezer should be clearly visible and not tucked away somewhere at the back. This is especially something to watch for in the freezer section.
  • Energy Star Label. Read the energy guide label and compare to other models or brands. This way you will get a clear idea of how much the annual operating costs will be and maybe you’ll decide to choose another, more energy efficient model.
  • Frost-free. This sounds like a given nowadays but that is not necessarily so. Double check to be sure.
  • Ice-Water Dispenser. Consider both the pros and cons:
    • Pros – Convenient, children can help themselves, ice always available.
    • Cons – Increases the purchase price, susceptible to breakdowns, needs a plumbing hookup which  adds to the expense.
    • Cons – If in a fridge/freezer with side by side doors it takes away more space from the already limited freezer compartment.
  • Visibility. You should be able to see everything in the fridge – there should be no hidden spots.
  • Strong Crisper Bins. These control  the humidity required for fruits and vegetables. Since these foods need different levels of humidity there should be two crisper bins – one for fruits and one for vegetables. The bins should have little vents in the front so you can control the humidity levels. Remove the bins to make sure they’re good and strong and don’t wobble. They should have a clear front so you can easily see what’s in them and they should be easy to remove and put back in place.
  • Adjustable Shelving. Choose glass shelves – they contain spills and are easy to clean. You should be able to adjust them to a position that best works for you. Don’t be afraid to try them out in different positions, after all, you’re the one that will be stuck with it if you find it’s not convenient once you get it home.
  • Removable Door Bins. This is also something you’re going to appreciate for several reasons. First, you can set them to hold those different size items – condiments, juice, etc.  Second, having them removable means you can just pull them out and throw them into the sink to wash. So easy.                                    Little side note: Even though this is a common practice, do NOT keep milk, cream, eggs, butter or other perishables in the door bins. That exposes them to hot air every-time the fridge is opened. They’ll keep much longer if placed on a shelf inside the fridge. 
  • Meat Keeper. Since meat is probably the most perishable food product in your fridge, the meat keeper bin is kept – or should be – in the coldest part of the fridge closest to the freezer section.
  • Freezer Shelving. This is a must if you don’t want to have everything all jumbled together. The shelving keeps things neat, organized and easy to reach.
  • Self-leveling Feet. This is something my fridge doesn’t have and boy, do I wish it did. Every time we pull it out to vacuum the coils at the back we have to keep moving it around and/or find shims to put under the feet to balance it. And that nicely leads to the next consideration:
  • Enclosed Back Coils. This is becoming more standard with new fridges and I like the idea. No more pulling the fridge out to clean – the coils remain dust-free since they’re enclosed. The fridge will also be more energy efficient, since being dust-free it doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Exterior Finish. This is definitely one to consider. Stainless steel  ones are nice but I imagine they would be a nightmare if you have children. There is a new faux stainless steel finish that resists prints so that may be something to check. The old white pebbled finish is still probably the best bet for a busy family. That’s the one that is easiest to clean and keep looking clean. Note re the stainless and faux stainless finishes. Each manufacturer’s finish differs from others so if you buy a certain brand fridge and a different brand stove they probably won’t match.

There are just two other items that may be nice to have but not really necessary. You can get fridges with pull out shelves but to me that doesn’t sound all that practical. It’s definitely going to need extra room for the door to swing wide open. The other optional feature is the quick cool compartment. This one makes more sense but mainly if you do a lot of freezing.

A fridge is a major investment so the better prepared and knowledgeable you are, the more satisfied you will be over the long-term. Consumer Reports has a great write-up of the Best Refrigerator Brands.  Before going to the store it would be well worth while to check them out. Head to the store only after you have decided on one or two brands/models, with notebook in hand, to get answers to all your questions. Don’t forget to also find out everything about the warranty (think twice about taking out an extended warranty – they tend to be quite pricey and are seldom used). Also find out about the delivery – cost, when and if they’ll take your old fridge away.

Well, there’s the rundown on what you can expect to find when shopping for a new fridge. I hope this list will help you find the perfect fridge, one that will serve you well for many years.

Talk to you again next week,


If you enjoyed this, others will too – please share.


  1. Well, I’m going to be the contrarian and state that I don’t like refrigerators with the freezer at the bottom. Often the drawer is hard to pull out and you have to dig around the back for the ice. My preference is the side-by-side refrigerator. I know the complaints about not enough space on either side. However, I store a lot in the freezer and it’s a lot easier to access the food plus you the get the added shelves on the door. And how often do you need to store a large turkey in the refrigerator side? Once a year.

  2. Hi Lenie

    What you have revealed in this post is a priceless information. The tips you mentioned are not considered when buying a fridge.

    I like the French door Bottom freezer. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Refrigerator noise is not always bad. I used to live in an apartment that was plagued by a lot of external noise (this was in New Orleans, which is a highly nocturnal city) and the hum of my refrigerator was actually somewhat helpful in blocking out that noise. Indeed, I even thought of making an 8-hour recording of my refrigerator and playing it all night: I would have slept like a baby if I could have done that.

    • Good morning Andy. From everything I’ve read about New Orleans – wonderful, exciting city – I can well believe it would be noisy at night and probably all night long. Using your refrigerator as a white noise machine was pretty clever. Too bad you didn’t make that recording, I’m sure you could have sold thousands – opportunity missed.(Don’t you hate those?) Have a terrific week.

  4. I never thought about half this of this information. When it’s time for me to purchase a fridge I will look at this post again. The apartment that I live in has appliances already so I haven’t had to make any decisions about fridges yet.

    • Hi Jason, things have changed a lot since I purchased my first fridge plus the prices have skyrocketed. So If you need to purchase a fridge it really does help to have a checklist. Hope you can use this one when the time comes.

  5. I already shared this post with my sister. Although their Jenn Air fridge is still going along, I don’t know how! It’s from 1990!

    Ours is about 11 years old and the thing I love about it is the freezer on the bottom. It has two drawers that both pull out, so is pretty easy to find stuff. Yes, we do lose the occasional bag of Rosemary. HA!

    It has an ice maker and I think the tray for it is way too large–taking up valuable freezer space. But other than that, it’s all good.

    A friend recently bought a very expensive fridge–freezer on bottom, double doors–all good, right? To get a glass of water, you open the fridge and the dispenser is inside, so you stand there with your glass slowly filling with the door open the whole time. What? My Dad would have a cow as all the cold air spilled out into the room!

    • Rose, that last paragraph is unbelievable – imagine keeping the fridge doors open to get a glass of water. Never heard of such a thing. I’ll bet she’s ticked. But it’s a good example of what I meant with this post. A fridge really is an investment that you’re going to have for a long time. To have something like an inside water dispenser that is going to annoy the heck out of you for that long is unthinkable.
      Your sisters’ Jenn Air sounds like something that should be hugged on a daily basis. No matter how much you pay for a fridge today, I doubt it will last 25 years.
      As for that Rosemary – freeze it in neon freezer bags – easier to find,,,,,Ha, right back.

      • Neon bags! What a great idea! I’m putting that on my grocery list.

        Different strokes–my friend thinks that inside water feature is great. Yuck!

        • Different strokes indeed – I’m with you and your dad.

  6. It’s a perfect evening to be talking about fridges since the weather has gone a little south and there is a nip in the air. Personally I like the freezer drawer on the bottom. Makes sense to me as cold air does not rise.

    • Tim, until I did this post I had no idea about the many options. I knew about the freezer on the botton of course, but the rest was interesting to find out. I went to two stores where they sell fridges and I had a great time checking everything out, decided what was good and what wasn’t. One thing, they sure make them beautiful anymore.

  7. What a wonderful post about buying a refrigerator. I like the research you did on this topic. Research like that is very important since a refrigerator is a big investment. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi William, you’re right about fridges being a big investment and you need to check things out. Rose Griffith just commented on a friend of hers having one of those expensive double door, freezer on the bottom and,,,,,,the water dispenser is inside the fridge so you need to have the door open while your glass is filling – how dumb is that?

  8. This is very important post for those who are thinking to buy fridge. We normally use fridge with freezer on top but now a days many different brands are in market as world is changing.
    Post is very informative and there are so many things I never thought of while buying fridge. Will keep them in mind next time.
    Its nice to know that mostly deals of appliances are in October. One of my friend is moving to Canada and have to set up whole home. I will share this post with her. I hope it will help her.
    Thank you for a great post.

    • Hey Andleeb – welcome back – hope you had a great summer vacation. Buying a fridge isn’t what it used to be – lot more choices, some of them so amazing. It was fun to check them out and to start dreaming about my next fridge – I know exactly which one I want now, but by the time I get ready to buy, who knows – there may be many other models out there.

  9. Lenie, I wish I had this post when I purchased my refrigerator! You’re absolutely right having the freezer on the bottom is more convenient. Now they even have double drawers! With the new styles they’re designing it’s looking more and more like a refrigerator is a piece of kitchen furniture.

    • Hi Pamela, Don’t you just love the new fridges. When I was out checking all the styles and features, I totally fell in love. They are so beautiful and practical, you can get exactly what you want. I really like the double door, double drawers, freezer on the bottom ones (of course, they’re the ones that are most expensive) but wow, like you said, its a piece of kitchen furniture.

  10. Great post, Lenie! Very thorough. Our fridge recently stopped working and we replaced it. I particulary like the freezer bottoms so we decided to get the french doors one with the water / ice dispenser. It was a great gift for me and my son who love cold water. So far, so good. It is larger than what we had before and am having issues filling it up. I didn’t realize how small my other fridge was. Now I have all this room and don’t know what to do with it. Hopefully, this one will last a really long time. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sabrina, I am green with envy – I so want a new fridge. My problem is that there is nothing wrong with my fridge so I’ll have to put up with it for awhile. Isn’t is wonderful how you can see everything inside. That was the one thing I really liked. My fridge – freezer on top – means that I do find things on the bottom shelf that have become impossible to identify. Scary huh?

  11. Whenever the time does come to get a new fridge, I’m going to definitely look into the ones with the freezer on the bottom rather than the top. I think it’s important too look for the most energy-efficient model as well.

    • Hi Jeri – I’m with you on the energy-efficiency. That’s why I like the double door, double drawer ones – so practical. In my fridge I have to have the door all the way open to get fruit from the crisper – think of the cold air escaping there. Oh well, I’m stuck for the time being.

  12. I had no idea there was a best time to buy a fridge. I think every time I have purchased one it was because the one I had broke down or because I was moving. As the owner of a fridge with side by side doors I agree with your comments about shelf size.

    • Ken, there is a a right time to buy anything – you just need to know when the new models come out – just like cars. I had one of those side-by-side fridges and I found it very frustrating, especially with a family.

  13. My biggest concern was would the fridge fit in the space we had built. They from there I went with different options. Never thought the size was going to be our number issue. My husband being an engineer always feels less is better as the more gadgets you have the more that can go wrong. I think you did a great job covering it all

    • Hi Arleen, I totally agree that it’s best to keep the options at a minimum because it just makes sense, the more features you have, the greater chance of something going wrong. The fridges now are, for the most part, so much bigger than what we’re used to that size is a major consideration.

  14. There are so many choices. And just when you buy one, the next newest and greatest comes out and you wish you had that one instead. Unlike iPhone these are a bit too big and expensive to buy a new one often. Your tips will hopefully help people to make the right decision as they go to purchase.

    • Hi Susan, fridges are a major investment – I don’t know about prices in the States but I know even a simple freezer on top fridge can run you around 700 to 1000 dollars canadian and the newer style fridges run anywhere from 2 to 3 thousand dollars. Paying out that much means you better know what you’re buying so I hope my post will help people know what to look for.

  15. Well I rent and my (wonderful!) landlord just gifted me with a new fridge last year, but these are wonderful tips Lenie. I’ve owned my own home in the past and every now and then I think I might go that direction again, but I must admit that it’s nice not having to worry about maintenance. 🙂

    • Marquita, how nice that you have a wonderful landlord, that’s not something you hear to often. Home ownership is lovely but one of our sons has a condo and not having to worry about maintenance is pretty appealing too.

  16. Lenie, this should be required reading for anyone thinking of buying a fridge! I love that you started out with the most obvious and overlooked factor: will it fit? Great post!

    • Thanks Meredith, maybe you can spread the word – maybe send it on to the Manufacturers LOL. Fridges now are so much bigger that it really is important to know where you’re going to place it and the space you would need. Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to find the perfect fridge, have it delivered, only to have to return it because it won’t fit? (Hopefully retailers are aware of this and would remind buyers to double check).

  17. I rent an apartment, but for some reason rentals in Loa Angeles don’t come with a fridge. So every time you move, you have to drag your fridge along. I made sure I could get it through the front door and that it would fit in the allotted space before moving in. What I didn’t account for is that it wouldn’t get through the kitchen door. My poor mover had to take my fridge completely apart and put it back together in the kitchen. Still we scraped some paint off the wall. I fear when I have to move it back out again someday. I guess that’s what happens when you live in a 1940s apartment in a modern world. Of course, my ice maker doesn’t work either, but I knew that when I bought it. It is just difficult to find a fridge without an ice maker. I actually use the ice maker bin to house my ice trays. Oh, well.

    Really great, comprehensive list of refrigerators.

    • Erica, I can well imagine that a fridge made for today wouldn’t fit into a 1940s apartment. Sounds like you had a great mover, they’re not all that accommodating. I love your creative use of the ice maker bin – genius.

  18. Thank you for these great tips. Measuring the space before buying a fridge freezer/ is important. Far too stressful to take a chance and get the measurements wrong.

    • Phoenicia, isn’t it true that so often the most obvious gets overlooked. I think it would be heartbreaking to have a fridge delivered only to find it won’t fit.

  19. I agree Lenie…freezer on the bottom is the best thing to come along in a very long time! Also agree that things have changed so much! Maybe because it is so many years before one has to purchase a new one, the changes seem so vast!

    • Hi Jacquie – I really like the thought they’ve put into the bottom freezer. The ones I saw had the shelf that slid back to clearly show what was underneath. Really clever. Fridges do last a long time – I still have the old freezer on top fridge and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I wouldn’t have known about all the new features if I hadn’t gone looking to write this post but once I saw them I WANTED THEM. Too bad, it won’t be happening.

  20. Fantastic information on fridges. I’ve had a bottom-drawer freezer for 20 years and love it. I’ve had a side by side model in the past and agree with your assessment about the shelves being too narrow. We were always pulling out stuff to get at something behind. However, I am seriously considering one as a second fridge for the basement, because it will give additional freezer space. We used to have an extra fridge and a full size freezer and are now down to just one fridge. For the most part, we can live with that, but it would be nice to have extra freezer space and extra fridge space when we entertain. October may be the month to go fridge shopping.

    • Hi Donna, for a second fridge I think a side-by-side would be perfect. They do look nice and since space isn’t a real factor, it makes sense. I am still hoping to get a bottom freezer some time but not as long as my fridge continues to work fine. What do you think about those refrigerated drawers? I would love to get a couple of those – they sound just so practical.

  21. Personally am not going to get a new fridge. However, I’m happy to say that in Europe we have had huge freezers at the bottom for a long time, which in my opinion is much better. Not least since the freezers are much bigger.

    • Catarina, those bottom freezers are such a great thing. I was out last week looking at fridges – getting info for this post – and absolutely loved them. The French door type was fantastic – the whole inside of the fridge part was so visible and the freezer had a top shelf that slid back and showed more space. Only problem, the price. About $2500.00 Cdn. Oh well, dreams are good.

  22. My fridge is 11 years old but still running strong, Knock on wood! I hope not to have to replace it soon but I know where to find guidelines when I do. Thanks, Lenie.

    • Beth, your fridge is about as old as mine and like you, as long as it keeps going, that’s what we’ll have. But I did really drool over the French door bottom freezer ones I was looking at.

  23. Thanks so much for this Lenie. I’ve put it on my calendar for 2016 ONLY because, our home improvement budget is done for this year. And unlike our USA government whose spending knows no limits, our personal bank and investment account does know ours.

    One of our biggest considerations is the space our fridge is in. When we built 15 years ago (yes our fridge is that old and about 5 years ago almost $500 into it so it’s getting close to needing a new one) they delivered one we really wanted but – the darn cabinet guys didn’t pay attention to our measurements. We were fortunate to have someone in the store where we bought it who quickly both recommended one they had in stock and delivered it within 36 hours!

    • Hi Pat, isn’t it funny that you had the right dimensions and the cabinet guy messed up. Having problems with it fitting in place is actually quite a common problem, something that surprised me. But I guess it’s often the most basic things that get overlooked.

  24. In the UK, we have the Christmas sales which is probably the best time to buy a fridge. But having said that, if you’re a bargain hunter, it’s possible to get a bargain at other times. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

    • Hi Bola, I’m always looking for bargains and I find that patience is often the key. One of the big factors in being able to get the best deal is knowing when the new inventory arrives and the old has to go.

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