Refrigerator Buying Guide: how to buy a refrigerator that fits your needs
From built-in to freestanding, and French-door to side-by-side, we’ll help you find the best refrigerator for your home and lifestyle.
Refrigerator technology changes rapidly, and since refrigerators aren’t a common purchase, chances are there are more refrigerator options than the last time you looked. From size and style to smart features and the appliance finish, the options can overwhelm you. Keep your cool while shopping for a new refrigerator by consulting our handy refrigerator buying guide.
How To Measure a Refrigerator
First thing’s first – will it fit? Take the following measurements (in inches) and bring them with you to the appliance store.
- Height from floor to refrigerator cabinet (with hinges)
- Height from floor to refrigerator cabinet (without hinges)
- Depth with doors (not including the handles)
Opening for new refrigerator
- Height of the space from the floor to the cabinet above on left side, right side and in center
- Width of the space from cabinet to cabinet (including trim)
- Counter depth on each side of refrigerator
- Depth of upper cabinets
- Depth at bottom of cabinets (including trim)
Path into your home
- Width and height of exterior doorway
- Width and height of interior doorways through which the refrigerator will have to pass
- Width of stairways
Download a visual refrigerator measuring guide. If you don’t want to take the measurements yourself, Warners’ Stellian offers an in-home premeasuring service for $100.
Other Refrigerator Fit Considerations
When choosing a new refrigerator, consider which direction you want the door to swing and any obstacles in the way of that door swing, such as islands or nearby cabinets. A refrigerator requires an extra inch at the sides, top and back for proper ventilation and air circulation.
For refrigerator capacity, the general guideline is 19 to 22 cubic feet for a family of four. But it really depends on your shopping preferences. If you tend to grab groceries a few times a week, a smaller capacity could work. But if you buy in bulk, consider a larger capacity. And if you tend to stock up on frozen goods, make sure the freezer compartment can accommodate that.
Types of Refrigerators
Freestanding refrigerators are the least expensive type, and thus the most common. They protrude from the kitchen cabinetry, and are easy to move.
Cabinet-depth, or counter-depth, refrigerators feature more shallow depth allowing for the doors to align nicely with the surrounding cabinetry. This creates a sleek, seamless look.
For a high-end kitchen, opt for a built-in refrigerator, which will be truly flush with your cabinets. Panels are often added to built-in refrigerator doors to integrate the appliance into the cabinetry.
A classic design, the top freezer refrigerator layout positions the freezer at eye level. Wide shelves in the refrigerator allow easy access to items stored in the back of the fridge. Top-freezer refrigerators are best for:
- Tight budgets
- Small spaces (narrower than 30 inches and/or shorter than 70 inches
- Frozen food lovers
Most people open the refrigerator compartment 9-10 times more often than they do the freezer. By locating the freezer on the bottom, the refrigerator section is brought up to waist or chest level for maximum accessibility.
Many brands offer a choice of either a swing-door freezer or pull-out freezer drawer. The drawer design allows for easier access to the back of the freezer by minimizing the amount of bending needed. This refrigerator type works best for:
- Fresh food lovers
- People who want to go green
Side-by-side refrigerators feature two full-height compartments doors that open from the center – often with the freezer on the left and refrigerator on the right. This type of refrigerator is ideal for:
- Kitchens with islands or narrow walkways
- Families or bulk buyers
- Stylish homeowners
Taking the “best of both worlds” approach, French-door refrigerators have become the industry’s fastest growing refrigerator style. The refrigerator compartment is at waist and chest level with the french doors (side-by-side) opening from the center.
Similar to the bottom freezer style, French-door refrigerators feature a freezer drawer design. Many models also offer the option of an external ice and water dispenser or an internal water-only dispenser. And if you really want to stand out from the crowd, many French-door refrigerators are now coming in four-door models. French-door refrigerators are best for:
- Large families
- Veggie lovers
When considering a new refrigerator, know that there is a workable model for any budget, whether it’s a second unit for keeping soda in the basement, or the built-in refrigerator of your dreams. Here are some refrigerator price ranges, depending on refrigerator type.
Refrigerators come in numerous finish options, such as white, black, matte white, matte black, black stainless steel, stainless steel and classic bisque. To learn more about finish options and choose the right one for your refrigerator, check out our Appliance Finishes Guide.
Refrigerator Ice Makers and Water Dispensers
Many refrigerators include a factory-installed ice maker. For models that do not, one can usually be added. Ice makers and water dispensers require a quarter-inch water line to function. Depending on the design of your kitchen, you may have an existing water line. If not, the Warners’ Stellian installation and plumbing team can install one for you.
Ice makers offer myriad ice shapes to meet your preference, including crescent, cubed or diamond. In addition to internal ice makers, many refrigerators have implemented exterior ice and water dispensing. External dispensers are most commonly found on side-by-side refrigerators, but have recently been introduced on more French-door refrigerators as well.
When it comes to water dispensers, some refrigerators locate them on the interior. Refrigerators with water dispensers also include built-in water filters, which should be changed every six months. And when water can’t quite cut it, remember that GE Profile makes a refrigerator with a built-in Keurig.
The following refrigerator trends continue to heat up kitchens.
Glass Door Refrigerators
Glass panel refrigerator doors allow you to quickly see what’s inside the refrigerator without opening the door and wasting energy. Also, they don’t dent or scratch as easily as stainless steel or other metal finish options.
Matte appliances provide a rich, warm tone while standing up to smudges and fingerprints. It’s no wonder more and more homeowners request this finish. The new appliance line from Café comes in matte black or white with four customizable hardware options:
- Brushed copper
- Brushed bronze
- Brushed black
- Brushed stainless
Smart Refrigerator Features
As technology becomes more advanced, manufacturers continue to revolutionize refrigerators with smart features, such as:
- Voice assistants built into the fridge
- Ability to play music or watch TV from the refrigerator
- Touch screens, on which you can jot shopping lists or write quick notes to family members
- Built-in cameras to view refrigerator contents while on the go
- Notifications for food expiration dates
- Alerts for when water filter needs changed
When refrigerator shopping, ask your salesperson about smart features, as the technology is quickly evolving.
We hope you have found this refrigerator buying guide to be useful and informative, and we appreciate the time you took to read through it. If you have questions that were not answered by this guide, please feel free to contact us.