How to Choose a Refrigerator

Find out what factors to look for when you are selecting a new refrigerator

Kitchen with modern fridge and appliances

Carlina Teteris / Getty Images

One of the most commonly used appliances across the world is the refrigerator. This appliance has revolutionized food storage, allowing fruits, vegetables, meat, and grain products to stay fresh for days or possibly even weeks. Most refrigerators also have a freezer that can keep food frozen for months before thawing it out for a meal. However, when your refrigerator breaks down or starts showing signs of failure, or you are remodeling your kitchen and need new appliances, it's important to know how to choose a refrigerator to replace your old unit.

Refrigerators come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and types, including classic side-by-side refrigerators, French door refrigerators, and even mini fridges that are great for apartments, dorm rooms, or home bars. Use this helpful guide to learn more about refrigerators and what factors to keep in mind when you are trying to choose a refrigerator for your kitchen.

Before Replacing Your Refrigerator

Purchasing a new refrigerator can be costly, so before making this investment, it's important to check your existing refrigerator to determine if it can be fixed. One of the first things to check if your refrigerator stops working is the plug and power source. Make sure the plug hasn't been pulled out of the wall and check the breaker to ensure there is power running to the fridge.

If the refrigerator seems to get warmer than it should, the problem may be dirty condenser coils. Worn or damaged door seals can also cause the refrigerator to overheat because the motor needs to operate almost continuously to maintain the cool temperature inside the fridge. However, if the problem is something more serious, like a blown motor, then it may be time for a replacement refrigerator.

Buying Considerations for Refrigerators

Don't decide on a refrigerator for the home based purely on appearance. While the appliance should match the kitchen aesthetic, there are other considerations to keep in mind during the selection process, including the capacity, dimensions, type, and any standout features, like a built-in ice dispenser or a technology hub.


The capacity of a refrigerator is a top consideration. Not only should you know the volume inside the refrigerator that can be used to store food, drinks, and anything else you want to keep cool, but you should also research the exact dimensions of the fridge to make sure it will fit in your kitchen. The average capacity of a refrigerator is about 25 cubic feet, though this can increase or decrease depending on the type, make, and model.

Mini fridges are a great choice if size is an issue in your home, but the capacity is significantly reduced. Big families can't get away with a mini fridge for groceries. Instead, these households are better off investing in a refrigerator with a large capacity. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for a refrigerator with a very large capacity, it will likely be taller and wider than most other models, so you will need to ensure there is space in the kitchen or make room for the larger appliance.


Purchasing a new refrigerator for the kitchen isn't all about functionality. Take some time to consider the color, finish, and overall style of the fridge before deciding if it's right for the decor in your home. Stainless steel is a popular choice for toasters, ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators, though going with a bolder choice, like a painted red finish or even a classic black exterior, can help your new appliance breathe life into your kitchen.

Adding a smart refrigerator to the home is another option for increasing the appeal. These appliances often come with built-in screens that can be set up to display shopping lists, current weather forecasts, or even new broadcasts. Go with the style and color that suits your tastes and matches the target aesthetic for your kitchen.

Standout Features

Outside of the standard features, refrigerators can have a lot of add-ons that improve the functionality and user convenience of the appliance. One popular option is a built-in icemaker and water dispenser station that can be accessed without opening the fridge. Simply place your glass under the ice or water dispenser and press the associated button to fill your cup.

Another special feature that is a more recent addition to refrigerator technology is a built-in screen and Wi-Fi connection. This allows the user to go online to look up recipes, stream music, or watch movies using popular streaming services. Some refrigerators will even come with grocery tracking apps to help you stay on top of your grocery needs. However, extra features are rarely included for free. Expect to pay more if you want a fridge with any additional features.


When choosing a refrigerator, it can benefit you in the long-run to think practically. Too many bells and whistles can become potential issues to fix later down the line.

Types of Refrigerators

There are five main types of fridge that are differentiated by the size, freezer position, and door position. This includes bottom freezer fridges, top freezer fridges, French door fridges, side-by-side fridges, and mini fridges.

Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

Bottom freezer refrigerators are easy to spot because the freezer unit is located at the bottom. Some units have a door the opens to one side or the other, but typically the freezer is accessed by pulling out a large drawer. Many bottom freezer refrigerators are paired with French doors to access the refrigerator compartment, so these products are often interchangeable.

Top Freezer Refrigerators

Top freezer refrigerators are a more traditional option, with the freezer unit located at the top of the fridge. Typically, you have one door to access the freezer and one door to access the refrigerator compartment. These appliances are one of the more affordable options and are commonly used in apartments, condos, and houses. One factor to keep in mind is that top freezer refrigerators are rarely equipped with any standout features, so if you had your heart set on a built-in ice maker, this may not be the right type of fridge for your home.

French Door Refrigerators

French door refrigerators also fall into the bottom freezer category. They generally have a pull-out freezer drawer and a pair of French doors to access the refrigerator compartment. This style looks great in a modern kitchen and can often come with a built-in Wi-Fi connection, smart home compatibility, and touchscreen to stream online content.

Side-By-Side Refrigerators

Side-by-side refrigerators have two vertical doors that extend from the bottom to the top of the appliance. One door provides access to the freezer, while the other door opens into the refrigerator compartment. Built-in icemakers are a popular addition to this style of refrigerator, though it's important to verify that your kitchen can accommodate the double swinging doors before purchase.

Mini Refrigerators

Mini fridges are much smaller than a standard refrigerator, making them a good choice for apartments, condos, dorm rooms, and home bars. These appliances are also much more affordable than a full-size fridge, though you won't be able to keep a lot of food or drinks cool at one time due to the limited capacity.


When you are researching new refrigerators for your home, it's necessary to consider the cost of the appliance to ensure that the investment falls within your budget. If you need to have a professional install the refrigerator, run electrical lines, or run new plumbing lines, then the price for this additional work will also need to be taken into consideration before you decide on a fridge.

According to Home Advisor, the average cost to purchase and install a new refrigerator falls between $1,000 to $2,000, though the price can range from as little as $200 for a mini fridge to as much as $12,000 for a premium model that requires a new outlet and water line. If you are looking to save, opt for a freezer on top fridge. This classic style typically costs about $1,000 less than other common options.

How to Choose a Refrigerator

In order to select a refrigerator, start by researching a broad number of products and narrowing down the selection by asking a few key questions. If a product doesn't suit your answer to these questions, remove it from the list until you have a smaller pool of options to choose from. The final decision could be made for you by simply removing products that don't have what you are looking for, but if there are several options that fit your needs, choose the refrigerator you like best.

What are the dimensions of the refrigerator?

Measure your current refrigerator or the space where the new refrigerator will be installed. This will give you the approximate size of fridge that you are looking for, so you can rule out any products that are too big to fit the space. While you are researching the dimensions of each product, also look up the total capacity of each fridge. Consider your food storage needs and select an appropriate model.

Which type of refrigerator is most appropriate for the home?

There are several common types of refrigerator including bottom freezer fridges, top freezer fridges, French door fridges, side-by-side fridges, and mini fridges. If anyone in the home has difficult bending over, it may be best to invest in a side-by-side fridge or even a top freezer fridge, so they can access the freezer without bending down. Mini fridges are a good choice for dorm rooms, apartments, and small condos, though a French door fridge is a better option for large families.

After narrowing your selection down to one type of fridge, you will need to consider the different brands and models. Features, shelving, and humidity controls vary per model and any add-on will increase the total cost. If price is the main factor, opt for an inexpensive top freezer fridge.

What standout features would be helpful?

If you have always had a basic refrigerator, but always wanted a specific feature, like a built-in icemaker or Wi-Fi, now is the time to look for a product with that add-on. Modern refrigerator designs take advantage of current technology, adding features like smart home compatibility, HD screens, or even touch-activated lighting with a transparent exterior panel, so you don't have to open the door to see what's inside. Just keep in mind that these extra features usually come with an increased price.

  • How long does a refrigerator last?

    If a refrigerated is well maintained and used appropriately, it will typically last about 12 years, though some models can last for up to 20 years with a high degree of care. Make sure to regularly clean the refrigerator, including the condenser coils. You should also check to make sure it sits level and replace water filters according to a strict schedule to increase the life of your fridge.

  • Is a side-by-side refrigerator better than a French door refrigerator?

    The main difference between these two popular fridge types is the bottom freezer. A side-by-side fridge often feels more accessible because you don't have to bend over to get items from the freezer, but French door refrigerators usually have more space for fresh foods because the design prioritizes the refrigerator compartment over the freezer. Consider what you're storing and how you'd like to access the fridge to find the best one for you.

  • What is the ideal temperature for a refrigerator?

    The temperature in a refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in order to keep the food cold enough to store safely. However, lowering the temperature to less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit can cause some items to freeze, so it's recommended to keep the temperature set between 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal cooling.