How to buy the best fridge freezer
By Ben Slater
Find the best fridge freezer for your kitchen - and avoid the worst - with our expert advice.
The best fridge freezers maximise the freshness and lifespan of your food without pushing up your energy bills or being a hassle to live with.
But even if you know whether you want a freestanding, integrated or American fridge freezer, there have never been more features, sizes, colours and price points to choose between – and there's even a safety consideration to think about.
Head to our shortlist of the best fridge freezers to see which model you should buy.
If you want your new fridge freezer to fit the same gap as your current one, you’ll probably want the same type, be that freestanding, integrated or American.
But if you’re redesigning your kitchen, it’s worth deciding on the type you want early on, when you’re planning the layout. Below, we'll tell you about the pros and cons of each type to help you choose the best for your needs and budget.
Freestanding fridge freezers
These are the cheapest type you can buy, and there are more of them on the market. This means there’s more choice in terms of model, brand, budget and style.
Another advantage of freestanding models is that you can put them anywhere in your kitchen, and take them with you when you move. On the downside, they can be a bit of an eyesore.
See all our freestanding fridge freezer reviews.
Integrated fridge freezers
Integrated (or built-in) fridge freezers are tucked away behind kitchen cupboard doors and are ideal if you don’t like your appliances to be out on view in your kitchen.
They’re more expensive than freestanding models, though, and there are fewer to choose from.
Need a fridge freezer for a built-in kitchen? See how to pick the perfect one for you in our integrated fridge freezer buying guide.
Go straight to our shortlist of the best integrated fridge freezers.
American fridge freezers
If you've got a large kitchen, you've probably got an American-style fridge freezer on your wish list. They're sleek, stylish and contain loads of storage space.
Most come with enhanced features, such as separate thermostats for more accurate temperature control, and water and ice dispensers. At the same time, however, they’re expensive, pricey to power and take up a lot of floor space.
Find out all you need to know to buy the best American fridge freezer.
The average price of the fridge freezers we've reviewed is a fairly hefty £713, but you don't have to spend anything like that much to get a great one.
As the graph below shows, we've tested more than 10 Best Buy fridge freezers costing between £250 and £400. However, we've found more than twice as many Don't Buys in the same price category, so you need to pick carefully if you're after a cheap fridge freezer.
There are times when it's worth spending a bit more. The best freestanding fridge freezer we've ever tested, for example, falls into the £400 to £700 price band.
You'll need to spend even more to pick up the best integrated or American model we've seen, but that's perhaps not surprising, because these types tend to cost more than freestanding models.
Paying more can also also unlock some pretty premium features, such as super-sleek black steel finishes and multi-temperature zones.
Only interested in the cheapest? See our list of the top five cheap fridge freezers.
It goes without saying that you need to carefully measure the space in your kitchen before buying a new fridge freezer.
But as neat as a snug fit looks, bear in mind that you often need to allow for additional space at the back, and sometimes the sides, of the appliance. These 'spacers' are important, as they can help to prevent the fridge freezer from overheating.
Internal storage volume
Before you start comparing fridge freezer storage volumes, it’s worth bearing in mind that manufacturers typically calculate this with all the shelves, drawers and door racks taken out.
When we test fridge freezers, we leave everything inside and measure the space you can actually use for storing food.
The differences between our measurements and manufacturers’ can be huge – as the graph below shows, the worst differ by more than 30%. Even fridge freezers with the same external dimensions can hold different quantities of food.
Fridge freezers may seem like little more than large cool boxes, but there are an array of features available to help make your life easier and preserve your food better.
What you get will largely depend on the amount you spend, as most of the nice-to-haves will add to the price. The following are worth looking out for:
- Frost-free freezer – If you pick only one feature, make it this one. You’ll save hours of time and a lot of mess by never having to defrost your freezer. See all our frost-free fridge freezer reviews.
- Door alarms – These will sound when you leave the door open, so you shouldn't ever wake up to find a pool of water and thawed food after inadvertently leaving the freezer door open overnight.
- Water and ice dispensers – There are a growing number of freestanding and American fridge freezers to choose from if you want chilled water and ice at the touch of a button. But check whether you're getting a model that you refill yourself or needs plumbing in.
Find out more in our guide: fridge freezer features explained.
If you want to make a statement with your fridge freezer you can choose one in a different colour from the standard white – black and stainless steel are really popular. Or you can go for a retro fridge freezer like those made popular by Smeg.
Black, silver and stainless steel fridge freezers
Buying a different coloured fridge freezer shouldn't add much to the price if you choose one with a silver or black finish.
If you want a metal, gloss or glass finish, expect to pay a fair bit more.
If you're after a stylish stainless-steel models, take a look at our metallic fridge freezer reviews.
Or compare all our reviews of black fridge freezers.
Retro fridge freezers
A colourful retro fridge freezer is a standout addition to any kitchen or utility room. Smeg is the best known name in this area, although there are plenty of other brands making retro-style fridge freezers, many of which are significantly cheaper.
But chose carefully as many of the models we've tested are either a poor home for your food, or else have potentially unsafe flammable backing.
Find out more in our guide: How to buy the best retro fridge freezer.
Every fridge freezer has a climate class, which tells you the range of room temperatures it’s designed to work in.
In the UK, models have a climate class beginning with either SN or N, meaning they're designed for room temperatures as low as 10°C or 16°C respectively.
Unless the manufacturer says otherwise, using a fridge freezer outside of its designated range could damage it and invalidate your warranty – which is why you'll struggle to find ones suitable for the garage.
Regardless of climate class, we test every fridge freezer in room temperatures as high as 32°C and as low as 10°C, as this is how hot and cold in can get in your kitchen at different times of year.
The worst models struggle to maintain a safe and stable temperature in these conditions, potentially reducing the lifespan of your food.
All fridge freezers need insulation to keep cool. This insulation is flammable, so it's essential that it's sufficiently protected in the unlikely event of a fire. The backing that covers this insulation is currently made from either plastic, metal or aluminium laminate.
Our tests have revealed that plastic backing can be highly flammable. We're not recommending any refrigeration appliances with flammable plastic backing. All fridge freezers with this type of backing have been made Which? Don't Buys, regardless of how else they have performed in our chilling and freezing tests.
Read more on fridge freezer safety.
Quite simply, this is the best fridge freezer we’ve tested in years, if not ever. Many models that cost twice as much still can’t match this one for performance. It chills and freezes rapidly to provide a great home for your food, and yet it's also very economical for it's size.
This fridge freezer is one of the best freestanding models money can buy. It aced all our chilling, freezing and temperature stability tests and it's also quiet and easy to clean. The only catch is that the freezer isn't fully frost-free, so it will occasionally need to be defrosted manually.
If you’re set on an American fridge freezer, look no further than this stylish and spacious model. It chills and freezes rapidly, the recommended thermostat setting gets the best performance out of the fridge and freezer, and, unlike some models, the internal temperature remains stable when it’s hot or cold outside.
The price is eye-watering, to say the least, but as well as an excellent fridge freezer, you'll also be getting a wealth of smart features. For example, there are cameras in the fridge that send pictures of what's inside the fridge to your smartphone, which could be handy when you're wandering the supermarket aisles wondering what you need.
If you're after lots of storage space, especially in the fridge, then this top fridge freezer is the one to beat. It's wider and deeper than a conventional freestanding model and it's not the easiest to clean but otherwise it's excellent. Most importantly, you can count on it to maximise the lifespan of your food.
Don't worry if none of the five models above are quite what you're looking for. No matter what type or size you're looking for and however much you want to spend, we've tested models that impressed in our tough tests.
For the full list of ace appliances that help keep food fresher and nutrient-rich for longer, whatever the temperature in your kitchen, head straight to our reviews of the best fridge freezers.