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How to buy the best fridge

By Patrick Gallagher

Need a new fridge? Whether you're after a mini fridge, or a tall larder fridge, we've got all the advice to help you buy the best fridge to suit your kitchen and budget.

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Fridges come in all shapes and sizes to suit different lifestyle needs. You might be looking for a mini fridge to store beer, or an under counter fridge to slot under your worktops. If you have a sleek kitchen then you'll probably want an integrated fridge to hide behind unit doors. 

This guide will tell you all about the different types, how much you should expect to pay and the key fridge features to look out for.

Or, head to our round up of the best fridges to see which models topped our tough tests.

Which type of fridge do I need? 

If you’re replacing your old fridge, you’ll probably want the same type: be that tall freestanding, tall integrated, freestanding under-counter or integrated under-counter.

If you’re redesigning your kitchen, it’s worth deciding on the type you want early on, when you’re planning the layout. Do you want an integrated fridge that’s hidden away behind kitchen cupboard doors, or a freestanding one you can put anywhere? Or perhaps you want a small under-counter fridge with ice box to fit neatly beneath a work top.

Freestanding fridges

These are the most widely available and cheapest type, and you can put them anywhere in your kitchen. Under-counter models fit under your work surface, or you can tuck tall models away in the corner.

  • Pros of freestanding fridges: Cheapest type, with lots of models, colours and finishes to choose from. You can take a freestanding fridge with you when you move.
  • Cons of freestanding fridges: Can spoil the look of your kitchen.

See all of our freestanding fridge reviews to pick the best one within your budget.

Integrated fridges

If you don’t want large white appliances on view in your home, then consider an integrated or built-in fridge. These sit behind cupboard doors and blend in with your kitchen units. 

You can buy tall or under-counter integrated fridges, and some are designed to fit above waist height into a tall bank of cupboards.

On the downside, there are fewer integrated models on the market and they’re typically more expensive than freestanding fridges.

  • Pros of integrated fridges: Hidden from sight, tend to run more quietly than freestanding models.
  • Cons of integrated fridges: Compared with freestanding fridges, they’re more expensive, offer fewer models to choose between and they tend to have higher running costs.

Decided on integrated? Take a look at all of our integrated fridge reviews to find the best one for you.

Integrated fridges tend to cost more to run than freestanding models.

Larder fridges

These are fridges that don’t have an integrated freezer compartment (see fridges with ice boxes, below). You can buy tall or under-counter models and either freestanding or integrated styles.

  • Pros of larder fridges: Cheapest type and widely available in a variety of brands, colours and sizes. Offer maximum storage space for chilled food, cheapest to run.
  • Cons of larder fridges: You can’t store frozen food or ice inside.

Need this type of fridge for your kitchen? Discover more in our dedicated larder fridge buying guide.

Larder fridges offer maximum storage space for chilled groceries.

Fridges with ice boxes

These have a small freezer compartment at the top of the fridge. This comes in handy if you want to keep a few frozen items easily to hand or if you don’t have room for a freezer in your kitchen. Some allow you to store ice and ready-frozen food, such as frozen peas or ice cream. Others are powerful enough to freeze fresh food down to safe temperatures.

  • Pros of fridges with ice boxes: They provide storage for chilled and frozen food in one appliance, they’re useful for chilling drinks quickly, they cost about the same as fridge-only models.
  • Cons of fridges with ice boxes: The ice box takes up space, so there’s less room for chilled food. They’re more expensive to run than fridge-only models, and they’re not popular – so there are fewer models to choose between.

Want to keep a few frozen items on standby? Read our reviews of fridges with ice boxes.

Fridges with ice boxes are handy if you don't have room for a separate freezer in your kitchen.

Wine fridges

A wine fridge (or wine cooler) is a specially designed refrigeration appliance used to keep wine stored at the ideal temperature prior to serving.

You can find wine fridges with capacity for as few as six bottles, while others can store well over 100 bottles, so it should be easy to find one that suits your needs.

The range of prices is just as huge and there's a cooler to fit every budget. You can find basic models with space for around 15 bottles for as little as £60, while at the very top end of the market there are wine coolers costing over £1,500, with capacity for over 140 bottles.

If you're planning on buying a wine cooler, make sure you read our detailed guide on how to buy the best wine cooler first.

Mini fridges/beer fridges

Whether you want some cold beers to hand while watching a not-to-be-missed sports event, or you're working from home in an office room that's some way from the kitchen, a mini fridge stores drinks and snacks conveniently within arm's reach.

Mini fridges start pretty small with some models providing just enough room for four cans of beer or six cans of soft drink. Expect to pay around £30-£40 for one that size.

Far more spacious mini-fridges are available once your budget increases to between £70 and £150. Mini fridges within this price bracket have room for as many as 40 regular-sized fizzy drinks cans or more, and they often have door racks for storing chocolate bars and other snacks, too.

You can find plain white or black mini fridges, but there are also plenty of branded mini fridges out there, such as Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Kopparberg, Stella Artois and Guinness.

How much should I pay? 

The average price of the fridges we've reviewed is £516 at the time of writing, but you really don't have to spend that much to get a great one.

We've tested five outstanding Best Buy fridges that cost less than £500, and plenty of other good options within this price range. But, we've found almost as many Don't Buys in the same price category, so you need to pick carefully if you're after a cheap fridge.

There are times when it's worth spending a bit more. A number of the best tall freestanding fridges we've tested, for example, fall into the £500 to £800 price band.

On average, you'll need to spend a bit more to pick up an excellent tall integrated fridge, but that's no big surprise as these types generally cost more than freestanding models. That said, there are some fantastic bargains out there, too, and our reviews can really help you sift through the duds.

Paying more can unlock some cool features, such as a water dispenser in the door, a super-cool function that adds a boost of power to speed up the cooling process, and warning alarms that alert you to an open door or rising temperature inside.

Only interested in the cheapest? See our list of the top cheap fridges.

What size fridge should I buy? 

The exact fridge size you buy will depend on the space you have to house it in your kitchen. Whatever type of fridge you’re looking for, it’s important to get the dimensions right.

Check whether you need to add extra space at the sides, back and/or top to allow air to circulate. Some models don’t need this extra space, but some need as much as 5cm on either side – so it’s important to check carefully before you buy.

Check whether you need to add extra space at the sides, back and/or top to allow air to circulate.

Which fridge features should I pay more for? 

Fridge features either boost cooling or make the fridge easier to use. They can range from quick-chill functions that speed up chilling to help food last longer, to bottle racks that free up shelf space.

Other features offer a touch of luxury, such as water dispensers. Some are nice to have, such as humidity controls to help lock moisture in the salad crisper drawer – this can help some vegetables (such as beans, carrots, lettuce and broccoli) to last longer.

The features you choose will depend largely on your budget, as most of the nice-to-haves will bump up the price. The following features come in handy and won’t make much difference to the overall cost:

  • Adjustable shelves will give you the flexibility to set the space as you want it
  • Salad crisper drawers that slide smoothly, but don’t slide all the way out too easily - as this can cause you to drop the drawer and all its contents.
  • Adjustable door racks, so you can create more space if you need to store tall bottles.

Pick the best fridge

Use our interactive tool to find out the main fridge features you need to consider when looking to buy a new fridge.

How much storage space will I need? 

Manufacturers measure a fridge's volume with all the shelves, drawers and door racks taken out. When we test fridges, we leave everything in place and measure the space you can actually use for storing food.  

We find big differences between manufacturers' claimed capacities and real storage space - the worst offenders differ by more than 25%. This means that even fridges with the same dimensions can hold different quantities of food.

So check our capacity sizes before you buy to make sure you're getting the maximum amount of storage space for your money - you can find real sizes listed on the technical specification tab of all of our fridge reviews.

Can I put a fridge in the garage? 

Every fridge has a climate class, which tells you the range of room temperatures it’s designed to work in. In the shop, you'll see the climate class denoted by letters – we've put these in bold below, along with our explanation of what temperature each class relates to:

  • 10-32°C: SN (subnormal)
  • 16-32°C: N (normal)
  • 16-38°C: ST (subtropical)
  • 16-43°C: T (tropical)

The two you’re most likely to come across are SN and N. Both work effectively in room temperatures up to 32°C, but only SN-classed models are designed for rooms that get as cold as 10°C. It’s possible for kitchens to reach such chilly temperatures during cold winter months.

Unless the manufacturer states otherwise, using a fridge 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 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.

Best fridge brands

We have reviews from all the most popular fridge brands, including: Smeg fridges, Beko fridges, Bosch fridges and Zanussi and Indesit fridges. Read our research to discover the most and least reliable fridge brands

What's the backing on my fridge made from? 

All fridges need insulation to keep cool. This insulation is flammable, so it's essential that it's sufficiently protected in the event of a fire. The backing that protects this insulation is currently made from either plastic, metal or aluminium laminate, depending on the make and model of fridge you buy.

We continually monitor and vary the assessments that underpin our reviews to take account of changing standards and areas of concern.

Our tests have revealed that plastic backing can be highly flammable.

We are therefore not recommending any refrigeration appliances that have flammable plastic backing. All fridges 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.

Our fridge reviews will tell you what type of backing each model has. 

If you already own an appliance with a flammable plastic back, it's worth knowing that the likelihood of a refrigerator fire is very low, and the material used in the backing can allow an existing fire to spread – but it isn't the cause of the fire itself.

Read more on fridge safety.

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