How to buy the best fridge
By Jess O'Leary
Need a new fridge? Follow our expert step-by-step guide to get the best fridge for your kitchen and budget.
We've tested fridges between 82cm and 187cm in height and £109 and £1,549 in price, so we're well qualified to help you buy the best. Our expert advice will help you pick out the perfect fridge for your home.
Choosing the type and size of fridge to buy is probably the most important decision you need to make, but it's by no means the only one. If you want to be really satisfied with your new fridge, you should also consider which features will make life easier, and how much usable storage space you'll really need.
Keep reading for all our top tips, and use our interactive tool below to help you pick out the perfect fridge for you. Or, head to our Best Buy fridges page to see which models topped our tough tests.
Which type of fridge do I need?
If you’re replacing your old fridge, decide whether you need a freestanding or integrated one.
If you’re planning a new kitchen, think about the type of fridge you want early on when you’re designing the layout. Do you want a tall fridge with lots of storage or one that fits under your kitchen counter and saves on space? And do you want a standalone model or one that’s hidden behind kitchen cupboard doors?
Also, consider whether a combined fridge and freezer would be a more practical choice as they take up less floor space than separate appliances. Check out our fridge freezer buying guide to see whether this would be the best option for you.
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.
Freestanding fridges come in a wide range of brands, prices, colours and finishes.
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 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 built-in? Find out more in our guide to how to buy the best integrated fridge.
Integrated fridges tend to cost more to run than freestanding models.
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.
Fridges with ice boxes are handy if you don't have room for a separate freezer in your kitchen.
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.
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.
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.
Which fridge is suitable for my kitchen?
Every fridge has a climate class that tells you the range of room temperatures the fridge is designed to work within. In the shop, the climate class will be 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
- 16-32°C: N
- 16-38°C: ST
- 16-43°C: T
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.
Want to know which is the best fridge to buy? Head straight to our fridge reviews.
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?
You've probably never given a second thought to what the back of your fridge is made from. Maybe you assumed it was simply made of metal, the same as the front. But, in fact, there are a number of materials that could be used to back your fridge freezer: metal, aluminium laminate, flame-retardant plastic backs and non-flame retardant plastic backs.
Why should you factor the backing into your buying decision for a fridge? Well there is a growing body of evidence to indicate that the backing material used on a fridge can increase the spread of fire.
Tests by the London Fire Brigade have shown that if the insulation present in all appliances is not protected sufficiently by a flame-resistant backing, then it can ignite readily and lead to a rapid fire developing.
We're therefore taking the precautionary approach of only recommending those appliances with metal backing – either metal or aluminium laminate – or flame-retardant plastic backs. No non-flame-retardant plastic-backed products, even if they otherwise performed well in our product tests, have retained or been awarded our fridge Best Buy recommendation.
If we have a review of the fridge you're thinking of buying, the material of the back panel and whether or not it’s flame retardant should be listed in the technical specifications of the review. If not, or if your model hasn’t been reviewed by us, we recommend contacting the manufacturer of your appliance.
If you already own an appliance with a non-flame-retardant plastic back, it's worth knowing that the likelihood of a refrigerator fire is very low, and the material used in the backing allows an existing fire to spread – but it isn’t the cause of fire itself. Read more on fridge freezer safety.