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Refrigerator Buying Guide: What to Look for in a New Fridge

Whether you’re buying a replacement, renovating your kitchen, or building a brand-new home, your choice of a refrigerator should not be taken lightly.

Welcome Homes
/ Jan 19, 2022 / 6 min read
Choosing and purchasing a new refrigerator is a big deal that involves many considerations. Years ago, the only thing you needed to consider was size and whether the new appliance would fit in your kitchen, but today the options seem endless. Not only is a quality refrigerator a big financial and design commitment, but it can last for 10+ years. Whether you’re buying a replacement, renovating your kitchen, or building a brand-new home, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

Read on for advice on how to sort through the options and find the best fridge for your kitchen.

What should I consider before buying a new refrigerator?

Before you go shopping, ask yourself the following questions:What is your budget?

  • What style will work best in your kitchen?
  • Do you cook and freeze food for future meals?
  • Do your children need easy access to snacks and drinks?
  • Do you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables?
  • Do you eat a lot of cheese and deli meats?
  • Do you want a water and ice dispenser in the door?
  • Are adjustable shelves important?
  • Do you need to match existing appliances?

How to measure for a new refrigerator?

There is no more important factor in buying a new refrigerator than the amount of space you’re working with. If you’re replacing an old refrigerator, the new one will need to fit in the space the old one occupied. 

Here’s how to measure space for a new refrigerator:

To accurately measure for a new fridge, determine the depth, width, and height while also adding a few inches for proper ventilation and space for the door(s) to fully open.
  1. Measure for width: Measure the space between whatever is on either side of your refrigerator space (wall, counter, cabinet, etc.) If the space is next to a wall, leave 2-3” between the wall and hinge side of the door so it can open.
  2. Measure for height: This step is only necessary if there are cabinets above the fridge cutout. If there are, measure from the floor to the bottom of the cabinets.
  3. Measure for depth: Measure from the wall to the edge of the countertop.
When measuring a refrigerator to determine whether it will fit in your space, be sure to measure for width, height, and depth. For the most comprehensive, accurate information, you may also want to measure depth (including and excluding doors), depth with fridge closed (including and excluding handles), and depth with door open at 90 degrees and with drawers open.

If you’re renovating or building a new home, measurements are also crucial. Changing your mind and deciding you want a larger refrigerator may not seem like a big deal, but even a few centimeters can make a big difference and lead to rearranging, change orders, and supply delays. During construction, every single decision impacts the timeline, so be sure to measure and commit from Day One.

What are the different refrigerator styles?

There are four typical styles for residential refrigerators. Read on for information, as well as the pros and cons of each style. 

Top-Freezer Refrigerator
Top-freezer refrigerators are the most traditional choice for a residential kitchen and, as a result, are generally the least expensive. They tend to be more energy-efficient than bottom-freezer refrigerators, and it’s generally easier to find items in an eye-level freezer. That being said, the design is very basic and offers very few (if any) extra options. Freezer space is limited—especially if the fridge has an ice maker—and produce drawers are low to the ground, which may be hard for some people to access. Top-freezer refrigerators also require ample space for the doors to fully open. 

Average size range of top-freezer refrigerators:

  • Width: 28–32 inches
  • Height: 61–66 inches
  • Depth: 20–30 inches
  • Cubic feet: 12–16 cubic feet 
Average cost of top-freezer refrigerators: $450 – $1,800

Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator
Bottom-freezer refrigerators are a good choice for smaller spaces since the freezer draws pulls out straight—no need to account for the door to swing open. They also tend to have larger refrigerator capacity, and the fridge shelves are at eye-level for easy access and viewing. These are both desirable features since the refrigerator is usually accessed much more frequently than the freezer. Bottom-freezer refrigerators tend to be more expensive than top-freezer versions, and drawer depth makes it easy to forget the freezer’s contents. 

Average size range of bottom-freezer refrigerators:

  • Width: 24–36 inches
  • Height: 61–68 inches
  • Depth: 20–30 inches
  • Cubic feet: 12–16 cubic feet 
Average cost of bottom-freezer refrigerators: $700 – $2,000

READ: How to Choose a Kitchen Range, Stove & Oven


Side-by-Side Refrigerator (Standard Depth)
For the easiest, equal access to both the refrigerator and freezer, a side-by-side option is ideal. These models also require the least amount of door swing space, so they’re great for smaller kitchens. Each side of a side-by-side offers roughly equal usable space, and the vertical nature makes it easy to see what you’re storing. That being said, large or odd-sized items can be challenging to store. 

Many extras and options are available (at an additional cost), including:
  • In-door water and ice dispenser
  • Family hub computer screen
  • See-through refrigerator door
  • Wi-Fi enabled controls
  • Gallon storage shelves
  • Door alarm
Average size range of side-by-side refrigerators:
  • Width: 33–36 inches
  • Height: 65–68 inches
  • Depth: 30–32 inches
  • Cubic Feet: 22–26 cubic feet
Average cost of side-by-side refrigerators: $1,000 – $2,400

French Door Refrigerator (Standard Depth)
Standard depth French door refrigerators are another good option for smaller kitchens. They offer a smaller door arc and the ability to open one side at a time for smaller items. The wide usable space and adjustable shelves in these refrigerators make it easy to store large platters and deep bowls, as well as odd-sized or bulky items. The freezer is on the bottom, providing ease of access to the more frequently visited refrigerator but more risk of forgetting what’s frozen. French door refrigerators are extremely popular, and high demand may make this style difficult to get. They are also the most expensive option.

Many extras and options are available (at an additional cost), including:

  • Additional outer drawer for easy access to snacks and drinks
  • French door-style freezer (for a total of four doors)
  • Family hub smart-fridge application
  • Wi-Fi enabled controls
  • Dual freezer drawers
  • Dropdown trays
  • Pull-out shelves
  • Water and ice dispenser
  • In-door pod coffeemaker
  • Voice activation
Average size range of French door refrigerators:
  • Width: 30–40 inches
  • Height: 65–71 inches
  • Depth: 24–40 inches
  • Cubic Feet: 20–30 cubic feet 
Average cost of French door refrigerators: $2,000–$8,000

Other refrigerator styles 

In addition to the four styles listed above, there are other options that may better suit your space and needs: 
  • Counter-depth: Counter-depth appliances tend to be shallower than their standard-depth counterparts (23–27” vs. 30–36”) but are also wider or taller to account for the lack of depth. These models sit flush with the countertop and offer a more seamless look since the fridge does not jut out further than the counters and cabinets.
  • Built-in: Built-in refrigerators are similar to counter-depth models in that they are shallow and wide and don’t extend past the counter and cabinets. The difference is that it comes pre-assembled and built into your cabinetry (as indicated by the name).
  • Separate refrigerator and freezer: For large kitchens or people who need to store and freeze large quantities of food, stand-alone refrigerators and freezers offer much greater versatility.
  • Mini-refrigerator: These small appliances are gaining popularity, especially as add-ons for bottled and canned beverages.  

How do I buy an energy-efficient refrigerator?

Refrigerators today are more energy-efficient than ever, but labels and language can be confusing. If you’re looking for the greenest possible option, start with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating. This stamp of approval means an appliance ranks in the top 25% of the market for efficiency. 

Next, check the EnergyGuide label on the model: it will tell you the estimated yearly operating cost and estimated yearly electricity consumption. The lower these numbers are, the more energy-efficient the appliance is (and the lower your utility bills will be).

How do I shop for a refrigerator?

Before you decide which refrigerator is right for you, go in person to see what’s available in your price range, what finishes are available, and which styles meet your dimension needs. Look at national or regional big-box stores, but also visit smaller appliance retailers to get the widest range of prices. 

If you’re working with a strict budget, be sure to keep an eye out for sales (both online and in-person) and special promotions. You can also ask retailers if they’re willing to sell floor models or refrigerators with slight surface damage at a reduced price.

Ready to build the home of your dreams? Get started today.

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