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Shopping for a refrigerator can be stressful, especially when it comes time to compare many different models. That’s why The Daily Meal is helping you by researching and comparing fridges on a budget.
We wanted to find the best refrigerators for less than $500, so we checked with major appliance retailers for fridges that are affordable, have good storage, will look great in your kitchen, and will keep your food fresh.
With a budget of less than $500, you can’t get deluxe selections like a side-by-side model, a bottom freezer, or a French door fridge, which is a side-by-side with a freezer on the bottom. You won’t get any fancy add-ons, either, like a variety of colors to choose from, stainless steel, or external water or ice dispensers. But there are options out there for those on a budget.
So what kind of refrigerator can you get for less than $500? A pretty nice model that has all the basics and a few upgraded features, too.
All of these refrigerators are "Top Freezer" models, which is a standard format that puts the freezer on the top of the fridge.
While most refrigerators in this price range are white, you can often snag a black or beige one instead if that's more your style. The majority of these fridges come with reversible door hinges, so you can have the handle on the left or the right side, depending on what works for your kitchen setup.
You’ll also benefit from adjustable shelves for storage, crisper drawers that help control humidity to keep produce fresh longer, and door storage to keep your most-used items like milk and condiments close by for easy access.
Before you buy a fridge, consider how you’ll use it. For example, do you eat more fresh food than frozen? If so, you’ll want a larger fridge with a smaller freezer. Be sure to measure the space in your kitchen, too, so you’ll know which models are too tall, short, wide, narrow, or deep.
Ready for a new fridge? Check out our picks for the best refrigerators for less than $500.
Refrigerator Buying Guide
When it comes to refrigerators, options nowadays go far beyond simply getting a glass of ice water without having to open the door. With custom panels, you can get a built-in that exactly matches your kitchen cabinets. And forget four doors—some newer models have five. You can even pull out a refrigerated drawer and find it full of cold sodas. Our fridge-by-fridge guide helps you choose the right type for your family, demystifies claimed vs. usable storage space, and helps you to find the quietest models—so you, and your groceries, can chill out.
Find the Best Refrigerator for Your Kitchen
Refrigerators might not seem as high-tech as smartphones and computers, but manufacturers keep trying to innovate on them, even if some of those innovations might feel gimmicky.
Samsung has added large touch screens and cameras to many of its French-door and side-by-side models, complete with apps for recipes, watching TV, playing music, and controlling smart home devices. LG has models with windows for seeing what’s inside without opening the door, as well as a Craft Ice feature that makes large ice balls for cocktails and spirits. GE even makes French-doors with a built-in Keurig coffee maker. And many manufacturers are creating door-in-door refrigerators with a small outer door over the fresh-food cavity’s door that opens for easy access to items on the door shelves.
What isn’t a gimmick, though, is consumer preference for refrigerator configuration. According to CR’s most recent refrigerator survey, French-doors made up 64 percent of new refrigerators purchased by CR members in 2019 and the first half of 2020, followed by side-by-sides at 20 percent, bottom-freezers at 6 percent, and top-freezers and built-ins at 5 percent each. Retailers are following this trend, too. According to market research firm Gap Intelligence, French-doors make up 61 percent of in-store selection.
How We Rate Refrigerators
In our labs, each refrigerator we test gets wired up with temperature sensors. We then monitor it for more than a month in a temperature-controlled chamber to evaluate thermostat control and temperature uniformity.
CR’s test engineers collect more than 5.4 million temperature readings for each model to detect warm and cold spots and determine which refrigerators will keep your food fresh longest. The results reveal that many refrigerators simply don’t do well at their primary task, and that could mean more wasted food and bigger grocery bills.
To test the freezer compartments of refrigerators, our engineers fill the appliances with boxes and boxes of frozen spinach, then evaluate how well they keep the packages frozen.
In addition, we measure usable storage capacity, which rarely matches what manufacturers claim. Our engineers then use these measurements to calculate energy efficiency. Finally, we incorporate survey data collected from CR members on thousands of refrigerators to judge predicted reliability and owner satisfaction for each brand and refrigerator type.
All this data is consolidated into one Overall Score for each model and shown in our refrigerator ratings charts, which at any given time feature more than 300 models.
Pick a Style
There’s a refrigerator configuration to suit every household. French-door models are extremely popular because of their high-end aesthetic. Some consumers prefer the convenience of bottom freezers, which put fresh foods at eye level, but side-by-sides can fit better in a smaller kitchen because of their narrow doors. Here’s what you need to know to make the best choice. See our full refrigerator ratings for how models in the different sizes and styles below performed in our tests.
These traditional refrigerators are good for a lot of storage in a fairly tight spot. They tend to offer the most space for their size. (Widths vary between 28 and 33 inches.) Manufacturers claim up to 23-cubic-foot capacities, but our tests found that average usable capacity is 17 percent less. Allow for a wide swing of the doors, and get used to crouching down to reach lower shelves and drawers.
Widths range from 24 to 36 inches, and claimed capacities approach 30 cubic feet, though average usable space is less than that of comparable top-freezers. (Top-freezers cost less, too.) Instead of the freezer, which many people use less, being at eye level, your refrigerator shelves are easily scannable. Just get used to bending to rifle through frozen goods.
These have two narrow doors on top and a freezer below. Sometimes there is one drawer (or more) in between. Widths range from 28 to 36 inches. Claimed capacities go up to 34 cubic feet, though the average usable space is much less, at 17 cubic feet. The space-saving small-swing doors have the added value of opening only half the fridge when you’re stashing smaller items.
With the fridge on one side and freezer on the other, these usually have through-the-door ice and water dispensers. With widths typically 33 to 36 inches, they’re claimed to have up to about 28 cubic feet capacity (but only about 70 percent is usable). Narrow doors are a plus for small kitchens, but they don’t open wide enough for, say, a pizza box, and tall, narrow compartments make items stuck at the back hard to find. Overall, they’re not as energy- or space-efficient as other types.
Pricey and made to fit almost flush with cabinets and counters, these sleek beauties come in bottom-freezer, side-by-side, and French-door styles. They are usually tall (above 70 inches) and wide (30 to 48 inches), with capacities up to 27 cubic feet (of which only about 70 percent is usable). Look for optional front panels to match your kitchen cabinets. Or get the look for a little less with a freestanding counter-depth version. Another built-in option: a column fridge, as narrow as 18 inches, to make the most of a kitchen nook.
Most refrigerator configurations come in a range of sizes and capacities. Always measure where you plan to put the refrigerator before you shop. And make sure it can fit through doorways. Allow room for the refrigerator’s doors to swing open and for a 1-inch clearance around the sides and back for adequate airflow.
To help you find the right size refrigerator for your kitchen, our refrigerator ratings are now organized by width, allowing you to easily see the highest-rated models for the size you need. You’ll find models ranging from the standard 36 inches wide down to 24 inches. We also note the height and depth of each tested model.
To help you find the best refrigerators outside the standard dimensions, we have guides to the best counter-depth refrigerators, 30-inch-wide refrigerators, and 33-inch-wide refrigerators.
As for capacity, most manufacturers recommend 19 to 22 cubic feet for a family of four. But if you do a big weekly shopping trip or buy in bulk, you may need more—up to 30 to 33 cubic feet. Note: Our tests found that the amount of usable storage was often less than the amount claimed. Check our refrigerator ratings for the actual capacity of each model. And to see the biggest (and best) fridges from our ratings, see this guide to the best refrigerators for big families.
Video Buying Guide
For more, watch our video below.
Decode the EnergyGuide Label
Energy efficiency has become a big selling point with consumers. All new refrigerators are a lot more efficient than they were a decade ago, but here’s a look behind the label—to help you go as green as possible.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating is a good place to start when shopping it means that a product is in or around the top 25 percent of the market, but efficiency varies by model (i.e., an unlabeled top-freezer might be more efficient than an Energy Star certified French-door model). Additionally, we test for energy consumption, which can add up to a $50 to $60 difference per year, or more than $500 over the life of the unit.
For an apples-to-apples comparison of which models are most efficient, look at the EnergyGuide labels of the refrigerators you’re considering, and compare the annual operating costs and the kilowatt-hours used per year.
We give all the refrigerators we test a score for energy efficiency and list their estimated annual energy cost. You can check our refrigerator ratings for details.
Five Features You'll Want
Refrigerators at all prices are increasingly tricked out with options to make your life easier and more organized. French-door models are usually the most loaded. Just know that if you can’t live without adjustable shelving or an in-door coffee maker, you’ll have to pay top dollar. The features below are the ones we think will add the most convenience to your refrigerator. For more, check our refrigerator ratings.
Through-the-Door Ice and Water Dispenser
This is one of the features most requested by buyers. Caveat: We found that models with this convenience also require the most repairs. Energy costs are higher, too, and you trade ice water for storage space.
Door-in-Door Storage Access
Without opening the entire door, you can grab frequently used beverages and condiments. That will save on energy costs in the long run.
Dual evaporators help maintain higher humidity levels in the refrigerated areas and prevent freezer odors from migrating there. Air purifiers eliminate bacteria and mold spores, while vacuum-sealed crisper drawers are meant to keep food fresher longer.
You decide how cold your fridge is in certain areas. For example, set a drawer to be cooler than the rest of the fridge to better store meat, fish, and cold cuts.
Better Shelves and Drawers
You can rearrange split shelves to different heights independently, and adjust doors to fit taller items. However, if your door has deep storage bins meant for eggs, milk, or butter, be aware that these items are better off on internal shelves, where cooler temperatures keep them fresher longer. Elevator shelves crank up and down without needing to be unloaded. Shelf snuggers attach to racks to secure bottles and jars. Pullout shelves or bins make access to stored items easier.
Once you’ve settled on a fridge style, the required dimensions, and the features you want, it’s time to start shopping. Many consumers start their search online, then head to the store to check out the models they’re most interested in.
If you don’t need a new fridge right away, it can also help to wait for the next major sale holiday, which at this time of year is Memorial Day weekend. We find that refrigerator prices tend to dip in the summer and hit their lowest point around Black Friday, so other sale holidays, such as Labor Day, are your next best bet to snag a deal.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the appliance market. There is an appliance shortage, which means many models are out of stock or back-ordered for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Because inventory is low, retailers also don’t need to discount refrigerators as heavily as they normally would. (For more on the appliance shortage, see our guide to getting a deal during the shortage.)
Despite the shortage, we still recommend that you comparison shop. Don’t forget to check local, independent retailers, and don’t be afraid to haggle or ask for a discount. If you aren’t sure where to start, see our guide to the best appliance stores.
Another option if you’re on a budget, or simply looking for a good deal, is to consider buying a used refrigerator. You can get a higher-end model for a lot less than the retail price. The best places to look for used fridges are used appliance stores and, believe it or not, appliance repair shops. Both types of stores will usually give you a warranty, too. For more on purchasing used appliances, see our used-appliances guide.
How to find the best refrigerator for you
When shopping for a new refrigerator online or in a store, these are the main things you want to consider. Once you make your pick, don't miss our Test Kitchen's ultimate guide to organizing your fridge.
✔️Configuration: The big players are side-by-sides, top-freezers, and bottom-freezers. Side-by-sides require less space for the doors to swing open, but you need to bend down to find food at the base of the fridge and freezer. Bottom-freezers (like French-door models) put the most-used compartment at eye level. Top-freezer fridges cost less but require you to bend to get into the fridge.
✔️Dimensions: Your fridge typically has to fit between counter space, so you'll need to match the width to the layout of your kitchen. Built-ins and cabinet-depth models sit flush with counters and cabinets but may be more costly.
✔️Finishes: Stainless steel is the most popular because it has a sleek-yet-neutral look, but some prefer a white or black fridge (or the recently popular black stainless steel and even carbon fiber). Built-ins typically offer exterior paneling that matches your kitchen cabinets. Many modern finishes are fingerprint-resistant. At the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show this year, we saw a lot of customizable patterns, too a trend to look out for!
✔️Features: Consider the shelving and internal drawers to see if they work for your family's eating habits. If you like to store a few bottles of wine in the fridge, make sure there's ample height and/or adjustable shelving if you order pizza frequently, you'll probably want a fridge that can fit the box inside. Some fridges also offer humidity controls on crisper drawers, meat or deli drawers, and other features for keeping foods at the ideal storage temp.
Best Affordable 30-Inch Refrigerators For 2020
Amana Top Mount Refrigerator ART318FFDS - $649.99
GE Top Mount Refrigerator GTS18GSNRSS – $729
Samsung Top Mount Refrigerator RT18M6215SR - $749
Of these top mounts, Samsung has the unique feature of the freezer being convertible to refrigerator. It's a good idea for parties as well. Yes, you can always convert it back to a freezer.
GE Bottom Mount Refrigerator GDE21ESKSS - $1,579
Just as an FYI, a bottom mount will cost more than a top mount but will have more cubic footage.
Whirlpool WRB322DMHV Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
A bottom freezer model as French door fill-in
I tested the Whirlpool WRB322DMBB bottom freezer back in 2016 -- the performance was exceptional, but the design was a bit bland. Now, four years later, the updated WRB322DMHV stands a marked improvement. The interior doesn't feel as flimsy as before, and it's available in black stainless steel -- which, again, is nice to have if you want a modern-looking kitchen that you can show off to houseguests.
We haven't done a full, scored review of the newer WRB322DMHV just yet, but we've run our default setting tests on it, and it looks to be just as strong a performer as before (keep reading this post for a closer look at the data). Retailing for about $1,900 and currently on sale for a few hundred less, it's a very good middle ground pick between a French door model like that Samsung and a top freezer model like that LG. Downgrade from black stainless steel if you're looking to bring the price down even lower.
Like I said, recommended models like those can serve as a great starting point -- but before you get too deep into the process, there's a couple of things worth remembering.
The first thing to consider when buying a fridge is size. Refrigerators come in two depths: standard and counter. Standard depth is the most common design, but counter depth is more aesthetically pleasing as these refrigerators fit flush with cabinets. Counter-depth models are typically more expensive — sometimes by $100+. But counter-depth is certainly cheaper than a built-in refrigerator, so if you’ve always dreamed of a built-in, this might be a good compromise to save money. Another thing to look for is measurements — and not just height and width. Like other appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators are measured in cubic feet to indicate the amount of storage inside. Exterior water and ice dispensers on the door are convenient--and save a lot of energy — but they take up space and eat into the cubic feet for food storage. (Speaking of water dispensers, make sure you have a water hookup in the area you want the fridge to go before you buy a model with one!)
The 7 Best Refrigerators on the Market, According to Kitchen Designers
Quality food preservation, storage space, and good-looking design are priorities among kitchen designers when it comes to refrigerators
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More than 20 runners killed as sudden ɽisastrous weather' hits cross-country mountain race in China
Twenty-one people were killed after hail, freezing rain and high winds hit runners taking part in a 100km (62-mile) cross-country mountain race in China. The extreme weather struck a high-altitude section of the race held in the scenic Yellow River Stone Forest near Baiyin city in northwestern Gansu province on Saturday afternoon. Among the dead were elite Chinese long-distance runners, local media reported. Official news agency Xinhua confirmed the death toll had risen to 21, according to the local rescue command headquarters. State broadcaster CCTV also reported the final missing competitor had been found dead. Baiyin city mayor Zhang Xuchen said that at around noon on Saturday a section of the rugged ultramarathon course - between kilometres 20 and 31 - was "suddenly affected by disastrous weather". "In a short period of time, hailstones and ice rain suddenly fell in the local area, and there were strong winds. The temperature sharply dropped," Mr Zhang said. Shortly after receiving messages seeking help from some participants, marathon organisers dispatched a rescue team that managed to save 18 of the 172 participants. At around 2pm, weather conditions worsened and the race was immediately called off as local authorities sent more rescuers to help, Mr Zhang said. The victims included top domestic marathon runners Liang Jing and Huang Guanjun, according to a friend of Huang's and Wei Pulong, Liang's coach. Liang had won multiple Chinese ultramarathons in recent years. Huang, who was deaf-mute, won the men's hearing-impaired marathon at the 2019 National Paralympic Games held in Tianjin. Marathon organisers confirmed his death to a friend. "As the event's organiser, we feel a deep sense of guilt and self-blame, express our deep mourning for the victims and deep condolences to their families and the injured runners," Mr Zhang said, as he and other local officials bowed. The race, backed by the Baiyin city government and the Chinese Athletic Association, has been held for four successive years.
Amana ABB1921BRW Review
- A 30-inch width lets this bottom-freezer model squeeze into narrow kitchens while offering a respectable 18 cubic feet of space.
- Roomy, easy-to-clean glass shelves accommodate wider items, like large platters or pizza boxes, without a lot of rearranging.
- Large, gallon-size door bins free up even more space in the main compartment.
- Unlike some models with bottom freezers, this one has a freezer compartment with a hinged door, rather than a drawer that slides open.
- Some consumer reviewers say the compressor is noisy.
- No light in the freezer and basic incandescent lighting in the refrigerator.
Takeaway: The Amana ABB1921BRW should satisfy buyers who want wider storage space and and a design that prioritizes fresh food at a rock-bottom price.
BONUS Roomier Top-Freezer Refrigerator
Best refrigerator under $1,500: Frigidaire FRSC2333AS
Why we chose the Frigidaire FRSC2333AS:
This 36-inch refrigerator offers a double-door and a 22.2-cubic foot-capacity that’s ideal for families — without being too painful for your wallet. Each compartment has its own temperature controls via a touch panel, and useful automatic alarms are included to warn you if a door is left open or if the temperatures inside are rising to dangerous levels.
The fridge also includes an ice maker and and external water and ice dispenser. It isn’t packed with sensors or extra features like some of our other picks, but the price is reasonable, and Frigidaire’s durable construction is a great fit for those who want a refrigerator that will last. The Frigidaire FRSC2333AS offers all the important fridge features you need while keeping costs reasonable, making it an ideal upgrade for an older fridge or an affordable option for setting up a new kitchen.
9 Best French-Door Refrigerators to Buy in 2021, According to Kitchen Appliance Experts
This convenient fridge style, with its food-saving features and cool innovations, is soaring in popularity and for good reason: The fresh food shelves and crisper drawers are at eye level, making it less likely for food to be forgotten (not to mention the easy access). The Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab tested 12 of the newest models for temperature control and uniformity, produce preservation, and ease of use. These are the winners. (And if you're interested, check out our overall list of best refrigerators in 2020.)
The GE Profile Series French-Door Refrigerator With Keurig K Cup Brewing System topped our test. The feature that sets this GE model apart: There's a single-cup Keurig coffeemaker in the door. It's Wi-Fi enabled, so after you download the app you can adjust its settings, preheat water for coffee, and get alerts if the door is open &mdash all on your phone. It can be controlled through Amazon's Alexa too.
&bull Dimensions: 36 x 36 x 70 inches
&bull Available finishes: slate, black slate, stainless steel, black stainless
&bull Energy Star certified
The Maytag Wide French-Door Refrigerator was one of the most affordable models we tested and one of the only fridges that stayed cool enough on the door shelves to meet safety standards. (This means you can store milk and yogurt there, which is a no-go on the doors of most fridges.) Every glass shelf on this model slides out completely, and the stainless steel finish won't show fingerprints.
&bull Dimensions: 36 x 70 x 35 inches
&bull Available finishes: fingerprint-resistant stainless steel, white, black
&bull Energy Star certified
The state-of-the-art Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator has a large, Wi-Fi capable screen on the door that displays your calendar, orders groceries, plays music, streams TV, and more. Samsung also has three cameras inside, so when you log into the app at the supermarket, it can show you just how much milk you have left. It also has two freezer compartments that open sideways to reveal two drawers and one shelf &mdash and if you need extra fridge storage the right-hand freezer compartment can be switched to fridge temperatures.
&bull Dimensions: 36 x 72 x 29 inches
&bull Available finishes: fingerprint-resistant stainless steel, fingerprint-resistant black stainless steel
&bull Energy Star certified
This Electrolux is one the most user-friendly of all the fridges we tested. The glass shelves slide out and are designed to contain spills, the digital touch controls are easy to use, and the interior LED lighting is bright enough to keep foods in the front or the back well-illuminated. Its crisper drawers are adjustable so you can pick the perfect humidity for the type of produce you'll be storing inside. (Unsurprisingly, they earned perfect scores in our testing for keeping lettuce fresh for an entire week.) Even better, the temperatures on the interior shelves didn't buckle regardless of how hot it got, which will translate to better food storage.
&bull Dimensions: 36 x 70 x 28 inches
&bull Available finishes: stainless steel
&bull Energy Star certified
You can depend on the Kenmore Elite 29.8 cu. ft. French Door Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator to keep foods fresh as long as possible thanks to its ability to hold temperatures steady. Temps don't vary from shelf to shelf, so you won't have to worry about where to store foods. The interior also boasts easy-to-use digital controls, shelves made for tall items, and two trays plus a drawer in the freezer for easy organization.
&bull Dimensions: 35 x 70 x 33 inches
&bull Available finishes: smudge and fingerprint resistant black stainless steel
&bull Energy Star certified
GE's latest line of refrigerators stands out thanks to its extra elegant (and customizable) design. Select a matte white or black exterior, then choose between brushed bronze, copper, black, or stainless steel handles. This model's counter-depth, so it'll fit flush with your kitchen's cabinetry and you can match the bar handles to your cabinet pulls. The French-door Café model has an internal water dispenser and is Wi-Fi connected, too.
&bullDimensions: 36 x 70 x 31 inches
&bull Available finishes: matte white, matte black
&bull Energy Star certified
If you're in the market for a pro-quality, super sleek refrigerator that will fit flush with your cabinets, the Viking French-Door Bottom-Freezer is it. This top-performing freestanding model has 24-inch deep side panels that integrate seamlessly into any kitchen, and the fact that it doesn't have a water and ice dispenser in the door contributes to the built-in look. Inside the fridge you'll find three shelves that pull out to make it easy to find items lurking in the back. The ice maker is in the freezer so it doesn't take up any of your valuable room in the refrigerator. There's also a top-notch air circulation system inside the Viking to keep air fresh and odors out.
&bull Dimensions: 35 x 69 x 29 inches
&bull Available finishes: stainless steel
Miele's gleaming PerfectCool French door refrigerator elevates the look of your kitchen and adds resale value to your home. We love the double-freezer drawers &mdash no more digging through piles of frozen meat to find your ice cream &mdash and soft-close doors.
&bullDimensions: 36 x 80 x 24 inches
&bull Available Colors: Stainless Steel
&bull Energy Star certified
Thanks to the KitchenAid Counter-Depth fridge's pro design and depth that fits flush with countertops, it'll make a big statement in your kitchen. The walls inside are platinum-colored with wooden accents and there's beautiful LED lighting that make it look like a jewelry box. The KitchenAid is loaded with convenient features, too. A little wooden shelf has a prep dish that slides under it and the full width slide-out tray is a good spot to stash sheet cakes or party platters. When you're dispensing water, you can choose to automatically fill a glass or pitcher with eight, 16- or 24-ounces of water.
&bullDimensions: 36 x 68 x 26 inches
&bull Available Colors: Stainless Steel
&bull Energy Star certified