The Refrigerator Buying Guide

fridge buying guide

Buying a new refrigerator is not as simple a task as you might think, with considerations like size, weight, power, and features suddenly bubbling to the surface. Do you require a freezer? Would you prefer extra features like a built in television or water dispenser? If you’re finding these choices hard to make, let us walk you through some of the basics to buying a fridge.

Things to keep in mind before buying:

  • Consider who’s using the fridge. Are they old, or physically impaired? You may need to consider a fridge with easy access (i.e. fridge compartment high up on the unit).
  • Make sure you measure the space in which the fridge will stand in your kitchen. There’s nothing worse than buying the perfect model, returning home and finding that it doesn’t fit. In fact an embarrassing 12% of Canstar Blue survey respondents admitted that they had recently bought a fridge, only to discover, once it was delivered, that it wouldn’t fit into the allocated space.
  • Take a good, long look at the any warranties attached to your purchase.

Types of refrigerators

There are several main types of refrigerator you can purchase:

Standalone fridge units (and standalone freezers)

These units consist entirely of a single fridge or freezer. Dedicated refrigerators can be useful for large families or shared houses where large amounts of food need to be stored, but you’ll be caught short if you ever need to freeze anything. If you bought a separate freezer unit, the cost of running both units 24/7 might become costly.

Top and bottom mounted units (i.e. what you most likely have at home)

As their name suggests, these fridges consist of a smaller freezer section placed either above or below a larger fridge section, with each being accessed by a single door hinged on the same side. They provide a useful compromise between the outright space of standalone units and the versatility of smaller, more specialised models.

Side-by-side units

Side-by-side fridges are half fridge, half freezer, with the separate compartments placed adjacent to each other. The doors of these units provide easy access to either side, and their size means you’re unlikely to go hungry.

French door units

This type of refrigerator is essentially a side by side unit, with a bottom mounted freezer below the swivelling fridge doors. These tend to be large as well, and traditionally the most expensive type of fridge to purchase.

Wine fridges

The temperatures of these fridges are carefully controlled and monitored to ensure optimum storage for certain wines. They are often found in restaurants and other businesses, though enthusiasts often purchase them for personal use.

Refrigerated drawers

These units are especially popular with interior design aficionados. In short, you can have specialty refrigerator units installed as drawers in your kitchen. Keep in mind this can be quite expensive to install, and you may find that space is lacking in comparison to conventional units.

Bar fridges

These are a much smaller model refrigerator than the ones above. They draw very little power, but are only really suitable for keeping your drinks cold, as their storage capacity is quite limited. They are popular; 28% of Canstar Blue survey respondents in 2015 said that they have a bar/beer fridge.


It’s easy to overlook the usefulness of a freezer, given you spend most of the time digging through the fresh food in your fridge. However, it’s a wonderfully versatile tool for planning meals for your week. You can whip up a big batch of soup on the weekend and freeze it in portions for work lunches. Don’t think you’ll use that chicken breast for a few days? Move it into the freezer until later in the week.

Whether you’re buying a standalone unit or an integrated freezer with your fridge, consider the following. As with a fridge, freezers that have removable drawers and racks will be easier to clean, so consider this when making your purchase. Also look for a frost-free model – which circulates dry, cold air in an even manner – to avoid having to manually dispose of frost and icicle build up inside your unit. Make sure you also consider the noise and size of the unit.

While they are not mainstream, one in five of Canstar Blue survey respondents said that they would consider buying a fridge with TV or internet connectivity. It might all come down to price though…

Capacity: How much fridge do you need?

This is arguably the most important thing you need to determine when buying a fridge. Did you know that the volume of food that sits inside your fridge affects how well the appliance functions? An over-packed fridge won’t be able to circulate cold air at peak efficiency, which means your food will suffer! On the other hand, if you buy a larger model than you need, it’ll use excess power and cost you more in the long run.

Appliances Online offer this guide for picking your new fridge’s size:

Household size Combined fridge & freezer size
1-2 people 200-380 litres
3-4 people 350-530 litres
5+ people 440 litres+

Source: Appliances Online

Energy rating

e-star-logoAnother important aspect of your new fridge purchase is the amount of power it draws – especially since it’s plugged in and turned on all day, every day. Happily, choosing wisely is as simple as looking at your potential fridge’s energy rating (usually printed on a sticker and stuck to the appliance in-store) and giving due consideration to five star products. In our refrigerator ratings, we also assess energy efficiency. You can also learn more about the energy rating of your refrigerator here.

Refrigerator features

It’s amazing what refrigerators can do nowadays. Some models come with built in televisions so you have something to watch while you cook (that would certainly please 1 in 5 of our survey respondents), while others have proper touchscreen displays to keep track of expenditure and grocery stock levels. Here are some of the extras you could have bundled with your fridge purchase.

Smart / internet capability

A smart fridge may not necessarily be able to tell to put that third piece of chocolate back where you found it (actually, some can), but many now feature LED displays that utilise apps and WiFi to help you manage your kitchen. This means you have the ability to leave notes to members of the house, keep track of spending, look up new recipes – the opportunities are varied.

Adjustable shelving

Almost all modern refrigerators have removable glass or plastic shelving, which can be slotted in at different heights to create larger or smaller spaces depending on your needs. More expensive models often have rolling or retractable shelving for even greater flexibility, as well as stacked drawers in some bottom mounted freezers for better accessibility.

Produce storage

Another universal feature of modern fridges is a separate drawer (or drawers) for fresh fruits and vegetables. These compartments contain an inbuilt ‘crisper’, which maintains humidity to keep produce fresh.

Climate monitoring

Most smart fridges come with inbuilt temperature and humidity sensors that constantly monitor the internal conditions of the fridge, and adjust conditions accordingly.


Auto-defrost is a cycle whereby the cooling element of a fridge or freezer is periodically heated to melt the frost which has accumulated on it; this then drains away through a dedicated drainage port. The auto-defrosting cycle usually takes between 15-30 minutes to minimise the rise in the fridge’s internal temperature, and the cycle is repeated anywhere from every 6 to every 24 hours depending on the model. Auto-defrosting means better air circulation, no stickiness or mess on fridge shelving from condensation, and it saves you the laborious task of having to do it yourself.

Built-in water and ice dispensers

Self-explanatory really. You should be aware that to have this feature, you’ll need to talk to a plumber before installing your refrigerator – or even selecting a model.

We hope this primer has given you an introduction on what to look for, now head over to our refrigerator ratings and compare brands before hitting the stores.

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