Frigidaire FFSS2614QP Review

From $799 Best

Pros:

  • With 25.5 cubic feet of space, it's much roomier than other budget-friendly side-by-side refrigerators and the most spacious of any model we researched.
  • Adjustable shelves and bins are easy to customize, allowing room for larger and taller items.
  • Convenient in-door water and ice dispenser and incandescent lighting in both the refrigerator and freezer compartments.

Cons:

  • Noise complaints from some owners focus on compressor noise, while others report loud knocking from the ice maker.
  • No humidity controls on the crispers, a relatively standard feature in refrigerators at this price.

Takeaway: Owners say the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP offers more usable storage than many side-by-side refrigerators, with adjustable bins and spill-proof shelving that can make the space stretch even further.

Where to buy

LG LTCS20220W Review

From $810 Best

Pros:

  • With a 20.2-cubic-foot capacity, this model is quite roomy for a basic top-freezer refrigerator but still features a relatively narrow 30-inch width.
  • Top-notch scores from experts for temperature consistency and quiet operation.
  • Comes with an ice maker, spill-proof glass shelving, bright LED lighting in both the refrigerator and freezer, and a full-width pantry drawer that draws raves from owners.
  • Energy Star-rated for efficiency.

Cons:

  • Unlike on some models, in-door shelving can be rearranged or adjusted.
  • Some owners say the freezer-door seal isn't strong enough and occasionally pops open without warning.

Takeaway: Although it's a bit pricier than many basic top-freezer models, the LG LTCS20220W offers a hard-to-beat combination of roominess, efficiency, extra features, and quietly reliable performance.

Where to buy

Whirlpool WRB119WFBW Review

From $899 Best

Pros:

  • Relatively narrow, at 30 inches across, but still offers 18.7 cubic feet of space for food.
  • Three crispers, including two with humidity controls -- one more than most models we researched -- and adjustable door shelving.
  • Upgraded LED lighting in the refrigerator compartment.
  • Energy Star-rated for efficiency.

Cons:

  • Some grousing in reviews about excessive noise while the compressor is running.
  • Unlike some bottom-freezer and most French door refrigerators, this model has a freezer compartment that is hinged, like the main door, instead of sliding open.

Takeaway: This bottom-freezer fridge puts fresh food at eye level and provides space for pizza boxes and other large items. Owners of the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW are big fans of the three crispers and easy-to-adjust glass shelving.

Where to buy

GE GTS18GTHWW Review

From $539 Good

Pros:

  • This model fits in smaller kitchens, with a 28-inch width, but it's roomy enough for small families, with 17.5 cubic feet of space.
  • Spill-proof glass shelves instead of the cheaper wire shelves common in this price range.
  • Fewer durability complaints in user reviews compared with other basic refrigerators.

Cons:

  • Some snarking in reviews about noise when the compressor is running.
  • Dial temperature control may be imprecise; expert tests found it challenging to get the right balance between refrigerator and freezer.
  • No light in the freezer and basic incandescent lighting in the refrigerator.

Takeaway: The GE GTS18GTHWW is a reliable workhorse for buyers who want a top-freezer fridge without costly bells and whistles. Spill-proof glass shelves lend a higher-end feel.

Where to buy

Amana ABB1921BRW Review

From $809 Good

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Where to buy

Whirlpool WRS322FDAW Review

From $899 Good

Pros:

  • At 33 inches across, this model fits in smaller kitchens than most side-by-sides but still offers a relatively roomy 21.2 cubic feet of space.
  • A wider range of color options than usual: black, white, stainless steel, silver, and biscuit.
  • Convenient in-door water and ice dispenser and bright LED lighting in both the refrigerator and freezer.

Cons:

  • Basic wire shelving instead of glass in the freezer.
  • Several owners grouse that the ice dispenser spits cubes onto the floor.
  • Reviewers complain that the ice maker takes up far too much freezer space, limiting what can be stored.

Takeaway: Despite the slim profile of the Whirlpool WRS322FDAW, users say it's surprisingly roomy, especially given the ample door bins. A small price tag clinches the deal.

Where to buy

Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 Review

From $540 Think Twice

Pros:

  • This top-freezer model, which measures 30 inches across, can squeeze into narrow kitchens yet offers a respectable 18 cubic feet of space.
  • LED lighting and spill-proof glass shelving are nice upgrades in this price range.
  • Sleek handle-free design helps maximize space in smaller kitchens.
  • Energy Star-rated for efficiency.

Cons:

  • Reviews grouse about flimsy plastic bins that easily crack and break.
  • Refrigerator and freezer doors may not close smoothly.

Takeaway: Although the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 is sleeker and roomier than other basic top-freezer models at its price point, enough owners complain about the bins to warrant steering clear of this Best Buy exclusive.

Where to buy

Frigidaire FGTR1845QP Review

From $719 Think Twice

Pros:

  • This 30-inch top-freezer model fits in many smaller kitchens but still offers 18.1 cubic feet of interior space.
  • Very adjustable door bins can be customized to accommodate tall, awkward containers that can't fit in main compartment.
  • Comes with spill-proof glass shelves, bright LED lights in both refrigerator and freezer, and half-width deli drawer.

Cons:

  • Adjustable shelves can be hard to dislodge; experts say they often stick in the rails.
  • Doors and drawers were overly warm in expert testing.
  • Several owners report water leaks and excessive frost in the freezer.

Takeaway: Despite the appealing "custom flex" door allowing users to personalize and create more storage, the Frigidaire FGTR1845QP draws darts from too many owners who say the freezer is anything but frost-free.

Where to buy

Kenmore 50022 Review

From $800 Think Twice

Pros:

  • With 25.4 cubic feet of space, this side-by-side refrigerator is very spacious compared with other budget-friendly models.
  • Includes a convenient in-door water and ice dispenser.
  • Adequate temperature performance in expert testing.

Cons:

  • Shelves and bins seem flimsy to many reviewers.
  • Ice maker eats up lots of freezer space, limiting what users can store.
  • Lacks deli drawer and upgraded LED lighting.

Takeaway: The Kenmore 50022 is temptingly inexpensive for a larger side-by-side with an ice and water dispenser, but reports of flimsy storage and wasted space suggest there are better refrigerators for the money.

Where to buy

Buying Guide

Choosing a Refrigerator

Cheap refrigerators are fairly basic appliances. For the most part, forget about LCD displays, freezer drawers, and adjustable-temperature compartments. Some inexpensive models may even force buyers to forgo a stainless-steel finish or an ice maker. But those who can do without a lot of extras will find that the best refrigerators under $1,000 garner high marks from owners for temperature regulation, available storage, and value for the dollar.

Refrigerator Brands.

Maytag, GE, LG, Amana, Whirlpool, Frigidaire, and Kenmore are all well-known brands that are represented in the cheap-fridge market. A recent study by J.D. Power found that LG gets the nod on overall customer satisfaction for top-freezer refrigerators and GE comes in second. Samsung and LG both sit atop the rankings for side-by-sides, but those models are typically priced beyond our $1,000 ceiling. In a recent Consumer Reports survey of brand reliabilty, LG also took top marks, with 84 percent owner satisfaction. Samsung and Kenmore followed at 82 percent and 81 percent, respectively.

Types of Refrigerators and Best-Rated Refrigerators.

With so many models in contention, we homed in on several good buys in each of three styles: top-freezer, bottom-freezer, and side-by-side. French door and counter-depth refrigerators start at about $1,000 and climb quickly from there. High-end built-in fridges can command up to $10,000.

Generally speaking, among conventionally sized refrigerators, top-freezer models are the least expensive, starting at about $500. Our top pick is the spacious and efficient LG LTCS20220W (starting at $810), followed by the GE GTS18GTHWW (starting at $539), a reliable model for consumers who just want the basics. The top-freezer Frigidaire FGTR1845QP (starting at $719) landed on our "think twice" list because it suffers from complaints about water leaks and frost, despite a frost-free billing. Build-quality problems plague the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 (starting at $540), a top-freezer model that might have otherwise sufficed for small kitchens.

Side-by-side and bottom-freezer models start at about $800. The best cheap side-by-side refrigerator we found is the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP (starting at $799), which has a larger capacity than many comparably priced models. The Whirlpool WRS322FDAW (starting at $899) is a well-regarded side-by-side that's ideal for smaller kitchens. The Kenmore 50022 (starting at $800) seems plenty spacious on paper, but the interior design proves inefficient for many users.

Rounding out our top picks are the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW (starting at $899), an Energy Star-rated bottom-freezer refrigerator with wide shelves and three crispers, and the Amana ABB1921BRW (starting at $809), one of the least expensive bottom-freezer models and a magnet for frugal shoppers.

Price aside, the configuration of the kitchen may knock certain refrigerator styles out of contention. Top- and bottom-freezer models require more door clearance than side-by-side or French door models, which are better suited to galley kitchens and layouts with a center island. For kitchens with a tight footprint, another option may be the LG LTCS24223W (starting at $989), a top-freezer refrigerator with a handle-free design.

A related consideration is the allocation of space between the refrigerator and freezer compartments. Top-freezer and bottom-freezer models offer two-thirds fresh to one-third frozen storage. The split in side-by-side refrigerators, like the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP or Whirlpool WRS322FDAW, may be similar or closer to half and half.

Top-freezer models, like the LG LTCS20220W and GE GTS18GTHWW, are best for users who are heavy consumers of frozen dinners and treats and prefer to keep frozen food at eye level. If demand for fresh food is high, a model with a freezer drawer at the bottom, like the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW or Amana ABB1921BRW, might be more appealing and convenient. Both designs boast refrigerator shelves that are wide enough to accommodate large platters, bowls, and pizza boxes. The narrow shelves in side-by-sides work for some families but not others. Regardless, side-by-side models are top sellers because they can provide more total storage capacity in small kitchens.

French door refrigerators combine a convenient split door, like a side-by-side model, with wide shelves that keep fresh food at eye level, like a bottom-freezer model. Unfortunately, French door refrigerators generally soar beyond the Cheapism price range. The Samsung RF18HFENBWW (starting at $1000) is a notable exception. It's small for a French door refrigerator but one of the least expensive out there -- and it's counter-depth for a seamless, built-in look.

Most refrigerators come in white, black, and stainless steel, with some available in bisque, graphite, silver, or platinum. Standard white refrigerators are typically the cheapest; a stainless-steel finish may tack on a premium of $100 or more. One disadvantage to stainless steel is the endless battle against fingerprints, while white and bisque show dirt more easily than black.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $810.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 20.2 cu. ft.
Energy Star Yes
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year; 7 years on evaporator, condenser, and rotary compressor; 10 years on linear compressor
(from $799.00)
Design Side by side
Capacity 25.5 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $899.00)
Design Bottom freezer
Capacity 18.7 cu. ft.
Energy Star Yes
Ice Maker Optional
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year; 5 years on cavity liner and sealed refrigeration system
(from $539.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 17.5 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Optional
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year
(from $899.00)
Design Side by side
Capacity 21.2 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $809.00)
Design Bottom freezer
Capacity 18 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker No
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year
(from $719.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 18.1 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Optional
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year
(from $800.00)
Design Side by side
Capacity 25.4 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $540.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 18 cu. ft.
Energy Star Yes
Ice Maker No
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year
(from $989.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 23.8 cu. ft.
Energy Star Yes
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year; 7 years on evaporator, condenser, and rotary compressor; 10 years on linear compressor
(from $1000.00)
Design French door, counter depth
Capacity 18 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Yes
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year; 5 years on sealed refrigeration system; 10 years on digital inverter compressor
(from $495.00)
Design Top freezer
Capacity 14.3 cu. ft.
Energy Star No
Ice Maker Optional
Ice/Water Dispenser No
Warranty 1 year

Refrigerator Reviews: What We Considered

Which low-cost refrigerators are the best? That can be hard to discern even from reviews. Consumers often post comments after owning a refrigerator for only a short period, and there is often disparity between testing-site recommendations and user feedback. Refrigerators also are revamped or renamed frequently, so by the time a model has accumulated a respectable number of reviews or undergone formal testing, it already may be near the end of its run.

Still, reviews on several sites pointed us to cheap refrigerators that perform well in home use. We looked at expert sources including Consumer Reports, The Sweethome, Reviewed.com, and CNET, where reviewers test the products and are more comparative and systematic than consumers in their analyses.

User reviews are worth considering, however, as they provide a snapshot of real-world conditions, and also because budget models rarely attract the attention of expert testers. A good example of this is the Amana ABB1921BRW -- a basic bottom-freezer fridge that buyers commend but experts ignore. We found that consumers are particularly satisfied with models that are reliable, regulate temperature consistently, and provide adequate storage space. One area of discontent with low-cost refrigerators is noise; a notable number of reviews grumble about annoying dings or odd sounds.

Capacity.

Experts recommend purchasing a fridge with capacity of 4 to 6 cubic feet of fresh storage for each adult in the household. Budget, top-freezer models typically provide total capacity (refrigerator plus freezer) of 14 to 22 cubic feet. The handle-less LG LTCS24223W offers a market-leading 23.8 cubic feet, well beyond most other top-freezer models. At the other end of the spectrum is the Whirlpool WRT314TFDW (starting at $495), with only a modest 14.3 cubic feet. This compact refrigerator is an efficient fit for a garage and might also appeal to consumers looking for an apartment-size refrigerator.

Bottom-freezer refrigerators run larger, generally boasting 18 to 25 cubic feet. In the Cheapism price range, however, the offerings cluster at the lower end. Our top picks, the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW and Amana ABB1921BRW, offer 18.7 and 18 cubic feet of storage, respectively. Most buyers consider this sufficient, saying the convenient design helps maximize the available storage.

Side-by-sides offer a little more capacity for the money: Our top pick, the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP, boasts 25.5 cubic feet while the runner-up Whirlpool WRS322FDAW has 21.2 cubic feet. But consider how usable the space is. Some comments we found dismiss the side-by-side Kenmore 50022 for too much freezer space devoted to the ice maker while Reviewed.com deems the cavity and freezer shelves too narrow.

Storage.

For the most part, reviews indicate that buyers are happy with the storage space in budget-priced refrigerators. The 20.2-cubic-foot LG LTCS20220W finds favor with users for spacious shelving, as does its larger sibling, the LG LTCS24223W. The latter also has a dedicated deli drawer, a feature reviewers on Home Depot.com particularly like. Consumers are thrilled with the three drawers in our top-ranked bottom-freezer model, the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW; one or two drawers is more typical in this price range.

Door storage can also increase, or decrease, a refrigerator's appeal. Space for gallon-size jugs in the door is a popular design feature on Amana ABB1921BRW because it frees up the wide shelves for other items. On the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7, the deep in-door bins for quick-access storage attract complaints in some reviews at Best Buy.com, which describe them as flimsy and prone to breaking.

Like the Kenmore 50022, the side-by-side Whirlpool WRS322FDAW draws some complaints for limited freezer space due an ice maker that hogs real estate in a section that is already narrower by design.

Extra Features.

Frills aren't expected in this price range -- don't look for fancy add-ons like a wine rack, quick-freeze drawer, or LCD display -- so reviewers are often pleasantly surprised by little extras such as upgraded lighting or shelving. Some entry-level models feature wire shelves instead of glass, but even the cheapest model we researched, the Whirlpool WRT314TFDW, confines wire shelving to the freezer compartment. Glass is preferable because it's more stable and limits spillage.

Interior lighting in the refrigerator section is standard, but some models go one better with lighting in the freezer, as well. Of the models we recommend, the side-by-side Frigidaire FFSS2614QP provides incandescent lighting in both compartments, and the LG LTCS20220W and Whirlpool WRS322FDAW come with LED lights in both spots. Users seem to prefer brighter LED lighting over incandescent, according to reviews, and LED bulbs last longer.

The models in the lower half of our price range often lack ice makers, although most can be fitted with compatible ice makers at a later time. Refrigerators priced closer to $1,000 typically come with ice makers, and some even have in-door ice and water dispensers. That's the case with all the side-by-sides on our list. This "bonus" isn't without its headaches, however. Not only can the ice maker take up significant space, but some owners of the Whirlpool WRS322FDAW complain that ice is more likely to end up on the kitchen floor than in a cup. More concerning, consumer and appliance experts report that refrigerators with ice makers tend to have more problems than those without. Still, many reviewers like this convenience and are willing to pay a little more for it.

Temperature Regulation.

The primary function of any refrigerator/freezer combo is keeping fresh food cold and frozen food colder. Indeed, most consumers seem pleased with the climate control of the inexpensive models on our list. Our favorite side-by-side and top-freezer models, the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP and LG LTCS20220W, respectively, draw high marks for overall performance but only ho-hum assessments for temperature uniformity. We found no expert temperature tests for our preferred bottom-freezer model, the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW, but reviews on Home Depot.com express few complaints in this regard. The more expensive French door Samsung RF18HFENBWW rated highest in expert tests of the models we researched for this performance factor.

Notably, one side-by-side we researched, the Kenmore 50022, receives less-than-glowing scores from the experts. Testers at Reviewed.com found too much temperature fluctuation, freezer temperatures that run a tad high, and a loss of humidity in the crisper drawers. One top-freezer model that's also consigned to the bottom of our list, the Frigidaire FGTR1845QP, draws fire for excessive ice buildup in the freezer, as noted in user reviews posted on retailer AJ Madison's site. An expert from CNET also faults the model for drawers and door storage that tend to run warm.

Noise.

Budget-priced refrigerators often are dinged for noise. The sound is merely the compressor cycling on, but loud or unusual noise may signal a problem such as a poorly functioning compressor, insufficient insulation, or an overactive ice maker. Although more than one user chides the noise police -- noting that a refrigerator is a machine, after all -- two of our top picks, the Frigidaire FFSS2614QP and Whirlpool WRB119WFBW, are subject to more than a few noise complaints. Close to 70 reviews on BestBuy.com knock the Frigidaire for this irritant, with several mentioning clicking or knocking sounds from the ice maker and others reporting that the hum of the compressor is too noticeable. One owner of the Whirlpool WRB119WFBW grouses in a review on HomeDepot.com that this side-by-side has turned his home into an "industrial environment."

Unless noise complaints are especially frequent, take them with a grain of salt -- what is loud and jarring to one reviewer is a quiet drone to another. Buyers who are particularly concerned about noise can look for models that have been vetted by experts for quiet operation. Our No. 1 top-freezer pick, the LG LTCS20220W, fares quite well in this dimension, according to testers. Two models that stand in the higher reaches of our price range, the Samsung RF18HFENBWW and LG LTCS24223W, also score excellent marks for humming along softly.

Energy Efficiency.

An energy-efficient refrigerator is environmentally friendly and can lead to significant cost savings over time. Refrigerators with Energy Star certification -- those that generate energy savings of at least 20 percent over the minimum federal standard -- often cost slightly more up front but yield savings in the monthly utility bill that should eventually offset the higher price. Additionally, consumers may be eligible for rebates from the local energy company just for buying an Energy Star appliance.

Among the best low-cost models we researched with Energy Star certification are the top-freezer LG LTCS20220W and LG LTCS24223W and side-by-side Whirlpool WRB119WFBW. The Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 also comes with an Energy Star, but that may be one of the few things that recommends it.

Warranty.

The warranty coverage period on most cheap refrigerators is surprisingly short -- many come with limited warranties of just one year on parts and labor. Some manufacturers offer longer warranties on the sealed systems within these appliances (compressors, evaporators, condensers, etc.). Both the LG models we researched and the more expensive French door Samsung unit have warranties that cover the compressor for up to a decade. Whirlpool guarantees the compressor and all parts of the sealed refrigeration system on the WRB119WFBW model for up to five years.

Consumers worried about purchasing a model with the standard one-year warranty should breathe a bit easier knowing that the average lifespan of a refrigerator these days is about 10 to 14 years. While some models, like the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7, seem to have bins and plastic parts more prone to breakage, reports of full meltdowns are fairly rare. There are also several steps consumers can take to help to maximize the life of a refrigerator.

Additional Products We Considered

LG LTCS24223W Review

From $989

Pros:

  • One of the roomiest top-freezer models on the market, with nearly 24 cubic feet of space.
  • Sleek, handle-free design helps maximize space in smaller kitchens.
  • Expert testers give this refrigerator top marks for efficiency and noise.
  • Full-width deli drawer and LED lighting in both freezer and refrigerator.
  • Energy Star-rated for efficiency.

Cons:

  • Temperatures were not as consistent as other models in expert testing.
  • Lacks the in-door ice and water dispenser that some models in this price range have.

Takeaway: Although it flirts with the top end of the Cheapism price range, the LG LTCS24223W is worth a look for shoppers seeking space and simplicity. With open shelves that hold an impressive amount, it's a very roomy 33-inch model.

Where to buy

Samsung RF18HFENBWW Review

From $1000

Pros:

  • High marks from experts for temperature consistency and noise.
  • Compact, at 33 inches across, this French door model can fit in smaller kitchens.
  • Counter-depth design creates a sleek silhouette and is one of the cheapest of its type on the market.
  • Ice maker, spill-proof glass shelves, LED lighting, and door alarm.

Cons:

  • 18-cubic-foot capacity is small for a French door design.
  • Some reports of water leaks inside crisper drawers.
  • Main shelves may not accommodate taller items, forcing users to store them on door shelving.

Takeaway: If a French door model or a counter-depth design with a built-in look is a must-have, the Samsung RF18HFENBWW delivers for a lot less than the competition.

Where to buy

Whirlpool WRT314TFDW Review

From $495

Pros:

  • Compact 28-inch width fits even the smallest studio kitchens and packed garages.
  • Spill-proof glass shelves instead of the cheaper wire shelves common in this price range.
  • Relatively few durability complaints for a basic refrigerator.

Cons:

  • With only 14.3 cubic feet of space, this model may be too small for family use as a primary refrigerator.
  • No light in the freezer and basic incandescent lighting in refrigerator.
  • Available in only white or black.

Takeaway: The Whirlpool WRT314TFDW is a small but solidly built option for consumers who need a basic top-freezer fridge. Just don't expect extras or much space for under $500.

Where to buy