Best Cheap Refrigerators

We've identified the best budget buys among top-freezer, bottom-freezer, and side-by-side refrigerators. We've even included an affordable French door model.

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.  

We Looked At

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.

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.

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.

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.

Our Top Pick

LG LTCS20220W
Our Picks
LG LTCS20220W

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Frigidaire FFSS2614QP

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Whirlpool WRB119WFBW

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

GE GTS18GTHWW

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Whirlpool WRS322FDAW

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Amana ABB1921BRW

The Amana ABB1921BRW should satisfy buyers who want wider storage space and and a design that prioritizes fresh food at a rock-bottom price.

  • 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.

Frigidaire FGTR1845QP

Frigidaire FGTR1845QP Review

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Kenmore 50022

Kenmore 50022 Review

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Insignia NS-RTM18WH7

Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 Review

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.

  • 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.

  • Reviews grouse about flimsy plastic bins that easily crack and break.

  • Refrigerator and freezer doors may not close smoothly.

Other Products We Reviewed

Maytag M1TXEGMYW

Maytag M1TXEGMYW Review

In Maytag M1TXEGMYW reviews at Lowe's users give this budget fridge four stars for steady dependability, practical features, and well-planned use of space. The top-freezer Maytag M1TXEGMYW (starting at $710) is a winner with consumers. Owners who posted reviews at Home Depot similarly laud its quality, reliability, and sturdy feel. Most consumers report good temperature regulation and plenty of cold air, although a few reviews cite some unevenness and problems keeping ice cream sufficiently frozen. (With only one control for both the fridge and freezer compartments, it's impossible to dial down the freezer section without over-chilling the fresh food section.) We also noticed minor griping in Maytag M1TXEGMYW reviews about the noise level.

Design-wise, Maytag M1TXEGMYW stands out for having the largest capacity of any top -freezer refrigerator we researched. With 20.6 cubic feet total interior space, 14.4 cubic feet are given over to fresh food and 6.2 cubic feet are devoted to frozen items. This fridge also provides flexible storage options with four adjustable (fresh food) glass shelves, adjustable door storage (including gallon-size door bins), two humidity-controlled crispers, and a deli drawer. In addition, the M1TXEGMYW includes an automatic ice maker -- a bonus for refrigerators in the budget price range. There is a light in the refrigerator compartment but none in the freezer, and a number of reviewers lament its absence. The Maytag M1TXEGMYW is Energy Star qualified and consumes approximately 410 kWh a year for an estimated annual operating cost of $44.

Available in white, black, bisque, or, for $200 more, stainless steel, the Maytag M1TXEGMYW is a reliable refrigerator that impresses consumers with its value. It's perfect for thrifty families looking for bang for the buck and works fine as the primary refrigerator or as a backup in the garage or a storehouse for a teen cave.

Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ

Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ Review

The Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ (starting at $899, Sears) is the only high quality side-by-side refrigerator that falls in the Cheapism price range. It not only delivers on features, but also on performance, assert Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ reviews. Based on our reading of reviews at sites such as Home Depot and Best Buy, the mechanics are top-notch and overall utility is high. In particular, the rich set of amenities (including an ice and water dispenser, which is rarely found in the budget end of the market) on what still passes for a modest, as opposed to fancy, refrigerator holds wide appeal. This fridge earns points in reviews for quiet operation and appropriately and consistently cold temperatures in both the freezer and fresh food sections. Although a few purchasers find that the relatively narrow shelves in this side-by-side design are cumbersome and limiting, other Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ reviews like the efficient use of space and easy interior access. Most say cleaning is a breeze although a few beg to differ, saying that food gets trapped in the runners holding the glass shelves.

This large refrigerator boasts 25.1 cubic feet of storage space (15.2 cubic feet for fresh food and 9.9 cubic feet for the freezer), which in theory is sufficient for large families, including those with teenagers. And while some users report it's roomy enough for folks who like to stock up on sale items, one reviewer argues that the side-by-side configuration can't accommodate the needs of a four-person household. The fresh food section of the Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ comes equipped with four glass shelves, a crisper, and door storage with three gallon-size bins, one covered dairy bin, and one shelf. The freezer comes with a pull-out basket and the door holds five shelves. As noted above, there's also an external water and ice dispenser. Energy Star qualified, the Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ uses roughly 577 kWh a year, which costs an estimated average $61 to run. It comes in white or black, both with a textured finish.

With sturdy construction, upmarket features, and a wallet-pleasing price, the Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ does not disappoint. Consumers like the value and convenience and several say they would buy it again; at least one already owns two.

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Kenmore 69002 Review

This model is sold exclusively by Sears, and Kenmore 69002 reviews at the retailer's site indicate buyers are quite pleased with their purchase. The Kenmore 69002 (starting at $848, Sears) is one of the few bottom-freezer refrigerators that squeeze into the Cheapism price range. Good use of space -- a roomy freezer, an efficiently organized door, adjustable shelves -- merits frequent mention in reviews. The absence of much comment on the Sears site about temperature regulation suggests all is well and good in that department, although reviews posted at Viewpoints laud this aspect of the fridge's performance. Another point in its favor, according to Kenmore 69002 reviews, is the ability to reconfigure the shelves and remove them for cleaning. Users also rave about the bottom-freezer configuration, which frees them from bending over to reach fresh foods, minimizes the chances of "losing" food to the back of the lowest shelves, and affords easier access to freezer treats for the kids.

This relatively low-cost refrigerator with an upmarket bottom-freezer design doesn't come with many extras, but does sport a few key features. There are adjustable glass shelves, fixed gallon-size door bins, humidity-controlled crispers, an interior light in freezer and fridge, electronic controls with digital display, and an optional ice maker. It provides 19.7 cubic feet of storage, including 13.5 cubic feet devoted to fresh food and 6.2 cubic feet to frozen food. This model is available in white only and the outer shell is textured. It's Energy Star qualified and burns about 454 kWh of electricity a year.

The Kenmore 69002 may lack lots of bells and whistles, but the spacious interior, convenient configuration, customizable interior, reliability, and budget price are the main attractions. If a fridge with a bottom-freezer is a priority, this is the one for you.

GE GTH18GBD

GE GTH18GBD Review

GE GTH18GBD reviews at Home Depot give a thumbs-up for the strong association between affordability and quality. As evidence, users cite adequate cooling and even temperature control, well-planned and generous space, and quiet operation. GE GTH18GBD (starting at $537, Sears) reviews posted at Lowe's ditto the assessment, adding that it's easy to clean and is overall a solid appliance. Minor rumblings about noise surface here and there in reviews, however, including one at Amazon. Elsewhere another consumer says the crisper drawers are hard to pull out but notes that a little wax on the runners makes for an easy fix. Overall consumers are positively disposed toward this mid-size, top-freezer refrigerator.

A basic model with few frills, the GE GTH18GBD sports 18.1 cubic feet of interior space (13.9 cubic feet for the fridge, 4.2 cubic feet for the freezer) that contains adjustable glass shelves, two humidity-controlled crispers, a snack drawer, and fixed gallon-size bins and soda-can storage in the door. There is an interior light in the fresh food compartment but not in the freezer; an ice maker is optional. The textured finish comes in white, black, or bisque. The GE GTH18GBD is Energy Star qualified, with average energy consumption of 383 kWh a year for an estimated operating cost of $41.

The GE GTH18GBD is right-sized for small households and urban dwellers. It's also ideal as an extra garage or basement fridge or for a guest house. Based on the reviews we read, this well-priced refrigerator doesn't stint on performance.

Cheap Mini Fridges

Cheap Mini Fridges Review

Compact refrigerators are a popular item. A cheap mini fridge serves lots of extra functions: It lets office workers and college students save on eating out, it holds movie snacks for the watch-at-home crowd, it fits in small spaces, and it offers versatile cool storage for a fraction of the cost of a full-sized refrigerator.

Because these modestly-sized appliances are typically second refrigerators or short-term solutions, it doesn't make sense to overspend. Moreover, industry experts tend to give cheap mini fridges relatively low scores for performance and durability in comparative tests. Consumers, on the other hand, are far more likely to appreciate a mini refrigerator for what it is.

Here's a brief rundown of the best cheap mini fridges under $150.

The Danby DAR259 (starting at $146, Amazon) is a standout model in the category, according to mini refrigerator reviews by both experts and users. It comes in black or white, has a reversible door, and features storage for cans and tall bottles. This 2.5 cubic-foot unit earns 4.3 out of 5 stars in mini refrigerator reviews at Buzzillions and 4.5 out of 5 stars from users who posted comments at Abt. One consumer products review site ranks the Danby DAR259 the best mini fridge for features like roomy storage and an Energy Star rating.

The Danby DAR259 has no freezer section, but mini refrigerator reviews indicate most users consider that a plus. The reason: freezers in mini fridges are too small to be useful, consumers say, and periodic defrosting is a time-sink.

The majority of reviews say this compressor-run refrigerator is quiet and its cooling power is robust. But consumers are divided about some issues. Beer enthusiasts and those who use the mini fridge as a bar appreciate the in-door can storage but others deem it wasted space. And a few users gripe about an inconveniently-located temperature dial.

Another cheap mini refrigerator worth checking out is the Haier HCR17W (starting at $100, Amazon). While this tiny, 1.7 cubic-foot fridge may not suit everyone, its super-cheap price makes it an excellent choice for dorm rooms or under-desk storage at the office. Expert commentary on this model is absent, but reviews at Amazon approvingly note its quiet operation, effective cooling, and stable temperature control, which includes the freezer's success in actually freezing small items without overcooling everything in the fridge section. At Best Buy reviews generally say this compact appliance does what it's supposed to -- chill small items/containers and beverages. We found a few minor complaints about limited space and one reviewer reports receiving a unit with a door that didn't shut properly.

Unlike the Danby DAR259, the Haier HCR17W contains a freezer compartment that reviews say is a nice bonus, especially because it performs well. Given the small size of the fridge, the freezer is, obviously, quite small -- half the width of the interior space -- and holds only small items. Users don't consider this a drawback; most are just happy to have a freezer.

Another cheap mini fridge with a freezer is the Magic Chef MCBR170 (starting at $97, Amazon), which is available in black and white and features a reversible door. This 1.7 cubic-foot model finds favor with consumers, whose reviews at Home Depot comment favorably on its price, relative spaciousness, and versatility. On the other hand, several users report premature failure and inadequate cooling, and a few disgruntled buyers complain about receiving lemons.

If you're looking for a cheap mini fridge with a freezer and a bit more space than a cube model, Magic Chef also makes larger portable refrigerators, including the 3.6-cubic-foot MCBR360 (starting at $133, Amazon) and the 2.4-cubic-foot MCBR240 (starting at $119, Amazon). Consumers seem to appreciate the freezer compartments in both compact appliances, saying they're large enough to hold frozen entries and the refrigerator section keeps food properly chilled. The MCBR240 carries a higher (though still cheap) price tag than the smaller Magic Chef MCBR170 but earns higher ratings in mini refrigerator reviews at Home Depot. The MCBR360 takes some hits reviews at Amazon for noisy operation and a limited lifespan.

Yet another cheap mini fridge with a small freezer compartment, the Kenmore 92489 (starting at $119, Sears), features 2.4 cubic feet, door racks, and a reversible door. Mini refrigerator reviews at Sears are generally favorable. Most consumers are satisfied with the Kenmore 92489's performance, although a few gripe about units that don't stay on or keep foods at the right temperature.

Cheap compact refrigerators by brand giants like GE, Frigidaire, and Kitchen Aid don't make an appearance on our list either because the models are tagged above $150 or because they don't fare well with users. One Haier product, the HNSE04 (starting at $145, Amazon), garners mixed reviews at Amazon, where some users serve up positive assessments while others grumble about loud noise, the lack of an interior light, poor build quality, and limited durability.

Despite the fact that expert reviews of inexpensive mini refrigerators are rare and well-recognized brands don't show up at the party, there are good mini fridges at attractive prices. Buyers should temper their expectations, however. These cheap mini fridges may not offer the longevity and performance of higher-end models, but for consumers seeking low-cost convenience, these flaws might not be deal breakers.

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Frigidaire FFTR1814L Review

Consumers' experience with the top-freezer Frigidaire FFTR1814L (starting at $476) is mixed, but skews mostly negative. On the plus side, Frigidaire FFTR1814L reviews commend the modest price and mid-range size, noting its suitability as a second fridge or a fit for small spaces. At

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Maytag M4TXNWFY Review

Compact size, entry-level feature set, and good performance define this top-freezer fridge. Maytag M4TXNWFY reviews assign it moderately high marks for reliability and use of interior space. At Home Depot one review notes that it seems to hold way more than its 14.4 cubic feet would suggest and another reports that it easily meets the needs of a family of four. The absence of frills appeals to some, as well, as does the associated modest price. Additional affirmation comes in Maytag M4TXNWFY (starting at $449) reviews posted at AJ Madison, where users comment on its quiet operation, good temperature regulation, and spacious layout. Reviews indicate that couples without children, consumers who live in small apartments, and owners of vacation homes and rental properties constitute a large share of buyers.

This top-freezer model is the smallest we researched, and yet users report its 10.6 cubic feet of refrigerator space and 3.8 cubic feet of freezer space hold several weeks worth of food and leftovers. The Maytag M4TXNWFY comes equipped with two wire shelves in the fridge and a glass shelf covering two crispers at the bottom, a covered dairy drawer, three door shelves, and one freezer shelf with two more in the door. There is a light in the fridge but none in the frost-free freezer; an automatic ice maker is optional. The Maytag M4TXNWFY lacks an Energy Star and uses about 438 kWh a year for an estimated average operating cost of $47.

The basic Maytag M4TXNWFY may lack frills but boasts an attractive price tag and strong user reviews. Performance and a roomy interior feel are a winning combination at this price point. If you're in the market for a smaller refrigerator, this one might be hard to pass up.

LG LTCS24223W

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Samsung RF18HFENBWW

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Whirlpool WRT314TFDW

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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Review Score:
Product Title
Design
Capacity
Energy Star
Ice Maker
Ice/Water Dispenser
Warranty
Product Title
Design
Capacity
Energy Star
Ice Maker
Ice/Water Dispenser
Warranty

LG LTCS20220W

$810
Top freezer
20.2 cu. ft.
Yes
Yes
No
1 year; 7 years on evaporator, condenser, and rotary compressor; 10...

Frigidaire FFSS2614QP

$799
Side by side
25.5 cu. ft.
No
Yes
Yes
1 year

Whirlpool WRB119WFBW

$899
Bottom freezer
18.7 cu. ft.
Yes
Optional
No
1 year; 5 years on cavity liner and sealed refrigeration system

GE GTS18GTHWW

$539
Top freezer
17.5 cu. ft.
No
Optional
No
1 year

Whirlpool WRS322FDAW

$899
Side by side
21.2 cu. ft.
No
Yes
Yes
1 year

Amana ABB1921BRW

$809
Bottom freezer
18 cu. ft.
No
No
No
1 year

Frigidaire FGTR1845QP

$719
Top freezer
18.1 cu. ft.
No
Optional
No
1 year

Kenmore 50022

$800
Side by side
25.4 cu. ft.
No
Yes
Yes
1 year

Insignia NS-RTM18WH7

$540
Top freezer
18 cu. ft.
Yes
No
No
1 year

LG LTCS24223W

$989
Top freezer
23.8 cu. ft.
Yes
Yes
No
1 year; 7 years on evaporator, condenser, and rotary compressor; 10...

Samsung RF18HFENBWW

$1000
French door, counter depth
18 cu. ft.
No
Yes
No
1 year; 5 years on sealed refrigeration system; 10 years on digital...

Whirlpool WRT314TFDW

$495
Top freezer
14.3 cu. ft.
No
Optional
No
1 year