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How to Buy a Refrigerator

how to buy a fridge

Photo by Kenmore

In the market for a new refridgerator? The market is packed with options; we'll help you sort through them all!

1. Pick a type
There are two basic kinds of refrigerators: Freestanding, which doesn't require custom installation. and built-in, which does (and is more expensive because of this -- but also looks more customized).

2. Size up your space
Measure the height, width, and depth of the space where you’re putting your fridge -- most refrigerators measure somewhere between 30 and 36 inches wide. Make sure to measure how much space you need for the door to open all the way!

3. Start your research
Even if you’re not buying online, use the Web to get an idea of the types of refrigerators are available in your price range. Compare prices and read reviews on sites like and -- depending on the fridge and its features, expect to spend anywhere from $400 to more than $10,000.

4. Face facts
If you’re faced with five refrigerators that look alike, the difference may be in the features. Ice and water dispensers are common add-ons. Look for a model that has the ice dispenser built into the door (so there’s more room in the freezer). Remember that your fridge will have to be hooked up to your plumbing for each of these options. Make sure you like the way the door handle feels. Open the refrigerator and freezer doors a few times, keeping in mind that they’ll weigh more when the shelves are stocked with food. Pick a fridge with a finish that matches your kitchen decor. The most common colors are white, black, off-white, and stainless steel; you may also be able to order panels to match your cabinets for a built-in look on a cheaper freestanding fridge.

On the interior, some fridges have little cranks that allow the shelves to move up and down easily. Look for glass shelves rather than grates, so that a spilt soda on the top shelf won’t drip all over the food below. If there are sliding drawers or bins, check that they open and close smoothly and sturdily. The fridge should have a crisper (the bin that keeps your fruits and veggies fresh). Check out the storage space on the inside doors. If you like to buy food in bulk or gallon bottles of milk, you’ll want to make sure that there’s enough room for larger containers. Determine how the temp is controlled inside the fridge. Digital controls let you be precise about how cool your food is kept.

5. Get the 411
After you’ve picked out your fridge, ask the retailer about the final details. Is there a shipping charge? Have they ever heard any complaints about this refrigerator? Will they take away the old refrigerator? How much will that cost? How long is the warranty, and what kinds of repairs does it cover? How often do we have to change the water filter (if it comes with a water dispenser)? Where can we buy replacement parts? Is there any regular maintenance that we can do to keep the fridge working well? If we want to return the fridge, will we have to pay to have it picked up?

-- Miles Stiverson

See More: Buying Appliances , Buying Guides