Very few people actually shop around for their mini fridge. Since most are relatively inexpensive and destined for a dorm room or garage, it's easy to just pick up the first one you run across in a big box store or the highest rated one on Amazon.
Here at Reviewed, our experts have tested hundreds of full-size refrigerators over the years and found some are definitely better than others. As a result, we decided to test some of the highest-rated mini fridges on the market to see how they hold up. While mini fridges, on the whole, do seem to be more or less the same, the difference between good, bad, and average can be significant.
In our tests, we consider temperature consistency, storage capacity, and usability as the most important aspects of a good mini fridge.
Our favorite fridge is the Magic Chef HMCR320WE(available at Home Depot), which is a good fit for those looking for a high-performance mini fridge at a great price. While this 1.44-cubic-foot mini fridge is on the small side, and its door takes some getting used to, we love its retro aesthetic and impeccable temperature controls.
For those with a different budget, style, and feature preferences, we have plenty of other recommendations that will work in your space for a similar price.
Here are the best mini fridges we've tested, ranked in order:
Magic Chef HMCR320WE
Arctic King ATMP032AES
Magic Chef HMCR320WE
The Magic Chef HMCR320WE isn't perfect, but it does so much right. For starters, it has a really interesting look, mixing a pastel green with a classic car design. It also has a good mix of storage options inside, with an 8-oz. can dispenser rack, a bin capable of holding a 2-liter bottle, and another, smaller bin.
But, the best feature? The HMCR320WE's excellent temperature control in both its fridge and freezer compartments. Its fridge and freezer temps are remarkably stable, hovering right around the ideal 37°F. Its freezer temperatures aren't as consistent, though it didn't stray far from -2°F during testing. The HMCR320WE was actually the only mini fridge we tested to have a properly calibrated freezer. All the other models we tested run a few degrees warmer than they should on their default settings.
In terms of drawbacks, there is only one minor usability issue. The door seems to have an internal mechanism to help it close and stay closed. The downside of this design is that it actually causes the door to spring open if you don't close it with sufficient force. It feels like you need to get the door to go up and over a hill in order to close properly, and could encourage slamming.
Despite its shortcomings, the Magic Chef HMCR320WE offers more than enough performance to make it our top pick.
Not only do we test these appliances in laboratory conditions, we also use them just like you would in the course of a normal day. This combination gives us a great sense for how these appliances behave, both in terms of raw performance and overall user friendliness. A product must have both of these qualities in order to earn our recommendation.
We're always reviewing new products, so stay tuned for our reviews and roundups of the latest products in laundry, refrigerators, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners.
You've probably noticed that different appliances and devices operate best in certain temperature conditions. Extreme heat, cold, and humidity can cause components to be sluggish, to overheat, or to otherwise perform differently than they would under ideal conditions.
Mini fridges (and full-size refrigerators) in particular can be very sensitive to ambient air conditions. Refrigerators pull in the surrounding air and cool it down to around 37°F to preserve food and inhibit bacteria growth. In hot weather, the fridge's condenser and cooling coils have to work harder to cool the warmer air. In cold weather, the fridge can struggle to operate in general. This is why, if you happen to have a second fridge in your sweltering hot or freezing cold garage, you may have noticed that the air inside it isn't as cold as the air inside your kitchen fridge.
To mitigate these effects, we test each refrigerator in a special lab that conditions the air to a temperature of 72°F +/- 5°F, and a relative humidity of 50% RH +/- 15% RH (basically, room temperature conditions). This way, each fridge gets the chance to perform at its best, and won't be affected by the time of year we run our tests.
Over the course of a week, including a day for calibration, we put each mini fridge through its paces. After filling the mini fridge up with water ballast (fridges won't operate as well when they're empty), we measured the fridge's temperature, freezing time, usable space, and energy use.
Temperature — Our ideal temperature settings for the fridge and the freezer are 37°F and 0°F, respectively. With fridge temperatures higher than 37°F, you might have to start worrying about bacteria growth, as 40°F is the start of the bacteria "danger zone". Freezer temperatures warmer than 0°F means that the food isn't being truly frozen, and if the temperature isn't consistent, it can exacerbate freezer burn. Once we set each fridge to those temperatures, we collect temperature data throughout the week's testing that tells us not only how close the temperature in the fridge and freezer are to 37°F and 0°F, respectively, but how close the temperature stayed to those ideal values.
Freezing Time — Once the fridge is plugged in and had a few days to get its internal temperatures under control, we measure how long it takes the freezer to get ice frozen solid (for the mini fridges actually equipped with a freezer). This is a good measure of how quickly your freezer can adapt to new items being added and get them chilled down to freezing temperatures.
Usable Storage Space — One of the most common refrigerator specs is the storage capacity, or the volume of the inside of the fridge, in cubic feet. You'd think that a higher capacity means that you can fit more in that fridge, but that's not always the case. We measure the usable storage space, which is how much empty space is actually available in the fridge's interior. Any number of things can reduce the usable space in a fridge—the ice bucket and/or ice maker, a water filter, air filters, shelf arrangement, etc. The closer the usable space value is to the fridge's stated storage capacity, the more food you can fit in your refrigerator.
Energy Use — Using an electric meter, we measure the fridge's energy usage (in Watt-hours) over the week of testing. The less energy used, the more efficient that fridge is, and the more money it'll save you on utility bills in the future.
We also use each fridge in a more casual sense so that we can answer usability questions about the fridge's specs and features, like the doors, shelves, controls, etc. If a mini fridge keeps the temperature at a perfect 37°F, but it's very difficult to open the doors and the control panel makes no sense, we're going to penalize that fridge with respect to its ease of use.
We test each fridge from two perspectives—first, from a data-driven objective point of view, and second, as a regular person trying to get at their leftover Chinese food. The combination of these two types of experiences allows us to recommend the best fridge for you at any price point.
What You Should Know Before Buying A Mini Fridge
What Temperature Should a Refrigerator Be?
Ideally, your fridge should be exactly 37°F and your freezer should be 0°F.
These temperatures are important because food needs to be kept within a very narrow band of temperatures to maximize its shelf life. If your fridge, for example, were to drop to 32°F—just 5°F below the ideal temperature—some food in your refrigerator will start to freeze. On the other end of the spectrum, temperatures of 40°F and higher are dangerous, because that's the temperature at which bacteria really start to proliferate quickly.
If your freezer gets warmer than 0°F, it means your food isn't being truly frozen. Furthermore, if temperatures in your freezer bounce around, that will greatly exacerbate the build-up of freezer burn.
How Long Do Refrigerators Last?
While the lifespan of any appliance can vary wildly due to several factors, you should expect your fridge to last for about 10 years.
Most manufacturers will at least cover the first year in their warranty, but some companies will offer more robust programs that will cover specific parts up to five years, 10 years, or for the lifetime of the product.
How Do You Measure a Refrigerator?
This is a somewhat ambiguous question that we get asked a lot.
If you’re looking to fit your new fridge into an existing enclosure, then getting the right measurements is crucial, and not particularly difficult. The only area people generally get tripped up by is the door: If the front of your fridge is flush with your cabinetry, you won’t be able to open the door properly. Fortunately, this is an easy fix: just make sure enough of your fridge is sticking out past your cabinetry that the door can swing freely.
Measuring the interior of your fridge is a much more complicated issue. Most manufacturers measure the interior of a fridge by essentially flooding it with water and accounting for every empty inch inside the fridge. While it makes a kind of sense, we don’t use these measurements, because they don’t cleanly translate into a usable datapoint. Nobody is storing food in the crevices around their ice maker or hovering in the gap between the shelves and door (if you are, please let us know your technique).
The way we measure the interior of a fridge is to get the measurements of each shelf, bin, or other storage location—the places you can actually put food—and add those together. That way we’re only accounting for the usable storage inside the fridge, and different models’ capacities are more cross-comparable.
How Do You Organize a Refrigerator?
We do have a guide that breaks down the process of cleaning and organizing your fridge, but there’s really only a few points to remember.
First, it’s a good idea to empty everything out and give the fridge a once-over with a soapy sponge. Even though you’re probably not spilling stuff constantly, your fridge will get gross over time, and organizing it is a great time to also knock out a quick cleaning.
Once that’s done, you next need to figure out which items make sense to be on the door. You don’t want particularly perishable items kept on the door, because repeatedly opening the door during normal use will mean those items are slightly warmer than the average temperature elsewhere in the fridge. Keep items like milk and eggs towards the back of the fridge, where the coolest, more even temperatures will be.
It’s also important to keep fruits and vegetables separate. Many fruits give off ethylene gas, which can exacerbate the ripening process for other fruits and vegetables. This is why fridges come with two crispers: To keep your fruits and veggies happier and healthier for longer. Use both.
Finally, keep in mind that cold air needs to circulate around your fridge for it to work properly. Stacking shelves to the ceiling will cut off airflow and lead to hot spots around your fridge where food will spoil much faster. On top of that, overstocked fridges often result in lower visibility, which means food will get hidden and forgotten, only to be uncovered later, teeming with new life. Keeping clutter controlled will keep this kind of food waste to a minimum.
Other Mini Fridges We Tested
If you don't need a freezer, the Insignia NS-CF26BK9 may be the way to go. It has a decent-sized fridge compartment at a little over 2 cubic feet, which is towards the larger size of all the fridges we tested. While less space efficient than the Magic Chef's can dispenser rack, the NS-CF26BK9's can holsters are a more flexible storage solution, both because they're removable and because it's easier to store non-can items there. If you are storing cans, the holsters are also much easier to access.
In terms of temperature performance, the NS-CF26BK9 maintained very steady, stable temperatures during testing, though it did use more than twice as much electricity as almost every other mini fridge we tested, topping out at 6.08 kWh while most other models used less than 4 kWh. This difference equates to roughly $0.15 extra per hour, depending on your local electricity rates.
Despite having a slightly more expensive upkeep, the NS-CF26BK9 is excellent for those looking to maximize fridge storage space without sacrificing too much performance.
The Costway EP22672BK, has a standard interior, with a 2-liter bin and a can dispenser rack on its door. It offers an average amount of storage space, though it has a slightly smaller fridge and a slightly larger freezer than most of the other fridges we tested.
While the EP22672BK has steady and accurate fridge temperatures, its freezer runs a bit warm on default settings: about 3°F as opposed to 0°F. While this is not a huge difference, it does mean some items may not freeze properly—so make sure to calibrate it to one notch below where Costway says you should.
Overall, the Costway EP22672BK is a decent mini fridge, but we recommend waiting for its price to fall more in line with the rest of the fridges we reviewed: Its performance doesn't merit paying almost twice as much as the rest of the bunch. If you can get it on sale (and make sure you calibrate its freezer), it will serve you well.
The Galanz GLR31TBEER features a 1950s aesthetic and comes in a few different color options. It offers the most storage area out of all the mini fridges we tested, with a whopping 3 cubic feet, about 0.5 cubic feet larger than the rest of the pack. That's more than two bowling balls worth of space, which is a significant volume for a mini fridge.
In terms of fridge performance, the GLR31TBEER shines. During testing, it hit the ideal 37°F and didn't waver. Where it fell down, however, was its freezer temperature. Not only were its suggested settings warm, resulting in an average temp of 5°F, they were also the least consistent in the whole group, oscillating between 2°F and 8°F. With this sort of variation, you're likely to run into issues with freezer burn.
The GLR31TBEER also has the auto-close door issue, but worse: If you don't shut the door hard enough, it'll actually bounce open again.
Though it does have some performance and usability issues, the Galanz GLR31TBEER still looks great and offers a ton of usable storage area. If you're not planning on keeping anything particularly perishable in your freezer, it may still be a good pick-up.
During testing, the Midea WHD-113FSS1 performed slightly below average, mostly due to its temperature control. For starters, its fridge ran warm on default settings, hitting an average temperature less than 1°F below the safe zone of 40°F. Its freezer performance wasn't much better either, hovering around 5°F instead of 0°F. While this isn't ideal, the one saving grace is that its freezer temps were stable: Just turn its temp down slightly and the freezer should be just fine.
There isn't much to say about its usability or storage space. Its controls and door were easy to use, and its shelves and bins were more or less identical to what we saw on the other mini fridges we tested. We did like the design of its can dispenser rack, as it lets you load cans in from the middle as well as the top.
Despite its name, the Arctic King ATMP032AES has some of the warmer default fridge temperatures that we measured. On default settings, it was actually slightly above the safety threshold of 40°F. Fortunately, its fridge temps were consistent, so once you calibrate the compartment to be cooler you should be good to go. Its freezer temps were also a bit warm at 3°F, but were also relatively stable—no freezer burn here.
One of the ATMP032AES's best features is its stainless steel facade, which looks much nicer than some of the other, glossy-finished mini fridges we tested. Opening its door reveals a door with can holsters, a 2-liter bin, and a smaller bin above. Combined with the interior storage, you get an average amount of usable space for your perishables.
Stainless steel exterior
Fridge and freezer run too warm and must be calibrated
The Frigidaire FFPE3322UM is actually the warmest fridge of the bunch, with an average temperature of 41°F at its default settings. Given that anything above 40°F isn't safe for food storage, this is a disappointing test result. Fortunately, its temperatures are some of the more consistent ones we saw, so once it's properly calibrated it should be all right.
While the FFPE3322UM does technically have a freezer, we do not recommend using it as such: During testing, we were only able to get it down to about 22°F, which is not nearly cold enough to function properly in this regard. The temperature also wasn't particularly consistent, making it our worst freezer test result by a large margin. Feel free to use this area as a second refrigeration compartment, but don't expect your ice cream to be cone ready.
The Cooluli C20LDXW is advertised on some retailers as being both a mini fridge and a cooler for cosmetics. We'd be more inclined to recommend it for the latter than the former: It had the worst performance of the bunch. While the C20LDXW was the only fridge we tested with a digital readout, the readout is inaccurate, resulting in temperatures about 7°F cooler than what was programmed. We also noticed some frost beginning to accumulate at the back of the fridge after only a couple days of use.
The C20LDXW is definitely the cutest and smallest mini fridge we tested, with a total capacity smaller than most of the other mini fridge's freezers. You also need to be careful while stocking or grabbing items, as its flimsy plastic shelves bow very easily and shake as you add or remove items. They don't support a lot of weight.
Think about getting something better for your money.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.