Not everyone wants or needs a fridge that costs thousands of dollars, but when you're looking at budget options, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
(If your budget is a bit bigger than $1000, be sure to check out our article about the Best French-Door Refrigerators Under $2000.)
Lucky for you, that's exactly why we're here. We've tested enough fridges to be able to give you solid recommendations at any price point. With prices under $1000, these may not be the flashiest fridges on the market, but they'll more than get the job done, and won't break the bank in the process. Our current favorite is the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 (available at Best Buy for $529.99) because of its efficiency and its storage capabilities.
If you want to find out more about a particular fridge, click on the link to read the full review.
Updated January 16, 2019
Where To Buy$529.99 Best Buy Buy
Insignia NS-RTM18WH7Best Overall
Only available at Best Buy, the Insignia NS–RTM18 refrigerator has one big thing going for it: a low, low sale price, which means it's cheaper than almost any other full-size fridge you can buy.
The 18-cu.-ft. top-freezer had a tough time with some of our tests. Namely, it ran a little hot, with temperatures well above our preferred value of 37°F. Bumping the temperature down to the lowest setting will ensure that your food is being safely preserved. On the other hand, this fridge was one of the most efficient fridges (in terms of electricity usage) that's ever come through our labs. There's also plenty of storage space, with no hidden extras (like water filters or air filters) to take up valuable real estate that you need for a pizza box or a Thanksgiving turkey. Long story short, we think the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 is worth a look if you need a second fridge, or if your budget is tight. Read the full review.
How We Test
At first glance, most refrigerators don't look like anything special. All they have to do is keep your food and beverages from going bad, right? It turns out that there's a lot more to these big, heavy, cold boxes than meets the eye, and between our specially-calibrated refrigerator lab and our rigorous testing standards, the testers and writers at Reviewed can recommend specific fridge models, and back up those recommendations with hard data and personal experience.
The Refrigerator Test Lab
Just by living in the real world, you've probably noticed that appliances operate best in certain temperature conditions. Because an appliance involves a number of electronic and mechanical parts working together in harmony, the air in your home can inhibit certain parts from working at their best, especially in extremely hot or cold climates.
Refrigerators in particular can be very sensitive to the ambient air conditions. To make a long story short, refrigerators pull in air and cool it down to temperatures cold enough (usually around 37°F) to preserve food and inhibit bacteria growth. In hot weather, the condenser and cooling coils have to work harder to cool the warmer air. In cold weather, the fridge struggles to operate in general. This is why, if you happen to have a second fridge in your burning hot or freezing cold garage, you may have noticed that the air inside that fridge is not as cold as the air inside your kitchen fridge.
To mitigate these possible temperature 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). This way, each fridge can get the chance to perform at its best, and doesn't get inadvertently penalized for having to deal with warmer or colder air than its competitors experienced.
Over the course of a week (including a day for calibration), we put each refrigerator through its paces. After filling the fridge up with water ballast (since fridges operate better when there's less empty space), we measure the fridge's temperature, humidity loss, 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 mean that the food isn't being truly frozen. 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 air temperature stayed to those ideal values.
• Humidity Loss — For this test, we focus on the refrigerator's veggie crisper. We add water to a floral foam ball, and then record how much of the water is evaporated away each day. Humidity loss rates are important because if the crisper is too dry, your leafy greens will dry out very quickly. If the crisper is too humid, then your fruits will rot. Fridges that can strike a balance between these two extremes will help you to preserve your fruits and veggies for as long as possible.
• Freezing Time — Once the fridge is plugged in, we measure the time it takes for the freezer to cool down from room temperature to 32°F (the freezing temperature of water). This is a good measure of how quickly your fridge and freezer can cool down food or beverages that have just been placed inside the refrigerator.
• Usable 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 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 safe 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, water/ice dispenser, and extras like smart connectivity, door-in-door or flexible storage options, etc. If a refrigerator keeps the 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 the leftover Chinese food. The combination of these two types of experiences allows us to recommend the best fridge for you at any price point.
Affordable fridges are a dime a dozen, but the Whirlpool WRT318FZDB stands out. Despite this 18 cu. ft. fridge's low price point, it has a few cleverly-designed and eye-catching storage options. Between a movable deli bin (that slides from one side of the fridge to the other), a retractable shelf on the door that can make it easier to store wine bottles, and movable glass shelves, you won't have any trouble fitting large or awkwardly-shaped foodstuffs in this fridge.
Best of all, this fridge was dead-on when it came to our temperature tests; it effortlessly maintained 37°F and 0°F in the fridge and freezer, respectively, throughout our week of testing. For all of these reasons and more, we think the Whirlpool WRT318FZDB is one of the best affordable fridges you can buy. Read the full review.
Where To Buy$795.20 AppliancesConnection Buy $798.30 Home Depot Buy $799.00 Abt Buy $799.99 Best Buy Buy
The Samsung RT18M6215SG is truly a unique top-freezer refrigerator. This 18-cubic foot fridge has a sleek black stainless-steel exterior and temperatures that are spot-on for food preservation. Surprisingly, the most boring part of a typical refrigerator—the freezer— is where this fridge is truly innovative.
The freezer can either be a normal freezer, or, with a few button presses, you can convert it into a second refrigerator zone. This could be a great choice for a small kitchen, a vacation home, or a garage or basement refrigerator. We think that with its versatility and good looks, the Samsung RT18M6215SG a better-than-average value. Read the full review.
At first glance, the GE GAS18PSJSS refrigerator looks pretty ordinary. But behind that stainless steel (or optional white) exterior hides a neat trick: On the top shelf, there's a water pitcher that can automatically refill itself with filtered water. This filtered water pitcher has a higher capacity than your average Pur or Brita pitcher because the filtration occurs in the fridge itself.
In addition to that family-friendly perk, this is also a solid fridge in general; it has plenty of storage space, and runs very efficiently. Both the fridge and freezer run a little hot, but with only a dial to set the temperature, that's to be expected. Just bump the dial down a little further, and your food will be just fine. If you just want a basic top-freezer refrigerator, but want one very useful extra feature, be sure to check out the GE GAS18PSJSS. Read the full review.
Where To Buy$799.00 AppliancesConnection Buy $777.60 Home Depot Buy $779.00 Abt Buy $779.99 Best Buy Buy
At just 65.5 inches high, the 20 cu. ft. Whirlpool WRT311FZDM can still fit underneath most upper kitchen cabinets, but that's not the only reason we think it's a good fit. This simple top-freezer can blend in with almost any kitchen design, and it won't break the bank with either its purchase price or on future electric bills. Its monochromatic stainless finish, glass shelves, and deli drawer are upscale touches that its competitors lack.
While the temperatures in the fridge and the freezer ran a bit warm during our testing, it's easy to turn the temperature dial down a couple of notches to compensate. The Whirlpool WRT311FZDM is a great combination of style and performance that you can get at a bargain. Read the full review.
Where To Buy$677.00 AppliancesConnection Buy $683.10 Home Depot Buy $683.00 Abt Buy $684.99 Best Buy Buy
If you're looking for a bare-bones fridge for your garage, or a replacement fridge for a small apartment, the GE GTS18FGLWW or the GE GTS21FGKWW (the slightly larger version of the same fridge) will probably look pretty familiar.
These two top-freezer have everything you need in a fridge: plenty of storage space, deep shelves on the door for a gallon of milk (even if we don't recommend storing milk on the door), and low operating costs. Like most top-freezer refrigerators, they do run a little bit hotter than we'd prefer at the default setting, but you can easily set it to a cooler temperature level by adjusting the dial. For a no-frills refrigerator experience, you can't go wrong with the GE GTS18FGLWW or the GE GTS21FGKWW. Read the full review.
The Frigidaire FFTR1821TD is very similar to many of the other top-freezer refrigerators we've tested: it runs a little hot, temperature-wise, both in the refrigerator and in the freezer, it's very roomy and can fit gallon containers on the door, and it is not an energy hog.
The one thing that separates this fridge from the other top-freezers out there is the smudge-proof stainless steel finish. If your fridge gets a lot of use, then it doubtlessly spends a lot of its time covered in fingerprints. With the Frigidaire FFTR1821TD, though, you don't have to worry about those oily smudges breaking up the visual effect of a nice stainless steel finish. The Frigidaire FFTR1821TD gives you everything you need in a basic fridge, and has a fit and finish that will make your life easier when it comes to cleaning the kitchen. Read the full review.
Where To Buy$999.99 Sears Buy
While you would never know it from the rest of this list, it is possible to get a side-by-side refrigerator for less than $1000. The Kenmore 41173 is a respectable fridge at a more than respectable price.
The major complaint about side-by-side fridges is that the fridge/freezer shelf space isn't wide enough to fit a frozen pizza, or a baking sheet full of cookies, or other wide/large food items. As it turns out the 41173 can fit a frozen pizza in the freezer, which is a major hurdle other side-by-side fridges can't overcome. Other than its slightly wider profile and nice stainless steel finish, though, this fridge also has lots of storage space on the door and adjustable glass shelves.
With respect to temperature, the freezer runs a little hot, so be sure to adjust the temperature downwards to a cooler setting than the default value. If you're on a budget, but can't abide a top-freezer refrigerator, we'd recommend the Kenmore 41173 side-by-side refrigerator. Read the full review.