Refrigeration technology has come a long way in recent years, improving cooling efficiency and reducing the cost of different components. In the past, you might have expected a cheap fridge to keep drinks cool in your garage and not much more. However, nowadays, inexpensive fridges are more than capable of earning a spot in your kitchen proper—they just may not have the latest and greatest smart home features.
Just because price no longer prevents you from buying a good refrigerator, it doesn't mean all inexpensive appliances are equal: There are a lot of cheap fridges out there that are best left in the garage.
When it comes to affordable fridges, consistency is key. Less expensive fridges often have poor temperature control, which ultimately will result in food spoiling. We use an array of sensors to track how consistent each fridge's temperature is over time.
Below the $1,000 price point, the Hisense HRB171N6ASE(available at Lowe's for $999.00) offers the most bang for your buck—just make sure you calibrate it first. If that one isn't a great fit for you, don't worry: All of the options listed here would make great budget buys.
Due to supply chain challenges and soaring demand, there is widespread unavailability of home appliances and long wait times for delivery of backordered product. If you're a consumer in need of a refrigerator, here are the best places to buy in-stock appliances right now.
Here are the best refrigerators you can buy for around $1,000 or less, ranked in order:
The Hisense HRB171N6ASE is a high-value, low-cost refrigerator. It has remarkable temperature consistency for its price range and has notable energy efficiency, even compared to other counter-depth fridges.
That isn’t to say this fridge is without its quirks. For starters, we highly recommend everyone making sure their HRB171N6ASE is properly calibrated out of the box, as the unit we received ran a bit too warm. Additionally, there is only one crisper drawer, so those who are looking to store lots of fruits and vegetables might find a better option elsewhere.
Even with those issues, we think the Hisense HRB171N6ASE offers impressive performance for its purchase price. If you’re looking to pick up a counter-depth fridge on a budget, the HRB171N6ASE is a solid bet.
We have plenty of experience testing these products in the lab, but we've also used them as normal people would in the course of their daily lives, which means that we have a great sense for what appliances are bargains at their price points, and which appliances have really useful extra features (as opposed to the kitchen-sink approach to features).
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.
Refrigerators pull in air and cool it down to temperatures cold enough (usually around 37°F) to preserve food and limit bacterial growth. This cooling method means that fridges are very sensitive to air conditions. In hot weather, the condenser and cooling coils have to work harder to cool the warmer air. In cold weather, it may get so cold that the fridge condenser doesn’t turn on. 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 that fridge is not as cold as the air inside your kitchen fridge.
To avoid these temperature effects, we test each refrigerator in a lab that conditions the air temperature to 72°F +/- 5°F (basically, room temperature), and relative humidity to 50% RH +/- 15% RH. This way, each fridge can perform at its best, and doesn’t get penalized by dealing with warmer or colder air than its competitors.
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 may have to start worrying about bacteria growth, as 40°F is the start of the bacteria “danger zone”. Food isn’t properly frozen at freezer temperatures above 0°F. 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 measure how quickly it dries. Humidity matters because if the crisper is too dry, your leafy greens will quickly dry out. If the crisper is too humid, your fruits will rot. Fridges that strike a balance between the extremes will preserve your fruits and veggies for longer.
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 total capacity, or the volume inside the fridge, in cubic feet. You’d think that a higher capacity means more storage, but that’s not always the case as shelves, drawers, and ice makers can eat into that capacity. We measure the usable space, which is how much empty space is actually available in the fridge’s interior to store your food and drinks.
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, water/ice dispenser, and extras like smart connectivity, door-in-door or flexible storage options, etc. If a refrigerator 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.
What You Should Know Before Buying A Refrigerator
If your refrigerator just died, chances are that you're in a hurry to replace it. When looking for a new or replacement refrigerator, consider the following topics carefully before buying.
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 Affordable Refrigerators We Tested
If you’re not looking to spend thousands on a new fridge, the Hotpoint HPS16BTNRWW is a good bet for budget-buyers. Unlike most lower-cost fridges, this Hotpoint doesn’t skimp on temperature performance just because it’s an inexpensive option. In fact, its temperatures are remarkably consistent, straying by less than 2°F in total throughout both the fridge and freezer.
What you won’t get in this fridge is features—to be expected based on its price tag. Also, its freezer runs a bit warm before calibration, which is an easy fix.
If you’re looking for a fridge in this price range, it’s going to require compromises. In this case, we think those compromises are tiny in comparison to the value you’re getting for its performance at this price.
Only available at Best Buy, the Insignia NS–RTM18WH7 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-cubic-foot 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, the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7 is worth a look if you need a second fridge, or if your budget is tight.
If you’re in the market for an entry-level, counter-depth fridge, there are are fewer options better than the Haier HA10TG21SS top-freezer. This is a budget buy that offers an impressive performance for your initial investment. While its smaller stature means less storage space compared to a full-size model, it has impressive temperature performance and adjustable-height, spill-capturing shelves—two rare features to see in a fridge at this price point.
This fridge does lack some standard features, like a through-the-door ice and water dispenser or smart features, but the absence of those features lets this fridge shine at its very low price point. If you're looking for a basic fridge and didn't have much use for fancy features anyway, the Haier HA10TG21SS is one of the best values currently available.
The Beko BFTF2716SSIM combines a great look with some solid performance in a compact package. This top-freezer has few frills, just an internal ice maker, some nice spill-capture glass shelves, and interesting crisper tech that could extend the shelf life of your leafy greens.
Beyond that, this is just a basic fridge with some seriously stable temperatures. You will need to calibrate its freezer before use, but considering what this fridge offers for its purchase price, we think that's a small sacrifice to make for such steady cooling.
This fridge is on the smaller side, even compared to other counter-depths, so if space in your home is tight, it makes for an excellent budget buy. Of course, the downside of its smaller footprint is lower overall storage capacity. We'd recommend this one for anyone living on their own or with maybe one other person—any larger households might find this one a bit cramped.
The Samsung RT18M6215SG is a unique top-freezer. This 18-cubic foot fridge has nearly-ideal temperatures for keeping food fresh, and we loved its sleek, black stainless steel finish.
Surprisingly, the most boring part of a typical fridge—its freezer— is where the RT18M6215SG is truly innovative: 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.
With its versatility and good looks, the Samsung RT18M6215SG a better-than-average value.
Our tests show this fridge is one of the most efficient models we’ve tested, providing low, stable temperatures while drawing an average amount of power. We loved its glass shelves, and while the fridge does run a bit warm, a quick initial calibration will take care of that issue.
The one downside? Its crispers. The WRT311FZDM loses humidity at a rate three times that of other fridges, almost like it’s trying to dehydrate your leafy greens.
Stil, if you’re willing to put up with an iffy crisper, this is a legitimately good fridge: it’s energy efficient, has an attractive interior, and comes equipped with plenty of flexible storage.
It’s very difficult to get a quality French-door fridge for under $1,000. While the Frigidaire FFBN1721TV currently falls just over that line, it’s close enough—and good enough—that we feel it merits mention in this round-up.
The FFBN1721TV stands out for its impressive performance test results, by hitting the ideal 37°F and then barely moving from that spot. Unlike many other options in this round-up, the FFBN1721TV also has great crispers, which will keep you veggie-lovers in fresh greens much longer than similarly-priced models.
The fridge is on the small side, however, so if raw storage capacity is your main purchase-driver, it’s best to check out other options listed here.
If you’ve ever needed any proof that “good things come in small packages”, the Frigidaire FFHT1425VV top-freezer is an excellent piece of evidence.
This refrigerator is about ten inches shorter and skinnier than its competitors, though it manages to offer nearly as much storage space. We really liked its sliding deli drawer, for example, which allows you to both use the drawer and store tall items on the shelf below, all without having to adjust any shelves.The FFHT1425VV’s efficient use space is truly impressive, and we’d highly recommend it to those who struggle with finding sufficient storage for their smaller space.
In addition to offering a ton of space, this energy-efficient fridge has solid temperature control in both its fridge and the freezer compartments (though we’d recommend calibrating the freezer a bit cooler to stay on the safe side).
If you want a simple, no-frills fridge, the GE GTS22KGNRBB is a good choice at a great price.
The GTS22KGNRBB aces the basics and provides steady, cool temperatures in both its fridge and freezer. It doesn’t have much flexible storage, however, or really much in the way of extra features in general. Still, its temperature performance was so good we think that alone covers its purchase price.
If you're looking for a new fridge that’s a step up from your average inexpensive option, the GTS22KGNRBB is a pretty good value for what it offers.
The Whirlpool WRT518SZFM is a simple top-freezer that’s excellent at maintaining steady, cool temperatures. We also love how many customizable storage options it offers.
While we liked the cooling performance and storage options for a fridge at this price point, it’s still pretty basic: If you want dispensers or smart features, we’d recommend checking out other fridges on this list. If a basic fridge is exactly what you’re looking for, however, the WRT518SZFM is perfect.
The Frigidaire FFTR1814VW is the type of fridge you buy as your second, when other, cheaper models just won’t cut it.
Our tests found the FFTR1814VW has great temperature consistency—something budget fridges typically struggle with. It just doesn’t offer much else on top of that. As such, we might not recommend this one for active duty in your kitchen, but as a second fridge it’ll run rings around other budget options.
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.