It’s a virtue to live within your means. However, pinching pennies does not exclude you from getting a good fridge. As appliance experts, we know how to separate the good-value wheat from the overpriced chaff.
When it comes to affordable fridges, performance is key. We place sensors inside every refrigerator that comes into our labs to measure the general temperature, temperature consistency, and humidity retention. This is how a fridge keeps food fresh and help you stretch your dollars by keeping your groceries from spoiling.
At the under $1,000 price point, we think the Insignia NS-RTM18WH7(available at Best Buy for $469.99) will offer the most bang for your buck. One downside is that it’s only available through Best Buy. However, we’ve got plenty of other recommendations from various brands and across retailers.
Here are all our favorite fridges under $1,000 ranked:
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
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-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.
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).
With all this in mind, you can feel confident that when we recommend a product, we're giving it our Reviewed stamp of approval, which means two things: firstly, this appliance performs well, and secondly, this appliance is easy to use. 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.
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.
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 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 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.
What To Look For When 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 buy.
No one wants to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a refrigerator that can't keep your food cold. Preserving your food is the most important facet of our refrigerator testing methodology; we gather temperature data in the fridge and freezer, and humidity data from the veggie bin to make sure every fridge can hit and maintain temperatures and humidity values best suited for keeping your food fresh. If you're out shopping for a refrigerator at a store, be sure to ask the sales associate about the refrigerator's cooling abilities. Additionally, you can look through our refrigerator reviews and our refrigerator roundups to see which refrigerators did the best when it comes to maintaining the right environment for your cold foods and beverages.
Your Refrigerator Cutout
If you're replacing a fridge with a very specific cutout (usually surrounded by countertops and/or cabinetry), measure your cutout carefully—it's not unheard of for consumers to buy a beautiful new fridge, only to have to return it because it's too large for the cutout. Measure the height, width, and depth of the cutout multiple times, then be sure to leave at least one to two inches between the top of the fridge and above-fridge cabinetry, as well as a couple inches between the back of the fridge and the wall. Leaving those extra inches behind the refrigerator is especially helpful for the fridge's air circulation.
Lastly, when looking at the depth of your cutout, be sure to account for the depths of the fridge doors. If the distance your fridge sticks out from your cabinetry is not as wide as the thickness of the refrigerator doors, then you might not be able to open the fridge doors all the way.
Your Preferred Refrigerator Style
There are four major styles of refrigerator: top-freezers, bottom freezers, French doors, and side-by-sides. Top and bottom freezer refrigerators have freezers located on the top or bottom of the unit, respectively; the fridge door pulls open to the side, and the freezer door may pull to the side or the front. French door fridges have the refrigerator on top, and have two doors that open from the center to reveal that fridge space; the freezer door below typically pulls out. Side-by-side fridges have the freezer on the left, the refrigerator on the right, and each side has its own door.
Counter-Depth vs. Not Counter-Depth
The term "counter-depth" refers to the depth of your fridge—specifically, how much it sticks out past your cabinetry. The standard depth for a regular, non-counter-depth fridge is typically about 30 inches. If your fridge is surrounded by cabinets, it probably sticks out anywhere from four to six inches. This doesn't bother most people, but if you have space restrictions or stylistic preferences that tend towards a refrigerator with a shallower profile, you might want to take a look at counter-depth fridges.
While there's no standard depth measurement for counter-depth fridges (it largely depends on the manufacturer), they can be as much as six inches shallower than their non-counter-depth counterparts. However, you lose interior storage space as a result of the shallower fridge profile. Before you buy a counter-depth fridge, be sure that the width of your fridge cutout is actually wide enough to support full opening of the doors; when refrigerators have a shallower depth, there's an increased likelihood that the back of the refrigerator door(s) will hit the cabinetry before it can fully open.
One more thing to consider: A counter-depth fridge may cost more than its non-counter-depth counterpart because the manufacturer may have to do some creative rearrangement of the interior compartments and storage units.
Through-Door Water and Ice Dispensers
When looking for through-door ice and water dispensers, be sure to check out the number of ice types available in that fridge—if you're an ice connoisseur, then you may want more than just cubed ice. Other ice options include crushed ice and cylindrical ice. Additionally, some of the more expensive refrigerators have additional dispensing options, such as hot water dispensers or a built-in Keurig pod coffee maker.
The most basic storage options include built-in shelves in the fridge, one or two crisper bins, and some shelving options on the fridge's doors. When it comes to extra storage, though, the possibilities are endless. In addition to moving shelves to different heights in the refrigerator, some shelves can flip up or retract; some door bins can slide and expand.
Some fridges have door-in-door storage, which allows you to access popular fridge items without opening the whole refrigerator door. French door fridges often have the most extra storage options, including an extra drawer, temperature-controlled deli/pantry drawers that can be set for specific fridge temperatures, pocket storage at the bottom of the refrigerator that make for easy access for kids, or a fourth compartment/drawer that can be set to fridge or freezer temperatures.
If the prospect of using less water and energy is appealing to you, consider the Energy Star rating for a refrigerator for an idea of what your utility bills might look like. Typically, the more complicated your fridge (in features and design), the more energy it uses. In our experience, it's not a lot more than your more basic fridges, but it can add up over time. Only you can decide if the added convenience is worth the increase in running costs.
Fit and Finish
While black and white refrigerators finishes are still available, most refrigerators these days come in some variation of stainless steel options. You should be able to find a refrigerator that matches your kitchen setup and your other appliances, but be ready to pay more money for any finish more sophisticated than black, white, or basic stainless steel.
Other Affordable Fridges We Tested
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.
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.
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.
We’ve found a modest Hotpoint refrigerator that we think would be just right for your small kitchen or vacation home. When we tested the Hotpoint HPS15BTHRWW in our labs, we discovered that along with its diminutive size, this fridge provides very good performance at a reasonable price. While it doesn't have any frills or extra features (for example, no water or ice dispensers), it's one of the most efficient fridges we've tested, both in terms of electricity and storage space.
The refrigerator temperature is spot on, and the crisper drawers lock in humidity to keep produce fresh. Even if you’re all set with a fridge in your kitchen, consider this Hotpoint as a good second fridge for your basement or garage; you won't be disappointed.
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-freezers 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.
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.
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.
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.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Cindy Bailen loves writing about major appliances and home design and has spent over 15 years immersed in that. In her spare time, Cindy hosts pledge programs for WGBH-TV in Boston and other public television stations.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.