If you're upgrading or outfitting a new kitchen, there's a good chance you're looking for stainless steel appliances. Sadly, you might also experience a bit of sticker shock when you actually start shopping around and looking at price tags. Never fear: We've tested hundreds of refrigerators, and we can tell you that it is possible to get a great fridge at any price point. However, when it comes to getting nice aesthetics to match great food preservation, that can be a bit tougher to achieve on a budget.
Fortunately, there are some fridges out there that have that sleek stainless-steel finish and a price low enough that your wallet won't feel lighter than air. Our favorite stainless-steel refrigerator under $2,000 is the LG LSXS26366S(available at Best Buy for $1,799.99), which not only looks like a million bucks, but performs better than many fridges at higher price points.
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 options for stainless steel fridges that cost less than $2,000, ranked in order:
If you want a fridge that is capable of both high-quality food preservation and of being a conversation starter, look no further than the LG LSXS26366S three-door, side-by-side refrigerator. Yes, you read that correctly—it has three doors.
With a press of a button, you can access the door-in-door storage on the upper right side of the fridge, which allows you to easily grab the items you need frequently without disrupting the cooling of the rest of the fridge. If you don't press the button, the fridge opens normally. Between this very useful storage feature and food preservation that just won't quit, we'd highly recommend the LG LSXS26366S to anyone, especially if you're looking for a compromise between a side-by-side fridge and a french-door fridge.
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.
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.
We spend a week putting each refrigerator through its paces. We score over 50 aspects of fridge design and performance. After packing the fridge with water filled containers (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 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 Stainless Steel 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 Stainless Steel Fridges We Tested
The Samsung RF263BEAESG french door refrigerator is designed with a large family in mind. Not only does it have a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel finish, but its deep door bins have room for more than one gallon of milk. Furthermore, the adjustable shelving makes it easy to store tall or large items without losing a lot of existing fridge real estate. If you’re worried about people constantly opening the fridge doors, the crispers have been designed so that you can open one by only opening one door, which cuts down on the cold air lost every time the refrigerator is opened.
In our tests, we found that the fridge temperatures run a little cool; you can bump up the temperature a bit, but make sure you check the temperature with a fridge thermometer so that you’re not getting too close to the bacteria danger zone (which starts at 40°F). Otherwise, we were impressed with how well the crisper drawers maintained humidity, and how energy-efficient this fridge is. If your fridge is going to be visited frequently, we think the Samsung RF263BEAESG will serve you well.
Stores large items
Temperatures run cold
Do you love the look and functionality of French-door refrigerators, but don't have the space to actually fit one in your kitchen? We have just the fridge for you: the Haier HRF15N3AGS. This fridge is considerably narrower and shallower than most French-door fridges; while that means you'll be able to fit it in a smaller kitchen, that also means you'll be able to fit less food in the fridge in the first place.
Because it's compact, the fridge itself is pretty bare-bones. There's no ice maker or water dispenser, and the shelves aren't very adjustable. The cooling on this fridge is top-notch, though, and it easily maintained fridge and freezer temperatures of 37°F and 0°F throughout our week of testing. If you don't need a lot of extra features and want to make the most of a relatively small kitchen, the Haier HRF15N3AGS compact French-door fridge is a great pick.
The slate finished 24.8-cubic-foot GE GNE25JMKES refrigerator is a well-sized, well-priced French door fridge. Its clean lines and sleek exterior really draw the eye, but it's what's inside that really impressed us. This fridge really blew us away with its precision temperature control and its energy efficiency.
While this fridge doesn't have through-door ice or water dispensers, it does have some retractable shelves, crisper bins with separate humidity controls, a temperature-controlled deli drawer, a discreet interior water dispenser, and an ice maker in the freezer. We like the GE GNE25JMKES because looks like a stripped down French door refrigerator, but it still has some of the most convenient features that you find on more expensive French door options.
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.
With the Frigidaire FGSC2335TF, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. While it may look like a normal side-by-side fridge with a smudge-proof stainless steel finish and through-door water and ice dispensing out the outside, on the inside, there are a few neat features that really add to the overall value of the fridge.
Once you open the door, the clever design touches become apparent: there's a third cold drawer (in addition to two crispers) with adjustable temperature settings, multiple lights throughout the refrigerator, and wine/bottle holders on the bottom of the refrigerator door. While both the fridge and the freezer run a little hot, you can easily bump the temperature down on the control panel to compensate. With this pleasantly surprising feature set and low price, the Frigidaire FGSC2335TF is an easy choice to make.
Haier knocks it out of the park again with the Haier HRQ16N3BGS, a unique french-door fridge with four doors. When it comes to temperature, this fridge does pretty well—the fridge can run a little warm at times, so be sure to bump down the temperature settings by a couple of degrees, but the freezer does just fine.
As for its fun, four-door design, the top two doors open to reveal the refrigerator, and the bottom two doors are for two separate freezer compartments. The freezer only has drawers, rather than shelves, so you won't be able to fit a frozen pizza box in here, but most smaller items and prepackaged meals should be fine. Because of this freezer limitation, though, we think that the Haier HRQ16N3BGS is best for homes with smaller families and/or a very organized person who does the grocery shopping.
The Whirlpool WRB119WFBM is a bottom freezer refrigerator with only one refrigerator door (rather than the two doors found in french door fridges). While the WRB119WFBM flashes its designer looks on the exterior, its interior tends to favor function over form. It has a variety of different shelving and bin options, so you shouldn't have any trouble fitting a large platter in there. The freezer, which opens to the side, rather than pulling out, has a wire shelf and a wire basket; the freezer is clearly designed to hold bags of frozen food rather than individual frozen ice cream treats.
While we found that the fridge and the freezer ran a little warm, we were very impressed with how consistently it kept those temperatures; temperature deviations from the average temperature value stayed under +/- 0.25°F. The Whirlpool WRB119WFBM doesn't have many bells and whistles, but for those who don't want to break the bank and want a good looking fridge with plenty of storage options, the Whirlpool WRB119WFBM is a good fit.
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.
Affordable fridges are a dime a dozen, but the Whirlpool WRT318FZDM stands out. Despite this 18-cubic-foot 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 WRT318FZDM is one of the best affordable fridges you can buy.
Samsung’s smart home platform, Family Hub, has established itself as one of the most feature-rich on the market. But that comes at a price. Luckily, the Samsung RS27T5561SR is one of the most affordable Family Hub fridge models available, granting access to the smart platform via a built-in 21.5" touch screen.
The RS27T5561SR isn't just offering smart features—it’s a solid performer as well. It has remarkably stable temperatures in its refrigerator compartment, significantly more storage space than the average side-by-side, and a through-the-door dispenser for ice and water.
The downsides? Its freezer can be inconsistent and its crispers might lead to leafy greens wilting a bit before their time. Otherwise, this is a solid fridge with some excellent smart features.
If you’ve ever needed any proof of the adage “good things come in small packages”, look no further than the Frigidaire FFHT1425VV top freezer refrigerator. While this refrigerator has a profile that’s nearly ten inches shorter and ten inches skinnier than most fridges available on the market today, its food storage capacity is on par with that of your average french door refrigerator. If the space you have available for a fridge is very limited, the FFHT1425VV is a great fit (literally).
This energy-efficient fridge has solid temperature control in both the fridge and the freezer, although the freezer can run a bit warm at times. Fortunately, that issue can be easily overcome by bumping the freezer to a colder temperature setting. We really liked the sliding deli drawer, which allows you to both use the drawer and store tall items on the shelf below without having to adjust any shelves. For those who are short on kitchen space and have high expectations, the Frigidaire FFHT1425VV won’t let you down.
Sometimes you’re just not in the market for something fancy. When a good, solid fridge is all you need, the Whirlpool WRF535SWHZ is an excellent option.
The WRF535SWHZ’s temperature is rock-solid, even if you have the (bad) habit of browsing your inventory with the door open. This fridge also features internal water and ice dispensers—admittedly less convenient than a through-the-door dispenser—and a large ice reservoir.
Near-perfect humidity control
Slightly less storage space than the average French door
The inexpensive Whirlpool WRT518SZFM top-freezer fridge is a pro at maintaining steady, cool temperatures—a huge bonus, since this is a trait that many similarly-priced refrigerators just don't have. Additionally, the WRT518SZFM features more customizable storage options than its competition.
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, this isn’t the right fridge for you. If a basic fridge is exactly what you’re looking for, however, the WRT518SZFM is an excellent choice.
The Kenmore 73025 stainless French door fridge has all the right design choices to work for families with young children. The finish resists fingerprints, thick glass shelves contain the inevitable spills, and with two gallon-sized bins in the door, if your kids guzzle milk and juice, you have space to stock up. This model lacks a water dispenser, but think of it this way—no puddles on the kitchen floor. Finally, a child-height pantry drawer can dispense after-school snacks without requiring parental help.
Something else that makes this model shine: The fresh food compartment holds a very consistent, very safe temperature. Our tests show that the freezer isn't as consistent, with temperatures bouncing up and down some. That's still okay, if you mostly store frozen pizza and ice cream, because as you know, in a household with children, those don't last very long.
The GE GSS25IMNES has some attractive features for consumers with small children. Not only does its matte finish help prevent fingerprint smudges from showing up, it has child-height drawers—perfect for letting your kids grab their own snacks.
In other areas, the GE GSS25IMNES certainly holds its own as well, with nice, even cooling and four LEDs to help make sure the interior is well-lit.
The Frigidaire FFBN1721TV stands out for fantastic performance at its price point. On our temperature tests, we found it was capable of hitting ideal temperatures and holding them. We also like its crisper drawers, which will keep your leafy greens from wilting longer than the average fridge.
The one possible downside? Between this fridge being a bit on the small side and breaking its freezer into two compartments, its storage capacity is lower than average. Still, if storage space isn’t your #1 concern, there’s a lot to love about the FFBN1721TV.
Those who love the accessible convenience of a side-by-side refrigerator should definitely give the Frigidaire FFSS2315TS a look. Not only does it perform better than most we've tested, it also offers a through-the-door ice and water dispenser and won't break your budget.
While this fridge doesn’t offer the attention-grabbing gimmicks of some other fridges, but it nails the basics. In terms of temperature performance, the FFSS2315TS is rock solid, keeping temperatures about as close to ideal as possible.
As for downsides, the freezer compartment is small, even compared to other side-by-sides, due to its large ice-maker. If you were going to use that space for ice anyway, this isn’t an issue. If you don’t use a lot of ice and would rather have a bit more storage space in your ice box, there are better options on this list.
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.
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.
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