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Refrigerators

Counter-depth refrigerator vs. standard: What’s the difference?

Understand which one you need to buy

A man and woman stand next to a refrigerator. The man has a tape measurer and the woman is gesturing towards the fridge, which sticks out beyond the cabinetry. Credit: Getty Images / bluecinema

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When you’re buying a fridge, chances are you only have a few criteria you’re shopping for, such as a sleek finish, a through-the-door water dispenser or smart features. But for some, the decision of whether or not to purchase a particular fridge comes down to its size.

There are standard-depth refrigerators and there are counter-depth refrigerators. They aren’t the same, and they each have stark contrasts in size, storage space, and price. But do you know which one you need?

Read on to learn about the nuances of a counter depth refrigerator vs. a standard one.

What is a standard-depth refrigerator?

A standard-depth fridge in a modern kitchen. You can see it sticks out from the cabinetry by about six inches.
Credit: Getty Images

Standard-depth fridges will stick out past your cabinetry. Note how far this fridge extends beyond the shelves to its right.

A standard-depth fridge is one that can stand alone in your kitchen, in that it is not built into a cabinet. It may go along a wall, in a basement or garage, or somewhere that’s not necessarily preordained for a fridge.

On average, a typical standard-depth (aka full-size) refrigerator measures about 70 inches in height by 35.75 inches in width by 30 inches in depth, not counting the door or its handles.

Also keep in mind that the door is almost always factored into a standard-depth fridge’s measurements on a product page. While the width of a door will differ from fridge to fridge, on average they’re about 4 inches deep: You’ll need to manually subtract that from the “depth without the handle” figure from the fridge’s spec sheet. You’ll need this for apples-to-apples comparisons between standard- and counter-depth fridges.

What is a counter-depth fridge?

A counter-depth fridge installed in a modern kitchen.
Credit: Getty Images

Standard-depth fridges will stick out past your cabinetry. Note how far this fridge extends beyond the shelves to its right.

Counter-depth refrigerators are sized to fit into a space that aligns with your kitchen cabinets.

While no industry-wide standardization dictates exact measurements, kitchen counters are usually 24 inches deep. Counter-depth fridges, in general, also aim to be about 24 inches deep, without counting the door or its handles.

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This depth allows the fridge to sit more or less flush with your cabinetry, with only the door sticking out past it, which is a necessary concession, since the door needs enough clearance around its hinge in order to swing open.

Because their depth is anywhere from 6 inches to 12 inches less than a standard-depth refrigerator, counter-depths are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to storage space.

Why would you pick one over the other?

A man stands in front of his fridge, examining a package of frozen food. The fridge is in profile, and you can see it sticking out about six inches beyond the rest of his cabinetry.
Credit: Getty Images

While less expensive and bigger on storage space, standard-depth fridges will stick out six or more inches beyond your cabinetry.

The difference between a standard-depth fridge and a counter-depth, on the surface, is just 6 inches. How can this possibly be a big deal?

The issue is that those missing 6 inches of depth actually affects more than you might realize.

The most obvious difference is lower overall storage space. Six inches may not sound like a lot, but when you consider the entire height and width of the missing area, it’s almost 8.75 cubic feet of missing space (minus any dividers between different compartments).

While a counter-depth fridge will likely offer enough storage space for one or two people, larger households will find them too small for their needs.

The other difference between a counter-depth refrigerator and a standard one is price. While it might seem intuitive that a smaller fridge equates to a cheaper fridge, shrinking down technology to cram into tiny spaces almost always results in a bump in the price. Counter-depth fridges are no different, and they often cost much more than a standard-depth option with the same height, width, and feature set.

Since counter-depth models offer less overall storage space and command a higher price, they’re more of a niche product, best suited for kitchens that can’t accommodate a full-size model, or for those who don’t mind paying extra for a fridge that sits more or less flush with the rest of their cabinetry.

Aside from spatial considerations and aesthetics, a standard-depth fridge will cost less and provide owners with more than its counter-depth counterpart.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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