Don’s Refrigeration Buying Guide

by Bill Welles

While we’ve spent an extended amount of time indoors this year, we’ve had the chance to reflect and assess many aspects of our home both good at bad. Maybe you redecorated your kitchen, maybe you added a fresh coat of paint, maybe you bought a firepit to enhance your backyard gathering space—but when’s the last time you considered replacing your refrigerator? 

A good refrigerator should last well over 10 years, but if your refrigerator was purchased while Lemieux was still lacing up his skates with the Penguins, you could be using twice the amount of energy as current Energy Star refrigerators—adding hundreds of dollars to your utility bills each year.  

If you’re ready to upgrade your refrigeration appliance, our experts at Don’s Appliances have created this helpful refrigerator buying guide with a complete breakdown of styles, features, and price points to help you find the best fridge for you and your family.  

Refrigerator Types 

The first step in your refrigerator buying journey is narrowing down your preferred style. We've collected a list of our most popular fridge types along with their price range—and highlighted the key factors of each refrigeration category.  

French Door Refrigerator 

The French door refrigerator style features one or two pull-out freezer drawers on the lower compartment and two side-by-side fridge doors on top. This fridge model is popular for its attractive design and energy-efficiency. Since you can keep one door closed while you’re looking for a snack, less cold air escapes the appliance, ensuring your perishable goods are kept chilled and remain fresh for longer.  

The main draw of the French door fridge model is its size. The fridge and freezer compartments can easily store large food items and cookware when you need to cool leftovers. And the size doesn’t affect its function—the French doors, while larger, are actually more narrow than other fridge models, so the outswing will cause less interference with your kitchen layout.  

A small drawback could be the amount of storage space the ice maker and freezer compartments take up; however, most French door fridges offer an exterior water and ice dispenser for easy access. This fridge model is on the pricier side—sometimes falling into a high-end price bracket ranging anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500.  

Side-by-Side Refrigerator 

Like it’s French door counterpart, side-by-side refrigerator types also feature two vertical doors. They differ in the freezer compartment: instead of it being on the bottom, the freezer door is affixed right next to the fridge door. This refrigeration model is equal parts fridge and equal parts freezer, making it ideal for apartments and smaller households because they occupy less space. 

Even though it feels like a more compact option, certain side-by-side fridge models offer the largest interior freezer capacity, ensuring bulk purchases are made possible. Finally, you no longer have to contain yourself at Costco.  

Still a spacious appliance, but since each section is narrower than a French door model, the shelves might not be wide enough to store large or oddly shaped items like tall pitchers, casserole dishes, and serving platters. Also among the pricier options available, the average price for a side-by-side fridge is around $1,400 to $2,000. 

Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator 

The name says it all, a bottom-freezer refrigerator features a drawer freezer below the fridge compartment. Known for its convenience, the refrigerator style offers a large interior capacity in the freezer drawer and allows you to access all your favorite refrigerated goods without any strain.  

It’s an easier purchase on your wallet, typically ranging from $1,000 to $1,500.  

Top-Freezer Refrigerator 

Commonly found in your garage or college apartment, this classic fridge style features a large fridge compartment on the lower level and a freezer door that swings open on top. The top-freezer refrigerator is one of the most popular models due to its affordability, typically ranging between $500 and $800. 

While the price is certainly a benefit, a drawback of a top-freezer fridge is its design. You may be forced to bend and contort your body to load items into the fridge, and lower shelves and crisper drawers can be difficult to open, close, and shut because they are so low to the ground.  

Freezerless Refrigerator 

If you only require a refrigeration unit, then a freezerless refrigerator is the ideal fridge type to maximize your storage space. This style only entails a fridge compartment, so any frozen items would require a separate appliance. This fridge category also includes compact refrigerators and full-sized refrigerators if you’re keeping your options open. If you’re examining multiple of these freezerless types, the price range will vary accordingly. 

Fridge Sizes and Dimensions 

To determine the necessary capacity for your refrigeration purchase, it’s a good idea to start with the size of your family. Do you cook for a busy family of five? Are you the frequent host during holiday gatherings? How often you cook will help determine how much fridge space you require.  

Compact fridges measure around 17 inches wide and some larger built-in models are as wide as 48 inches, so it’s important to find a product that fits both your available kitchen space and your household’s needs. A 36-inch fridge model is common for a 2-5 person household, and you should be able to stock your appliance with relative ease.

Luckily, you don’t always need a large living space to benefit from a large refrigeration appliance. And speaking of size, we can’t neglect to mention the importance of taking accurate measurements.  

Measure the Kitchen 

First thing’s first: Bust out the old, trusty tape measure. Next, measure the full length of your kitchen and the available space where you plan to install your new refrigeration appliance. Measure over and over to properly assess the correct height, width, and depth of the space. And measure from different locations in your kitchen to be sure the measurements from your floor and cabinets are accurate. 

Most importantly, be sure the fridge style you’re considering will fit through the door—measure ceilings, hallways, doorways, surrounding cabinets, and anything else that could prevent your appliance from a smooth transition into your home.  

Don’t forget to leave sufficient space for the fridge doors to swing open, and account for the tubes and filters to connect to the back of your appliance. Keep an eye out for any light fixtures in your kitchen space that you could accidentally bump into during installation. 

Measure the Ventilation Space 

To ensure your refrigerator will run efficiently for its full estimated lifespan, there needs to be a constant flow of air circulating your appliance to prevent it from overheating. Our experts at Don’s would recommend leaving at least two inches from the back wall, one inch of overhead space, and 1/8 of an inch on the sides of the fridge. 

As you search for your new refrigerator, subtract these clearances from your initial measurements to find the right fridge model to fit your kitchen layout and exhibiting cabinetry.  

When it comes to ventilation, the best thing you could do is check the manufacturer’s recommendations and adjust your measurements as you see fit. And don’t forget to note other installation considerations such as filters and waterlines.  

Measure the Appliance  

Your kitchen and ventilation space are equally important, but as you narrow your selection, make note of the appliance, specifically the doors.  

Each refrigerator type will require slightly different measurements. For example, a top-freezer model will require accurate measurements of the door-swing from the freezer compartment. A French door model will need plenty of space for the drawers to pull out without blocking walk paths or booting right up against kitchen islands. No matter your preferred refrigerator type, there should be more than enough space for you to stand in front of the unit and comfortably open the door, and the refrigerator doors should be able to seamlessly clear the cabinets on either side.   

And an added industry insight—door hinges can add an extra inch or so to your refrigerator height, so be sure you have proper clearance so the additional boost of height won't cause the door to scape against the wall or ceiling.  

Standard Refrigerator Size 

There is no exact answer—it depends on the refrigerator type (and brand, of course), but take a look at some common refrigerator dimensions.  

French Door:

  • Height: From 66 to 86 inches 
  • Width: From 26 to 48 inches 
  • Depth: From 23 to 48 inches 
  • Total Capacity: From 14 to 31 cubic feet 


  • Height: From 65 to 84 inches 
  • Width: From 33 to 48 inches 
  • Depth: From 24 to 37 inches 
  • Total Capacity: From 18 to 31 cubic feet 

Top Freezer: 

  • Height: From 56 to 69 inches 
  • Width: From 22 to 33 inches 
  • Depth: From 21 to 35 inches 
  • Total Capacity: From 7 to 24 cubic feet 

More Refrigerator Pricing 

Keep in mind, different price points come with different levels of features. Some refrigerators are priced based on all the bells and whistles, but others go up in price as the size of the appliance increases. If you prefer the style and design of certain built-in refrigerator models, the price will also depend on the construction, food preservation, and seamless installation.  

More affordable options will certainly get the job done, but they might lack intuitive, space-saving features. Higher-priced models are full of high-tech features that can record your grocery lists and optimize temperature control. Status and visual appeal play a part in how consumers set their budget for major appliances.   

Additional Buying Considerations

Before you make an appliance purchase, here are some of the additional considerations that are worth looking into as you continue your search for a new refrigerator. 

  • Energy Efficiency: Saving money and the planet—select an appliance with the Energy Star Label 
  • Lifespan: A fridge should last an average of 14 years 
  • Water and Ice Dispenser: Built-in dispensers provide the convenience of easily-accessible water and ice 
  • WiFi Connectivity: Remotely monitor the contents of your fridge, schedule maintenance checks, set expiration dates, and more—all from your smart device.  

What Refrigerator is Right for Me? 

Shopping for appliances can be stressful, but our refrigerator buying guide is here so you can always keep your cool under pressure. And with the new year right around the corner, there couldn’t be a better time for a new fridge. If you have any questions regarding our catalog of refrigeration appliances, our friendly staff is always available to help. Give us a call or visit us at Don’s today.