Even after reading scores of refrigerator reviews, deciding which low-cost refrigerators are the most reliable is tricky. There seems to be some disparity between testing-site recommendations and user feedback.
Still, reviews we found online pointed us to several budget refrigerators that reportedly perform well in home use. Consumers are particularly satisfied with the value for the buck and serve up kudos for temperature regulation and reliability. And many apparently buy entry-level models to serve as overflow fridges in the basement or garage for surplus beverages and foodstuffs. The one area of discontent with refrigerators and the lower end of the market concerns noise. A notable number of refrigerator reviews for some models we researched grumble about an annoying din or odd sounds.
Temperature Regulation.The primary function of any refrigerator/freezer combo is keeping fresh food cold and frozen food colder. Indeed, the majority of consumers seem pleased with the climate control of their budget models.
Consistent fridge and freezer temperatures are a hallmark of the side-by-side Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ (starting at $899), say refrigerator reviews at Best Buy, even when stressed by the constant open-and-shut routine of hungry teenagers. The Maytag M1TXEGMYW (starting at $710) holds temperatures at steady levels, according to the bulk of refrigerator reviews at AJ Madison. As evidence, one purchaser writes of keeping tabs with thermometers in both the top freezer and lower fridge portions of the unit while another rates its functionality as "above average." A few users, however, report uneven cooling and ice cream that's not fully frozen at the recommended freezer setting.
Consumer postings at Sears are mostly mum about temperature regulation in the Kenmore 69002 (starting at $848), leading us to conclude that cold is sufficiently and constantly cold in this bottom-freezer model. Still, we read several reviews warning that the freezer door pops ajar when shutting the refrigerator door above. (If you don't notice this right away, you could wind up with thawed frozen food.) Some consumers hedge their assessments of the GE GTH18GBD (starting at $537) in refrigerator reviews at Home Depot, saying that the freezer could do with more chill. Most report otherwise, however, asserting that ice freezes in less than an hour and the fresh-food compartment quickly reaches a fully cool and steady state when first starting up.
One model we researched, the Frigidaire FFTR1814L (starting at $476), seems beset by some temperature irregularity. Users of this model gripe on sites such as Best Buy and Amazon that the freezer frosts over and the fresh food compartment doesn't stay cold. Several refrigerator reviews also report durability problems and others express disappointment with the build quality (e.g., bins that crack, weak shelves, misaligned handles).
Noise.Budget-priced refrigerators are often the target of complaints about noise. Although more than one user chides the noise police, noting that a refrigerator is, after all, a machine, even one of our top picks, the Maytag M1TXEGMYW, gets called out in some reviews for being a bit loud. By contrast, the Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ and Maytag M4TXNWFY (starting at $449), another entry-level top-freezer model, generally earn points for quiet operation.
Oftentimes the audible sound is merely the compressor in its "on" cycle. But loud or unusual refrigerator noise may reflect a poorly functioning compressor, insufficient insulation, or an overactive ice maker, to name a few causes. Minor grousing about noise shows up in refrigerator reviews of the GE GTH18GBD at Best Buy and Home Depot, although many retort that this model is quiet enough. The Frigidaire FFTR1814L attracts reproach for excessively loud and odd noises that one consumer asserts make it unsuitable for the kitchen. Another post contends the Kenmore 69002 sounds like the exhaust fan in a bathroom, but few others air such complaints.