How to shop for a new refrigerator

Chilling With Your New Fridge

by Debra Karplus

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Your refrigerator suddenly stopped working after you've owned it about 15 years. The cost to repair it is likely to exceed the cost to replace it. Or maybe you need a bigger fridge as you are a growing family or a smaller refrigerator now that the kids are off to college and it's just the two of you left at home. Remodeling in the kitchen might put the idea in your head that now is as good a time as any to replace the fridge and maybe get one of the newer, energy efficient models. According to, approximately eight million refrigerators are sold in the US annually, the majority of which are from the five main manufacturers. So what might be some of the factors in selecting a new refrigerator?

Desired size of your new refrigerator is your first factor.

You should start by measuring your current refrigerator, and perhaps more important, you should measure the space where your new fridge will be located. You should measure cubic feet and specifically the height, width, depth, and space where the door will open. Allow at least two inches on the side of the door hinge and one inch or more on the other side and on the top. Remember to measure how the refrigerator door will open and make sure it will not be in the way of anything like a kitchen counter or another appliance. According to, your new refrigerator needs room to breathe. Note that a refrigerator can easily be changed to open on the other side within minutes by the people who deliver and install the appliance. Therefore, when shopping, you should never be deterred by a refrigerator door that opens on the opposite side from what you need.

What features do you want for your new refrigerator?

Like most anything you buy, more features typically means a greater cost. If you feel like you simply cannot live without an ice maker, expect to add about $200 to the cost of a new fridge. And don't forget to consider the layout of your new refrigerator. You are likely to get the best deal on a refrigerator with the freezer on top, but some people have preferences for other layouts such as freezer on the bottom or side-by-side. Expect to pay $400 or more for these styles of refrigerator.

And what about color? White and even black refrigerators typically cost less than those with specific colors like almond and much less than stainless steel. Remember that stainless steel looks beautiful, but it is more challenging to keep shiny and may add several hundred dollars to your cost.

Should you try to get an energy efficient refrigerator?

The refrigerator that you buy today is likely to use less electricity than the one you are replacing. Energy Star is a voluntary government program that is part of the Environmental Protection Agency geared to mark appliances that are expected to use fewer utilities and help protect the climate and the earth. Appliances with the Energy Star rating may cost a bit more, and it is difficult to tell how much electricity they will actually save you, not unlike the expected gas mileage usage on a new car.

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When and where should you buy your new refrigerator?

The big box stores like Lowe's as well as stores that sell appliances like Best Buy typically have a wide range of refrigerators that you can view online and purchase in their stores. The sales people in these places are generally knowledgeable about the choices of products and features. Often they have special deals around holidays like Memorial Day, July 4th, or Labor Day. Watch for these sales, or if you purchase a refrigerator at some other time, ask if they can give you the holiday price.

One woman's refrigerator unexpectedly stopped working and was leaking water. She opted to skip having a service call for a repair that could have cost about $200 or more and opted to head over to Lowe's and take advantage of their Memorial Day blowout sale. For about $600, they disconnected and removed her old refrigerator, brought in a new Whirlpool® model, switched the direction of the door, and had it up and running in less than half an hour. In the months since then, she has been very happy with her purchase, which came with a one-year warranty, which is the usual warranty for refrigerators.

As with any other major purchase, take your time before buying your new refrigerator.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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