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The 5 best mini fridges: Level-up your home office

What is the best mini fridge? ZDNet's No.1 choice is the Hisense LCR44D6NSE for its stainless steel design and ample interior space. We compared pricing as well as features like volume/capacity and Energy Star certification to determine our top picks.
taylor-clemons1.jpg
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Mini fridges are almost synonymous with college dorm life, but they can be helpful around your home or office as well. They can provide extra cold storage for groceries like vegetables, fruits, and even meat or keep frozen meals close-at-hand for quick lunches at your desk. There's even a model from Frigidaire that has a water dispenser in the door so you can refill your reusable water bottles whenever you like! Most mini fridges have a freezer section for making ice or storing frozen foods, but there are some models out there that are just refrigeration units; which makes them better suited to garages, workshops, and home bars where you might want to chill soda, drink mixers, or bottled water for guests or to keep on-hand while you tinker on your car. 

Mini fridges are also fairly affordable, retailing for just a few hundred dollars for a 3 to 4 cubic foot model, though it is possible to find some for even cheaper. And there are very expensive high-end models that would be at home in a commercial kitchen or a fancy home-chef kitchen that come with motion-activated interior lights, touch controls, and door alarms. To help you find the perfect mini fridge for your budget and needs, I put together a list of the five best models you can buy. I've broken down their features and price points so you can compare and choose the one that is the best fit for your home, office, or dorm. 

Also: The best coolers: Keep everything icy cold during summer 

A Hisense mini fridge sitting next to a bookshelf. A basket of eucalyptus leaves and a ukulele are on the right of the fridge.
Hisense

Dimensions: 32.3x21.5x20.4 inches | Interior volume: 4.4 cubic feet | Color: Black | Energy Star certified: Yes | Freezer section: No

Whether you're looking to buy a mini fridge for your dorm or office or need extra space at home for groceries, the Hisense LCR44D6NSE freestanding mini fridge is an almost perfect option. It has 4.4 cubic feet of space, and it forgoes a freezer section to provide more room for things like 2 liter bottles and gallon water or milk jugs. The door hinge is reversible, allowing you to choose whether it opens to the left or right to better fit into your space. 

The glass shelves easily slide out for when you need to make space for extra large items or when you need to clean the inside of the mini fridge. The stainless steel door adds a touch of modern style to any space and even coordinates with tool chests and workbenches in your garage. The body of this mini fridge is designed to sit flush with your kitchen cabinets as well, if you want to tuck it under your counter for extra cold storage, allowing it to blend into your decor and other appliances.

Pros:

  • Reversible door hinge
  • Counter depth design
  • Stainless steel
  • Lots of interior space

Cons:

  • No freezer section
  • No door light
A Whirlpool mini fridge set up in a dorm room. A grey couch is to the left of the fridge and a set of cubby shelves is to the right of it.
Whirlpool

Dimensions: 32.79x21.2x19.13 inches | Interior volume: 3.1 cubic feet | Color: Stainless steel and black | Energy Star certified: Yes | Freezer section: Yes

This mini fridge from Whirlpool sells for under $200, making it a great choice for anyone who has to stick to a modest budget when shopping. It features both a refrigerator and a freezer section, each with its own door, so you can chill drinks or store extra groceries and even make extra ice for gatherings with family and friends. The refrigerator door has sections for storing cans as well as larger bottles, and there is an interior light that comes on when you open the door, allowing you to quickly see what you need even at night. The legs of this mini fridge can be adjusted to accommodate uneven floors in your kitchen or garage for optimal compressor performance and cooling. 

Pros:

  • Separate refrigerator and freezer sections
  • Interior light
  • Adjustable/leveling legs

Cons:

  • Door hinge not reversible
Two KitchenAid mini fridges set into a high-end kitchen island. A woman chops vegetables at the island.
KitchenAid

Dimensions: 35x24x34 inches | Interior volume: 5.2 cubic feet | Color: Silver or black stainless steel | Energy Star certified: Yes | Freezer section: No

This mini fridge from KitchenAid is a high-end model with lots of premium features that make it well worth the almost $2,400 price tag. It comes in either silver or dark stainless steel, with a design that mimics wine chillers and commercial refrigerators, which means this model will be right at home in any chef-quality home kitchen or home bar. The door features a glass panel for easy identification of what you have inside and to help take stock of beverages and snacks at-a-glance. 

The LED interior light uses a motion sensor to automatically turn on as you approach. The door has an alarm system that signals when it's left open for too long. The mini fridge even has an over-temp alarm, which alerts you to when the unit is holding at temperatures over 45 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours so you can troubleshoot issues and save your food from spoiling. You can easily adjust the internal temperature with the backlit touch control panel and even enable Sabbath Mode, which disables automatic lights and alarms for religious holidays and the Sabbath when electronics are prohibited.

Pros:

  • Motion LED lights
  • Door and over-temp alarms
  • Sabbath Mode
  • Sleek design

Cons:

  • No freezer section
  • No gallon door storage
Frigidaire EFR494 retro compact mini fridge
Frigidaire

Dimensions: 31.81x20.8x21.46 inches | Interior volume: 4.5 cubic feet | Color: Black | Energy Star certified: No | Freezer section: Yes

When working from a home or traditional office, having a mini fridge for drinks, lunches, and snacks is a nice perk to have. And the Frigidaire EFR494 almost feels like it was designed for use in an office. The matte, retro design won't stand out too much from the rest of your office furniture, and the door hinge is reversible so it can open to the left or right. It also features a 1 gallon water tank and dispenser so you can fill your reusable water bottle with fresh, cool water whenever you like. The interior has 4.5 cubic feet of space, and the door has enough room for gallon water jugs and 2 liter soda bottles. There's a freezer section at the top that you can either use to make ice for your drinks or to store frozen meals for quick lunches at your desk. It also has three removable glass shelves for making more room for tall items or when you need to wipe out the fridge. 

Pros:

  • Water dispenser
  • Door space for 2 liter bottles and gallon jugs
  • Freezer section
  • Reversible door

Cons:

  • Freezer section isn't very big
  • No interior light
A Frigidaire EFR100 sitting on top of a small table. A plant and two mugs surround the mini fridge.
Frigidaire

Dimensions: 19.6x18.3x17.51 inches | Interior volume: 1.6 cubic feet | Color: Black | Energy Star certified: Yes | Freezer section: Yes

Having a mini fridge in your dorm is a great way to keep drinks and food handy for study sessions and hangouts with friends. The Frigidaire EFR100 is small enough to fit on a dresser top or under a lofted bed, and the reversible door hinge gives you even more placement options by allowing it to open to the left or right. The door has enough space for 2 liter bottles and the freezer section is perfect for an ice tray or frozen meals for a quick bite between classes. This model has a single wire shelf that can be removed, making it easier to lug around when moving in and out of dorms or when you need to wipe out the mini fridge. 

Pros:

  • Small and compact
  • Reversible door hinge
  • 2 liter bottle storage in door
  • Freezer section

Cons:

  • No interior light
  • Only comes in black

What is the best mini fridge?

My pick for the best mini fridge is the Hisense LCR44D6NSE with its reversible door hinge, 4.4 cubic feet of interior storage, and stainless steel design that will complement almost any kitchen or garage decor.

Mini fridge

Price

Volume

Energy Star certified

Hisense LCR44D6NSE

$229

4.4 cu.ft.

Yes

Whirlpool WHR31TS4E

$198

3.1 cu.ft.

Yes

KitchenAid KURL314KSS

$2385

5.2 cu.ft.

Yes

Frigidaire EFR494

$300

4.5 cu.ft.

No

Frigidaire EFR100

$100

1.6 cu.ft.

Yes

Which mini fridge is right for you?

Once you've nailed down a budget for your new mini fridge, you'll next have to decide what you want to use it for. If you need a bit of extra storage for groceries or beverages, opt for a model with at least 4 cubic feet of interior space and temperature controls for optimal cooling. If you want a mini fridge for your home or traditional office, choose a slightly smaller model to fit under or next to your desk but still has lots of space for water bottles and your lunchbox. If you're looking for a mini fridge for your college dorm, an ultra-compact model will be your best choice, since you won't have a lot of room for appliances.

Choose this mini fridge...

If you need...

Hisense 4.4 cu.ft.

A mini fridge with plenty of space and a great price

Whirlpool 3.1 cu.ft.

A mini fridge that retails under $200

KitchenAid 5.2 cu.ft.

A high-end mini fridge for offices and home bars

Frigidaire Retro compact mini fridge

A mini fridge for your home or traditional office

Frigidaire 1.6 cu.ft.

An incredibly compact mini fridge for your dorm room

How did we choose these mini fridges?

I chose a variety of price points, designs, and sizes of mini fridges to suit almost every budget and purpose. I even chose a mini fridge model with a Sabbath Mode for Jewish customers who observe strict rules about using electronics on the Sabbath and religious holidays.

Are mini fridges worth it?

A mini fridge can absolutely be worth the cost, especially if you're going off to college. Having a small refrigerator in your dorm room makes it easy to keep fresh food and cool drinks on hand between classes or when you just can't bring yourself to eat another meal in the dining hall. Mini fridges are also great for use at home when you might need a bit of extra cold storage for groceries like meat, drinks, and vegetables.

Do mini fridges use a lot of electricity?

Many mini fridges use between 55 and 85 watts of electricity per hour, which means that over the course of a year, it will cost less than $20 to run one in your home. You can always opt for an Energy Star certified model for even better energy efficiency and lower operating costs throughout the year. But keep in mind that use cases and environmental factors will have an impact on energy use. If you frequently open the door of your mini fridge or live in a warmer area, your mini fridge will have to work harder to keep your food and drinks at a consistent, safe temperature; which means that it might cost a bit more per year to operate.

What temperature should my mini fridge be?

Your mini fridge should be set to at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit to help curb the growth of harmful bacteria that can grow on your food and beverages and make you sick. Many models allow you to adjust the internal temperature between 32 and 45 degrees F to suit different needs; warmer temperatures are ok for sealed beverage cans and bottles, while food and open drinks need to be kept colder to stay safe from foodborne bacteria.

What is ENERGY STAR?

The US federal government issues the certification to the most energy-efficient appliances available. The goal is to save you money on your utility bills when you choose the most efficient ENERGY STAR model. You'll find a light blue and white ENERGY STAR logo on certified refrigerators or a yellow card that displays its efficiency (compared to other models) with an estimate of how much it will cost you to run the mini fridge per year. 

Should I choose a one- or two-door mini fridge?

One-door compact refrigerators often have the most capacity for cold items such as snacks, drinks and produce. However, the small frozen compartment contained within most one-door models is often very small and not as functional. Unless all you need a frozen section for is to hold an ice tray, you may be better off choosing a two-door compact fridge. They maintain more even temperatures and give you more storage for frozen goods -- at the cost of refrigerated space. 

Are there alternative mini fridges worth considering?

There are lots of options out there if you're looking to buy a mini fridge. Here's a short list of alternative options that I thought were great:

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