- 1 How to Choose the Best Mini Fridge: A Buying Guide
- 2 Things to Check Before You Buy a Mini Fridge
- 3 The Downside of Mini Refrigerators
- 4 Reviews of The Best Mini Fridges to Buy in 2020
- 4.1 1. RCA 3.2 cu.ft. Single Door – Best to Buy in 2020
- 4.2 2. Cooluli 4L Mini Electric Cooler and Warmer – Best Value Mini Fridge
- 4.3 3. Midea 3.1 cu.ft Double Door – Best Mini Fridge with a Freezer
- 4.4 4. Midea 1.6 cu.ft. Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for a Dorm
- 4.5 5. hOmeLabs 120 Can Beverage Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for Beer and Soda
- 5 Top-rated Mini Fridges Comparison
- 6 Mini Fridge FAQs
- 7 Best Mini Fridge Brands
- 8 Conclusion
Mini fridges don’t vary much in terms of design and features. In choosing the best mini fridge for your home, office, or dorm, you should pay attention to size and capacity above all else. The other key consideration is whether or not you’ll need a freezer or ice box. Some larger mini fridges have two doors with a freezer in the top compartment like a regular fridge. Single door refrigerators only have an icebox, which doesn’t work as well as a dedicated freezer.
How to Choose the Best Mini Fridge: A Buying Guide
Our guide separates mini fridges into three useful size categories. We also cover some important usability and design details, such as freezer features, door bin storage, shelving, reversible doors, and adjustable legs.
Which is the right sized mini refrigerator?
1. Under-the-counter Mini Fridges
The most popular type of mini fridge is usually around 33 inches high, which means it can fit easily under a standard kitchen counter. These come in larger and smaller sizes. Larger ones are better suited for kitchen spaces, studio apartments, and bigger living rooms. These tend to be 3 inches or so deeper and slightly wider than smaller under-the-counter mini fridges. Smaller ones fit better into narrower kitchens, smaller living room spaces, and bedrooms.
Under-the-counter mini fridges can have one or two doors. A two-door mini fridge has a separate freezer compartment, which is usually big enough to hold a few medium-sized frozen pizzas and or boxed frozen meals. Single doors generally have a full length icebox, which is good for an ice tray and a couple of bags of frozen vegetables. Some under-the-counter fridges may have a crisper box for fruits and vegetables, and others can even fit a 1-gallon jug in the door.
2. Mid-Sized Mini Fridges
Mid-sized mini refrigerators are usually around 24 to 28 inches high. They can fit under a dining room table, kitchen counter, or office desk. Their relatively compact size also makes them great for storing beverages in a bedroom, living room, or games room.
These kinds of refrigerators, as well as cube-shaped ones, don’t get cold enough to store perishables or leftovers for more than three or four days. Leftovers or store bought sandwiches should be tightly insulated or kept on a separate shelf than fruits, and dairy cannot be stored in the warmer door bins.
3. Cube-Shaped Mini Fridges and Smaller
Smaller refrigerators are generally cube-shaped and most commonly found in a small dorm room, but they can also sit on top of a desk, countertop, or inside of a closet. Their average dimensions are around 17 to 19 inches—which is not much bigger than a bedside table or nightstand— so they don’t take up too much space in a bedroom or a garage. Most have just one shelf, but some have two.
Refrigerators up to 1 cu.ft. tend to be portable thermoelectric warmers and coolers. These take up very little space on an office desk, and the smaller ones hold about 12 soda cans. You can also use them to store cosmetics or medications at home. Because they operate both on AC 110V and DC 12V, they can plug into your car’s accessory port or run off a USB 2A power pack.
Key Features to Consider
1. Freezer Compartment or Icebox
Under-the-counter mini fridges with two doors and a standard freezer box are the best option for frozen foods. They aren’t recommended for long-term storage, which requires lower temperatures, but they do well with frozen meals that are consumed regularly.
Single-door refrigerators can have a full-length or half-width ice box. Full-length ice boxes can store a couple of packs of frozen food for a limited period of time. Some manufacturers claim these iceboxes can make ice, but in reality that is often not the case.
Cube refrigerators sometimes have half-width ice boxes. They are not powerful enough to make ice, but can store things like ice creams or chocolates. The refrigerator area near or under the icebox is often much colder, but you can use this area for keeping butter, cheese, milk or drinks you’d like to have extra cold.
A mini fridge without an ice box is the best choice if you already have a standard refrigerator. They have a lot more practical storage space with lower energy costs and easier maintenance. They’re also a good choice as a beverage cooler.
2. Door Bin Storage
Almost all mini refriges can fit a 2-liter bottle, and a few can hold a 1-gallon jug. Doors often have specialized roller bins where cans are placed horizontally, one on top of the other. These are not so great if you have different kinds of drinks, or cans of slightly different sizes, as they dispense one at a time. Another neat door design features a set 12-ounce flip-out can holders. Two cans sit vertically side by side and swivel forward for easy access. Both designs tend to hold the same amount of cans— usually 6 to 8.
More affordable fridges only have wire shelves with a few rack slots to adjust the space for taller objects. Glass shelves cost more but are easier to clean and stack items, but you have to be careful with them. Wire shelves are better for storing bottles horizontally. If you want more storage space for cans than the door can provide, having at least two adjustable shelves is ideal.
4. Reversible Doors
This is a common feature that allows you to change the side that the door hinge is on, but always check before you make a purchase. If your space is limited, a reversible door can make a big difference. This is the better choice if you don’t have the chance to examine your space before you make your purchase, or if you need to move your fridge to another location.
5. Adjustable Legs
Adjustable legs allow you to raise or lower the corners of the fridge to balance it on uneven floors. It’s a nice feature, but you’re not guaranteed to find this on the majority of models out there.
Things to Check Before You Buy a Mini Fridge
Avoid putting your refrigerator in strong sunlight or next to a major heat source, as this will adversely affect performance and make the fridge unsafe for perishable items or dairy, which must be kept below 40 ℉.
Also make sure the mini fridge isn’t obstructing a pathway and that there’s a power outlet nearby. Major manufacturers don’t recommend using a standard extension cord because it can be a fire hazard, but if you need to, it’s recommended to use a three prong extension cord.
The Downside of Mini Refrigerators
Mini fridges don’t get as cold as regular refrigerators and their cheaper compressors are often noisier. They are not so great for keeping leftovers or fresh food for longer than 3 to 4 days. Most ice boxes are not great at making ice, if at all, and three to four days is also the optimal period for keeping frozen items. Therefore, fresh foods, perishables, leftovers and even frozen dinners should be consumed regularly, or as soon as possible.
Before buying a mini fridge for your student dorm, always check your school’s regulations. They may have restrictions on capacity or required Energy Star ratings. If standard models aren’t permitted at all, you may be able to get away with a portable refrigerator.
Reviews of The Best Mini Fridges to Buy in 2020
Our choice of the top 5 best mini fridges in 2020 have been carefully vetted for their quality design, user ratings and value for their price point.
- RCA 3.2 cu.ft. Single Door Mini Fridge – Best to Buy
- Cooluli Portable Electric Cooler and Warmer – Best Value Mini Fridge
- Midea 3.2 cu.ft. Double Door Mini Fridge – Best Mini Fridge with a Freezer
- Midea 1.6 cu.ft. Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for a Dorm
- hOmeLabs 120 Can Beverage Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for Beer and Soda
Here are our top picks for the Best Mini Fridges:
1. RCA 3.2 cu.ft. Single Door – Best to Buy in 2020
A seven color range of mini fridges with two shelves and more rack slots than you’d expect. Do more with the space you have, or even turn it into a beverage refrigerator.
This 3.2 cu.ft. RCA has a decent amount of space without being too bulky. There are two slide out glass shelves and several rack slots— so the space is a lot more adaptable than most other mini fridges. This makes it particularly good for storing beverages and larger bottled food items.
The door has a rolling soda rack for up to six soda cans, plus there are two half-length door bins—one good for a two-liter bottle, and the other for bottles or additional cans. The bins, including the full-length top bin, are more suited for cans and bottles rather than smaller tubes or pastes.
he enclosed, full-width ice box is pretty standard with enough space for some frozen food packs (280g) and 500 ml tub of ice cream. The thermostat has 7 levels so this makes the refrigerator more adaptable to different climate zones or ambient temperatures.
The instructions say you should set the thermostat to the maximum of seven if you want to make ice, but this may not work as well as advertised.
Users are mostly happy with this refrigerator. Many find it to be more spacious than anticipated, and it’s fairly quiet. There have been periodic issues with the item arriving dented or damaged, but the blame there likely lies with shipping.
2. Cooluli 4L Mini Electric Cooler and Warmer – Best Value Mini Fridge
The perfect Mini Me refrigerator with a double door, storage space for frozen foods, and a crisper drawer for the cooler.
If a regular mini fridge is more than you need, or if you’re on a tight budget, this little Cooluli may surprise you.
People usually use these coolers as beverage holders. The smaller, more popular ones can fit six 12-ounce soda cans. They do just as well for storing a light meal, with a couple of sodas and some extra space in the door. They are also convenient to take to work or on a road trip. Many people use these Coolulis for storing cosmetics or medications.
Thermoelectric coolers can only reach temperatures that are 40 degrees below the ambient or surrounding temperature. That detail needs to be factored in for the safe storage of perishables below 40℉ . There are only two thermostat levels—either warm or cool—and some people report ice build-up on the bottom. The warmer mode can go up to 149℉, if having a warm lunch is more important than a few cold drinks.
It can take up to two hours for the low temperature to stabilize, so if you’re taking it on the road, run it first for a couple of hours plugged into your wall socket. Also, don’t leave it plugged into your car because this will drain the battery, and only plug it in once the engine is started or you may burn out the cooler motor.
3. Midea 3.1 cu.ft Double Door – Best Mini Fridge with a Freezer
The perfect Mini Me refrigerator with a double door, storage space for frozen foods, and a crisper drawer for the cooler.
The typical compact refrigerator is not really designed for freezer storage other than a few snacks and maybe some ice. This Midea, however, functions as a mini replica of a standard refrigerator. You can easily keep vegetables and fruits neatly tucked away in the crisper drawer, or store boxes of frozen food in the freezer compartment.
Although not as efficient as a standard refrigerator, it’s quite versatile in its application. Apart from some extra storage under your counter, it can be a patio cooler for parties, a fridge for a bar or games room, or something for a small office. It also has a handy, reversible door.
Some people have taken issue with the thermostat control because temperatures at the back are quite cooler than at the front. Others find the glass shelves don’t come out very easily.
4. Midea 1.6 cu.ft. Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for a Dorm
Nothing fancy, but a basic and affordable choice for a dorm or bedroom.
For students who have little in the way of extra cash or space in their rooms, this mini cube refrigerator is an ideal choice. Most find it’s a perfect fit for a typical dorm room and has just enough space for a few regular snacks, a 2-liter bottle, and about four soda cans.
You can put about a half dozen apples in the bottom, or a loaf of bread and a couple of condiment bottles. The shelf can take two 500ml milk cartons placed on top of each other, with some room for a lunchbox. The ice box takes up a bit of space, and there’s a drip tray underneath it, but this is a good location to store some dairy if sealed in a container.
The ice box tends to frost up quickly, and it’s not cold enough to make ice cubes or keep frozen foods, other than ice creams and chocolates. It comes in three colors, but the black model is the cheapest. If your room can fit something a little bigger, our Best to Buy recommendation is also a popular choice among students and doesn’t cost a whole lot more.
5. hOmeLabs 120 Can Beverage Refrigerator – Best Mini Fridge for Beer and Soda
A small drink dispenser machine for the office or game room with adjustable shelves and a glass door.
This mini beverage refrigerator is best for storing 12-ounce cans, but with three shelves and five rack slots, it can be adapted to a variety of can sizes. It can also be used as a single zone wine refrigerator. At just less than 34 inches high, it fits easily under a counter, although it will still need adequate space for ventilation.
This hOmelab has a few nice extras, including an automatic door light, automatic defrosting, and a temperature memory function in case the power is cut. They take care to package their products well, so there are few reports of shipping damage.
Although an excellent value, there are a few drawbacks. The door is not reversible, and a few owners report the fridge struggles to reach the minimum temperature of 34°F.
Top-rated Mini Fridges Comparison
|Model||Key Features||Energy Guide Yearly Cost
($0.12 / kWh)
|RCA 3.2 cu.ft.||Adjustable shelves, incremental thermostat, makes ice, 7 colors, reversible door||E-Star $26|
|Cooluli 4 liter||Pocket handle,warmer and cooler, 7 colors||N/A|
|Midea 3.1 cu.ft.||Lower door reversible, crisper drawer, frozen foods, makes ice||E-Star $32|
|Midea 1.6 cu.ft.||Adjustable legs, reversible door||E-Star $25|
|hOmeLabs 120 cans||Automatic light, auto defrost, settings memory||$35|
Mini Fridge FAQs
Here are a few questions that we find people often ask about mini refrigerators:
How to Defrost a Mini Fridge?
- Turn off the thermostat and unplug the refrigerator.
- Remove all items from the fridge, including from the ice box.
- Tilt back the fridge and put a folded towel on the floor to save yourself a mess in case the drip tray overflows, and to keep the door open.
- When the ice is melted, wipe and clean the inside with soapy water. Restart your fridge with the thermostat at a medium setting.
How Many Watts Does a Mini Fridge Use?
Your fridge should come with a yellow Energy Guide sticker, which will tell you the estimated yearly energy consumption costs, and if it’s Energy Star approved. Refrigerators with Energy Star ratings will be within the top 25% of top rated models, and sometimes an E-Star rating is required by schools and workplaces.
For a mini fridge to qualify for an Energy Star rating it should use no more than 239.42 kilowatt-hours per year for manual defrost versions, or up to 318.4 kWh/year for units with partial automatic defrost.
The standard running cost per year is $25 based on a $0.12 per kWh national average, but this can vary considerably depending on your location. A few things can help reduce running costs: don’t place your fridge near a heat source or in the sun, don’t open the door too often, defrost regularly, and don’t overstack it.
Best Mini Fridge Brands
Popular refrigerator brands like GE, Frigidaire, and Whirlpool often cost $300 or more. The most popular and affordable mini fridge brands featured in our reviews include:
Originally founded as the Radio Corporation of America, this brand makes a range of home products related to home security, air conditioning, refrigeration, microwave ovens, audio visual equipment, tablets, and more.
A Brooklyn company launched in 2016. They exclusively make portable mini coolers and warmers using thermoelectric mechanisms that have long been used in wine fridges.
A Chinese appliance manufacturer based in Guangdong. Midea specializes in air treatment, refrigeration, and both large and small kitchen appliances.
Another startup out of New York whose products are growing in popularity. Their focus is on air and refrigeration products, as well as a limited range of small kitchen appliances.
A Canadian appliance maker, Danby makes a range of products related to climate control, refrigeration, and large kitchen appliances.
6. Magic Chef
A brand of MCA Corporation who produces a large range of small and large kitchen appliances. Magic Chef was originally introduced in 1929 as a subsidiary of the American Stove Company. After a number of mergers and acquisitions, including one by Maytag, MCA Corporation purchased the brand from Whirlpool in 2010.
Our selection of the 5 best mini fridges focuses on value and performance with some of the best Energy Star rated mini refrigerators available. If you have any questions or anything to add, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.