How to choose a Compact (mini) Refrigerator

Starting at under $100, compact refrigerators are popular choices for college students, offices, apartments and many other uses. They can be used to store beverages or food. Many models include a compact freezer as well, with just enough room for a couple of pints of ice cream or a few frozen dinners. Several manufacturers specialize in compact refrigerators, including Avanti, Danby, MicroFridge, and U-Line.

How big is a compact refrigerator?

Refrigerators with volumes less than 7.75 cubic feet are typically considered compact refrigerators. One note of caution -- if you are buying this fridge for a college dorm room, many colleges have restrictions on mini refrigerators larger than 4 cubic feet.

Features to consider when buying a compact refrigerator

  • Do you need a freezer? Single-door compact refrigerators with a built-in ice compartment won't necessarily keep food as cold as those that have a freezer with a separate door.
  • Can you fit 2-liter bottles upright in the door?
  • Are you planning on storing cans of soda in this fridge? If so, many compacts come with built-in soda dispensers in the door.
  • Removeable shelves: this makes it easier to clean the fridge (you are planning to clean it at some point, no?). In addition, you can remove shelves to store larger objects.
  • If this fridge will be stored in a public place (and you don't necessarily trust the public that will be located in that place), you may want to consider buying a model that comes with a lock and key
  • Is it Energy Star compliant?
  • Does it come with a good warranty?

Downsides of a compact Fridge

As you might expect, one of the frequent complaints heard about compact refrigerators is their size. They typically cannot store pizza boxes or gallon jugs unless you remove some of the shelves.

You may need to unplug the frige to defrost it every six months or so. This is especially true for those models with built-in (rather than separate-door) ice compartments.

Many compact refrigerators come with fully-adjustable thermostats -- if you set your thermostat too low, you can actually freeze liquids in the refrigerator section. Water, of course, expands when frozen, so it is perfectly possible for soda cans to explode if they are left in an overly cool refrigerator.


Compact refrigerators typically have one- to two-year parts and labor warranty. The compressor typically has a longer warranty -- often up to five years.