This guide, like its sister articles, isn't intended to be an advert for fridge freezer sales, it is designed purely to allow you, the customer, decide what you need, what you don't and what to look for when you buy a new fridge freezer. Should you wish more information or opinion on what we think of any one brand feel free to use the rest of this section or the manufacturer section to find out who's who.
By not naming a single brand in this article means that it is totally unbiased to anyone, it is a totally independent view with tips and tricks, things to think about and things to avoid when you choose a new fridge freezer. Hopefully it will help you be a little more aware of what to look for and avoid some traps people often fall into.
Just like other appliances people, when they go to buy a new one are just plain wrong. They have limited information on the products and very often look at the wrong things when they are seeking a new fridge freezer. Here we explain the common misconceptions and explain why you are most probably wrong before you even begin shopping.
They all do the same thing anyway, it doesn't matter... wrong!
All the machines are made in the same place; wrong!
All the machines are different if they have a different name on them; wrong!
The fridge I buy today will be of the same quality as the last one with the same name on it; wrong!
Just as I had pointed out in the washing machine buying guide, when selling on a shop floor, the amount of times that any knowledgeable appliance sales person spends smiling at people and thinking, "wrong, wrong, wrong" is just staggering. People have all these pre-conceived notions about who makes what that XXXX is a good make but YYYYY isn't when, as we secretly chuckle to ourselves, it's pretty much the same thing with a different fascia on it.
Now this may seem a little harsh but it's the truth. In a poll carried out on this site we found that the top factor in buying a machine was "reputation". Okay so if you think that you really need to and browse the manufacturer section, but what you find out may come as a surprise to you.
Even when you do find who actually owns the brand you often have no idea where the machine was actually made or what sort of quality it is. In other words, you're buying totally blind most of the time. Click this link to find out a little more
But before we go on the point is that what you think you know is, most probably, wrong!
This goes for a lot with people looking to buy a new washing machine but really it's not as important as you may first think that it is.
There is a whole article here on this subject which, while lengthy, is well worth a read.
I always tell people not to get too hung up on the "A" or any energy rating as, while it's nice to have and means that the machine is energy efficient, it offers little or no comfort beyond that whatsoever. It does not reflect the real world use particularly nor does it give any indication of the quality of the fridge freezer at all or the quality of aftercare that you will receive.
To illustrate the point shown below is a graph of how this actually plays out in a laboratory on a typical fridge freezer:
As you can see, once we get into that whole "A" rated area, especially on frost free, there are not any massive differences other than standard A++ rated machines. To put this still more into perspective for you, despite the propaganda that's floating about, the difference clearly shown here is about 100KWh per annum on average, so at 10p per KWh which is a typical rate means that a slightly less efficient fridge or fridge freezer costs a whopping £10 a year more. Note this is NOT the huge savings of £100 a year or more that are claimed by the manufacturers or the press as they only go on what the manufacturers tell them.
If you think you're going to save a small fortune on electricity, think again, you likely won't.
To create these false figures they take the worst performing old hunk of junk and compare it against the newest and most efficient fridge that they possibly can. People get tricked in effect and a lot of what you are told on this energy rating stuff is just pure and utter rubbish.
We are not saying that these ratings should be ignored or that they are bad, but we do feel that people should be treated like grownups and actually told the truth about them, not half truths.
And, just for informational purposes that graph came from Transform, the people that actually set the tests and regulate the standards for DEFRA so it isn't wrong.
It never ceases to amaze me that people will scrimp on a fridge freezer. It keeps food fresh, or at least that's the plan at least, so make sure that you buy one that has good solid insulation, nice robust door seals as keeping the cold air in is the way that the food is kept fresher for longer.
How this works is fairly easy when we distil it down for you.
Food degrades because the heat and moisture in the food (as well as all the chemical bits and bugs) allows the food to break down and the moisture to escape. The bacteria which is already on or in the food then grows and ultimately means that the food "grows fur" as it's known.
The refrigeration and freezing process slows down that deterioration, it doesn't stop it.
With that in mind the better that the machine is built the better it will keep your food. Recently a certain New Zealand manufacturer produced evidence to show that many (almost all at the time) A++ units were not keeping food fresh as it should, the fridge temperature was too high, but still they met the energy requirement specifications even if they were not practical.
Look carefully at the quality of the door seals, on lower cost models you are liable to see that the seals are of far poorer quality than the more expensive ones, this is an important point. At a recent trade show we opened the door of a brand new show machine and were utterly horrified to see that the seal was almost loose. The machine in question, unsurprisingly, originated from China.
Also consider, especially when buying a fridge freezer whether the fridge is air driven or is a falling air unit, the difference is that in a forced air unit the cold air is blown into the fridge by way of a fan motor, the cold air being drawn from the freezer, as these units tend to have a far better mean temperature. By that we mean that the temperature is more even throughout the whole fridge and the recovery time after the door is opened is far better, so the food keeps longer.
A separate "deli-drawer" or "meat drawer" at the bottom is good as it keeps meats away from other foodstuffs preventing cross contamination and you will usually find that these areas are also colder, often between 0°C and 2°C, so that meat is kept fresher for longer.
The big growth sector in the industry of the past few years has been the American or US style fridge freezers although that is slowing down now. I say "style" because, in large part, these machines are not actual pukka American cabinets anymore. Most that are sold in Europe are either Korean or Italian nowadays.
But there are some additional important things to consider when you go to buy one of these large fridge freezers.
The first is, although they offer a massive amount of storage space they also take up a mammoth amount of space and you will loose space in the kitchen due to that. But the thing is, do you really need that amount of refrigerated and frozen food storage? You see, while these large American fridge freezers have gotten more economical to run they're still not exactly cheap to run and, they're not cheap to buy in the first place.
Another important consideration is the cost of the water and ice. The water and ice won't cost you but the filters to make it work will! Before you buy a machine check out the prices of American fridge freezer water filter from this link to find out which one is going to cost you less to actually run, bearing in mind that most (all bar the GE) need a new filter every six months.
Be warned, buying the wrong fridge freezer and replacing the water filter on time can end up costing more than the fridge itself over the life so it is well worth checking.
If you don't need the space or you don't want the running costs then look at other alternatives, such as a large larder fridge and freezer side by side.
Just like most other appliances the majority of machines sold are the cheap ones and the stats prove this. So as with the others there's really only two conclusions that you can draw from this, either people aren't being entirely truthful with their answers or, more likely, the people that are buying based solely on price are buying more machines, more often.
Now obviously either are bad, that bit is hardly rocket science, but if it is option B then things really are bad as the environmental impact of this is glaringly obvious, remember the fridge mountains of a few years ago? The environmental impact of the waste and replacement will far, far exceed any saving you may make on a better energy rated new appliance. To think otherwise would be crazy and yet, this is exactly what some manufacturers and retailers will try to tell you. Basically they try to sell you the green argument when it isn't really green at all.
But all too often you get that look from people, the one that resembles a rabbit caught in headlights, when you tell them that what they really need is a fridge freezer that is way over what they wanted or expected to pay. But you see here's the thing of that, you walk into almost any major chain store retailer and the salesperson is going to have a limited product knowledge in the main as they are more interested in selling you a warranty (that they don't get paid commission on of course) than what actual product you buy.
This is the wrong approach in my opinion and, also in the opinion of most independent retailers.
What happens is, as this common example will demonstrate, is that someone walks in wanting to buy an American style fridge freezer. They want all the cool toys, like digital displays, ice and chilled water, stainless steel look and whatever else but they want it dirt cheap. So they will look at the Korean and other cheap alternatives and assume that these are of equal quality and performance to the real US fridge freezers at double the price, never stopping to wonder why the others are double the price.
Just read the forums and try to spot the machines we recommend in there.
So we don't sell the stuff that we consider to be not very good, a polite way of saying we don't sell rubbish and we tend to look after our customers, advising as best we possibly can. All machines break down eventually, but when they do you want as little hassle as possible, get it fixed as cheap as possible and avoid the pitfalls in the first place if you can.
You see, we want to keep our customers. We want our customers to be happy with their purchase and to remember that we did a good job, remembering us for the next time that they buy a machine of any kind. But a decision not based solely on how cheap we were, but how good we were.
We do lose sales because we do things like this. We lose them to many an internet seller or a large multiple retail chain, usually on price alone and, that's fine. If people want an inferior service and, probably, for the purchase to ultimately cost more in the longer term then that's fine, that's the customer's choice to make. But then that's buying on price, not service and that is your choice to make, not ours.
The point I would make (again) is that our repeat business way exceeds that of any multiple, you don't really have to wonder why.
We've also seen the hassles from customers who have had a problem with an internet seller especially and some retail chains trying to get an issue resolved, it can be the stuff of nightmares. We've even bought returned so-called "faulty" machines only to find that there was nothing whatsoever wrong with them, we know that all it was is that the retailer didn't have sufficient product knowledge to explain what the machine was doing.
Try not to get too hung up on price, shop around, get advice from several people or from a retailer you know you can have faith in that won't just leave you after the sale is made as, if it goes wrong and you don't have that safety net, life can be made very difficult indeed. But when you find the right one the help and good advice that you will get will be outstanding and for a few pounds more the security is well worth having.
My advice is to seek out good advice from an independent as the service and advice will be far superior or ask in the forums and someone will normally offer guidance. Just don't be surprised if you get steered away from what might look like a bargain as we often know only too well that what looks too good to be true, usually is and very often doesn't end well.
Another important fact in this whole price debate is, as I often put it to customers is that quality has been systematically removed in order to meet particular price points. Think about it, you get all the bells and whistles on some of the lower priced fridge freezers especially and yet the prices are, in real terms, almost 50% of what they were ten to fifteen years ago, how?
So we have lowered the prices, increased the features on offer and made the appliances more efficient than ever, how can this be?
It is very simple, you manufacture to a price and not to a quality, the appliances then don't last as long and we have a waste problem with them.
But most people buy on the strength of the brand's reputation thinking, naturally, that a good brand name will guarantee a good product, it is a perfectly reasonable assumption to make you would think, but all too often these days it isn't. Almost every day we hear, "I bought an XXXXXX machine because that's a good make", but do you even know what you bought and from who? Sadly, most people haven't a clue I'm sad to say.
First thing you need to do when buying a fridge freezer is not to have a look to see what the best specification and toys you can have for the money happens to be. What you need to do first is look at how you use the machine.
For the most part, in all the years that I've been in this industry there's a few key questions to ask yourself.
Also look at the inside and try to gauge how easy it will be to clean out, many have a lot of nooks and crannies that can be a nightmare to clean.
The trouble is that most people just don't know enough about fridge freezers unless, like us, you happen to work in the industry. You are left on your own and at the mercy of the person that is selling the machine's product knowledge or, at best, you do some homework and research all the specs on the internet or brochures before you go to buy. This is fine, but the brochures and all the specs you read on the net just cannot take account of your personal circumstances, they are not interactive and they generally appear to give little help at all to people.
Going into a large retailer you get pretty much the same, with a few exceptions, the quality of advice on offer is just shockingly bad. The staff's product knowledge beyond the price, the finance deals available and how much an extra warranty will be is, for the most part, almost non-existent. The question I often ask is, would I trust someone who hadn't a clue about what they were selling especially when you don't want to be buying another one in a year or so?
One thing that has come to light lately is that the large retailers appear to not promote the good, well built machines and, at first, we didn't think much of this until someone who shall remain nameless pointed out a glaringly obvious fact as we evolved our own brand.
If you're a retailer that relies on sales then you don't want to sell any product that will last beyond a few years as you want to sell another.
Stupidly obvious really isn't it? The same goes for a lot of the lower end appliances as, they are built to a price for the large retailers as they are also in the business of "moving boxes".
It's worth also remembering that most of the large electrical retailers make more money from selling you a warranty than an actual product. If you buy cheap appliances from those sorts of stores, you will likely need that warranty.
I am not kidding with this, a manufacturer recently told me that they had stopped trading with two internet sellers as they discovered that they were being operated from a teenager's bedroom!
Another internet trick is to have multiple store names but all owned by the one business. For example, Comet is also Jitchen Science, Dixons or Currys is also Pixmania and so on.
The point being, you have not a clue who you are dealing with in many cases, it could be anyone and you just don't know. Be careful and make sure that the internet site that you choose to buy from is reputable and actually does have stock, many claim the lowest price but have no stock at all.
The independent, as explained earlier, has a different take on things. They are not so price motivated preferring instead to look after people as, customers to them are people, not just a receipt number. But what I have found in dealing with a great many of the indies (as we call them) is that they don't just offer the best advice and service, their businesses don't just depend on sales.
What you tend to find is that they put a lot of effort into aftersales care, offering service as well as replacement services which means that their business isn't solely dependent on selling you a new machine. So selling you a decent machine that suits your needs is in their interest as, whether it needs to be replaced or repaired after a few years, they can service either requirement and both are an integral part of their business.
For integrated fridge and freezer models we wouldn't recommend anything but an independent retailer. They know what they're doing, can actually fit them most often and will help much, much more than anyone else will.
Given that most appliance manufacturers cater to the needs of the retailers, not repairers, they have a nasty tendency to manufacture to a price, as we've already discussed, but they often also try to turn service into a profit centre. What is meant by that is that they try to make still more money on service which, in turn, allows a lower cost upfront.
How this is done is pretty simple.
You make the spares ludicrously expensive so that, if you don't have an extended warranty you either pay way over the odds for the part or, alternatively, you go out and buy a new machine. Either way they win as, if you are hacked off with the brand you just had the chances are that the next one you buy will either be owned by the same company or another customer, similarly hacked off with another will buy one of theirs.
We call this the brand merry-go-round. Within the same price band, especially the lower ones, there are only about half a dozen major players that absolutely dominate the market owning multiple brand names.
Then to seal that fate, what happens is that the manufacturers don't allow technical information to be released to anyone outside their own company or service sub-contractors and they can (and have) taken pretty drastic action to ensure that things stay that way. So you're tied to using only their spares, at whatever they see fit to charge and/or their own service, again at whatever they see fit to charge. Not allowing the public or even the trade to have that information creates a nice little monopoly for them.
The customer, you, suffers.
The natural thing to do would be to think that you would just buy a warranty. Well they're overpriced as well simply because of the above as then insurers have to pay for it. There's no escape from this unless you buy wisely.
The point of this article is to highlight the need to take some care when buying a new fridge freezer Not to just jump in and be duped by some fancy glossy adverts, a price or some "must have" feature that you really don't need.
Don't just go for the lowest price, the nicest looking, the biggest capacity or any other one factor. Research what you are actually buying since almost everyone will keep a fridge freezer longer than they keep a car, think about that and think about how much effort you would put into buying a car in terms of research and shopping about. And, as with a car, people very often don't simply buy on brand, specification or price, they buy on a combination of these items and, largely at times, the strengths of the dealer and service backup not just how fast it goes or how cheap it is.
If you need more help or some specific advice, please ask in our forums as a lot of the guys there have vast knowledge of the appliances on the market.