Buying A Side By Side
Big space, ice and water seems a great idea, here's what to watch for when buying American fridge freezers
Do you see what we did there? It was a magic trick (ha, not really) that if you blinked you’d have missed it.
Okay probably not many people would have spotted it but there’s an important distinction going on there, in the title we said this was an American fridge freezer buyer’s guide and then, on the article title we speak about buying a side by side.
If we confused you, that’s good, it’s what we intended to do.
Let us explain why and why this is at times quite an important point to make. A lot of people think that a side by side fridge freezer, which is the correct term to use, is American in origin and that they only come from America and this is completely wrong.
We suspect most of what a lot of people think they know about side by sides will be wrong and this guide is intended to enlighten you as to the history of them and just how easy it is to get, well, ripped off to be truthful when buying one.
This guide could save you hundreds of pounds on a side by side fridge freezer so, settle in and read on.
History Of The Side By Side
To explain a bit and why things are how they are we need to explain a bit of why we have these fridge freezers and that will help you understand more as we go on. Some might argue, drone on boringly but we'll try to keep it light.
The side by side fridge freezer or the style at least was an American thing as people often had larger homes and therefore larger kitchens in the good old US of A so, big wasn’t a problem.
Here in Europe and we have small kitchens generally with far less space so we would tend to have under counter fridge and freezer or a fridge freezer with one on top of the other to make the best use of available kitchen space.
In Europe, we’d have a larger freezer (don’t ask us, we don’t know) and a smaller fridge or a 50/50 split such as it was. Whereas in America the focus was on the fridge for more fresh produce being stored.
What with the relatively easy availability of food and the never-ending opening of supermarkets that has changed in Europe to more focus been placed on storing fresh as opposed to frozen foods and we now appear to want more fridge space. So, larger fridges are in.
Go back to the 1980’s and you would really only ever see a proper American made side by side in millionaires' homes and as the demand in Europe grew for such beasts we started to see more sensibly priced options, like less than about £2000. Back in the early 1990’s that was a lot of money but these monsters usually came from the US so shipping, VAT and all the rest made them expensive.
But the volumes were still low, even a few tens of thousands cannot make setting up a production line or a factory costing millions to build them a viable thing for the European manufacturers to do as you need good volumes to justify a business case for that. So, they didn’t.
Then Samsung and LG sucked all the value (and quality largely) out the market segment but got to dominate it in Europe. They didn't do too shabby Stateside either.
Who Makes Side By Sides
What many manufacturers did was buy in badged up models from elsewhere so they had at least one or two side by side models in their range.
The point being that there are actually very few real producers of American style side by side fridge freezers even although there are a few score brands selling them, websites dedicated to selling them and, dare we say it, “review” sites for them. So beware as there are a LOT of own label brands and manufacturer rebranded products when it comes to side by side fridge freezers and, we do mean A LOT!
The reason there’s all that is simple, there’s money in it. Selling the side by sides makes money, selling links, referrals and such all generate cash and as the margins are better somewhat the rewards are greater and that’s why you see all that.
We digress a little but we need to explain this stuff otherwise people will often believe some of the tripe they read online from sources that often have no clue what they’re talking about.
Okay so, for Europe in 2016 and probably the next few years assuming no seismic changes you cannot buy a proper American made side by side, so far as we know, other than Sub Zero and Viking. If you need to ask the price of either, you seriously can’t afford it as you will be well in excess of £10,000 for one of those.
The rest of us mere mortals are stuck with what’s left and, what’s left isn’t American. It’s Turkish, Chinese or Korean almost exclusively. And then there’s Whirlpool, which we will explain in a bit.
So Beko (Arcelik) make their own cabinets (Turkey) as do Samsung and LG (Korean) obviously then you have the like of Hisense Kelon who are Chinese and hardly anyone has ever heard of them, trade as well so don’t feel bad about that.
Beko will build machines for almost anyone if you’ve got a pile of cash and so on then you can order up a container or ten of side by side fridge freezers no problem. But, they’re not the cheapest.
Beko does make machines from the like of Lamona and we’ve seen them sold under other brands but not too many.
Electrolux also makes their own, they're big enough generally and have a huge presence Stateside to justify the cost of making machines. They rebrand under the AEG, Zanussi and so on but other than perhaps John Lewis and Ikea seem not to do too much rebranding these days.
The Koreans, LG and Samsung don’t rebrand for anyone. It must be a thing with them but they seem to never do that and all the bits in them are largely unique to each.
Daewoo also makes side by sides and they will rebrand machines so, for example, a lot of the own brand label Currys, Bosch and more are all just a slightly altered Daewoo. Yes, Bosch does not make their side by side fridge freezers, they're made for them
Don't believe us, we'll show you exactly what we are talking about, this is a Daewoo DRQ29NPES fridge freezer that was retailing at £799 in Currys at the time of writing with the doors open:
And this is a Bosch KAG90AI20G American style side by side fridge freezer that was retailing for £1439 the same day:
Can you see that it's the same layout, same size as some of the cosmetic items altered to differentiate them? You will find that the Bosch is a more "premium" machine with a few more features and whatnot but, fundamentally from a design, quality and component standpoint, they're merely clones of one another. They are both the same thing, just a little different.
But you can save over £600 by knowing that.
Please understand that we are not advocating buying a daewoo at all merely that, if you were going to spend £1400 plus on a Bosch you could probably buy something better for that sort of money rather than buying what is a daewoo in a fancy dress. In fact, you could probably buy something better for less than the price Bosch is asking, we're just saying!
With many of the review sites we see this cracks us up, they make out that one is better than the other or that the build on one is better and so on and often times we reckon it's probably them promoting whatever one they get a higher commision on or fee for click-throughs. And most probably, they haven't the first clue that these machines are the same anyway.
Then there’s Hisense. They’ll make machines for anyone, their dog and it’s grandpa so long as you have the cash and, they’re cheap as chips. Problem with that is, they’re at the bottom end of the quality scale along with it. They make a lot of the own brand label machines for the likes of Rangemaster and a bunch of others.
And lastly, we have Whirlpool who use the exact same European produced side by side fridge freezers under all their brands so whether you buy an Amana, Maytag, Whirlpool, Hotpoint or any of the others, all the same thing. A different wrapper, flavour changes slightly but, the same thing.
Therefore from all the brands, you see in stores or online, there’s actually only a handful of companies that make the machines, not the scores you might think there is.
The staff in the stores that sell them are unlikely to know this.
Cheated, Ripped Off
Here’s where people, after they learn this and that’s usually when things go sideways on them, feel a bit cheated and let down.
You can buy say a Rangemaster side by side fridge freezer for more than £1700 easy peasy. Wouldn’t you be more than a little annoyed if you later discovered it was a Chinese made Hisense machine in a dress and the same thing you could have bought with their name on it for less than half that?
This is a prime example of what we tell people all the time on this website, research before you buy appliances it can save you not only a lot of money, it can save you a world of grief as well.
We looked about and there are many similar examples of this sort of practice as branding for own label brands in this industry is rife, almost endemic to it and if you buy on the strength of a brand name alone it is very possible that you will end up with a pup. Research, use the manufacturer section and learn who really makes what you’re buying and if you get stuck use the forums and ask for more help.
We’re not lecturing, we’re not being condescending or anything else, we’re trying to save you and other people from making expensive mistakes in a forthright and easily understandable manner. And explaining why.
Trying to sort it out after you’ve bought a machine or, a few years later when it breaks is nigh on impossible. Best thing to do is avoid the mistake in the first place.
Ice And Water
For many people, one of the key features driving them to buy a side by side is to have ice and chilled water on tap.
We get it, we really do and it is a great thing to have but it’s not cheap and when they break (which they do) they’re not cheap to put right.
But more than that have a read at the article in this section on water filter costs. Your eyes will be opened and you will then understand why we will tell you that, unless you’re going to use this functionality a lot, don’t bother with it.
You can buy a tabletop ice making machine for less than £100. Do you really need to spend over £1000 to get one in your fridge freezer?
Okay so it's a Chinese table top ice maker and all that but still, you get the point.
Put ice in your water and, viola, chilled water. If you really want it filtered, buy a filtered tap, hot tap (more useful) or just use a filtered jug. Problem solved for a fraction of the cost and, ongoing cost.
Big Fridge = Big Waste
Often times the guys will go to see a side by side and, after hauling out stuff to get to the fan at the back or remove drawers they will find food. Okay so finding food in a fridge isn’t exactly a revelation but food that’s got lifeforms on it that are as yet not catalogued by science isn’t even slightly funny.
Joking (really?) aside the thing about a big fridge is that people get lazy with it, they use it as a big cold cupboard and loads of stuff gets shoved in there, much of it should never be in the fridge at all and old stuff gets shoved back. There are not many times you will clean out your fridge and not find something that is a good month or two at best beyond when it should have been in the bin.
Online there are theories about this and there’s been chatter online about this topic saying this and that as it’s a good way to get PR out or to use it as click bait for referral (paid) links.
Here’s what we think, without paid links, people get it into their heads that they can buy that extra large carton of juice, milk and an extra bag of salad, the larger tub of meat and on and on often exceed what they would normally use. So, a lot of it ends up in the trash as it cannot be used before it goes off.
Supermarkets probably don’t help much with the BOGOFFs and an extra whatever half price.
People think they have the space to keep the stuff and they do if they have a cavernous side by side, but do they have the time to use it?
Door shelves are populated by a legion of condiments, sauces and other stuff that, doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
People are stocked up for the zombie apocalypse and if that ever comes, however, the power will be out and your big fridge packed full to the brim with food isn’t a lot of use. Unless of course, you can survive that apocalypse on mustard and tomato sauce, maybe some other preserves, ignoring the zombie in the room.
Which gives us the next thing, power cut or the fridge freezer packs it in. When the power does go out or your fridge freezer dies, you face a mountain of food you could never use in time.
There are times when a big American style side by side fridge freezer is not an advantage.
Yeah, they use the Americanism for a holiday to make out it’s American. It isn’t.
All this does is cut the power use a bit and that’s only if people remember to set it. Most people won’t.
It's a pretty useless feature, one we love to hate on.
These are good for warning you about problems but really, how often do you adjust the fridge you have? 99.9% of people asked said, never.
So all those buttons and flashy bling lights are largely a waste of time. Sure they look cool and pretty but practicality wise, a waste of space for the most part.
Trouble is that with modern power requirement for energy labelling it’s all gone digital, there are no more manual thermostats and so on it’s all resistive sensors and electronics that are used so, you may as well use a board that tells you stuff while you’re using an electronic board anyway.
The point here is that any bonkers features that the put on there is largely going to prove a waste of time for you, you’ll set it up the way you like it and probably rarely if ever touch it again.
Connected Fridge Freezers
We’ve been over this time and again with fridge freezers and washing machines mostly.
This is a total waste of time and money.
There is no reality in which this makes sense, despite what the manufacturers are trying to flog you for a boatload of extra cash over a standard unit. All this is is manufacturers trying to “innovate” by putting a tablet on the door of a fridge.
We could have done that years ago with a glue gun and ten minutes. It’s ludicrous really.
Okay, hands up, it may take more than ten minutes for the glue to set.
People that buy these things might think that they will be bothered to pull up the app for it, mess about finding what they want or looking at the cameras in the fridge to see what’s there but we’re sorry, in the real world that will fall by the wayside once the “WOW” factor wears thin. And, it will.
It seems squarely aimed at the gadget freaks and count us in on being gadget freaks but even we don’t buy it.
Already we’ve seen huge concerns over security and privacy with them, hacking attempts and services being dropped from them after only a short time. Not good.
What it does do though is gets the makers or brand name all over tech blogs and such so, as a PR exercise, it’s a winner. Even if they don’t sell many people get the impression that the brand is "cutting edge" and "innovative". We will allow you to decide how true that may be.
In the strongest terms possible our advice is to avoid these like the plague and use the money you saved to buy an iPad or whatever. At least you can take an iPad out with you, on holiday, watch TV using it and do generally useful stuff with it, with these things, you can’t.
Service And Spare Parts
Again like range cookers where you are spending a considerable amount of money you need to know that you can get any parts and filters easily enough and at a reasonable cost.
If there are no parts available then the chances of any service company being able or indeed even willing to look at the machine for you are not so good. That’ll be another brand that gets filed in the “we don’t do that” pile.
If parts are expensive, difficult to obtain or have a single outlet then this is very likely to happen. Apart from which you, the customer will often be held to ransom as the supplier has a little monopoly going on with spare parts. They can charge you whatever they want as there is effectively no competition.
We urge people to think carefully about whether they really want to deal with a company like that.
Normally if this is the case, the same thing happens in regard to service information, parts documentation, service manuals and support, it’s all hard to come by. So the troops, the companies that repair machines just ditch the brand because it’s too much hassle.
Then there’s the obsolete parts thing that goes on.
The thing about large side by sides and range cookers especially is that as they are such a large investment people will try to hang on to them and will try to keep them running. It’s a lot of money to swap them out and it can also be a proper pain to do it, it’s easier to get it repaired either professionally or by the owner.
That is not possible in many cases as manufacturers cease making parts, often that are unique after eight years or perhaps less.
The Korean companies are famed for this. We have seen people quite often struggle to get parts for their side by side fridges after a few years as it has been made obsolete and the Chinese companies can be even worse.
These machines may look a great deal based on upfront pricing but if you are forced to replace it after five to nine years well let’s just say that there are some not so happy campers out there when they learn of this.
This is why we stress to people to consider why parts and service matter when you are buying products that have a high or higher value and that you want to have a long service life on. It’s going to kill you if you have to replace a £1-3000 machine after a few years and all the more so if you happen not to have the funds at the time to do it.
What Should You Buy
That is a question that we are often asked and as Maytag has now been swallowed up by Whirlpool and the Maytag’s we get here are now all just Whirlpool clones are a higher price, you’re just as well buying a Whirlpool now. Less money, same basic machines.
We used to recommend buying General Electric (GE) fridge freezers as they were great machines, albeit parts could be pricey but they were good, however, they were withdrawn from Europe. And now, of course, they are owned by the Chinese Haier also so that’s a bust now.
We’re left only really Electrolux (AEG, Zanussi, Electrolux brands) and Beko and we don’t see too many issues with those. The Beko a reasonable budget option the Electrolux is better in design and build in our opinion.
If you can get one to suit your needs, Liebherr is an excellent choice and it’s worth considering a separate fridge and freezer sat side by side from Liebherr as they really are streets ahead of almost everything that is even remotely affordable for us normal folks. Way better than either the Beko or the Electrolux options but, it costs more.
Or, you’re getting into real silly money territory with Sub Zero and Viking.
You can use the manufacturer section to see the pros and cons of each one. But our choice in order would be, Liebherr, Electrolux then Beko and beyond that, it's really hard for us to recommend something that we know will either be a hassle, have expensive parts, just be a tub of manure or any/all of those things.
Much like range cookers and other domestic appliances, there’s in reality, not a lot of choices out there on what you can buy and yet, almost no choice at all.
If you should need more help please feel free to ask in the forums, you only need an account and it’s free to use. We also don’t send you any spam or marketing stuff as we hate it as much as everyone else.
Do use the manufacturer section to research what you’re buying, that’s what it’s there for! It’s also free.
If you think we’ve missed something then please get in touch and let us know as we will try to do something about it if at all possible.