Is your fridge running?

Then you’d better go catch it!

My mom told me she really used that line for prank calls back when she was young enough to get away with it.  As far as I know, she hasn’t done it lately, but you never know about those quiet, respectable looking women.  Maybe she still does prank calls when none of her 14 children or 30-odd grandchildren are around.  Maybe we all should once in a while.

Advice needed

My fridge is still running, but we have managed to break nearly every piece of plastic on it.  All the shelves are creaking and groaning under the weight of our addiction to food.  One produce drawer has lost its entire front – we just reach into it through the gaping hole – and the other only opens and closes if we use one hand to hoist up the sagging shelf above it.

One of the racks on the door has lost its bar so the fridge has turned into a booby trap: open the door quickly and get a lesson on inertia when 2 lbs. of butter, a package of cream cheese and 3 bottles salad dressing hit the floor.  Close the door quickly and get a lesson on the flip side of inertia as the same 6 items fly deeper into the fridge, wedging themselves into various nooks and crannies, where I will find them a week later and yell, “Why is the catalina upside down in the back of the fridge, and who’s the genius that put a fully wrapped stick of butter inside the container of mashed potatoes?!”

It’s also a very modestly sized refrigerator which fits well in our modestly sized house but not in our lifestyle.  We like to eat food.  Every day.  A lot.

And so we’ve decided to look for another fridge.  I want your help.

Here’s what I think I know about the choices out there.  Feel free to set me straight.

  • Refrigerator with freezer on top – This is what we’ve always had, and what I assume we want.  It’s supposed to be the most efficient to run, and the most reliable.  Used ones are relatively cheap, because this style has fallen out of favor.  This may have been your grandma’s refrigerator.  Grandmas tend to be very sensible, and I’m inclined to follow their example.
  • Side by side – I have always heard these cost more to run and the space in the tall slim freezer is very difficult to use to its full extent.  These are very common in used appliance shops because everyone has them now, and when they upgrade this one lands in the shop.  In spite of what I’ve heard, I find them surprisingly appealing.  Am I crazy?
  • French doors – Love at first sight is easy with these, but we wonder if the freezer space below is really usable.  I’ll grant the freezer doesn’t get used as often as the fridge, but can you even reach into that freezer?  How hard is it to clean?  Is the space inside the fridge easy to use well?  Also, the internet seems to hint that this style has some extra reliability issues.  I know they’re expensive, but these are widely available secondhand now so we could afford one if decide it’s a good idea.


My single biggest question: Which brands and styles do you own or have you owned in the past?  What are your thoughts on durability, reliability and performance?

More questions:

  1. I want doors with shelves deep enough to hold a gallon of milk.  Are those shelves strong enough to hold a gallon of milk?
  2. Simple geometry tells me that the freezer in a side-by-side has greater surface area than if the freezer is on the top or bottom.  Is it harder to keep these freezers cool, especially in the summer?  Remember, we have very hot summers and no a/c.
  3. I’ve always preferred white, but should I quit being a fuddy-duddy and consider black or stainless?  I have oak cabinets and a black-front range in my kitchen, and a stainless sink.  Glancing around my kitchen, I see that my microwave is also black/stainless, and my big Kitchenaid mixer is black.
  4. What would you look for in a new/used fridge?


  1. Dear Kim,

    We are a family of 11 – 6 boys and 3 girls. 3 of the boys are teenagers now and 3 younger. The girls don’t eat as much as the boys. About 3 years ago looking ahead to the hollow leg stage and blessed with enough kitchen space we bought TWO identical fridges. They are white Amana with freezer drawer on the bottom and no dispensers in the doors. The shelves are spill proof and some slide out. We had the handles put on so that when they are placed together they function as a really large french door fridge. A similar built-in (sub-zero, etc.) with less cubic feet would have been more than double the price.
    Just for comparison – we buy milk 9 gallons at a time and can fit at least 4 gallons in the doors. Haven’t had any problems with food staying cold even in our 100 degree week a couple years ago. Sometimes food on the very top shelf freezes, but that’s really the only, and very minor problem. Hope this helps!

  2. Are you sorry you asked? 😉 We had a freezer bottom one all while growing up – my mother wouldn’t use anything else. Must admit I’m partial to them myself! And yes, go by the cubic feet. That’s the true measurement of the size.

    • Lisa, I am loving all the input! We’re going to check out some used appliances today, and I’m really leaning toward the freezer on bottom, possibly with french doors.

  3. We just purchased a new fridge for the house we just bought as the one we have now is too big. Now we have a side by side with ice and water in the door. It has held up well but I don’t like the storage space. The freezer is not big enough and the fridge is too narrow. It is like a jigsaw puzzle trying to get things to fit.

    The new fridge is a freezer on bottom with no ice and no water in the door. We rarely use the water in the door because the tap is just as good. The freezer on this one has a door (like a top freezer) and a shelf with a basket drawer. I am tall and like the fridge on top. I also did not want a freezer drawer. My mom has one that I am waiting for someone to lean too hard on and break the glide mechanism. Picture little kid leaning on/ hanging over trying to get at a treat out of the bottom. I figured the basket can easily be replaced if broken. The shelves in the fridge are spill proof and there are nice deep drawers on the door for milk and stuff. The dishwasher and sink in the new house is almond, so when we found this fridge in almond we knew it was the one. Plus it was marked down (cuz it was the last one they had in this model) and on sale! I really like this new fridge and it is easy to find what I am looking for. We also have an upright freezer for more storage in another room. Also if we move or build, the doors on this fridge and freezer can be adjusted to swing open the other way. Some newer fridges don’t have this option.

    At work we just got a new French door stainless freezer on bottom with water/ ice in the door. I hate it. It is large, but stuff gets lost in the back and is hard to see and that is with it pretty empty. The freezer is a drawer and hard to get into. The ice/ water thingy takes up a lot of room from the fridge. The stainless looks nice, but is a pain to keep clean.

    Whatever you get make sure it works for you and your family. I like the fridge on top because I am tall, otherwise we probably would have gotten a freezer on top. A freezer on top model will probably be the cheapest model, and white or almond will be less expensive than fashion colors like stainless and black. Have fun shopping!

  4. Personally I dislike the ones the the freezer on the bottom. Mostly this is because I am short and I find it hard to reach the things at the back of the fridge. I find I reach to the back of the fridge more often than the back of the freezer, so it’s a bit frustrating. Also, my sister has found her children standing in the freezer portion because they wanted to get something out of the fridge and they couldn’t reach it.

  5. Muffy Stephenson says:

    We are a large family of 10.Side by sides stink.IMHO.The freezer side is pretty much useless and things always get lost in the fridge side-too deep.A friend of mine found a used commercial sized one that is side by side and that one is nice,not as deep and tons of shelves.Might try looking for one of those.

  6. We have the basic LG french door fridge in white. We chose it over other models in our price range because it has shelves that slide in and out (a feature that I ended up not ever using!) I love the french doors and the freezer on the bottom, but I don’t love my particular model because:

    1. The smooth white finish shows every smudge, I might as well have gotten stainless.

    2. Food in the produce drawers freeze

    3. The shallow “platter drawer” is pretty much useless to our family. You can’t even really fit a veggie tray in it if it is stacked very high.

    4. It beeps at you if you leave the door open- handy if you have kids that tend to leave the fridge open, but maddening when you’re unloading groceries or cleaning out the fridge!

  7. We recently got another fridge and I love it. It is a side-by-side and we have never had trouble fitting things in it. The one we have is an LG and it was moderately priced for the size. It is stainless, which I don’t mind but it wasn’t why we bought it. I LOVE the wide door shelves. They fit GALLONS of milk and are very sturdy. Those shelves are the thing I love most about this fridge. Good luck with your purchase.

  8. I know stainless steel is the craze but I hate it for the same reasons mentioned above: too hard to keep clean! especially with kids (fingerprints everywhere). And I think they are too cold and sterile looking not “homey”. With the side-by-sides and this may just be my parent’s particular one but their food always expires well before the expiration date when they put it in the door shelves. I think maybe it gets less cold there somehow, really I don’t understand why that would be but they put their milk in the door and it always goes bad before the exp. date. If they keep it on the regular shelves it is fine. Weird I know, but has anyone else experienced this? I personally like my freezer on top white fridge though it may be fuddy duddy and out of style, I’ve never much cared about those sorts of things anyway and it keeps my food cold so- I’m happy 🙂

  9. I have a side by side and you can’t even put a bucket of ice cream in it!

    When I get a new one it will be a fridge only, as I do have a separate big freezer already.

  10. Thanks for posting this, as we have a tiny apartment sized fridge and want to get a new (new to us more then likely) larger fridge this month. We were debating between an extra freezer, or just a larger fridge and then putting the smaller one in the garage.

  11. I hate my side by side-the freezer is too small.

    DON’T, I repeat, DON’T buy stainless if finger prints bother you. They are impossible to keep clean. I would go with black with some sort of texture to it. Easiest to clean and keep that way!

    Have you checked Consumer Reports of Good Housekeeping Institute for reviews??

    Have fun!

  12. Not one of the options you use, but one I LOVE:

    We have a fridge that is simply…a fridge! No freezer taking up space. We LOVE all the room it has. In my pantry I have a small upright freezer for the daily use stuff and in the basement I have a chest freezer for the rest of it. Plenty of room for lots of fresh produce, 8 litres of milk at a shot, 3 dozen eggs, and all the rest of it.

    If you have room for a small, little upright freezer…the size of a dorm fridge basically, this is a really good option!


    We have had this fridge since Nov 2009. We love it, it is narrow (which was very important to fit into our little house, it had to fit a 31″ opening) but deep. It has glass shelves that I was worried about but so far just fine with all the hands that reach in, they are very easy to clean which is a plus. The door will hold 2 gallons of milk. We prefer not to have an ice/water dispenser as the potential for water play is not acceptable in my book. We are a family of soon to be 10 in an 800sq/ft home. This fridge has worked great for us. I also prefer white, I have a white glass top stove so they match, it has an easy clean finish that wipes off easily (including crayons, pencils and pens!)

    Shopping for a refrigerator can be frustrating, good luck!

  14. Kim we have had the freezer on top model and we now have a side by side. I love the side by side it seems to have more room than the freezer on top. You can put gallons on milk in the doors which I love although ours in sorely lacking in shelves on the door because the plastic tabs that hold the shelf have broken on several of them. But that can happen to any fridge over time especially in a house with so many children. My Daddy has the one with the freezer on the bottom. I have to admit I have been tempted by it and even thought I wanted one before but I don’t think I could fit all the food that we have in our fridge in the top portion of that one. I don’t know but to me I don’t like the space on it. But maybe there are ones that are larger? I don’t know I think when we replace ours which I pray would not be anytime soon that we will again go with a side by side. There are smaller ones where space would be an issue but there are also medium and larger ones and there are ones I drool over in the appliance store that are brand new that I love. LOL So you just have too look but my choice is the side by side

  15. We have an Whirlpool all refridgerator / no freeer (we’ve got other full freezers) and we love it.

  16. We have always had white appliances and always will ha. Stainless is trendy now but soon will look dated just like the black and even the golds and greens of years past. We have also had all three types you mentioned. Side by sides are the worst in the freezer section, nothing fits right, it’s just too narrow. We have a GE Profile french door right now. I love the freezer on the bottom. The frig on top is so nice…no bending and the gallons of milk and juice fit nicely on the doors and the shelves are sturdy. We have 3 nice bins and all the shelves can be reconfigured to your liking.

  17. I’ll keep it short and simple:

    Side-by-side is what I have now and I would NOT get it again. The fridge part is NOT conducive to storing a lot of food–I am constantly rearranging to make my leftovers fit in there. Also, in answer to your question about freezers in hot climates, I am positive that every time I open that shallow freezer section all of the cold air immediately makes a break for my kitchen.

    May you fare better than we in your fridge selection!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    DO not buy the cheapest one. The shelves do not hold up. They bend; not good. Also even though you will feel like a total idiot take it apart before you buy it. See our catalina dressing would be upside down without it’s lid and then I would have to tear apart my fridge. Not. Fun. This things seriously requires a phd to remove all the shelves. And no I have not done it lately why do you ask??? Have fun!

  19. Thomas’ liquid stainless steel. It’s a paint that’s actual stainless steel (not silver paint) and it’s made for appliances so if you find a fridge you like that’s not in the color you care for…voila!! And it’s not expensive either!!

  20. We have the Kenmore Elite free-standing fridge and freezer and LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It is cost effective and hold so much more than, well, any of the other choices we looked into.

    The freezer is the same price and size and we LOVE both. Did I already say that? We have 9 people who live on these and one on the way. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. 🙂

  21. I’m sure a lot of this is personal preference but I love the freezer on the bottom. I have small children and I like that they cannot reach all of the fridge shelves by themselves. I keep the food they can eat in their reach.

    I also love the freezer on the bottom because I grab something out of the refrigerator 8-10 times a day and I’m sure my kids do it another 8-10 times. I only open my freezer two or three times a day. Therefore, I can clearly see and reach all my food in the fridge. I can even see clearly to the back of each shelf which means less lost and moldy food. With a freezer below I only have to bend over occasionally (usually for ice) and rarely do I have to reach deep into the back of the freezer.

    These are just my personal preferences, though. You should go with what you like! You’ll have it for 10 years or more!

  22. Roxie Meiske says:

    Have you looked into getting some parts to replace the old ones on the fridge you have now? I would look to someone who sells used appliances. Then keep the old fridge to hold extra things…we have an older fridge in our house and I love it…it is wonderful at holiday time.

  23. Roxie Meiske says:

    We have a French door fridge. WHITE. I am not a stainless fan at all. Love the fridge. Can put trays of food in it.
    The freezer space below is good too. We do not have ice maker.
    We got our nice fridge at Conn’s. It is almost 8 years old now and is great.

  24. We’ve had a big side-by-side for 10 years now. Have had a few small components go out, but were replaceable. The side=by-side is okay; this one really is huge (have to remove the doors if you ever want to get it through a standard doorway), and we can fit cookie sheets in the freezer compartment ok. The inside of the fridge is great; tempered glass shelves that can be adjusted to wherever. Haven’t had any break or crack and sometimes we PACK the glass jars of milk, etc. in there. They can be removed and cleaned (they sit in a plastic/steel frame). One of the produce drawers (clear plastic) is cracked, but still usable.

    My folks have one of the french door/bottom freezer units. It works well for them (they have 2 young kids at home), and seems to capitalize on certain advantages.. The freezer is a big drawer (with a sliding drawer inside so the bottom layer is easily accessed) which keeps in the cool much like a chest freezer does, and the fridge is at eye-level. I don’t think I’d ever go back to the top-freezer kinds; I’m tall, and hate stooping to peer in (we have an old one like this in our garage), and having the freezer door begin to sag when you put too much in the door shelves! To say nothing about the gravity component! I hate my frozen ziplocs getting impact-holes before defrosting.. 🙂

  25. I have had both a side by side and the kind with the freezer on top, we are military and move around- a lot. It has been my experience in all our homes and moves that the side by side actually had more space over all- freezer and general refridgeration. It is easier to see what you have as well. They tend to be better organized and the price reflects the “perks” of the newer side by sides with spaces designed for the foods we eat.

    There’s my two cents. If you want affordable go with the freezer on top, if you want the best bank for your buck go for the side by side. (we also really enjoyed the ice dispenser, but you need to have the plumbing required for this.)

    God Bless!

  26. I bought my fridge 2.5 years ago. It is a stainless steel Amana AFD2535. I seriously love it. (Although the SS does require wiping off finger prints.) I like the freezer drawer because nothing ever falls on my toes. It has an ice maker inside the drawer, and a top basket. Organizing is easy because the bottom basket has dividers included. The door has adjustable shelves that are actually more like boxes. They will hold a gallon of milk and are sturdy. I splurged and go the sliding spill proof shelves. Worth it! I also like the “chef’s pantry” drawer on the bottom. It’s great for storing large trays of food. The door shelves are dishwasher safe so I always have one with defrosting meat. Water dispenser is inside the door.

    I do not like side-by-sides because some items are too wide to fit. Never a problem with my french door.

  27. I regret our purchases (yes, I did it more than once) of a side-by-side. I especially regret our purchases of door-front ICE dispensing as these have a horrible track record and if something can break for us, it will and it has. I don’t think any brand offer water-only dispensing, though. 🙁

    When dh & I were first married, we lived in a garage apartment which was rented to us by an elder in our church. This couple was in their 60s and VERY frugal. It shocked me that they owned a frig with the freezer on the bottom (this was the 80s!). So a frig on the bottom or a “just a frig” will be my next purchase.

    Just a thought: you can purchase a white frig and then purchase specialty frig/appliance paint to give it a “brushed” stainless finish or even black. I don’t know that it would be impervious to fingerprints, but it’s a thought. I think having ONE white appliance would get to me after a while.

    Brands? Love my other Samsung appliances, so they are high on my list. My last 2 were Kitchenaids, and other than having all the little plastic things break off, I’ve been happy with the brand. My previous repairman was very leery of GE refrigerators so I’ve steered clear of that particular brand.

    May God bless your search!

  28. My MIL has a fridge with the freezer drawer below, for about the first week she loved it. Then the novelty wore off and both she and FIL have regretted it ever since. They do NOT recommend the freezer below.

  29. I do want to say this – if the fridge is in good working order, not too old and still has some years left in it, consider buying the parts to repair/replace the damaged items. I have a side-by-side (white) GE that has given us good use with the ice/water in the door. It holds 2 gallons of milk in the door, no problem and the freezer side is adequate, but I also have a upright freezer to keep our meat/Costco purchases. With 6 kids in the house, they are not always as delicate with it as they should be, so after a few years some of my drawer supports/shelf supports broke. I ordered the parts online for about $15 and fixed them myself. So, if your firdge is not very old and working well, check into making repairs to it instead of making a big purchase for a new one.

  30. I have a black GE side-by-side. LOVE the look (it never shows fingerprints), hate the lack of space. YES, the doors hold gallon jugs, but somehow the fridge doesn’t hold enough for a family of 2 – especially if we go to Costco! There’s no way it would work for a family of 13!

  31. Several years ago we had 5 children, were waiting to bring three older adopted children home, and were expecting our 6th bio child. We needed a new fridge and with 11 folks in the house, we wanted the biggest fridge space we could get. (We had a separate freezer in the garage, so freezer space was not considered.) That turned out to be a Maytag side by side. I had never owned one and was skeptical, but I love it! I can fit a 16″ pizza box in there, the door has tons of room for gallon jugs and mucho condiments, the shelves are all easily adjustable so I can maximize space weekly. I thought the water dispenser was a little fancy, but we really use it a lot. It has served us well. But if you need a lot of freezer space, it’s a dud. It’s good old-fashioned ivory color and cleans with ease. then again, perhaps with all the photos, notes and drawings on it, I just don’t see the dirt!

  32. Jessica S. says:

    I have a standard fridge with the freezer on top and a single fridge door. I can put jugs of milk in my door. Sometimes it’s raw milk in a glass gallon jar. I have no problem fitting several of those in my door and they are very heavy. Now if there is a lot of stuff wedged into the door, then we’ve had some problems… 🙂

  33. I have an Amana with freezer on the bottom and that is the only way to go. You go into the freezer far less than the fridge so this way everything is at eye level. Pleanty of freezer space and easy to clean because again its at your level and you don’t have to kneel down. I don’t beleive I have ever had to clean the freezer part.

  34. I’ve had experience with all 3 types of refridgerators and by far prefer French doors with the freezer on the bottom. For some comparison we’ve had up to 11 people living in our home although we are currently at eight. We also have a deep freezer in our garage which I couldn’t live without.

    Side by sides are too small to hold large items and as someone above mentioned you must have adequate space around the fridge or your doors will not open all the way.

    I hate the freezer on top models as I’ve had one too many frozen roasts fly out at my head when I’ve opened the door.

    I love the roll out baskets of the freezer on the bottom and I find the entire unit to be very spacious inside. I typically have 9 gallons of water, milk or tea on my one of the glass shelves and have seen no sag at all.

    Say no to the stainless steel unless you are someone who won’t be driven crazy by the constant smudges on the doors.

  35. BTW even better for having small toddlers around as they cannot easily open the freezer and cannot reach the fridge. I am happy about this everytime I hear a friend whos littl one raids the fridge.

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