Why picking the best 12-volt refrigerator can be confusing?
When you’re searching online, you may find that you need a 12-volt refrigerator for vans. A little search on Amazon shows several lookalikes. Making it feel very overwhelming, but it does not have to be. Here we have detailed our favorite portable refrigerators and upright fridge.
12-volt refrigerators provide an energy efficiency that mirrors kitchen appliances with compressors designed explicitly with a DC power supply. This article will cover two styles of refrigerators, portable and upright. You’ll see our focus is only on 12-volt powered compressor refrigerators.
- Best cooler style fridge: Dometic CFX3 75DZ
- Best cooler style fridge runner-up: ARB 10810602 12v
- Best cooler budget fridge: Bodegacooler Portable Freezer T50
- Best front-facing fridge: Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance
- Best front-facing fridge runner-up: Dometic Coolmatic CRX 65
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Chest-style 12 Volt Refrigerators vs. Upright Refrigerators: Which is better for your van?
It is common for 12V DC refrigeration devices to be found in two main categories: chest and upright fridges. Several upright refrigeration machines use the same compressors as chest-style refrigerators, so it would seem that choosing between the two is simply about how you like preparing or organizing your food. However, chest-style fridges offer many advantages over upright fridges, which make them a great alternative to traditional refrigerators that can only accommodate one or two people for an extended period.
Chest Fridges are portable and can double as coolers in emergencies
Chest fridges are designed to be coolers and feature a handle that is easily transported. This means that you could put your fridge in and plug it into the 110V AC socket when you are stationary in a van or put it outside in cooler temperatures to maximize power efficiency. It’s more problematic when it’s in a stand-alone refrigerator. Many chest-style 12-volt fridges feature drain plugs. This plug helps with cleaning; however, it can be used as a cooling system if a 12V refrigerator goes bad or loses electricity. Just put ice into your refrigerator like a normal refrigerator and pull the drain plug to remove any melted ice.
Upright Fridges hold more and are easier to organize
This might be surprising depending on the fridge’s size and temperature. How does the front door fridge work better with drawer space or shelving? A front-facing fridge provides excellent storage space and allows the food to spread and organize quickly as needed. But with a small 12V refrigerator, empty spaces are wasted and make your refrigerator compressor work harder (and can draw a higher load). So, these are designed for larger groups/families or extended off-grid excursions.
Chest Fridges are More Energy Efficient
Regarding boondocking in the wild, battery or solar cell is a primary energy use factor. The 12v chest fridge is generally more energy efficient than upright-mounted 12v fridges. How does this happen? This is partial because the cold air is sinking. The door is a roof in chest fridges, so the cooler air pools under it. The upright refrigerator has an insulated seal around the door to keep cold air in when closed but allows air to escape when the door is opened.
Which 12 Volt Refrigerator is Better for Your Layout? It’s All About Preferences
Many van lovers choose a standing fridge for their storage space. Upright fridges have small footprints, therefore, can be more easily incorporated into the van’s layout. There are some considerations for using a 12v volt fridge uprightly in a design. First, the fridge should have permanent mounting, while portable 12v fridges are easy to move. And secondly, they open in the front. So, you can use the space when not open, unlike the portable refrigerators; you have to keep the area clear above them.
What is the Best Fridge?
Depends. When buying a 12v fridge or freezer for your van, you must consider several factors, such as power consumption, size, cost, and design. The type of 12v fridge you buy will depend on what you need it for.
If you are looking for a fridge to keep your food and drinks cold while traveling, you will want to ensure it is well-insulated and has low power consumption. Dometic, ARB, and Isotherm make some of the best 12v refrigerators on the market.
These brands offer great, well-built products, low power consumption, and affordable. When choosing a 12v fridge, pick one that fits your needs the best. So, with these factors to consider, the answer really depends.
How will the fridge be used?
You must consider several things when looking for a 12v refrigerator for your van or RV. The first thing you need to think about is what you plan on using it for. If you need a fridge to keep your drinks cold while traveling, you won’t need one with as much power consumption or size.
However, if you plan on using it for food storage, you’ll want to ensure it is large enough and has good insulation. Then depending on how you will incorporate it into your build will determine whether a chest-style refrigerator or a front-facing door style is ideal.
What size fridge do I need for Vanlife?
This really comes down to the space you have to work with and/or the size of your crew. A single person could get by with a smaller unit like a portable refrigerator. Still, a family of four may need a unit 90l or more significantly in an upright fridge style.
Van lifers and other mobile nomads know the importance of having a reliable fridge onboard. After all, perishable food and drinks are essential for long trips. But choosing a suitable fridge can be a challenge. Larger capacity fridges might seem like the obvious choice, but they consume more power and can be more challenging to keep cool in hot weather.
On the other hand, smaller portable fridges might not have enough space to store everything you need. Balancing capacity and power consumption is essential when choosing a fridge for your van or RV.
Upright fridges are a good middle-of-the-road option, offering ample storage space without being too power-hungry. Whatever type of fridge you choose, ensure it’s up to keep your food and drinks fresh on your next adventure.
Some people are perfectly happy with a fridge that keeps things cold, but others like having the option to freeze items for later consumption. Both types of units have pros and cons, so it really comes down to personal preference. But, when going with the fridge/freezer combo style, also known as a dual-zone, you will also increase in size.
How much will it cost?
The next thing you need to consider is the cost. 12v refrigerators can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand. It all depends on the size, brand, and features you want. If you need a basic fridge, then you can probably find one for a reasonable price. However, if you want something with more features or from a higher-end brand, then you can expect to pay more.
Another thing to remember is that 12v refrigerators often come with a higher price tag than other types of fridges. This is because they tend to be better quality and have more features and efficient power draw. So, if you’re looking for a top-of-the-line fridge, you should be prepared to pay more.
Ultimately, the best way to determine how much you should spend on a 12v fridge is to determine what you need and want. Once you know that, you can start narrowing your options and budget accordingly.
What design to go with?
When choosing a 12v fridge, one of the things you need to consider is the design. Some 12v refrigerators come with built-in freezers, while others do not. There are also different designs when it comes to the door style. Some have a solid metal door, while others have a fiberglass door. Construction materials and the amount of insulation will affect your energy efficiency
Choose the design that best fits your needs and preferences. If you’re worried about the fridge being too bulky or taking up too much space, then a model with a built-in freezer might be a better option. Whichever design you choose, make sure it meets your needs and preferences.
If you are using the fridge for long-term storage, then a unit with a freezer might be a good option. An upright refrigerator model might be more convenient if you need to access the fridge’s contents frequently.
How much power do you need for a 12V refrigerator?
Modern 12 Volt refrigerators drink power in tiny sips after the temperature rise. Some draw fewer amps each minute easily, sustainably, with small batteries. A 100-AH battery bank can power a reliable DC refrigerator for three days without exceeding 70% safe discharge levels. Keep an eye on the temperature rise as your fridge becomes more crowded.
Note: this assumes nothing else is running off your battery bank, which is highly unlikely, but it gives you an idea of its power draw. It has been mentioned a few times, but the more significant the capacity, the greater the power draw. This is very important to keep in mind when choosing your refrigerator.
Dometic CFX3 75DZ
If you’re looking for a 12v refrigerator for your van, you’ll want to consider the CFX3. These fridges are some of the most popular on the market, and for good reason – they offer great performance and features at a very reasonable price.
Regarding energy efficiency, the CFX3 is one of the most efficient 12v fridges on the market. They use a compressor-based cooling system, meaning they use less power than absorption-type fridges. In terms of size, the CFX3 is available in a variety of sizes, from small (25 liters) to large (95 liters).
In terms of cost, the CFX3 Series are not very cheap. For a high-quality 12v fridge, you can expect to pay around $1100-$2200. Finally, the CFX3 has a stylish and modern design, which will look great in your van.
Dometic CFX3 Series
MSRP: $1,099 – $2,149 (Dometic.com)
- Portable fridge/freezer sizes: 25 liters to 95 liters
- Heavy-duty yet lightweight ExoFrame construction with fender frame-protected edges and aluminum alloy handles
- Powerful VMSO3 compressor cooling technology efficiently refrigerates and deep-freezes to –22°C
- CFX3 app allows temperature control via Bluetooth or WiFi and provides performance history
- A 3-stage battery protection system prevents a dead battery or allows deep draw on multiple batteries
- Dual storage compartments with independent temperature control for simultaneous cooling and freezing
- Power consumption (95l model) 9.2A@12VDC (internal@39F, ambient@90F)
Oh, the Dometic CFX3 Series? That’s like the Lamborghini of fridges – sleek, powerful, and guaranteed to turn heads. Let me tell you why it’s so awesome.
Firstly, let’s talk about its technology. The Dometic CFX3 Series is packed with features that make it a true game-changer in the world of fridges. With a digital display, Wi-Fi connectivity, and an app that lets you monitor and control the fridge from your smartphone, it’s like having a high-tech command center at your fingertips.
But the Dometic CFX3 Series isn’t just smart – it’s tough too. Its rugged design and reinforced corners can withstand even the most challenging environments. And with a capacity of up to 100 quarts, it’s big enough to hold all your food and drinks for even the longest of trips.
And let’s not forget about the performance. The Dometic CFX3 Series is designed to keep your food and drinks at the perfect temperature, no matter the conditions. With powerful cooling technology and a compressor that can operate at any angle, it’s the ultimate fridge for off-grid adventures.
But here’s the best part: the Dometic CFX3 Series is stylish too. With a sleek design and LED interior lighting, it looks as good as it performs. It’s like having a fridge that’s both a workhorse and a fashion statement.
So, whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full-time nomad, the Dometic CFX3 Series is the ultimate fridge for anyone who demands the best. It’s powerful, intelligent, tough, and stylish – everything you could ever want in a fridge and more.
BODEGAcooler Portable Freezer T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone
The BODEGAcooler Portable Freezer T50 is an excellent choice for those who need a compact fridge or freezer at a budget price that can be used in various settings. It is perfect for cars, RVs, boats, and van life.
The T50 is available in 50 liter/53 quarts and 65 liter/70 quart. The fridge has an LCD display, auto defrost, and ECO mode. The T50 comes with a one-year warranty. Powered with either 12V/24V DC or 110V AC.
BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone
MSRP: $449.99 (Bodegacooler.com)
- App control for convenience of control (For Android/IOS), also manual controls
- Dual-zone cooling with independent control
- Easy to Carry with a durable handle
- 15 minute Fast Cooling from 68°F (20°C) to 32°F (0°C) just in 15 minuntes (left zone)
- A 3-stage battery protection setting (H, M, L) to protect your vehicle battery without running down
- Power consumption AC 1.5A-2.7A , DC 6.0A(12V) / 3.0A (24V)
Well, well, well, look who we have here – the BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone. If you’re on a budget but still want a high-quality fridge, this little number is definitely worth considering. Let me tell you why.
Firstly, let’s talk about the price. The BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone is more affordable than some of its pricier counterparts, but that doesn’t mean it skimps on quality. With a dual-zone design, you can keep your food and drinks at different temperatures, just like the fancier models.
But its portability really sets the BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone apart. It’s a compact, lightweight, and convenient carrying handle, perfect for picnics, camping trips, or moving from room to room. And with a capacity of 53 quarts, it’s not too shabby in terms of space.
But here’s the best part: the BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone is energy-efficient, so you don’t have to worry about running up your electricity bill. Plus, it’s designed to operate quietly, so you won’t be disturbed by the sound of the compressor kicking in.
So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly fridge that still delivers on performance, the BODEGAcooler T50 53 Qt/50L Dual Zone is definitely worth considering. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the more expensive models, but it gets the job done and looks good.
We actually have this one in the garage area of our van and use it as a chest freezer.
Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 Refrigerator
The Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 Refrigerator is an excellent choice for a reliable and durable fridge. It features a sturdy design and can withstand the rigors of everyday use. The interior is spacious and can accommodate a variety of items, making it an excellent option for families or those who entertain often.
The fridge also features an adjustable thermostat, so you can ensure that your food stays at the perfect temperature. If you’re looking for a high-quality refrigerator that will provide years of service, the Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 Refrigerator is a great option.
Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65
MSRP: $1,509 (dometic.com)
- Offering a 3-in-1 solution: fridge, freezer, or both simultaneously
- Temperature control and compressor speed control enable highly efficient energy consumption
- Minimal noise as the fan speed automatically adjusts to the ambient temperature
- Standard or flush-mount installation frame available as an accessory
- Patented removable freezer compartment
- Power consumption 0.9 Ah/h (@12 V,39 °F Fridge, 14 °F Freezer, 77 °F ambient temperature) on setting 3
The Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65? It’s like the James Bond of fridges – sleek, stylish, and equipped with all the latest technology. Let me tell you why it’s so great.
First, the Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 is a true space saver. With a slim profile and compact design, it can fit even the tightest spaces. But don’t let its small size fool you – this fridge packs a punch. With a 64-liter capacity, it can hold plenty of food and drinks for even the longest of road trips.
And let’s talk about technology. The Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 features a unique cooling system that adjusts the fan speed based on the temperature inside the fridge, making it more energy-efficient and quieter than other fridges. Plus, it has a built-in control panel that lets you set the temperature and monitor the fridge’s performance.
But here’s the real kicker: the Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 is a dual-zone fridge. That’s right – it has a separate compartment for freezing, so you can keep your ice cream and frozen dinners separate from your beverages and snacks. It’s like having two fridges in one, without taking up any extra space.
So, whether you’re embarking on a road trip or need a reliable fridge for your tiny house, the Dometic CoolMatic CRX 65 is a top contender. It’s stylish, energy-efficient, and packed with features that make it a true game-changer in the world of fridges.
ARB 10810602 12-Volt Fridge/Freezer
The ARB 12-Volt Fridge/Freezer is an excellent choice for a reliable and durable fridge. It features a sturdy design and can withstand the rigors of everyday use. The interior is spacious and can accommodate a variety of items, making it an excellent option for families or those who entertain often.
The fridge also features an adjustable thermostat, so you can ensure that your food stays at the perfect temperature. If you’re looking for a high-quality refrigerator that will provide years of service, the ARB 10810602 12-Volt Fridge/Freezer is a great option.
ARB 10810602 12-Volt
MSRP: $1,649 (arbusa.com)
- Body and hinges made from stainless steel, anodized aluminum latches, UV-resistant trim
- An innovative new strut holds the lid open in any position (from closed to upright), making it easier to grab your drinks.
- Temperature control, low voltage cut-out, and security at the touch of a button. The user-friendly touchpad control panel allows full functionality with the lid open but securely prevents unwanted adjustment or access with its unique user-selected locking code.
- Security features include a unique magnetic lock activated by the touchpad control panel, a padlock recess built into the exterior, and an optional bolt-down mounting kit, making the fridge a permanent fixture in the back of your vehicle.
- Power consumption 0.9Ah @12vdc (37.4°F unit temp, 86°F ambient temp, 24hr test)
That’s a piece of equipment that’ll make any outdoor enthusiast green with envy. Let me tell you why.
This fridge/freezer is a beast. It can cool down to -7.6°F (-22°C), which means you can store all kinds of food and drinks without worrying about spoilage. Whether you’re going on a camping trip or a road trip, this fridge/freezer will keep your food fresh and your drinks icy cold.
And speaking of road trips, the ARB 10810602 12-Volt Fridge/Freezer is perfect for life on the go. It’s compact, easy to transport, and powered by your vans 12-volt system, so you don’t have to worry about finding an external power source. Plus, with a capacity of 50 quarts, you can fit plenty of food and drinks inside without sacrificing too much space in your vehicle.
But here’s the best part: this fridge/freezer is tough as nails. It’s built to withstand even the harshest conditions, so you don’t have to worry about it failing you when you need it most. It’s like having a loyal and dependable companion on all outdoor adventures.
So if you’re looking for a fridge/freezer that’s as tough as you are, look no further than the ARB 10810602 12-Volt Fridge/Freezer. It’s the perfect addition to any outdoor enthusiast’s arsenal.
Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance Fridge with Freezer
The Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance fridge with freezer is the perfect choice for those who want both style and substance in their refrigerator. The beautiful stainless steel finish will complement any kitchen décor, while the spacious interior provides plenty of room for all your food storage needs.
This fridge also features a handy freezer compartment to keep ice cream and other frozen treats on hand when the mood strikes. Whether entertaining guests or just stocking up for your family, the Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance fridge with a freezer will meet all your needs.
Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance
MSRP: $1,899 (westmarine.com)
- Danfoss/SeCOP compressor offers low power consumption, quiet performance
- Reversible right hinge door
- Three sided flange
- Refrigerator with freezer section
- The internal anchoring system allows you to install fridge flush or proud mount without a flange
- Doors are 2” thick for greater insulation and reduced compressor run time
- Magnetically sealed freezer locks out frost issues
- Power consumption 1.45Ah @12vdc with 41°F in the refrigeration space, ambient temperature 77°F
The Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance Fridge with Freezer is a marvel of modern technology. It’s like having a portable mini supermarket in your home or wherever you take it.
Firstly, the sleek and elegant design makes it the envy of all other fridges out there. The stainless steel finish will make you feel like a fancy chef, even if you’re making a sandwich. And with a capacity of 130 liters, you’ll have more than enough space to store all your favorite foods and beverages.
The Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance Fridge with Freezer boasts a powerful and efficient compressor that keeps your frozen goods at the perfect temperature, ensuring they stay fresh for longer.
You’ll be saving the planet and your wallet simultaneously with low power consumption. So really, what’s not to love about the Isotherm Cruise 130 Elegance Fridge with Freezer? It’s the ultimate kitchen companion for those who demand the very best.
This is the fridge we went into our build, the freezer is great, but we tend to carry around more frozen food items. Thus, we also have the Bodega mentioned above.
Picking the right 12v refrigerator for your needs is not complicated. Just make sure to consider all the factors that are important to you, such as power consumption, size, cost, and design. With a little bit of research, you’ll be able to find the perfect fridge for your van or RV.
Many people believe power consumption is the most crucial factor when choosing a fridge, but that’s not always the case. A lower-powered model may be fine if you only use your fridge occasionally. However, if you plan on using your fridge regularly, it’s worth investing in a more energy-efficient model.
Size is another important consideration. Make sure to measure the space available in your van before purchasing. Otherwise, you may end up with a fridge that’s too big or too small for your needs.
Cost is another consideration, but remember that cheaper models may not offer as many features or durability as more expensive models. Finally, take some time to think about the design of the fridge. Some fridges are designed specifically for vans or RVs, so they may have features that make them more convenient to use in these vehicles.
Ultimately, the best 12v refrigerator for your needs is the one that meets all of your requirements. With a little bit of thought and research, you’ll be able to find the perfect model for your particular situation.