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If you’re new to the world of van travel, then you may not know that fridge/freezers are a big topic for debate. Do you incorporate them into your van, and if you do, which fridge/freezer should you go for?
The latter question is particularly tough as there are many options out there and it can be hard to know where to even start. But many people wouldn’t be without the fridge/freezers they have in their vans, as it allows them to bring fresh food on their van adventures.
However, fridge/freezers can be one of the most expensive aspects of your van so it’s important to choose one that is right for you. Below, we’ll take a look at five of the best fridge/freezers for vans on the market, as well as let you know what features to look out for when you purchase your fridge/freezer.
Constructed from 304 grade stainless steel, this portable fridge/freezer from ARB has a weatherproof control panel and tamper proof bolts for extra security. So no matter the weather conditions or terrain you can be sure your fridge/freezer will be kept safe!
The tamper proof bolts also provide permanent mount options, so even though this fridge/freezer is portable, with these mount options you could find a permanent home for it in your van if you wanted.
The unique infinite position gas strut keeps the lid open in any position and is kept in place by heavy duty stainless steel hinges. This fridge/freezer also has a higher evaporator height than most and surrounds primary and secondary compartments. Another update to the design is the increased thickness of the fridge’s insulation.
The 4-digit pin code keeps the fridge/freezer locked (and whatever is inside it stays fresh!), and has a locked/unlocked warning if the fridge/freezer is left open.
- Powerful but efficient so you’re never using an excessive amount of power.
- Good temperature control.
- Noise drowned out by the compressor’s ambient noise.
- Solidly built.
- Some customers have reported that the temperature display is inaccurate.
- Weatherproof control panel, Main body and lid constructed from 304 grade stainless steel with raised feature forming and embossed ARB logos on both sides of the cabinet, Tamperproof bolts for permanent mount options and added security
- Strong ASA protective corner pieces on main body and lid, Recessed rear remote monitor transmitter positioned to be protected from the weather
- Unique infinite position gas strut – will hold lid open in any position, Heavy duty tamperproof cast stainless steel hinges (non-removable lid)
- Evaporator height increased which also surrounds both primary and secondary compartments (no longer a dairy section), Increased fridge cabinet insulation thickness
- 4-digit pin code protected electronic locking system, Locked/unlocked warning, Dimmable display, DC voltage supply readout
With the Dometic CFX 75DZW you get a cooler, a manual, and a warranty card, as well as connection cable for 12/24V connection. The compressor can also reach a temperature of -7 °F.
The CFX also has two separate compartments for cooling and freezing in whatever combination you require. It also features a USB port, a drain plug, an LED interior light and even WiFi connectivity!
- Two compartments for both refrigerating and freezing.
- Stays extremely cold.
- Plenty of storage.
- Handy dividers in the cooler to separate produce.
- Bulky and difficult to maneuver.
- Doesn’t have a built-in battery.
- Your purchase includes one cooler, one manual, one warranty card, one Connection cable for 12/24V connection, one Connection cable for 100-240V connection and removable wire baskets. Uses refrigerant type R134a
- Portable Cooler dimensions: 34.92” W x 18.58” H x 19.48” D | Weight: 68.34 lbs | Capacity: 133 Can | Compressor reach: -7 °F (–22 °C)
- Additional features: USB Port – 5V, 500mA | Wi-Fi connectivity | Drain plug | LED Interior Light | RCM certificate
- Two separate compartments for cooling and freezing in any combination desired to be set - freezer/freezer, freezer/fridge or fridge/fridge
The Costway 54 Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer operates with a 12V/24V DC and 100V-240V AC power source and comes with a DC power cord and an AC adapter for easy portability.
Also, you don’t have to worry about resetting the temperature when the power source is changed thanks to the freezer’s smart memory function. The car refrigerator handles on either side of the fridge/freezer also make it simple to move around.
You also don’t have to worry about using too much power to keep your food chilled or frozen, thanks to the adjustable MAX and ECO working modes. You can set your desired temperature from -4°F to 50°F from the LCD display screen, and you can adjust the speed of the compressor too.
This portable fridge/freezer is also able to hold 330ml of beer, 550ml of water, and 750ml of wine. Plus, if you’re using the fridge/freezer at night, the LED lights can help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
The fridge/freezer has two separate compartments for chilling and freezing, however it does not have dual temperature control.
Another impressive feature of the Costway 54 Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer is the three different levels of battery protection. These are high, medium, and low. When the input voltage reaches the minimum value the compressor will stop and restart automatically when the voltage returns to normal
- Excellent 12 volt compressor style fridge/freezer
- Intelligent battery protection.
- Separate dual-zone design.
- Some customers have reported that the temperature display is inaccurate.
- Some customers have also reported that the refrigerator section is too cold.
- ❄️ 【A Multi-voltage System】This portable car refrigerator operates at 12V/24V DC and 100V~240V AC power source, which allow you to plug in a socket at home or use it with a cigarette lighter on the car. The original package includes 1 DC power cord and 1 AC adapter. You don’t have to reset the temperature when you change the power source because of the memory function.
- ❄️【Large Capacity】With a capacity of 55 quarts, the compressor car refrigerator is able to hold 84 bottles 330ml beer, 60 bottles 550ml water and 19 bottles 750ml wine. What's more, the car fridge can keep your food chilled or frozen easily without consuming too much energy. It has MAX and ECO working modes for you to adjust as needed.
- ❄️【Convenient Operation with LCD Display】With LCD display screen and digital buttons, you can set your desired temperature (range from -4°F to 50°F) and adjust compressor speed conveniently. Internal LED lights also allow easier and more convenient access in low light conditions. Our car refrigerator handles on both sides allow you to move it to any desired location.
- ❄️【Separate Dual-Zone Design】We have carefully designed two separate compartments, including refrigeration and freezing area. （not Dual Temperature Control）not Dual Temperature Control Dual zone car refrigerator allows you to store items reasonably according to your requirements. In addition, the travel car refrigerator easy to control the temperature by display panel.
- ❄️【Intelligent Battery Protection】Three different levels of battery protection are available, and they are low, med and high. This car refrigerator design can meet your different needs and protect your car battery well. When the input voltage reaches the minimum value, the compressor stops working; when the voltage returns to normal, the compressor will rework automatically.
The Dometic CF18 is an efficient, reliable fridge/freezer that you’ll want to take with you everywhere! It’s a 12V compressor fridge/freezer capable of holding over 20 cans to chill or freeze without using ice.
But what’s really impressive about this fridge/freezer is how little energy it draws, making it an excellent choice for vans, especially those using solar power. Its battery is also protected by a three-stage battery protection system that shuts the battery down before it runs out of juice.
This is great for those hitting the road, as the last thing you want to worry about is the battery life of your fridge/freezer!
- Automatic shut off at low voltage.
- Energy efficient.
- Maybe too small for some.
- No Ice Needed
- Flexibility- refrigerate or freeze to 0 F
- Low power consumption using AC or DC means its great for solar setups or other off-grid applications (CDF11, CF18, CF25 are DC only)
- 3-stage battery protection. Refrigerant 1, type R134a. Climate class (DIN15502) T
- Downsize to 2/3 the size of a traditional cooler- don't need to take up space with ice
The Dometic Coolmatic CRX 65E is one of the most efficient fridge/freezers you can purchase for your van. The regulated compressor speed lets you save up to 25% of energy and battery protection compared to other van fridge/freezers.
It has 60L of fridge space and an extra 7L freezer compartment, which you can remove thanks to its built-in 3-in-1 system. This makes for an extremely versatile fridge/freezer that you can customize to suit you. It also is compatible with solar power, meaning your food can be kept fresh no matter where you are on your journey.
- Customizable 3-in-1 system.
- Backed by a 2 year warranty
- Compatible with solar power.
- Difficult to move around.
- Patented removable freezer compartment
- Offering a 3-in-1 solution: fridge, freezer or both at the same time!
- 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 accessory
While you don’t have to have a fridge/freezer in your van, it can definitely make a positive difference to your van experience. With a fridge/freezer in your van you can store fresh food and no longer have to deal with cold drinks that have gone lukewarm during your road trip.
Our selections are some of the best fridge/freezers out there but they really are the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that there are hundreds of options out there to choose from, and it can be hard to determine what style of fridge is best for you.
But the main factors to consider are the size, power consumption draw, and – of course – the price.
Types Of Fridges
Compressor fridges: This is the most popular type of fridge/freezer to have in your van, particularly 12V compressor fridges (otherwise known as a 2-way fridge). It’s similar to your fridge/freezer at home but runs off a 12V power source.
The compressor helps the fridge/freezer to keep a consistent temperature and only turns on when necessary (this is generally once or twice an hour for a minute).
They also have a more powerful motor than three-way fridges that lets them stay cool in hot temperatures. But because they run off the van battery, to operate for extended periods of time they’ll require some extra solar energy.
Gas fridges: Also known as 3-way or absorption refrigerators, gas fridges draw their power from three sources, which is great for those living off-grid. They run on 12-volt battery power, 110-volt battery power, and LP gas. Instead of creating cold air, these fridges remove heat.
Because of the gas flow exchange, these fridges can run for longer than compressor refrigerators and tend to be quieter. This makes them a great choice for those in smaller vans, or those who sleep lightly!
However, the downsides to gas fridges are that they’re not as cold as compressor fridges and probably won’t include a built-in freezer. They’re also more difficult to install as they have to be installed to your LPG fuel tank and this needs to be done by a certified professional or gas technician.
They also have to be leveled in order to properly ventilate which may be difficult on carpeted surfaces.
Thermoelectric coolers: This is a great option for those on a budget or for those who are only travelling for a short period of time. Like a gas fridge, thermoelectric coolers remove the hot air from the container.
They can keep drinks and food cool up to a certain temperature but they can’t keep items as cold as other portable fridge/freezers. Still, they’re a good option if you want to keep items cool without breaking the bank.
Other Features To Consider
Size and capacity: Unless you have an RV or motorhome, you will probably have to opt for a smaller fridge/freezer to fit in your van. Not only do these use up less power, but they cost a lot less than standard fridge/freezers to operate.
However, if you would like to cook meals on your road trip then this limited space might be a problem.
If you live off-grid then you’ll need a large capacity fridge/freezer if you want to avoid making trips to the grocery store every few days. But while these can store a lot more food, they are also costly and take up more space.
Power draw: No matter how many fancy features your fridge/freezer has, they really won’t mean anything if you don’t have enough power to operate it.
Efficiency is one of the most important factors when comparing fridge/freezers for your van, and it’s crucial to go for a fridge/freezer that has a lower power draw.
Compressor fridge/freezers are one of the most efficient options because they only turn on once and the internal temperature doesn’t go above a certain level. Without a back-up source of power this could eventually drain your battery though.
However, gas fridges will also soon drain your battery if that’s their only source of power. But they can also run on LP gas, which could last several weeks.
Quality: As with any appliance, a fridge/freezer for your van that is durable is crucial, but the key to your fridge/freezer lasting a long time is taking proper care of it. Of course, van life can be a bit tough on your appliances, especially if you’re moving them around a lot.
It may also mean spending a considerable amount of money from a reputable brand, but trust us, it’s a worthy investment!
Purchasing a fridge/freezer with a long warranty is also important, as you would need to be protected against any damage that your fridge/freezer may incur.
How your door or lid opens: This may seem weirdly specific, but the direction your fridge/freezer door or lid opens matters.
Chest fridge/freezers are more energy efficient, spacious, and portable, and you don’t have to worry about your food falling out during a bumpy ride. However, it is more difficult to find food at the bottom of the fridge/freezer.
Meanwhile, it’s easier to find your food in upright fridge/freezers but your food is more likely to fall out during bumpy drives. They’re also not as efficient, less portable, and more space is wasted because items aren’t stacked on top of each other.
Price Of Van Refrigerators
When outfitting your van, your fridge/freezer is likely to be your biggest investment. The less expensive fridge/freezers probably won’t have the more exciting features like a touch-screen LCD panel, nor will they have a multi-year warranty.
If you’re living a full-time van life, then it’s definitely worth investing in a more efficient fridge/freezer that will last you a long time. They’re less likely to become damaged, or drain your battery which will save you money in the long run.
Higher-end fridge/freezers also come with fancy modern features like Wi-fi connectivity and removable compartments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Should I Put My Campervan Fridge/Freezer?
Your fridge/freezer is best placed near your sink and stove/cooking device, regardless of whether it’s at the front or the back of your conversion van. Your fridge/freezer will also need to be easily accessible. However, with a chest fridge the best place to put it is in a pull-out drawer or as part of your countertop.
How Do I Make My Fridge/Freezer More Efficient?
The best way to make your fridge/freezer more efficient is to first buy a 12V portable refrigerator with a good compressor. Dometic fridge/freezers are found to be one of the most efficient fridge/freezers for your van.
Another major factor when it comes to efficiency is insulation. Most small AC form fridges have little insulation, while standard chest-style DC fridges and marine swing-door fridges both have moderate amounts of space that provide a good balance of space and efficiency.
A rather extreme way to ensure your fridge/freezer is as efficient as possible is to wrap it in pink foam or insulation.
Ventilation is also another important consideration. To get the most out of your electricity, make sure the vents around your fridge/freezer are clear and that there is plenty of space for the heat to be dissipated.
Trapping your fridge in a compartment that is heated by its own exhaust isn’t recommended. Some creative and ambitious installers use small 12V PC fans to actively remove hot air from their fridge compartment.
Also, a fridge that is full has a more stable thermal mass and is actually a bit more efficient as a result. Yet another reason to keep your fridge/freezer well stocked!
There is also an easy, commonsense way to mitigate a bit of cold air loss when using your fridge/freezer. We all know that if you keep your fridge/freezer door open you lose cold air, so always make sure your fridge/freezer doors are shut!
Do I Need To Have A Fridge/Freezer In My Van?
While a portable fridge/freezer is a great asset to your van for the reasons we’ve talked about, you can live in a van without a fridge if you’re limited on space and budget.
Many people without a fridge/freezer in their van don’t have to worry about meal prep and eat at restaurants, diners, or cafes to save on space too. However, travelling with no cold, frozen food will limit the type of meals you can cook.
By forgoing a fridge/freezer you can actually save hundreds of dollars in up-front costs. You can also save money by not needing to install a large solar system as a way to keep your fridge/freezer running.
Fridge/freezers actually give off excess heat while they’re running, and while this is great in cold conditions it’s not so great when you’re somewhere warm. Coolers prevent your vans from heating up necessarily in the summer.
High-quality coolers are also a great alternative for those on a budget. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how long ice can last in a chest cooler!