Reviews and Tips on Buying Small Refrigerators for Dorm Rooms

If you're just starting college, or have a child beginning their freshman year, one of the larger purchases you'll make is a dorm refrigerator. Make sure to check with your college first, however, as some schools prohibit refrigerators in dorm rooms and others may have size restrictions. Once you're sure it's not in violation of the rules and you're equipped with the knowledge of any limitations, you'll want to choose a small dorm refrigerator that offers the most value for your money. In this article, we'll look at the different types of dorm refrigerators and discuss their features, as well as look at the best brands on the market to help you make the best decision.

Types of Mini Refrigerators Suitable for a Dorm Room

There are two different types of mini refrigerators that you can use in your dorm room - the compact refrigerator (sometimes known as a counter-height or bar refrigerator) and the compact cube refrigerator (the true mini-fridge often found in hotel rooms). Depending on the size requirements of your dorms, you may have to stick with the compact cube. If you can get away with it, however, the compact or bar refrigerator has a larger capacity and may even include a small freezer. A compact cube refrigerator typically has 1.5 to around 2.7 cubic feet of space, while the compact refrigerator can provide up to 10 cubic feet.

Dorm Refrigerator Prices

It's advised that you buy the largest fridge that you can afford and that stays within your dorm's size requirements, if any. The compact cube typically costs much less than a standard compact fridge. The larger it is and the more features it has, the more you can expect to pay. Prices for mini refrigerators typically range anywhere from $50 for the smallest model to more than $200 for the largest model. However, you may be able to find a good deal by purchasing a slightly used dorm refrigerator. Check your local classified ads, bulletin boards and internet sites like Craigslist, or at thrift stores and flea markets. A good time to look for used models is when school lets out for the summer and graduating students no longer need their refrigerators.

Features to Look for in a Dorm Refrigerator

Regardless of the size of your dorm fridge, there are certain features you'll want included to make sure you have the best experience with the appliance. Following are some of the most common features found in dorm room refrigerators:

  • Adjustable Shelves - The ability to adjust your shelves to different heights allows you to maximize the available space, which is necessary with so little storage.'
  • Reversible Door Hinges - If you aren't sure where you'll place the refrigerator once you get into your dorm room, consider a model with reversible door hinges to allow comfortable opening no matter where you place it.
  • Freezer Space (Or Not) - Many dorm refrigerators come with built-in freezer space, although it may be limited. In most cases, the freezer won't work as well as it would in a full-size fridge. If you don't think you'll need to freeze anything, look for a model that does not include a freezer to allow more room for refrigeration.
  • Easy Defrost - Many small refrigerators have a push-button defrost option that makes defrosting quick and easy.
  • Variable Thermostat - The fridge should have a thermostat that you can adjust to your desired temperature. With a very small model, this may not be necessary, but you'll likely need this feature for larger models.

The Best Dorm Refrigerator: Reviews

There are many dorm refrigerators on the market today, but two of them that really stand out and get consistent positive customer reviews include the Emerson 1.8 Cubic Foot Compact Refrigerator and the Danby Deluxe Mini Fridge with Freezer. Each one is different, but let's take a closer look at what makes these two models so great for use in a dorm room.

The Emerson 1.8 Cu. Ft. Compact Refrigerator features an adjustable thermostat, manual defrost, slide-out wire rack, reversible door hinges, can storage and a small separate freezer compartment. It's compressor-cooled, which means it really keeps your food and beverages cold. You can set the thermostat to any one of six settings, with six being the coldest. This fridge measures approximately 18 inches high x 18.5 inches deep x 20 inches wide on the exterior and has a 1.8 cubic feet capacity. It's small, but it can hold quite a bit of food and the freezer area can hold one or two frozen dinners at the most.

At the time of this writing, this Emerson dorm refrigerator has an average customer rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on and costs around $90 to purchase. It's a good price for all the features you get with this model. The only drawback is that it does not have an automatic defrost feature; it's manual defrost so you have to do it yourself. There is also no outer handle. Instead, the fridge has a recessed are on the door for opening. This can be a good thing, however, if your space is very limited.

The Danby Deluxe Mini Fridge has a few more features and it's quite a bit larger than the Emerson model. It also features an automatic defrost option, mechanical thermostat, separate freezer compartment, reversible door hinges, 4 wire shelves (as opposed to the one shelf in the Emerson fridge), can storage and tall bottle storage. This unit measures approximately 20 3/4 inches wide x 21 inches deep x 32 5/8 inches high, and it has a capacity of 4.3 cubic feet. It holds quite a bit of food, tall bottles such as 2 liter soda bottles and six or seven cans in the door. Another benefit is that it runs very quietly and seems to last many years without any problems.

The Danby Deluxe dorm refrigerator has an average customer rating of 4 out of 5 stars on and you can purchase it for around $180. While it does cost significantly more than the previous model, it has much more storage space and would work better for students who need a lot of room or will be sharing the fridge with a roommate. The price is a very good value for the amount of space you get and the high quality of the product. You can usually find this model at retail stores such as Sears and Walmart, or buy it online from a retailer like Amazon.