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Compare Important Aspects When Buying The Right Refrigerator

Triple Threat:  Top Freezer vs Bottom Freezer vs French Door

Long gone are the days when all refrigerators are made in the same style.  Now, there are endless styles, models and types of refrigerators that range from basic and affordable to extravagant and expensive. 

The type of refrigerator style that you choose should match the needs that you and your family have with how you store your food and how often you are accessing the items plus other considerations.

There are three basic refrigerator styles, top freezer, bottom freezer and French door refrigerators.  What is the difference between these three styles and what are the advantages and disadvantages of all?

It used to be that if you wanted energy efficiency, you had to pay for a higher model, but these days, even many of the basic top freezer and bottom freezer refrigerators are Energy Star qualified appliances that will run more efficiently, saving you money.   

If you are looking for Energy Star qualified refrigerators, you will find models that are Energy Star qualified in all three styles, you no longer have to go top of the line to get efficient appliances.

Top Freezer Refrigerator

This is the traditional refrigerator, the classic style that was once the only style.  The larger compartment at the bottom is for the refrigerated section, and a smaller top compartment is the freezer.  This is the most basic of refrigerator designs and as such, is the most affordable. 

If you are looking for a no-frills, basic refrigerator at a good price, the top freezer refrigerator is for you.  The freezer compartment is about 1/3 of the total capacity of the refrigerator.  You can find these models ranging from small capacity to larger capacity, and there is a lot of variation on the sizes of these models but the options are usually pretty limited.

You will not find many extra features with top freezer refrigerators.  Interior icemakers are common, but ice and water dispensers are not because the basic configuration of these styles.  Most features will be internal instead of external, but some may have external temperature control panels on the higher end models.

Because the doors need to swing fully open, these refrigerators often require that there be a wide enough space to allow for the door to fully open, so if the counter sticks out more than the refrigerator, you will have problems.  Freezer organization is also limited as there are either one or two shelves, depending on the model, and one or two door sections.  Icemakers will further limit space for frozen goods.

Because the freezer is on the top, items towards the back can be harder to find, requiring you to have the freezer door open longer while looking for something.  Shorter adults and children may have trouble reaching the back of the freezer.  The crispers are usually on the bottom of the refrigerated section so if you are reaching for your fresh produce or any items stored on the lower door shelves, you will be bending over to get. 


  • Affordable
  • With less features, less is apt to go wrong with them


  • Limited features
  • Requires wide opening so doors open fully
  • Organization options are limited


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Bottom Freezer Refrigerators

This is similar to the top freezer refrigerators; only the freezer is on the bottom instead of the top and the refrigerated section is towards the top.  The freezer compartment in the bottom freezer refrigerator is usually larger than in the top freezer style so if your family keeps a decent amount of frozen foods on hand, this will be a better model simply because you will have more room in the freezer compartment.

This is still a basic model of refrigerator and as such, it is reasonably priced and affordable.  Also like the top freezer model, there are fewer options available with these styles, and they are fairly basic in what they offer. 

The freezer will be either drawer that pulls out or a door that swings open.  The door that swings open requires a lot of room, just as the refrigerator door will, since the doors are the full width of the appliance; they need a lot of room in the kitchen to be able to open fully.  If your kitchen is cramped or small, the bottom freezer and top freezer models may not work well unless you get a counter-depth model.


  • Affordable
  • More room in the freezer
  • Less bending to reach refrigerated items


  • Less available options
  • Requires a wide space for doors to open

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French Door Refrigerators

French door refrigerators have the frozen foods in the bottom section, usually have ample storage space for both frozen and refrigerated goods and have double doors on the refrigerated section, so you can open only one door at a time if need be.  The less you expose the interior of the refrigerator to air, a more stable your refrigerator temperature will be.

With a double door design on the top section, you can choose to open only one door, or both.  There is a lot of variety with this style of refrigerator, and some have door-in-door features or even a fourth door section for either another freezer compartment or refrigerator compartment with its own temperature controls.

Basic models do not have ice and water dispensers, but they are widely available, and the innovations that you will in interior storage will also widely vary.  Better cooling, better humidity control, better lighting and ways to configure how you store things are all options that you will see.  As such, these can cost upwards of several thousand dollars.


  • Better organization 
  • More available features 
  • Sensible layout 
  • Stylish look 


  • Expensive 
  • More features means that there are more parts to break down eventually, ice makers are notoriously problematic

If you are looking for a basic appliance, the top freezer style is the most affordable and the most dependable.  Bottom freezers are slightly more expensive than a top freezer model, but they are still very reasonably priced and have the bonus of having slightly more room in the freezer area.

French door refrigerators offer the best options and the most versatility, but that comes with a price tag that can be very steep.  If you have the money to spend, the bells and whistles are nice.