Is a Built-in Refrigerator Worth the Extra Money?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Gina Eykemans)

There are a few luxuries that can make your kitchen instantly seem like it belongs in a Michelin-star chef’s home: a gorgeous range, plenty of counter space, and a seriously impressive refrigerator. When it comes to the latter, how do you decide whether you should get a built-in or if a freestanding fridge will do? The cost will play a huge role in helping you decide. Other key factors? Aesthetics and how much space you have, for sure.

Keep reading to check out the pros and cons of a freestanding fridge versus a built-in one.

The Pros and Cons of a Freestanding Fridge

A freestanding fridge is just what it sounds like: A refrigerator that stands on its own and just slides into place next to some cabinets or against a wall. It’s probably what you think of first when you think of a fridge, but it’s not your only option — and it might not be the best option for you. Here are a few things you should consider before you place an order.

Pro: You’ve got some options.

Freestanding fridges come in a few configurations. You can pick an appliance with the freezer on top, freezer on the bottom, the fridge and freezer side by side, or a fridge with French doors and a freezer on the bottom. Plus, there’s a counter-depth option, which is shallower and sits somewhat flush with the cabinets.

Pro: You can put it anywhere.

If hulking appliances aren’t exactly your favorite thing to look at, with freestanding models you have the option of putting your fridge inside your pantry if you have space, or tucking it off to the side somewhere. All you need is to be close to an electrical outlet, and that thing can run.

Pro: They’re cheaper.

If you’re on a tighter budget, you’re much more likely to find a freestanding fridge that fits your price range. They can start around $400 (for a basic freezer-on-top version), and built-in refrigerators can be well over 10 times that price.

Pro: You can take it with you if you move.

This is one of those home investments that you can actually take with you if you choose. All you have to do is slide it out and pack it up!

Con: It might stick out too much for your liking.

Unless you get a counter-depth fridge, freestanding fridges extend more than six inches beyond surrounding countertops. You might not even notice it, or it could drive you crazy.

Con: The most suitable place for it is sometimes far from the cooking area.

We all want to get our steps in every day, but crossing the entire length of your kitchen to get to your fridge five times while making dinner can get a little annoying. If you’re renovating your kitchen, you may be able to design around this inconvenience, but you might not have much of a choice if you’re working with what you’ve got.

The Pros and Cons of a Built-in Refrigerator

Maybe you have Champagne tastes and always like the best of the best? Maybe a standard fridge doesn’t do it for you? You want something impressive and over-the-top? A built-in refrigerator (typically available in a bottom-freezer and side-by-side configuration) is that something — but there are a few plusses and minuses you should wrap your head around before you plunk down your credit card.

Pro: It will blend seamlessly into your kitchen cabinetry.

Not only will this type of refrigerator sit flush with your cabinets, but if you really wanted to camouflage the appliance, you can also add a panel that matches the wood finish of your cabinets. Fridge? What fridge?

Pro: You can get a super-wide fridge.

Most freestanding fridges max out around 36minches wide, but when you’re looking at built-ins, they can go up to 48 inches. (And there actually aren’t a ton of small options on the market, which could be a con depending on your setup.) If you have a big family — or just a Costco membership — that extra foot can seem very attractive, but just know this …

Con: You’ll lose some depth.

Built-in fridges are usually more shallow than their freestanding counterparts (so that they can sit flush with your cabinets). How shallow? Usually around six inches. Of course, this is the same issue with a freestanding counter-depth fridge, too.

Con: You’ll probably only use it for your current house.

If you think there’s even a small possibility that you might move in the future, this might not be the option for you. A built-in fridge is more likely to have to stay behind than a freestanding one.

Con: They’re (way) more expensive.

Built-in fridges typically start in the $5,000 range and go up from there. For example, KitchenAid built-in options can be $7,000 to $9,000. Yet you can get a top-of-the-line freestanding version for around $2,000. (Sounds like a bargain, no?)

Con: They usually have to be professionally installed.

Depending on how handy you are, you might need experts to help with the delivery and the installation. We’re talking about the electrical and plumbing stuff, and also any cabinetry work that might be required.

More on Shopping for a Fridge

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