Should You Pay Extra for a Counter-Depth Fridge?

published May 26, 2017
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler)

When it’s time to buy a new fridge, it can feel like there are about a thousand options — single door, French doors, freezer on the top, freezer on the bottom, stainless steel or not. The list goes on, but luckily we’re here to break it all down for you, including one more feature you probably didn’t even know existed before you started your refrigerator research.

Here’s the question: Should you get a counter-depth or a standard-depth fridge? The answer, of course, is that it depends.

The Pros and Cons of Counter-Depth Fridges

The main reason to get a counter-depth fridge is aesthetics. They just look better! (Although, do make sure to measure perfectly, as even the slightest error in the opening for your refrigerator can create a big problem.) They’re also more expensive and offer less flexibility in terms of features — most are arranged in a French door-style; you won’t find many options for a single-door, counter-depth fridge.

Pro: They create the most seamless look.

Counter-depth fridges are designed to look like they were made for your kitchen. When correctly installed, they slide perfectly into their little nook, sitting flush with your cabinetry so that you almost don’t notice it’s there! Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but the point is that they’re aesthetically pleasing and can give your kitchen a more polished feel.

Pro: They’re wider than standard-depth versions.

Even in versions with the same cubic capacity, you’ll get a bit more space in width (although you’ll lose some in depth). If you’re always trying to fit cold-cut platters or pizza boxes in your fridge, this could be a major plus.

Con: They’re not as deep as standard versions.

Because the main goal of a counter-depth refrigerator is to have it sit as close to flush with the counters as possible, this often means that you’ll sacrifice that space in the back of your fridge — and it’s not always a little bit of space. Counter-depth fridges are typically between 23 and 27 inches deep, and standard-depth fridges are usually 30 to 34 inches deep. Granted, that way-back-there space might not be used all that often, but it’s still something to consider, especially when it comes to the drawers in your fridge. Chances are you’ll notice the fact that they’re shorter more than anything else, especially if you have to fight to get your carrots and celery into a crisper.

Con: They’re more expensive.

In the Goldilocks story of refrigerators, regular-depth, freestanding fridges are the least expensive, and built-ins are the most expensive, with counter-depth fridges coming in somewhere in between. They typical start around $1000 and go up from there. The difference between regular-depth prices and counter-depth isn’t hugely drastic, but it’s a factor to consider as you plan your kitchen.

The Pros and Cons of Standard-Depth Fridges

Standard-depth fridges are the base-model design, but just because it’s the base model doesn’t mean it’s a bad model! This is the most common design, and besides being affordable they have a few other things going for them.

Pro: They’re cheaper.

If you’re comparing apples to apples, counter-depth and built-in versions tend to be more expensive options than standard-depth fridges. That’s not to say that you can’t get a fully tricked-out regular-depth refrigerator, but if you’re on a tight budget, a regular depth fridge will be the most likely to fit your needs.

Pro: They have the most capacity.

Make way for a fridge that can have all the storage you need because there are no constraints on this model (aside from the fact that it needs to fit in your kitchen plans). Go ahead and nab that 30-cubic-foot model — freedom!

Pro: They offer the most flexibility.

With a standard-depth fridge, you can get also get doors, freezer layout, and all the bells and whistles you want.

Con: They stick out beyond your cabinets.

Not only does this mean that your fridge takes up floor space in front of your cabinets, but it will also impact how people flow throughout the kitchen, especially when you have the door open. This means that little people in your house — or even you when you’re scrambling to get dinner ready — can stub fingers, toes, and heads as they rush by. To some extent, you can control how much of a protrusion there is, but there will always be at least an inch or so that’s taking up the thoroughfare.