European brands are always better. A stylish retro fridge is totally worth spending more. Oh, and you have to have an ice maker.
These are just some of the things you might hear – from salespeople, friends and online reviews – when you're shopping for a new fridge. But 'advice' like this can make a stressful (and expensive) experience even more confusing – especially with so many brands, styles and finishes on the market.
To help clear the air and stop your head spinning, we asked our fridge expert Ashley Iredale to bust the common myths we always hear so you can find the best fridge to suit your home and budget.
A cool head: CHOICE expert Ash has been testing fridges for years.
Myth 1: European brands are always better
Spruiking cutting-edge design and Euro-glam features, you may be wowed by certain international brands in your quest to find the perfect fridge.
But CHOICE expert Ashley Iredale warns that often one with true Aussie grit is a better option because the Euro models sometimes just can't hack the heat.
"We've seen several expensive fridges from premium European brands perform very poorly in our tests," says Ashley. "It's not that they're bad fridges, it's just that they were designed for European conditions.
A cheaper brand that designs fridges for the Australian market will usually blow the expensive Euros out of the waterCHOICE expert Ashley Iredale
"Australia is a much hotter part of the world and fridges here are faced with very different operating conditions, so a cheaper brand that designs fridges for the Australian market will usually blow the expensive Euros out of the water."
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Look for brands that have a long history in Australia and check our reviews to see a product's test ratings before you buy.
Myth 2: You can judge a fridge by its finish
Are your eyes looking past the boring white fridges towards a sleek, shiny model or a glossy retro number in bright red? Buyer beware, warns Ashley.
"Fancy finishes can come at a price premium over a plain white fridge, despite the fact it makes no difference to the appliance's performance," he says.
"Worse, those fancy retro fridges may look great, but we've found they're incredibly expensive, and often tend to have 1960s levels of performance, not just a 1960s look, so they're best avoided."
Fancy finishes come at a premium price, despite the fact it makes no difference to the appliance's performanceAshley Iredale
As was the case earlier this year when Ash and his team tested Smeg's $3990 retro dud. It revealed major temperature issues and scored a dismal CHOICE Expert Rating of 22% – the worst result ever in our fridge test history.
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Choose a model that combines style with substance. Or stay simple to save your cash.
Retro rip-off: This Smeg fridge rated lowest in CHOICE history.
Myth 3: Bigger is better
When it comes to fridges, size obviously matters. But biggest isn't always best.
First, measure up. There's no sense in buying a massive double door fridge if it won't suit the size and layout of your kitchen, or squeeze through your doors.
Second, as Ashley points out: "Buying a fridge that's bigger than you need will not only cost you more in store, but also cost you more over the life of the fridge because it will use more energy. So, don't waste your cold hard cash on a massive 440L-plus fridge if it only needs to store food for two or three people."
He adds: "If you're in any doubt over what size fridge you need, opt for the slightly bigger option, but please don't go overboard."
CHOICE tip: When you measure your fridge space, allow at least 5cm on all sides so the heat from the motor can escape and the fridge can keep cool, keeping your energy bills down.
Myth 4: An ice-maker is a cool feature to have
Those old-school ice-cube trays are just so fiddly and time-consuming to use, aren't they?
Not really. While a high-end fridge with an in-built ice maker may seem like a desirable luxury at cocktail hour, Ashley says you should think twice before paying extra for one.
"An ice maker can take up valuable space in your freezer or fridge compartment," he says. "And you may also need to plumb your fridge into the water supply in order to use one. If space is important to you – avoid."
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Save your space and stick to ice-cube trays.
An ice maker (pictured middle left) can take up valuable interior space.
Myth 5: Fridges cost roughly the same to run
Our lab testing disproves this one all the time. Since your fridge never turns off, it's one of your most power-hungry appliances, making up about eight percent of your energy bill on its own. So choosing a more efficient one will save you money in the long run.
"Looking at large fridges (450–525L capacity) we've tested, the running costs range from a miserly $684 to a downright scary $1432 over 10 years," says Ashley. "That's just under $750 difference over the life of the appliance – almost enough to buy a whole new one."
Running costs range from a miserly $684 to a downright scary $1432 over 10 years
Check the energy ratings on products and CHOICE reviews. We include a 10-year running cost for each fridge, so you can compare the long-term costs of each model.
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Research your running costs now to avoid bill shock later.
Myth 6: Side-by-side fridge / freezers are better than top-mount models
Side-by-side fridges are those American-style models with two narrow, full-height cabinets beside each other, as opposed to a fridge with a freezer on the top or bottom. They can be a great choice for narrow kitchens, entertainers, large families or people with mobility difficulties.
Side by side fridges have some known issues.
But Ashley warns: "The design of side-by-side fridges is fundamentally flawed. Because the compartments are so tall and narrow, they tend to have very poor temperature evenness, and you'll get cold and hot spots.
"Plus, because they're so narrow, you might have trouble getting wide or long items into them, like a whole celery or a large pizza box."
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Consider the pros and cons of different styles before you buy – see our buying guide for helpful advice.
Myth 7: You need the newest smart fridge features
Heard about the fridge with the secret door or the ones with built-in speakers (presumably so you can, erm, bop while you chop)? Fridges that play music, access the internet, have cameras inside and solve all your relationship problems (OK, we made that last one up) are just some of the smart features we're seeing on new models.
What do you actually need a Bluetooth-enabled fridge with speakers for?
Ashley calls for a reality check on these futuristic fridges: "What do you actually need a Bluetooth-enabled fridge with speakers for? Making hands-free calls from your fridge while driving? These features add big bucks to the price of the appliance.
"And while it might be nice to be able to see what's inside your fridge when you're at the shops, most of the 'smart' functionality – internet, music, YouTube etc – is already available from other devices in or near your kitchen. So why fork out extra?"
CHOICE verdict: Myth busted! Unless you have money to burn, save cash with a cheaper, less 'smart' model that just does its job.