The fridge is one of the most important appliances in your kitchen, so if you're looking to buy a new one, you'll want to find the perfect match in terms of size, features and price.
At CHOICE, our experts have been testing fridges for decades, so if you're considering a new fridge, check our expert fridge reviews first.
In the meantime, here's what you need to know about sizing up the internal volume and external dimensions – and making sure your fridge is the right fit for your kitchen.
If you're in the research phase of buying a new fridge, there are two types of sizing you need to consider:
- Internal volume.
- External dimensions.
Here's how to figure out what you need.
If in doubt, go bigger
When choosing a fridge for your household, how big do you need to go? There are a few things to take into consideration.
"The bigger the fridge, the more energy it will use, and the more it will generally cost," says CHOICE fridge expert Ashley Iredale.
"But having too much space in your fridge is not nearly as big a problem as not having enough space in your fridge. So if in doubt, go for the bigger one – your future self may thank you."
Here's how to choose a fridge volume based on the number of people in your household:
|Household size||Recommended volume||Price range|
|1–2 people||250–380L (1)||$429–$2399|
|5 or more||440L+ (2)||$1079–$5500+|
in the long run. 2. Allow an extra 28.5L for each additional household member, plus freezer space. If in doubt, get the bigger fridge.
Buying for today – and tomorrow
While you may only be a two-person household right now, look to the future when deciding on size.
"Fridges last a long time, so futureproof yourself," says Ashley. "Are you planning on starting a family in the next few years? You might need more capacity in two years' time than you do now."
Fridges last a long time, so futureproof yourselfAshley Iredale, CHOICE fridge expert
If you're also a big entertainer, you may want to consider extra capacity to cater for your next soirée.
"Allow for that by either buying a bigger fridge, having a second fridge that you can turn on in the lead-up to the event, or opting for a fridge with a multi-use compartment, so you can vary fridge-to-freezer ratios for more flexibility," says Ashley.
The size of your budget, family and kitchen will dictate what size fridge you choose. If you're building a new kitchen or wondering whether that sleek French-door fridge you've had your eye on will fit in your existing kitchen, here's a rough guide to fridge dimensions.
But first, a quick word from our expert: "Make sure the fridge you buy will actually fit in your kitchen – measure, measure, measure," says Ashley. "Be sure to allow room for air to circulate around it too, and make sure you can actually fit it through your front door."
Top mount (freezer on top)
- Width: 540–800mm
- Height: 1300–1800mm
- Depth: 590–750mm.
"This is generally the cheapest type of fridge on the market," says Ashley. "But bear in mind that you'll have to bend down to get things out of the fridge, which is the most used compartment."
Bottom mount (freezer on the bottom)
- Width: 540–800mm
- Height: 1300–1800mm
- Depth: 590–750mm.
"Bottom mount fridges are often more expensive to buy and marginally more expensive to run than top-mount fridges," Ashley says. "But the compartments you'll use most are at your eye level, which makes for easier use."
Side by side
- Width: 760–910mm
- Height: 1700–1780mm
- Depth: 850–940mm.
Ashley's take: "It's not just about overall size, but useability. You might struggle to fit larger items in a side-by-side fridge. Ice makers and water chillers can cannibalise up to 30% of your freezer space, so bear that in mind."
- Width: 920–960mm
- Height: 1700–1800mm
- Depth: 900–960mm.
"Fridges with a French-door configuration usually have good storage capacity and can fit wide loads like platters and bulk foods," Ashley says. "But they are large and can't fit in a tight corner. They're also typically more expensive to buy than other fridge types."
- Width: 1100–1240mm
- Height: 1670–1780mm
- Depth: 700–860mm.
"This combination of a separate but matching upright fridge and freezer will give you more flexibility when it comes to placement," says Ashley. "You could put the freezer in another part of the house if you're short on space in the kitchen.
"However, if you want them both in the kitchen, they do take up more space overall than other fridge configurations."
When you're measuring up for a new fridge, you'll need to allow some wiggle room – and not just for your potentially dodgy measuring skills. Fridges need some breathing space around them to let heat dissipate.
If you don't allow enough space, the fridge will have to work harder to stay cool, which could shorten its lifespan and will definitely cost you more in electricity bills.
"We generally recommend allowing at least 5cm on each side, 10cm on top and 5cm at the rear," says Ashley.
We generally recommend allowing at least 5cm on each side, 10cm on top and 5cm at the rearAshley Iredale
But each manufacturer has different recommended 'clearance' (surrounding) spaces for their fridges. We list each manufacturer-recommended clearance in our fridge reviews.
"While you've got your tape measure out, measure up your front door and hallways to make sure you can actually get your new fridge through the front door!" says Ashley.
Tight squeeze? You can remove house and fridge doors to get yourself some extra room.
Other things to measure when buying a new fridge
Here are some top tips from Ashley to help you avoid refrigerator regret:
- Measure the space in front of the refrigerator so doors and drawers can open without getting dinged. This is especially important if your kitchen has an island bench.
- Make sure you're clear on which way you want the fridge door to open: imagine how difficult it'll be to get to that chocolate you've hidden at the back of the fridge if the door doesn't open all the way due to walls or cabinetry.
- Some fridges come with reversible doors, so you can swing the door whichever way works best for your kitchen (and for whether you're right- or left-handed). Take a look at your space and figure out whether it's best to have a fridge that has the hinges on the left or the right. You may need a hinge-reversing kit to make this happen though, so double-check before you buy.
- Leave a bit of extra room on the hinge side of the door so it can swing freely.
- Double- and triple-check the depth of your fridge compared with the depth of your cabinets. Some fridges will be flush with your countertops while others will extend slightly beyond them. If you're working with a very small kitchen, you may not be able to spare the extra space for a deep fridge. Remember, you need to be able to open that door to get to what's inside!
- If you think you may upgrade to a larger fridge in future, be sure to leave yourself enough room in your kitchen plans.
If you're in the process of designing a new kitchen, make absolutely sure you've factored in enough room for your fridge. If you get this wrong, you'll be in a world of pain trying to readjust it. And remember to consider whether you may need to upsize your fridge in future if your household grows.
"Perhaps also think about which way you want the fridge door to open and position the fridge nook accordingly," says Ashley.
"And if your fridge has a water chiller and icemaker, it may need to be plumbed in, so make your fridge nook convenient for the taps under your sink."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.