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More fridges arriving faulty to CHOICE labs

We're seeing more faulty fridges in our labs than ever before. Here's how to avoid getting stuck with a dud.

choice tester david hill checking a fridge lead size
Last updated: 08 October 2019

Need to know

  • Almost one-fifth of the fridges we've tested in the past 12 months have been dead on arrival, had a noticeable fault which caused us to return it, or failed its energy test 
  • When you install a new fridge, test the temperature of the fridge and freezer with a thermometer to confirm everything is working properly 
  • Beko and Ikea are two of the brands we've had the most problems with

When you spend hundreds, or even thousands, on a new fridge, you want a product that works properly from day one. And as your fridge is supposed to last 10 to 15 years, you could be stuck dealing with any problems or performance issues it has for a painfully long time.

We rigorously test up to 40 fridges a year, and unfortunately, more fridges than ever are failing our tests on a regular basis, or presenting with faults just after they've been delivered.

CHOICE whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale says: "We've had so many fridges fail our testing of late, we're starting to think our new thermal lab was built over a haunted burial ground."

In fact, 17% of the fridges we've tested in the past 12 months have either been dead on arrival, had a noticeable fault, or failed their energy test (they can fail by using more energy than they claim or by not being able to achieve the required temperatures for the test).

The worst-performing fridge we have ever seen

The Ikea Nekyld fridge was awarded a Shonky this year.

How to avoid getting stuck with a dud

We buy our own fridges for our testing, going through the same buying and delivery process you would to ensure we get the most authentic buying experience possible. So these common failures we're seeing are likely also being suffered by consumers Australia-wide.

Once your fridge is set up, you should closely monitor it over a couple of days – if you notice your food or your milk is going off more quickly than it usually would, it's probably a sign that things are not quite right.

"When you first plug your fridge in, place a thermometer in the fridge and freezer to ensure they're getting to the right temperatures," says Ash. "When food or produce goes bad, it's easy to blame the supermarket or wherever you got the food from, but it could be a sign your fridge is faulty." 

If we notice an obvious fault with a fridge just after it's delivered (something a regular person would notice), then we return the fridge to the manufacturer to get a new one. 

If it's a fault that wouldn't be obvious to a regular buyer (such as fluctuating temperatures over time, for example), then this would be reflected by a poor score in our fridge reviews. 

It generally isn't possible for people to test the same features and functions that we test in the CHOICE labs at home, so it's a good idea to read our detailed fridge reviews before you buy.

We've had so many fridges fail our testing of late, we're starting to think our new thermal lab was built over a haunted burial ground

CHOICE whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale

You should also be aware of the expected power consumption and energy efficiency of the model you're buying. If you notice wildly more expensive energy bills than usual, your fridge could be the culprit. "Your fridge is always on, and is responsible for around eight percent of your total household energy consumption, so a fridge that's using more energy than it claims could be costing you a fortune," says Ashley.

Unfortunately most of us don't have power meters monitoring our fridge's energy use, so the only way you'll know if your fridge is churning through the kilowatts is if you see a sharp spike in your electricity bill. 

CHOICE tip: Keep a close eye on your bills after buying a new fridge. If they're significantly higher than usual, you may have a problem.

beko bfr630db fridge

This Beko fridge scored a woeful 44% in our fridge testing. Another model from the brand didn't fare much better.

Stand-out poor performers

Some fridge brands are worse than others, with the brand Beko being singled out by our expert testing team as particularly susceptible to faults and general poor performance (two of the Beko models we tested scored less than 50%). 

"Beko is a popular brand, but we've had so many problems with these models that we're considering a moratorium on testing them," says Ashley.

Shonky award-winning

Another stand-out failure was the Ikea Nedkyld fridge, which performed so badly in our testing, we awarded it a 2019 Shonky. Not only is it a basic fridge with limited features, but it shockingly failed its energy test, meaning it uses a lot more electricity than it claims on its energy star rating label. It's also one of the worst-performing fridges we've ever seen, which means your food won't last as long. CHOICE's king of whitegoods, Ashley, says: "A fridge should last you 10 to 15 years, so you'd be wearing the expense of this misguided purchase into the next decade and beyond." 

We see many cases where our test results differ wildly from the details in the reports that manufacturers have submitted to the government to get their fridges registered in the energy star rating system. This is bad news for consumers, as it means you can't always trust the star rating that's on the front of the fridge. Reading our independent fridge reviews before you buy is the best way to make sure you're getting what you paid for.

If you have a problem with your new fridge

If something's not quite right, contact the retailer and, if necessary, organise for a replacement to be delivered. Before you buy a product, make sure you understand all the conditions around returns and warranty periods. Read more about what to do if you have a faulty product.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.