Table of Contents
- RV Refrigerator Buying Guide
- Review Of The 6 Best RV Refrigerators
Properly equipping a camping vehicle implies more than just stocking luggage and filling the gas tank to roll on the adventure. The responsible owner of an RV knows that having a great quality RV Refrigerator in their vehicle is key to preserve perishable foods whilst on the move.
In today’s markets, we have a wide array of RV coolers, mini-fridges to choose from; whilst some may be freestanding common style refrigerators (Just leaner and lighter than typical home fridges) some others keep the cooler-squarish design that allows you to put them under a truck tonneau, for example, for easy transportation.
In this article, we have put together a buying guide to help you choose the best RV freezer, cooler, mini-fridge for your next excursion.
RV Refrigerator Buying Guide
What is an RV Refrigerator?
Refrigerators that are made to be transported and used inside Recreational Vehicles or Military expeditions have been around for many years. The portability of those has to do with their internal composition; whereas common house refrigerators are permanently connected to a house standard AC outlet, RV refrigerators operate differently.
How does an RV Refrigerator operate?
Older models used to run on Propane/Gas LP to be able to pump up the refrigerating gas and cool your foods. Modern RV Refrigerators however are more smartly designed and safer, more energy-efficient as those are built to ‘suck up’ electric power from either power generators or lead-acid car batteries to make the refrigerant gas active, just like a house refrigerator; some may include inner batteries, some others don’t. Fortunately, many RV models come with external battery protection settings, temperature levels, to avoid your RV battery running down while your vehicle is in motion.
What is the price difference between an RV Refrigerator and a common Refrigerator?
Prices vary depending on the type of cooler you’d need to fit inside your vehicle; some customers claim that paying over $1000, $3000 dollars for a portable small refrigerator is too much, but some others find the sophisticated design of a portable mini fridge suitable for their RV and camping needs. There are small square coolers that have good storage capacity (up to 20, 50 cans of coke) and the prices may vary between $200 and $500 dollars.
Let’s keep in mind that any portable cooler may include features such as security locks, battery saver settings, and their composition should be sturdy enough to absorb movement/shock to be able to operate even through bumpy road journeys, therefore an RV refrigerator will be considered as a luxury asset that can’t be very cheap.
Having said that, our editors have picked for you, their 6 top RV Fridge options from outstanding companies such as Dometic, Norcold, RCA, RecPro, Alpicool, ICECO that are worth taking into consideration for your next RV cooler purchase.
Let’s get started!
Looking for a mini fridge for your bedroom? We reviewed the 5 best bedroom mini fridges. Here’s what we found.
Review Of The 6 Best RV Refrigerators
Manufacturer, color, type: RecPro, expert manufacturers of RV furniture and appliances, present their RV 12Volts Refrigerator with top freezer and freestanding installation, ideal for your camping vehicle as it doesn’t take much space and its compact design allows you to preserve perishable foods such as milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables in your journey. Also, this refrigerator comes with an electronic safety lock, to prevent accidents when your vehicle is in motion. It is released in elegant stainless grey color with black handles. The shelves are made of resistant glass.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: This very practical compact appliance barely measures 60 x 25 x 24 inches and weighs 119 pounds. The total capacity of the appliance is 10.7 cubic feet and it’s equipped with a LED dashboard with 5 different temperatures to choose from for your convenience. (Coldest, option 5, in hot camping days for example).
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: The RecPro RV Refrigerator is an electrically powered appliance, it doesn’t require batteries, it can be directly connected to a power source (An RV Power generator, for example) It is important to note, though that this fridge requires standard 9-17V electricity, 15A. direct connection and only uses 12 Volts when operating. It uses 7 Amps at startup and 1 Amp at operating temperature.
Safety: Warning! RecPro advises us that the improper use of a grounded plug can result in the risk of electrical shock when operating this appliance. Also, it is important to note that this unit should never be connected to a standard AC power source, as the fridge’s inner motor can be irremediably damaged. Also, the installation is free standing, but when placed inside an RV, you would need to attach the fridge to a safe spot, so it doesn’t tip over. Finally, this mini fridge uses R134a gas as a refrigerant, it is not recommendable to set this appliance in hot environments for long periods of time as the device can turn highly flammable.
Other features: This RV fridge by RecPro comes with the reversible doors/hinges option, it is UL (Underwriters Laboratories from America) listed, plus its brushless compressor motor, is more energy-efficient than traditional fridge DC brushed motors.
Manufacturer, color, type: The brand Alpicool that is well known for their variety of portable mini-fridges, presents their C15 portable refrigerator, a very practical mini fridge/freezer that can be easily transported in any car, truck RV for traveling, fishing, outdoor camping or a weekend picnic, you can store up to 20 cans of coke! It comes in grey glossy color (16 Quart) and it is made of resistant plastic with high-density foam for insulation, it has two sides indented handles for easy transportation.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: This mini-fridge by Alpicool measures 23.54 x 12.6 x 10.24 inches and weighs no more than 19 Pounds. The inner capacity of this appliance is 15 liters, meaning it can fit milk cartons, fruits, vegetables, and cans of the drink inside. It can store approximately 20 soda cans of 12 oz., 10 water bottles of 18 oz., or 6 red wine bottles of 25 oz.
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: The Alpicool C15 although it doesn’t use batteries, it can be directly connected to a vehicle battery or a power generator (solar or fuel), it uses 45 watts and needs just 12 Volts to operate, plus, the appliance comes with a temperature memory function for battery protection: Low, Medium and High, this way, it won’t run down your car battery on the move.
Safety: Alpicool advises to always check the temperature settings of your fridge if it is connected to a power source, to avoid the battery run out whilst you drive your vehicle. Also, do not cover the fridge vents to avoid overheating.
Other features: This mini fridge is equipped with an LCD Control Panel, that helps you increase or decrease the inner temperature, also, you can switch between MAX and ECO modes. Plus, this appliance comes with Alpicool’s anti-shock 30 degrees shockproof feature that makes the robust fridge stable and functional even on bumpy roads.
Manufacturer, color, type: The Chinese-Italian Guangdong ICECO company, leaders in electronics and electrical appliances, present their IECO VL60 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator, a portable appliance that allows you to have freezing and refrigeration in one. (You can combine modes). It can be transported in any RV, car, truck, although its height design fits perfectly under the tonneau cover of a pickup truck. It is the ideal companion for your outdoor excursion. The mini-fridge has a metal shell, a foldable pull-down lock for traveling security, it comes in a grey color with a glossy finish.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: The ICECO VL60 mini fridge/freezer measures 31.2 x 19.4 x 18.8 inches and weighs 65.7 pounds. The total capacity of the appliance is 60 liters, (63.4 Quart) which means, it has a great storage capacity for its size. The fridge comes with internal baskets in which you can keep either 91 coca cans of 355 ml. (12 oz.), 50 water bottles of 550 ml. (18 oz), or 20 wine bottles of 750 ml. (25 oz). The VL60 comes with security locks that help your food to be safe when the RV is in motion.
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: This mini fridge doesn’t use internal batteries but can be connected to your car’s battery through the cigarette lighter port (12V/24V) or it can be operated at home or connected to a power generator (solar or fuel) by using an AC outlet (110/240V). It is equipped with ICECO’s 3 level-car-battery protection to prevent your vehicle’s battery to wear out.
Safety: There have been cases in which RV refrigerators have been delivered ‘tilted down’ in their boxes when they reach the customers, in case you see this refrigerator is upside down when opening your box, ICECO recommends leaving it in an upright position for at least 6 hours before using it, so the refrigerant goes back to place.
Other features: This refrigerator kit includes a DC power cord, AC cord, and two removable baskets, and an insulation cover. Plus, it is rain/water-resistant, as it comes with the ICECO Rainproof Heat Dissipation ventilation system that makes it resistant to water and prevents overheating.
Manufacturer, color, type: The multinational awarded Dometic brand presents their CFX 95DZW Cooler, a dual-zone mini fridge that is capable of refrigerating and freezing simultaneously, its robust design makes it resistant to operate outdoors, night camping is fun with this robust fridge as it is equipped with interior LED light for you to grab a drink without the need to use a flashlight. It comes in a grey color with a glossy finish.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: This practical cooler by Dometic from the CFX line measures 34.92 x 19.49 x 18.58 inches and weighs 68.3 pounds, it has a capacity of 74 Quarts (70 liters) and you can store up to 113 cans in it, also, this cooler comes equipped with removable steel-wire baskets with dividers for you to organize your foods better.
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: This cooler does not have an internal battery and it can be powered when connected to a power source, power generator, or car battery. For DC connections it uses the cigarette lighter port (12V/24V) or it can be connected to an AC power source (110/240V). Also, this fridge includes a USB port (– 5V, 500mA) for you to charge small electronic devices whilst you cool your favorite beverages. It comes with 3-settings battery protection, to avoid your car’s battery running out whilst in use.
Safety: This mini fridge uses R134a gas as a refrigerant, which has been proved to be highly flammable under very hot environments. Dometic advises to not overuse this appliance in hot/sunny environments for long periods of time without supervision. Do not cover the vents with insulated covers. Keep your cooler, cool.
Other features: Amazingly, this cooler can be controlled via WIFI by using an app that you can install on a compatible smartphone (or any compatible device), the app has control, display, and alarm functions. You can use the LED frontal panel, to change the temperature settings (The cooler has memory) to switch between Fahrenheit or Celsius or to connect to a wireless internet connection.
Manufacturer, color, type: The veteran RCA brand who’s a great competitor in the compact RV fridges’ market, present their RFR322 compact mini-fridge with a top freezer that can store your frozen foods, fruits, veggies, and favorite beverages. Whether you are an RV owner or you are in the need of a small efficient refrigerator for a reduced space, the RFR322 will be a great option for you. It is made of stainless steel, with interior shelves made of plastic and glass. It comes in a wide array of fun colors: black, blue, green, purple, orange, red, silver, and white, all models have a glossy finish.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: This freestanding compact appliance of sleek design measures 18.5 x 17.7 x 32.8 inches and weighs 50 pounds. The total capacity of the appliance is 3.2 cubic feet, its freezer capacity alone is 0.2 cubic feet.
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: The RCA RFR322 RV Refrigerator is an electrically powered cooler, it can be connected to an AC/power source of 115/60 Volts. Make sure you use a proper cord to plug in the device and not exceed its voltage.
Safety: RCA proudly announces this fridge is Energy Star certified thanks to its low-energy consumption compressor that is capable of cooling food quickly by using less electricity/power. However, if you allow excessive ice build-up inside the fridge, it will increase the energy consumption; make sure you defrost the appliance when ice frost is thick. Also, due to the refrigerant that this fridge uses (R134a), RCA advises their customers to not set this appliance in hot environments or in places where it would receive direct sunlight.
Other features: This elegant compact fridge includes reversible door hinges, adjustable feet to be placed on irregular grounds, a security lock to prevent the doors from opening when the vehicle is in motion and an adjustable thermostat to calibrate the inner temperature of the refrigerator.
Manufacturer, color, type: The American Norcold that is known for building portable refrigerators for the Marine and the common RV owner since the 1950s, are up to date by releasing new, more modern versions of their old refrigerators; the Norcold N10DCSSR Polar-Series refrigerator is a great portable cooler of dual-zone/crisper drawers that allows you to have frozen foods and refrigerated goods simultaneously, This freestanding RV refrigerator includes RV-standard mounting orifices for a faster installation without the need of extra brackets. It is released in elegant grey glossy color with black edges, it comes with a security lock to avoid accidents whilst you’re on the move.
Dimensions, Weight, and Capacity: This stylish lean RV Refrigerator measures 61.8 x 26.3 x 26.3 inches and weighs 130 pounds, being a bit heavier than most RV freestanding fridges, however, it has a great storage capacity of 10 cubic feet and it’s equipped with an LCD dashboard at eye height with a touchpad that allows you to control the temperature settings, easily.
Connect type, Voltage, Battery Type: The Norcold N10DCSSR RV Refrigerator doesn’t use propane gas like its antecessors, it is an electrically powered appliance, it doesn’t require batteries either, it can be directly connected to a power source (DC/ 12 Volts), any vehicle’s battery or power generator when operating. It uses 5 Amps at startup and consumes 60 watts.
Safety: Due to its refrigerant, Norcold does warn their customers to not operate this refrigerator under very hot conditions, (140°F -60°C) as the compressor can be permanently damaged. Also, this is a manual-defrosting unit, make sure you clean it properly with mild soap, and a towel, do not use scouring pads or pointy-sharp objects to scrape off the ice. Do not use strong powdered detergents to wash it. Allow the frost/ice inside your fridge to completely melt before cleaning.
Other features: The Norcold N10DCSSR comes equipped with a night mode that reduces its compressor and fan speed to preserve the battery level making it quieter, plus its separate LED lights illuminate the refrigerator and the freezer compartment, ideal for night camping outdoors. This is an RV refrigerator that also comes with the reversible door option for your convenience.
The answer would be no. Common house refrigerators aren’t made to be used outdoors, plus, their inner built does not make them resistant to work whilst placed inside a vehicle in motion, in fact, when a home refrigerator is delivered or transported, it should be left to rest for some hours, so the refrigerant gas “goes down” and the motor does not get damaged.
RV refrigerators are different as they have special compressors that allow them to operate on low voltage and under harsh outdoor conditions, such as rain, wind, snow. Plus, they are lighter and portable, whereas household refrigerators are usually sturdy, heavy to move and they don’t have security locks for their doors or any safety measure that protects the food they store inside.
Most RV refrigerators are like old home refrigerators that need to be defrosted manually. Usually, it just takes you to set the cooler to OFF and allow the ice to melt, so you can gently wipe the inner shelves, compartments, or baskets, leaving it ready for the next trip.
Never use strong chemicals, cleaning substances, strong detergents to clean your RV fridge, never scrape the frost with sharp objects as you can damage the unit permanently. Keep in mind that the more frost your RV fridge builds up, the more energy it will consume.
Amazon offers good deals on Norcold, Dometic coolers plus you can find other models for various brands that can be delivered to you via Amazon prime. If not available, you can check at a department store or directly buy with the manufacturers either on their official websites or at their physical store if available around your zone. As a piece of advice, make sure you check all the warranty clauses of the cooler you’re after, as some warranties may cover only the compressor and not other spare parts. Check refund policies and delivery costs either with your online seller or at the store you’ve chosen.
RV Fridges are meant to last for over 10, 12 years, if well taken care of. However, there have been customers online writing impressive reviews in which they claim that their Dometic RV fridges have lasted for 15, 19 years. The same way home refrigerators can endure a few repairs in their lifespan, RV refrigerators can be repaired a few times to expand their useful life.
Make sure you defrost them often, that you don’t make them work under very hot conditions (Over 140°F / 60°C), always use an insulating cover if the cooler is out on a rainy day, do not overload them by connecting them to higher voltage outlets, do not obstruct its vents/fans, use the temperature settings cleverly to preserve your vehicle’s battery, then, you’ll be ready to cool your favorite drinks and enjoy an adventure of many years with your RV fridge!