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Cheapism: Best budget refrigerators

Feb. 27, 2013 at 1:59 PM ET

This Whirlpool model stands out with its external ice and water dispenser.

By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com

Refrigerators these days can connect to the Internet, display recipes on a touchscreen, and “blast chill” a can of beer in minutes. They can also cost upward of $3,000 for a freestanding model. Built-in refrigerators disguised as kitchen cabinets command an added premium. For consumers on a budget, respected brands such as GE, Kenmore, LG, Whirlpool, and Maytag make roomy, energy-efficient refrigerators that can keep food cold or frozen for far less.  

Below are Cheapism’s top picks under $900.

  • The Maytag M1TXEGMYW (starting at $710) exemplifies the design you see most often among inexpensive models: a refrigerator with a freezer on top. It totals 20.6 cubic feet inside and features an ice maker, two crisper drawers with humidity control, adjustable glass shelves, and adjustable bins on the door big enough to hold a gallon of milk. Consumers posting reviews online consider this refrigerator sturdy and reliable. It comes in white, black, and the creamy off-white known as bisque. It’s also available in stainless steel, but that in-demand finish carries a much higher list price. (Where to buy)
  • The Whirlpool ED5KVEXVQ (starting at $899) is a side-by-side model that squeaks in under the $900 cap. It offers the most interior space, at 25.1 cubic feet, and devotes more room to the refrigerator than the freezer. It includes one crisper drawer, pullout glass shelves, and adjustable gallon-size door bins. Many reviewers note the water and ice dispenser on the front of the freezer, an uncommon perk in this price range. The color options are white and black. (Where to buy)
  • The Kenmore 69002 (starting at $848) takes the increasingly popular approach of putting the freezer on the bottom. Reviewers appreciate the refrigerator’s spacious 19.7-cubic-foot interior with adjustable glass shelves, fixed gallon-size door bins, humidity-controlled crispers, and digital temperature controls. This model is available only in white. (Where to buy)
  • The GE GTH18GBD (starting at $537) is a conventional top-freezer refrigerator that comes in white, black, and bisque. Many reviewers seem willing to forgive a bit of noise in exchange for what they declare excellent value. This basic model with 18.1 cubic feet of space houses two crispers with humidity control, fixed gallon-size bins and storage for canned beverages on the door, and adjustable glass shelves. (Where to buy)

Each refrigerator design has its pros and cons. Top-freezer refrigerators are generally cheapest and have wider shelves than side-by-side models, so they can accommodate large platters. Still, a side-by-side refrigerator may be the best choice if you have a galley kitchen or a center island that doesn’t allow much clearance for the doors. A bottom-freezer refrigerator puts fresh food within easy reach.

All the models listed above have earned federal Energy Star certification, which means they’re about 15 percent more efficient than non-certified refrigerators and should save buyers at least $80 on energy costs over the life of the appliance. If you’re replacing a refrigerator more than 10 years old, the government estimates you can save anywhere from $200 to $1,100.

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