Skip to Content

Best Fridges For Campervans | Ultimate Guide

This guide can help you choose the best fridges for campervans and vanlife.  Having a refrigerator or fridge/freezer in your campervan is vital for living comfortably.  And having the ability to stock up on fresh groceries will save you money in the long run.

Fridges for campervans are pretty expensive, I will convince you why it’s important to spend up on the proper type of fridge.  There are many brands and models to choose from, so let’s break down the differences.

Emily grabbing a beer from one of the best fridges for campervans

Most fridges for campervans, RV’s, trucks, boats, etc. are specifically designed for the challenges of mobile living.  Which ultimately makes them worth the investment for Vanlife.

This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure policy.

Critical Features of the Best Fridges For Campervans:

  • Energy Efficient
  • Handles Vibration
  • Positive Latching Doors
  • Low Battery Protections
  • Extra Insulation
  • Quiet Operation

“Why Can’t I Just Use A Dorm Mini Fridge?

You might be wondering why you can’t just install any cheap old dorm-style fridge in your campervan.  They seem like the perfect size, right?

The issue is that these fridges are nearly always powered (very in-efficiently) using 120V AC.  And they lack decent insulation.  They will simply use too much power for most campervan electrical setups.  So although the cost of a dorm fridge may seem cheaper upfront, you would have to put far more money into your campervan electrical setup to run them.

And they are not designed to handle life on the road (vibrations, operating on an angle, etc.)  Therefore, dorm fridges are not suitable for vanlife on the road. 

Upright vs Chest Vs Drawer Style Fridges

The three basic styles of fridges for campervans (RV’s, trucks, boats, etc) are the Upright style, Chest style, and Drawer style.

Upright (Front-Loading) Fridges

Upright style fridges are similar to a standard house fridge because the door opens from the front.

Pros of Upright Fridges

  • Food is organized on shelves
  • More convenient access
  • Can build on top of
  • Cheaper

Cons of Upright Fridges

  • Cold air escapes when opening
  • Less insulation*
  • Less energy efficient
  • Not portable

Chest (Cooler) Fridges

The chest style opens from the top like a standard plastic cooler.

Pros of Chest Fridges

  • Most Energy Efficient
  • Portable
  • Doubles as a seat
  • Thicker insulation

Cons of Chest Fridges

  • Food is stacked
  • Must have clearance above
  • May require slides for installation

Drawer Fridges

The final style is drawer style fridges.  They are similar to upright with the door opening on the front, but have a large drawer that slides out the entire contents of the fridge.  This makes it easier (than an Upright fridge) to see and access the contents.  But it is also the least energy efficient.

Pros of Drawer Fridges

  • Hybrid of two other styles
  • Can build on top of

Cons of Drawer Fridges

  • Least efficient
  • Not portable
  • Food is stacked

Compressor / Absorption / Thermoelectric

The Danfoss Secoup compressor on the back of Vitrifrigo Fridge
The Danfoss Secoup compressor on the back of Vitrifrigo Fridge

There are three main cooling technologies used in fridges for campervans: compressor, absorption, and thermoelectric.

But your time is valuable, so I’ll spare you the part where we break down the science behind each method.  Because it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that compressor fridges are the way to go for mobile living!

Fridge Power Types | fridges for campervans

The most common ways to power a campervan fridge are 12v or 24v DC, 120v AC, and Propane.  And some “combo” fridges allow you to switch between 2 or more of these methods.

12-Volt or 24-Volt DC

In our opinion, 12v DC (direct current) is by far the best option.  The ability to get cheap and renewable electricity in a campervan is easy with the advances in solar power and battery isolators.  And using 12v DC is much more efficient than AC because there is no efficiency loss when converting DC to AC with an inverter.  So for most campervans, 12V DC is the best option.

120-Volt AC

Running your fridge off AC really only makes sense if your campervan can connect to shore power often.  For example, if you often park on someone’s property or at campgrounds where hook-ups are available.


Propane fridges only make sense for campervans without a reliable supply of electricity.  If you have a large propane tank installed as part of your conversion then it can be an option.  One notable caveat is that propane fridges need to be kept level (within 3 degrees).  This is going to be a challenge for many off-grid campers who often find themselves parked in less than level conditions.

Freezer Compartment?

If you are like Emily and I, the thought of living without ice cream is too much to bear.  So if you must have a freezer in your fridge, then what are your options?

There are a few different ways that fridges for campervans incorporate a freezer compartment.

Dual Zone (separate compartments)

Some fridge/freezers keep the two compartments completely separate, each with their own temperature controls.  This gives you the most control over the specific temperature in each compartment.  And they often can support much colder freezer temperatures.  They tend to have the most capacity for freezer storage, but that often comes at the expense of some fridge space.

In-Compartment Freezer

But the other common method is similar to a dorm-style fridge, where the freezer section is inside the same compartment as the rest of the fridge.  It’s usually a metal shell suspended at the top of the fridge.  And often this metal freezer shell is in fact what keeps the fridge cool.  So unfortunately you can’t control the temperature of the freezer independently.  So you may need to be careful with your thermostat setting.  If you try to make the freezer too cold, it may begin to freeze things in the fridge area.

In-compartment freezers usually cannot get as cold as Dual Zone Freezers.

We have an in-compartment freezer and it is cold enough to make ice.  It can keep ice cream softly frozen, which is good enough for us.  We have to be careful not to put any produce too close to the freezer compartment because it can get ruined.  But our easy solution is just keep all of our beers on the top shelf (next to the freezer) so they come out icy cold.  Win, win!

Beware Of The False Fridge/Freezer!

Some products will be listed as Fridge-Freezer, but in fact only have one compartment.  This means that you can operate the appliance as either a fridge OR freezer, but NOT BOTH SIMULTANEOUSLY.  So just be aware of this misleading naming.


Certain fridge companies like ARB, Engel, and Dometic have definitely geared some of their products towards the overlanding and off-roading communities.  They make some fridge models especially rugged to handle the roughness of off-road travel.  They usually include other features specifically for outdoor adventure in mind (portability, strong handles, drain plugs, dust resistance, etc).

Depending on how you intend on using your campervan, you may choose a fridge that’s built to handle a more adventurous life.

But to be clear, nearly ALL fridges for campervans are built to handle vibration, so even the ones that aren’t specifically marketed towards the off-roading community can still handle a beating.


Fridge compressors don’t run constantly.  The compressor turns on periodically to maintain the set temperature.  Tracking accurate real-world efficiency stats is tricky because there are so many variables.  Things that can affect fridge efficiency include ambient air temperature, insulation, fridge contents, ventilation, etc.

But generally chest fridges are designed with more insulation and tend to run more efficiently that upright styles.

What Size Fridge Do You Need?

It’s hard to say for sure what size fridge works for each campervan.  You will have to decide how much capacity for groceries you need.  How many people are living in the van?  How much space do you have for a fridge? Where do you plan on building the fridge into your van?  Is it replacing an existing unit and needs to match its size?

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Larger fridges take up more of your precious space and use more power.

And refrigerators don’t have to work as hard when they are fully-loaded (because air doesn’t have a good thermal mass).  So it’s easier to keep your fridge mostly full when it’s smaller.

Insulation is also a factor in the size of a fridge.  The more insulation a fridge has, the more efficiently it (should) run.  But that also means a larger overall fridge.  Chest fridges tend to have more insulation, and a larger footprint.

What are your Grocery Needs and Habits

But ultimately you should choose a fridge that can fit your lifestyle, and try to fit that fridge into your campervan build layout.

  • How many people are living in the campervan?
  • Do you cook lots of meals from fresh refrigerated ingredients?
  • Keeping large items refrigerated? (cabbage, dozen eggs, gallon drinks, etc.)
  • How long do you want to go between shopping trips?
  • Do you keep lots of cold drinks on hand?

And no matter what size fridge you choose, be prepared to make some sacrifices about what you keep in your fridge.  Living small always requires some sacrifices.

Size Ranges

Here are some size ranges depending on your needs.

Weekend Warrior / Light Grocery Shopper = 25 – 50 liters

Average Full-Timer = 40 – 75 liters

Large Size For Full-Timer = 90 – 250+ liter

Sizing Notes:

Most fridge volumes are rated in either liters or quarts, but they are roughly equivalent because 1 liter = 1.06 quart.

If the fridge has a freezer, what is the ratio between fridge and freezer space?

Our Philosophy | Best fridges for campervans

So the big factor looming over your decision is price.  It’s pretty crazy that some fridges for campervans can cost as much as full-size home refrigerator!  But for a proper fridge built for life on the road, it’s worth the investment.


So let’s talk about price.  Of course, we all want to save money and it’s tempting to buy the cheapest fridge possible.  And Emily and I are usually quite budget-conscious when it comes to making purchases.  However, when comes to purchasing the best fridges for a campervan, we really think it’s wise to avoid the cheapest options.

A quick search on Amazon will turn up some seemingly great inexpensive options (like this Costway or Alpicool).  They are really cheap and have at least decent reviews.  But keep in mind that many customers aren’t using them for full-time off-grid living.  They maybe use it just for a couple of camping trips or road trips.  Thus, many reviews are not in the context of full-time life on the road.  

These less established brands don’t appear to have any kind of warranty whatsoever.  And the build quality is notably suspect, so it’s a dice roll whether or not you get a dud and then are left with a useless box with no warranty.

So we feel it’s best to spend a little more to get a fridge from a reputable brand that stands behind their products.

Other Purchasing Notes

We personally like upright front-loading style fridges for many reasons.

They are just more convenient to use when your food is organized on shelves, rather than stacked.

Upright fridges are easier to incorporate into a campervan kitchen build (usually placed under the kitchen counter).  And their overall size to storage volume ratio is better.  This does however generally mean less insulation, but it’s not a huge factor with how efficiently 12v fridges run.

We also find that cooler/chest-style fridges (from reputable brands) are generally more expensive, and require a more expensive installation with slides or wheels to allow access from above.  So unless you really desire to have the chest-style fridge, it’s not worth paying the premium price.

And the possible portability of chest style fridges doesn’t really appeal to us as vanlifers.  We just want to plug our fridge into our batteries and run it 24/7 in our campervan.  Our van pretty much goes everywhere we go, no need to bring our heavy fridge somewhere outside the van.

If you want the most affordable fridge that also has a freezer, then front-loading is the way to go.

The loss of cold air with front-loading upright fridges is somewhat overblown.  Assuming you keep your fridge mostly full of groceries, then the loss of some cold air isn’t much compared to the thermal mass of all your groceries.  It’s not like you are starting from scratch every time you open the door.

A Little Bit About Brands

In no particular order, these are some well respected fridge brands.

  • Dometic (Sweden)
  • ARB (Australia)
  • Engel (Australia)
  • Nova Kool (Canada)
  • Vitrifrigo (Italy)
  • Norcold (USA)
  • Isotherm (Italy)
  • Whynter (China)

Depending on where you live, some of these brands may be more or less available to you.

Dometic is pretty much like the Apple computers of the fridge market.  They look sleek, have lots of bells and whistles, and cost a premium price.  But people who own them don’t (usually) regret their decision once the money has been spent.  Dometic’s wide range of fridge models, high efficiency, and command of the market makes them hard to ignore.

And yet, you can still be totally happy with a less expensive brand that still gets the job done.  Nova Kool, Vitrifrigo, Norcold, and Whynter are generally cheaper brands.  They don’t have quite as many shiny features, but still provide a competitive product.

ARB and Engel are the two Aussie companies that put an emphasis designing their fridges for off-roading.  They also generally cost a premium price.  But again people who own them seem happy once the money has been spent.

Isotherm is really popular in the boating community.  Which is probably why they’ve gotten used to charging an arm and a leg.  They seem a little out-of-touch, content to only sell their products through marine retailers (West Marine, etc.), while basically ignoring the land-based communities (RV’s, campervans, trucking, etc.)  However, they do make really great fridges with a great warranty (2-year parts, 5-year compressor).

Our Top Picks | Best Fridges For Campervans

Vitrifrigo C51 (Best Value Front-Loading)

The Vitrifrigo C51 is the exact fridge we have in our van, and we think it’s the best value upright fridge with a freezer.  Vitrifrigo doesn’t spend a ton on marketing/advertising and has fewer bells & whistles than other fridges, but that is probably why they are about half the price of their competitors.  But they still have a good 2-year warranty.

Emily grabbing a beer from one of the best fridges for campervans
Emily grabbing a beer from the Vitrifrigo 12-volt fridge in our campervan

They also make a slightly larger 61-Liter version.

  • Style = Upright (Front-Loading)
  • Capacity: 51 Liters
  • Dimensions: 22 3/8”(H) x 17 7/16”(W), 20 7/16”(D)
  • Freezer: In-compartment
  • Warranty: 2 years

Check Price For Vitrifrigo C51

Dometic CD-50 (Best Value Drawer Style)

This Dometic CD-50 is similarly priced to the above Vitrifrigo, but in a Drawer-style.  And it has a freezer!  Dometic is one of the most reputable fridge brands.

  • Style = Drawer Style
  • Capacity: 47 Liters
  • Dimensions: 19.7 x 21.3 x 15 inches
  • Freezer: In-compartment
  • Warranty: 3 years

Check Price For Dometic CD-50

ARB 50Qt Fridge (Most Rugged)

This ARB 50QT Fridge is a great fridge if you are going to be doing aggressive off-roading. It was designed specifically for rugged use in all kinds of adverse conditions.  It’s also one of the most energy efficient.  But it becomes really pricey if you want to include their fridge slide mount.

Also available in 37Qt Version.

  • Style = Chest
  • Capacity: 50 Liters
  • Dimensions: 20(H) x15(W) x27.8 in.(D)
  • Freezer: Fridge OR Freezer
  • Warranty: 3 years

Check Price For ARB 50Qt Fridge

Dometic CFX 55 (Most Efficient)

Dometic has been separating themselves from the competition when it comes to energy efficiency.  They have their own proprietary compressor that performs extremely well.  If energy consumption in your number one priority, then this 55 Liter model is worth the premium price. 

Also available in 35 Liter Version.

  • Style = Chest
  • Capacity: 55 Liters
  • Dimensions: 18.9″(H) x 28.35”(W) x 17.9″(D)
  • Freezer: Fridge OR Freezer
  • Warranty: 3 years

Check Price For Dometic CFX 55

Dometic CFX 75DZ (Best Dual-Zone Fridge/Freezer)

This Dometic CFX 75DZ is the best dual zone fridge with separate fridge and freezer sections.  This allows greater control over the temperature in each compartment.

Dometic CFX3 75DZ - Dual Zone Powered 12 Volt Cooler, 75L

Also available in 95 Liter Version.

  • Style = Chest
  • Capacity: 75 Liters (Fridge 45 liters, Freezer: 30 liters
  • Dimenstions: 18.6″(H) x 34.9″(W) x 19.5″(D)
  • Freezer: Dual Zone
  • Warranty: 3 years

Check Price For The Dometic CFX 75DZ

Whynter 62Qt (Budget Dual-Zone Fridge Freezer)

This Whynter 62 Quart dual-zone fridge is a more affordable option if you simply must have a dual zone fridge.  But there are some concerns about reliability and warranty experiences being hit or miss.

  • Style = Chest
  • Capacity: 62 Quarts
  • Dimensions: 18.5 x 28 x 21 inches
  • Freezer: Dual Zone
  • Warranty: 1 year

Check Price For Whynter 62Qt

Norcold NRF45 (Budget Chest Fridge)

This Norcold fridge is a great budget option for those who want a chest fridge.  It’s significantly cheaper than Dometic and ARB.  But it has less features and is less energy efficient.  And unlike the “basement bargain” fridges it still has a good track record and warranty.

Also available in 30 liter and 60 liter.

  • Style = Chest
  • Capacity: 45 Liters
  • Dimensions: 25.5 x 15.7 x 16.9 inches
  • Freezer: Fridge OR Freezer
  • Warranty: 2 years

Check Price For Norcold NRF45

Conclusion | Best Fridges For Campervans

Choosing a fridge should be one of the first things you plan when building a campervan (if you have the budget).  This gives you the luxury of planning your layout around a specific fridge model.

If you can’t afford a fridge yet, then it is possible to hit the road with just a cooler.  But I recommend a roto-molded cooler because their ice retention is excellent so you wont need to buy ice as often.

I shared our philosophy just as a guide, don’t be afraid to choose your own priorities and choose the fridge that fits you or your campervan best.

Save These ‘Best Fridges For Vanlife’ For Later

Best Fridges For Campervans Pin
Best Fridges For Campervans and Vanlife Pin

How To Budget For Vanlife | Van Conversion & Monthly Budget - tworoamingsouls

Sunday 21st of May 2023

[…] need to purchase for your van build. This probably includes things like solar, flooring, lumber, fridge, bed, etc. You can use these numbers to get a rough estimate for the total price of your van […]

How Much Did Our DIY Camper Van Conversion Cost - tworoamingsouls

Friday 5th of May 2023

[…] check out our guide for best fridges for camper vans to find the best fridge for your camper van […]

Best Camp Stoves For Campervans - tworoamingsouls

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

[…] Best Fridge Options For A Campervan Conversion | Ultimate Guide […]

How Vanlife Changed What We Eat - tworoamingsouls

Tuesday 4th of April 2023

[…] waste down to nearly zero, except for things that occasionally go bad. But there are tons of other great camper van fridges that can fit more […]

10 Vanlife Essential Items You Must-Have - tworoamingsouls

Monday 13th of June 2022

[…] We have a Vitrifrigo fridge/freezer combo and love it! If you have 12 volt to power a fridge, we highly recommend it.  Here are a few other great fridge options for camper vans. […]