Having a fridge is essential in van life to save money and stay healthy on the road by cooking your own meals. Without a fridge, you constantly have to stop for food when traveling or stay close to major cities to plan your next meal option. Having a built-in fridge allows you to stock up on groceries and go off the beaten path for days at a time!
There are many options for van life fridges on the market that vary in styles, sizes, and capacity. It can be challenging to choose what type of fridge to get for a build, especially if you’re new to van life.
This post covers the different styles of fridges available for campervan builds, their features, and how to choose the best van life fridge for your travel needs!
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Best Fridges For Van Life:
Choosing an Upright Fridge vs Chest Style Fridge
There are two styles of fridges that are popular for van life:
- Upright – a standing fridge with a door, similar to what most people use at home.
- Chest-style – a fridge with a lid on top that opens up. This style of fridge is also often used for camping and Overlanding because you can easily move it around.
Which type of fridge you choose will highly depend on your build style, campervan size, and budget!
Tip: If you’re thinking of getting a campervan, but have never tried van life before we highly suggest renting a van on Outdoorsy and trying out different campervans before committing to a certain build.
Before we started our DIY Promaster conversion, we wanted to test out different styles of van life fridges to see what we liked most (and what we didn’t).
During our week-long vacation to Iceland, we rented a campervan that came with a chest-style fridge. While the chest-style fridge got the job done and kept our groceries cool during the trip, it was difficult to reach the items at the bottom. We often had to take out all the food or shuffle it around to reach what we needed.
After coming home from that trip, we converted our SUV into a camper, and this time we chose an upright fridge. We found the standing fridge a better option that kept all of our groceries well organized. However, for an SUV build, this style of fridge was too tall and didn’t fit in well.
To sum up: If you’re thinking of doing a standard campervan or RV-style build, a standing fridge is the typical go-to style. If you’re planning a quick build or Overlanding in your truck or SUV, a chest style will be your best option!
Pros Of Upright Fridges:
- Upright fridges often have both a fridge and freezer so you can store a variety of food items.
- Having an upright fridge can be useful for staying more organized and reaching food items easier.
Cons Of Upright Fridges:
- An upright fridge requires a cabinet to hold it up so you will need to do more planning during the build.
- They let out cold air when the door is open requiring more energy to keep them cool.
Pros Of Chest-Style Fridges:
- Chest-style fridges come as a finished product that you can often place in & be done with. This fridge style is great for quick & easy conversions.
- Chest-style fridges are more efficient because when you open the top lid, the cool air stays on the bottom keeping the items cold.
- These fridges are typically more rugged and can operate in extreme conditions such as vibrations and high angles often seen during off-roading.
Cons Of Chest-Style Fridges:
- In a chest fridge, food items are stacked on top of each other so it’s harder to see and reach what’s underneath.
- Depending on your build, a chest-style fridge requires more space, especially if you plan to store it underneath a cabinet with a pull-out drawer.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of which style of fridge you should choose, here are 8 of the best fridges to get for van life:
- Capacity: 47 L of fridge storage and 4.4 L of freezer storage
- Cost: $1193
- Weight: 51.82 lbs
- Style: upright
The Dometic CRX 50U fridge is compact, yet roomy and powerful. This is the fridge that we chose for our Promaster van conversion. We like the appearance of a built-in fridge because it looks more finished and makes the campervan feel like a home on wheels.
To fit the upright Dometic fridge into our campervan kitchen we had to make a few adaptions to the kitchen cabinet. Once we put the fridge in and mounted it to the cabinet, it was very secure and we didn’t need to worry about it moving around while driving, even on rougher roads.
So far our standing mini fridge has made it through 60,000+ miles and over 15 countries. The fridge is still operational and in great shape so Dometic gets a big thumbs up from us!
This Dometic compressor fridge comes with a freezer compartment which chest-style fridges often don’t have. Having a freezer came in handy during our 15-month-long Pan-American Highway road trip because we could stock up on extra groceries and even keep ice cream or ice cubes in our van.
The Dometic CRX 50U fridge comes with multiple shelves maximizing space and keeping all of our food items well organized. The door has plenty of available space to fit larger standing items such as juice, milk, and beer.
The door comes with a small handle that is very easy to open. The fridge also has a vent switch if you want to vent it after cleaning or while not in use.
The door opens outwards so all the items are easy to reach. In the latest model, you can pull out the freezer compartment and turn it into a larger fridge as an option. Overall, the Dometic CRX 50U fridge is a great option for smaller or mid-size campervans!
- The front door has a nice, finished look
- It is very roomy and energy efficient
- The fridge is very quiet so it won’t keep you awake at night
- Dometic makes high-quality products that last for years. We’ve had our fridge for 5 years now and it still works great!
- Upright fridges require a custom-fitted cabinet
- A lot of the cold air escapes as soon as we open the door
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- Capacity: 38 QT, 47 QT, 63 QT, 73 QT, or 101 QT
- Cost: The smallest 38 QT version costs $1100 up to $1743 for the 101 QT fridge
- Weight: 60-82 lbs
- Style: chest
The ARB ZERO Fridge Freezer comes in 5 different sizes so it’s great for a variety of builds from trucks, and SUVs, to campervans, and RVs. The integrated tie-down points make it a popular choice for off-roading and Overlanding vehicles.
Overall, this is one of the best portable refrigerators on the market. ARB has a reputation for making premium, durable products so we chose the 38 QT ARB ZERO Fridge for our Subaru Outback camper.
The ARB ZERO comes with a lot of cool features that make it stand out from its competitors. The fridge has several removable wire baskets to keep your groceries organized and within easy reach. There is a drain plug at the bottom that we often use to drain out melted ice or spilled drinks.
ARB ZERO is one of the few chest-style fridges that offers a dual zone in the larger 73 QT & 101 QT sizes. You can also remove the compartment divider as an option and turn it into one giant fridge. This is especially handy if you plan to go off the grid a lot and need enough groceries to last for a while.
It comes with a reversible lid and several handy slip-resistant cup holders on top so you can keep cups within easy reach while cooking. Besides using it for van life, having a chest-style fridge is a solid investment because you can also bring it along for camping, staying in cabins, hotels, and vacation rentals.
- You can connect the ARB ZERO to an app and control the fridge temperature from your phone
- The durable steel outer casting can withstand vibrations while off-roading
- As an option, you can also purchase the ARB Fridge Freezer Power Pack so you won’t need to hook up the fridge to your car
- ARB ZERO is one of the most expensive options for a chest-style fridge
- These fridges are pretty big and can take up a lot of space
- Capacity: 65 liters
- Cost: $1299
- Weight: 44 lbs
- Style: upright
Isotherm Cruise Elegance 65 is another high-end standing fridge that is popular for van life. This camper fridge comes with a black or silver (stainless steel) front door that has a nice, finished look. Many people love the larger Isotherm Cruise Elegance 85 version for their builds (although we tend to stick with smaller fridges to save on space and weight).
The front door has a top center handle which makes it very easy to open and close the door. Within the fridge itself, there is a small freezer and lots of shelf and door storage to keep groceries organized and stocked for several days.
The Isotherm upright fridges cost a bit more than similar options on the market. These fridges are made of high-quality materials that will last you a long time. They come with a 2-year parts warranty so you can be assured that you’re buying the best product on the market!
- The fridge is easy to secure into a cabinet
- It is very quiet
- The shelves are not as sturdy and tend to fall on rough roads
- It’s more expensive than similar options
- Capacity: 65 quart / 57 liters
- Cost: $645
- Weight: 57 lbs
- Style: chest
The Whynter FM-65G is a great option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly fridge for your campervan build. The 65-quart capacity ensures you’ll be able to stock up on enough groceries to last you for long periods of time.
The Whynter FM-65G fridge comes in a modern grey color and is compact so it can fit into small spaces easily. It is known for being energy efficient as less air escapes when it’s open compared to upright fridges.
With a temperature range of -8°F to 50°F, you can use it as a fridge or freezer, depending on your needs. If you don’t mind paying a bit more, you can also upgrade to the Whynter FM-62DZ which has two separate temperature zones so you can use it as both a fridge AND a freezer.
The Whynter FM-65G fridge comes with 2 removable storage baskets and a fast freeze mode that can rapidly cool foods to -8°F. Because there are only 2 baskets, it can get a bit tricky trying to find items on the bottom when cooking – a struggle with most chest-style fridges.
- This is a great van life fridge option that costs much less than its competitors on the market
- It can fit a lot of food items to last a while
- Many people report that the handles break easily (which is not a major concern in a permanent build)
- Temperature control is a bit temperate and can cycle up and down between several degrees
- Capacity: 35 liters
- Cost: $980
- Weight: 37 lbs
- Style: chest
The Dometic CFX3 35 is one of the best single-zone fridges available on the market. This portable fridge features a heavy-duty durable design that will withstand off-roading and even the roughest drives.
This compressor fridge has a capacity of 35 liters and a sleek, black design that fits in well with modern campervan conversions.
The fridge comes with built-in Wi-Fi that you can connect with the CFX3 app. Once it’s set up, you can control the temperature from the app, and get battery alerts directly on your phone.
You can use the Dometic CFX3 35 as a fridge or a freezer up to -7°F. It comes with a basket tray that can also be removed to store larger items. The compressor kicks out cold air at the bottom for best temperature management.
The Dometic CFX3 35 is a smaller fridge popular for van life and Overlanding, but this electric fridge does come in various sizes.
The larger options such as the Dometic CFX3 75DZ and Dometic CFX3 95DZ come with dual zones. With a dual-zone fridge, you can set one side to 0 degrees and the other side to 32 degrees so you can use it as a fridge and a freezer a the same time.
The Dometic CFX3 55IM version comes with a hidden freezer section with ice cube trays so you can make ice on the road – how cool is that?!
- This fridge comes with a 2-year warranty
- You can choose from several different sizes to fit your car’s dimensions and needs
- It has a bottom drain plug for easy cleaning after trips
- Some people report inconsistent performance, especially in hot places
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- Capacity: 60 liters /63.4 quart
- Cost: $849
- Weight: 65.7 pounds
- Style: chest
ICECO VL60 Dual Zone is one of the best fridge options for a van build. This chest-style fridge is made of quality materials and comes in a sleek, modern design that is sure to impress your friends and family!
ICECO fridges are sold in different sizes including 45, 60, 65, and 74 liters. The ICECO VL60 Dual Zone is a popular choice for truck, campervan, and schoolie conversions because it’s built low to the ground so you can easily fit it under a bench or sleeping area. With a 60-liter capacity, you’ll be able to stock up on groceries to last you a while!
The ICECO VL60 has dual zone compartments so you can use one side as a fridge and the other side as a freezer. You can also turn off one of the sections completely to save on power if you’re not using it, which is a great option to have for long-term travel. This refrigerator is very versatile and the user-friendly panel makes it easy to adjust settings on either side.
The SECOP compressor regulates the temperature well so you don’t have to worry about food spoiling due to unreliable temperatures. The inside has built-in LED lights that come in handy for accessing late-night snacks or while stealth camping.
The top of the fridge comes with tight lock latches to keep the lid from opening while moving around. On the sides, there are durable handles that fold down and stay secure so you won’t hear any rattling noise while driving.
With raving 5-star reviews and excellent customer service, ICECO is a solid purchase that will make living on the road so much easier!
- The compressor keeps this fridge very quiet
- You can turn on ECO mode for energy efficiency
- It comes with a 5-year warranty on the compressor, and a 1-year warranty on other parts
- This fridge is heavy and takes up a lot of space
- Reaching the items on the bottom can be a bit tricky
- It doesn’t come with Bluetooth so you can’t connect the fridge to an app for temperature management from your phone
- Capacity: 50 quart
- Cost: $1062
- Weight: 53 lbs
- Style: chest
The ARB Classic Series II Fridge Freezer is an updated 12-volt refrigerator by ARB that is available in several different sizes including 37 QT, 50 QT, 63 QT, and 82 QT. This newer model comes with a modern style and grey & black colors that fit in better with campervan builds than the older version.
The rugged powder-coated zinc steel outer casing along with the heavy-duty plastic trim will withstand any type of off-roading. The lid opens front to back and has a latch that locks into place so the fridge doesn’t pop open when driving. It also comes with a sleek transit bag that will protect it from scratches and add an extra layer of insulation in extreme temperatures.
With the user-friendly digital display, you can easily adjust the temperature settings. The fridge has an internal LED light that automatically lights up when the lid is open so it’s easy to see what’s inside before a grocery store run or while cooking in the evenings.
The ARB Classic Series II fridges come with a main compartment and a separate smaller compartment where you can store items that you don’t want to keep very cold such as fruit, veggies, or dairy. The main compartment has a basket that can be removed and a drain plug at the bottom which makes it very easy to clean.
Overall, this is one of the best top-loading fridges that will last you for 10 years or longer!
- It comes with a 3-year warranty from the date of purchase
- The temperatures can be controlled from your phone via the ARB Fridge Connect app
- The Secop Compressor ensures rapid cooling between 50 to 0°F
- The internal fridge temperate can be off by several degrees from what’s displayed
- Capacity: 40 quart
- Cost: $1000
- Weight: 55 Lbs
- Style: chest
The Engel MR040 is a top-of-the-line fridge/freezer that offers a reliable and efficient way to keep food items cold while traveling in a campervan. With a capacity of 40 quarts, this fridge is small enough to fit into tight spaces but big enough to hold groceries for a few days while on the road.
It features a tough corrosion-resistant plastic shell exterior and Engel Swing Motor Compressor with a low-power draw, making it a great choice for van life. The Engel MR040 Fridge Freezer only draws 1-2 amps per hour, which is 40% more efficient than its competitors on the market.
With this fridge, you can camp in extreme temperature destinations like Death Valley National Park and not worry about draining the battery. However, this fridge only comes with one large food basket so it’s harder to keep food organized and separated.
People trust Engel fridges for their durability, customer service, and longevity. While these fridges are expensive, some report they last 20+ years – so it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run!
- This fridge has incline operation up to 30 degrees off-level so you can drive up steep slopes without worrying about the fridge not working
- This is a highly efficient fridge that draws very low energy
- It comes with a 3-year personal warranty
- It has only 1 interior basket so it can be difficult to reach the food items at the bottom
Looking for more van life inspiration? Here are a few other helpful resources and blog posts that you may like:
- 16 Best Sprinter Conversions For Van Life
- 10 Best 4×4 & AWD Vans To Turn Into Campervans
- 10 Campervan Hacks To Add Functionality To Your Build
- 30 Must-Have Campervan Accessories For Van Life
- 10 Tips & Tricks To Get Ready For Van Life With a Cat
- The Ultimate Solo Female Van Life Guide
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