Woman and child cooking in front of a French door refrigerator.

French door vs. side-by-side refrigerators

The kitchen often acts as a crossroads for busy family members, and the refrigerator a favorite pit stop. Deciding which refrigerator is best suited to your kitchen and family may feel overwhelming, and even stressful, but we’re here to help.

This article will guide you through some of the most important considerations as you compare side-by-side vs. French door refrigerators. Learn more about the configurations, features and advantages of each and gain confidence in finding the right fit for your home.

French door refrigerator icon

What is a French door refrigerator?

French door refrigerators vary in size and configuration, but always include a top refrigerator compartment with double doors that open outward, are split down the middle and can be opened independently or together for easy access to all refrigerated items. The freezer is located below the double doors in a large pull-out drawer.

Browse Whirlpool® French Door Refrigerators to learn more about what to expect from French door configurations.

Side-by-side refrigerator icon

What is a side-by-side refrigerator?

Side-by-side refrigerators feature two tall, narrow compartments that span the full height of the unit, with one side dedicated to the refrigerator and the other to the freezer. The top-to-bottom design can also include advanced features like in-door ice and water dispensers.

Browse Whirlpool® Side-by-Side Refrigerators to learn more about what to expect from side-by-side configurations.

Split image with French door and side-by-side refrigerators Split image with French door and side-by-side refrigerators

What are the differences between French door and side-by-side refrigerators?

Aside from more obvious configuration differences, there are a handful of distinctions between French door and side-by-side refrigerators that you can rely on. The two configurations distribute capacity differently, start at different price points and vary in standard feature offerings.

French door refrigerator

1. Configuration

While the exterior configuration of a side-by-side refrigerator consistently features a contoured, two-door design, French door configurations can vary and might occasionally include an exterior drawer or 4-door configuration like this 4-door model from Whirlpool. Both configurations typically feature adjustable bins and shelving for flexible storage solutions, but French door models often utilize the increased width to incorporate advanced customization options.

Need a little more help narrowing down which configuration best suits your kitchen? The Appliance Finder from Whirlpool brand can help you find what you’re looking for.

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2. Size

Refrigerator dimensions vary based on type and capacity, but standard measurements exist for each configuration. On average, French door refrigerator dimensions can run slightly larger than a typical side-by-side configuration. Both are available as freestanding or built-in units and come in standard or counter depth.

If you’d like to track down the dimensions best suited to your kitchen, take a look at our refrigerator measurement guide, which will walk you through finding the perfect fit.

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3. Capacity

French door refrigerators are well known for their spacious capacity and open layout, but side-by-side configurations often offer a similar capacity range. Most often, French door refrigerator capacity ranges from 20 cu. ft. to 28 cu. ft., with the majority of their capacity allocated to the refrigeration compartment. Side by sides also range from 20 cu ft. to 28 cu. ft., but capacity is spread more evenly between the freezer and refrigerator compartments.

Some units offer features that let you “rearrange” capacity to better suit your groceries, like Whirlpool® Refrigerators with the Infinity Slide Shelf.

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4. Features

French door and side-by-side models both come with practical features, especially when compared to other common refrigerator configurations. Though they vary by brand and model, French door models typically offer the most features, especially in the performance category. Those may include an in-door ice and water dispenser, adaptable shelving, crisper drawers with humidity controls, fast cooling and other model-specific features.

Side-by-side configurations may also feature in-door water and ice dispensers, as well as spill-proof shelves, specialized temperature zones and other model-specific features.

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5. Price

Pricing for both side-by-side and French door refrigerators vary by finish, features and capacity. Side-by-side refrigerators typically start at a lower price point than French door configurations. Higher prices on French door configurations are often a result of base models that have more features and capacity than their side-by-side base model counterparts.

What are the pros and cons of French door vs. side-by-side refrigerators?

The strengths and weaknesses of each configuration largely depend on your kitchen’s unique needs, and the choice ultimately comes down to preference. Use the list below as your guide to determine which features win out for your kitchen.

French door refrigerator benefits infographic French door refrigerator benefits infographic

French door refrigerator pros

  • Wider shelving and compartments: The full-width layout makes it easier to store large platters and serving trays.
  • More customizable interior: With a larger and wider refrigerator cavity comes more wiggle room for unique storage solutions and customization.
  • Easy access to fresh items: An eye-level line of sight to all fresh ingredients makes it faster to find what you’re looking for, and may reduce waste, as you’re more likely to spot forgotten items.
  • Larger refrigerator capacity: Increased capacity in the refrigerator lets you fit more fresh foods than a side-by-side configuration.
  • Flexible design: The French door design means you only need to open one door to access items, keeping more cold air in the refrigerator than a side-by-side model.

French door refrigerator cons

  • Less flexible freezer organization: A pull-out freezer drawer often means reduced shelving and bins, making freezer organization more difficult.
  • Reduced freezer capacity: A focus on fresh items leaves less space for frozen foods, which may be problematic for those who prefer making and freezing meals ahead of time.
  • Higher price point: French door configurations are available for a variety of budgets, but often enter the market at a slightly higher price point than side-by-side units.
  • Less door storage: If your refrigerator is a sea of condiments and beverages, you may find it frustrating to take up main shelving with items better suited to door bins.
Side-by-side refrigerator benefits infographic Side-by-side refrigerator benefits infographic

Side-by-side refrigerator pros

  • More freezer space and visibility: With capacity spread more evenly between both top-to-bottom compartments, you can store more in the freezer and spot all of your most-used ingredients at eye level.
  • Easier freezer organization: More shelving in the freezer means more ways to store and organize frozen goods.
  • Increased door storage: Find more suitable space for tall condiments, beverages and other small items with top-to-bottom door bins.
  • Lower price point: You may be able to enjoy similar features and capacity as a French door refrigerator without a similar price tag.
  • Ideal for tight spaces: Two narrow doors opening outward makes it easier to open and close the refrigerator in snug spaces.

Side-by-side refrigerator cons

  • Harder to access fresh items: The top-to-bottom compartment design limits the items you can easily view and access to a handful of shelves and door bins. Review our guide on how to organize your side-by-side fridge to combat this issue.
  • Less refrigerator capacity: More dedicated freezer space reduces the capacity of the refrigeration cavity, making it harder to store more fresh foods.
  • Narrow shelving: You may find it more difficult to fit large or wide platters within the narrow shelves.

Is French door or side-by-side better for my kitchen?

The best fit for your home ultimately takes budget, size, storage, features and your family’s unique needs into account. An affinity for fresh foods and larger gatherings may have you leaning towards a French door configuration, while a preference for increased capacity for, and access to, frozen goods may make a side-by-side refrigerator more appealing.

Learn more about how to buy the best refrigerator for your home with this buying guide, then find a Whirlpool® Refrigerator that calls to you by visiting the Appliance Finder.

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