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What types of refrigerators are best for your kitchen?

With so many different types of refrigerators on the market today, you can choose from the right combination of looks, storage space and convenience to find a fridge that fits your lifestyle. A great place to start your search is to pick the best type of refrigerator for your kitchen layout and your food storage needs. Our guide will help explore different types of refrigerators so you can learn more, compare and get started finding the right one.

Modern kitchen with brown cabinets and Whirlpool® refrigerator and dishwasher Modern kitchen with brown cabinets and Whirlpool® refrigerator and dishwasher

How many types of fridges are there?

Though the types of refrigerators vary by brand, there are six basic configurations and a few different installation styles. The six types of fridge configurations are top or bottom freezer, French door, side-by-side, undercounter, and quad door refrigerators. Most refrigerators are freestanding but you can find built-in fridges and counter depth models among the types of refrigerators.

Refrigerator types comparison chart

Refrigerator type

Basic door style

Features*

French Door Two doors on top; freezer drawer on bottomTwo doors on top; freezer drawer on bottom
  • Wide refrigerator and freezer compartments for items like frozen pizza or large casserole dishes and platters
  • More refrigerator capacity vs freezer capacity
  • Adjustable shelves, compartments, and more for customizable storage
  • Exterior ice and water dispensers
  • Wide refrigerator and freezer compartments for items like frozen pizza or large casserole dishes and platters
  • More refrigerator capacity vs freezer capacity
  • Adjustable shelves, compartments, and more for customizable storage
  • Exterior ice and water dispensers
Side by Side Two doors that open from the center; freezer on one side refrigerator on the otherTwo doors that open from the center; freezer on one side refrigerator on the other
  • Slightly more freezer capacity vs a French door refrigerator
  • Vertical storage to keep both fresh and frozen items at eye level
  • Adjustable shelves, door bins, and more for customizable storage
  • Exterior ice and water dispensers
  • Reduced door swing clearance—great for narrow or tight spaces
  • Slightly more freezer capacity vs a French door refrigerator
  • Vertical storage to keep both fresh and frozen items at eye level
  • Adjustable shelves, door bins, and more for customizable storage
  • Exterior ice and water dispensers
  • Reduced door swing clearance—great for narrow or tight spaces
Top Freezer Freezer is located above below refrigerator with a separate door for eachFreezer is located above below refrigerator with a separate door for each
  • A traditional refrigerator setup and look
  • More refrigerator space than freezer space
  • Easy access to frozen items
  • Large door clearances, requiring more open space in front of the unit
  • A streamlined set of features and an entry price-point
  • A traditional refrigerator setup and look
  • More refrigerator space than freezer space
  • Easy access to frozen items
  • Large door clearances, requiring more open space in front of the unit
  • A streamlined set of features and an entry price-point
Bottom Freezer Freezer is on the bottom and refrigerator is on the top with a door for each that opens on the sideFreezer is on the bottom and refrigerator is on the top with a door for each that opens on the side
  • Larger refrigerator compartment vs freezer compartment
  • Easy access to fresh items
  • Large door clearances, requiring more open space in front of the unit
  • A streamlined set of features and an entry price-point
  • Larger refrigerator compartment vs freezer compartment
  • Easy access to fresh items
  • Large door clearances, requiring more open space in front of the unit
  • A streamlined set of features and an entry price-point
Undercounter Installed under a counter and is usually only a refrigerator; door opens from the sideInstalled under a counter and is usually only a refrigerator; door opens from the side
  • Additional food or beverage storage
  • Ability to create specialized temperature zones or overflow cold food storage
  • A single reversible door
  • Undercounter installation for a seamless integration with cabinets
  • Additional food or beverage storage
  • Ability to create specialized temperature zones or overflow cold food storage
  • A single reversible door
  • Undercounter installation for a seamless integration with cabinets
Quad Door Four doors open from the center; two doors for the freezer on the bottom and two doors for the refrigerator on topFour doors open from the center; two doors for the freezer on the bottom and two doors for the refrigerator on top
  • Flexible organization spaces
  • Easy reach shelves
  • Unique look
  • Four door design helps with organization and accessibility
  • Cleaning is easy as you can choose to empty only one quadrant as a time
  • Flexible organization spaces
  • Easy reach shelves
  • Unique look
  • Four door design helps with organization and accessibility
  • Cleaning is easy as you can choose to empty only one quadrant as a time
Open french door refrigerator with food inside

French door refrigerators

This type of refrigerator features a pantry-style layout. Two doors up top open to reveal one refrigerator compartment and a freezer drawer slides out below. French door refrigerators often offer more capacity and features compared to other kinds of refrigerators. They can be a good option for larger families or those looking for higher-end options.

Four door refrigerator opened to show contents Four door refrigerator opened to show contents

4-door refrigerators

4-door or quad door refrigerators are similar in style to the French door refrigerators offered by Whirlpool brand. They have a refrigerator on top with two doors that open from the center and the same two-door setup on the bottom freezer. Quad door refrigerators are great for keeping items organized and accessible. In addition to useful functionality, 4-door refrigerators have a distinctive, modern look that might appeal to your home’s aesthetic.

Shop Whirlpool® 4-door and French door refrigerators

Open side-by-side refrigerator with food inside Open side-by-side refrigerator with food inside

Side-by-side refrigerators

Side-by-side refrigerators feature two doors that open from the center with a freezer on one side and a refrigerator on the other. Shelving from top to bottom allows you to place important items—fresh and frozen—at eye level while storing less-used items near the bottom. Like French door refrigerators, side-by-sides usually offer a little more overall capacity and tend to come with more features compared to other types of refrigerators or higher-end touchpoints. 

Learn more about the differences between side-by-side and French door refrigerators to determine which is best for your layout and needs. Whirlpool offers a variety of side-by-side refrigerators that provide both style and function for your kitchen.

Shop Whirlpool® side-by-side refrigerators

Open top-freezer refrigerator with food inside Open top-freezer refrigerator with food inside

Top freezer refrigerators

Sometimes called top-mount, this classic refrigerator style places the freezer above the refrigerator compartment with one door for each that opens from the side. This type of refrigerator makes freezer storage easy to access and provides wide in-door storage. You can often find top freezer refrigerators at an entry price-point since more advanced features like exterior ice and water are less common in this kind of fridge.

Shop Whirlpool® top freezer refrigerators

Open bottom-freezer refrigerator with food inside Open bottom-freezer refrigerator with food inside

Bottom freezer refrigerators

Sometimes called bottom-mount, these refrigerators are the reverse of top freezer styles. In this type of fridge, the fresh food compartment is on top with the freezer down below accessible by either a side-open door or a pull-out drawer. This setup allows you to get a classic refrigerator look while making fresh items easier to access.

Shop Whirlpool® bottom freezer refrigerators

Open undercounter refrigerator with beverages inside

Undercounter refrigerators

Undercounter refrigerators from Whirlpool brand are much smaller than full-sized types of fridges. As the name suggests, they are installed underneath the counter, making them a kind of built-in refrigerator. Most contain one refrigerator cavity, with some models featuring a freezer zone. Undercounter wine cellars and beverage centers are specialized versions made for storing wine or beer bottles and cans at your ideal temperature.

Shop Whirlpool® undercounter refrigerators

Stainless steel four-door refrigerator set in white cabinetry Stainless steel four-door refrigerator set in white cabinetry

Refrigerator styles by installation

Another consideration when choosing which is the best type of refrigerator for you is how you will install it. Refrigerators are designed with a couple of options in mind.

Freestanding refrigerators

To install this type of fridge, you only need the required clearances around the unit and the necessary hookups—power and/or water. Freestanding refrigerators do not need to be installed inside cabinets, though be sure to measure around the space where you’d like to place your refrigerator to ensure it will fit. This is the most common kind of refrigerator with the largest variety of configurations and features compared to other types of fridges.

Built-in refrigerators

Built-in refrigerators are affixed to the wall and installed in cabinets for a seamless look. They tend to be taller with a larger range of widths, some up to 48 inches. This is in part to make up for lost depth since built-ins tend to run 24 inches deep so they will be flush with kitchen cabinets. You may pay a premium for this upgraded look and this installation is considered more permanent. If you plan to remodel or move anytime soon, this may not be the best option for you.

Side-by-side refrigerator in a wood kitchen

Counter-depth refrigerators

Counter-depth refrigerators can be a more price- and space-efficient way to achieve a built-in look. This type of refrigerator tends to be about 24 inches deep to sit flush with kitchen cabinets. Most counter-depth fridges are a little wider to make up for lost depth, but they tend to fall within standard refrigerator heights. They are a type of freestanding fridge, making them a more flexible installation option if you anticipate a move or remodel in your near future. For more information on this type of installation, read this guide to counter-depth refrigerators.

Shop Whirlpool® counter-depth refrigerators

Person placing items on top shelf of Whirlpool® refrigerator Person placing items on top shelf of Whirlpool® refrigerator

What is the best way to compare different types of refrigerators?

When choosing which type of fridge is best for you, consider factors such as:

1. Size

French door and side-by-side models tend to offer larger capacities with top or bottom freezer fridges offering more compact options. Explore our guide to refrigerator sizes and dimensions to learn more.

2. Style

Choose a top freezer fridge if you want a classic style, or go for a French door if you’re looking for something more modern. For a premium look, consider a built-in installation or counter-depth fridge.

3. Space/cubic feet

Side-by-side refrigerators may offer a little more freezer storage compared to other fridges. French door along with top and bottom freezer refrigerators provide wide cavities but you’ll have to choose whether you want fresh food or frozen at eye level.

4. Organization options

Look for the kinds of shelves and storage compartments or bins you’ll use the most. A fridge featuring adjustable storage options will let you customize the layout for your needs. Get help organizing your fridge to help keep your food fresh.

5. Features

A top or bottom freezer fridge with a streamlined set of features can still provide excellent cold storage. If you’re looking for some additional options like exterior ice and water, specialized temperature zones and spill-proof shelves, look to French door and side-by-side models.

6. Finishes

Most refrigerators are available in white, black and stainless steel. Black stainless steel is another finish option that offers an updated take on a classic finish. Whirlpool brand also offers select models featuring a fingerprint resistant stainless finish that resists smudges and easily wipes clean.

Mother and daughter at island in a large kitchen

How do I choose the best type of refrigerator for my family?

Consider budget, family size, your available space and the types of food you need to store. Here are some suggestions for each of these considerations including options from Whirlpool.

1. Budget

If you’re looking for a lower entry price-point, you can find some classic food storage options from Whirlpool with select top freezer and bottom freezer refrigerators that still offer features like optional interior ice makers, adjustable door bins, and freezer temperature controls.

If you are in search of more advanced features to help with food storage and daily meal prep, consider select Whirlpool® French door and side-by-side models. You’ll find features such as exterior ice and water with Measured Fill and dual ice makers along with pizza or platter pockets for specialized storage.

2. Family size

Smaller families can find top and bottom freezer options in smaller sizes to meet their needs. Large families, or ones that often entertain might consider French door or side-by-side models for more options with larger capacities. Select Whirlpool® French door refrigerators feature refrigerated exterior drawers for easy access to snacks and the ability to adjust temperature controls and dividers based on what you're storing.

Oversized built-in fridges are a good option for very large households. Undercounter refrigerators from Whirlpool can also offer some extra overflow storage or a specialized place to store beverages. Learn more about large capacity refrigerators to find a good option for your full house.

3. Kitchen space/layout

Families with limited space can find compact appliances from Whirlpool, including this 24-inch bottom freezer refrigerator. Learn more about apartment-sized refrigerators to find out how to optimize your space. If you don’t want to sacrifice capacity in a tight kitchen, the narrow doors of a side-by-side refrigerator require less door clearance. Whirlpool® counter-depth refrigerators shave a few inches off the depth to help you fit a side-by-side or French door model into smaller kitchens.

4. Food storage needs:

Another important factor when deciding between types of refrigerators is the food storage needs of your family. For instance, if you often store a lot of fresh produce, you will want to purchase a refrigerator that has enough specially designed drawers for optimal produce storage. Select Whirlpool® bottom freezer refrigerators have the FreshFlow™ Produce Preserver to help keep your fruits and vegetables in the ideal environment.

Dairy products and meat also have different storage requirements. While shopping for a refrigerator you will want to make sure that it has drawers and spaces designed for convenient storage of these items.

Adjustable or removable shelves help you customize your refrigerator's layout to fit the different items you'll store over time. Make room for a whole turkey on holidays, or create more separation for different kinds of snacks during the week. Refrigerators from Whirlpool brand with the Flexi-Slide™ Bin are a great option if you need the flexibility to store items of different sizes.

Fresh foods

If family dinners usually involve a lot of fresh ingredients, look for a fridge that prioritizes refrigerator space and offers specialized temperature zones or food storage spaces. Select Whirlpool® French door refrigerators feature humidity-controlled crispers and Accu-Chill Temperature Management System to store food in its ideal environment.

Frozen foods

If your busy family relies on frozen ingredients to get dinner together fast, consider models featuring more freezer space and easier access to frozen items such as select side-by-side refrigerators from Whirlpool brand featuring adaptive defrost or In-Door-Ice® Storage that gives you an extra full shelf in the freezer.

To adapt to your family’s changing needs, consider a 16 cu. ft. Whirlpool® chest freezer that converts from a freezer to a refrigerator for more fresh food storage when you need it.

Find the best type of refrigerator for you

Explore the entire lineup of Whirlpool® refrigerators. If you need more help with your refrigerator comparison, take a look at our refrigerator buying guide to help find the right refrigerator for your family and your home.

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*Varies by make and model