Find the best model to fit your kitchen and learn what to look for in a new fridge with our buying guide.
We’ve also tested fridges for temperature fluctuations, uniformity between the fridge and freezer, and much more. Learn about how we test fridges.
What to consider when buying a fridge
Size, shape, shelves, drawers ... here's what to look for when choosing a new fridge.
In general a bigger fridge will use more power than a smaller one – some smaller models we’ve tested cost half as much to run as some bigger models.
A fridge’s “star rating” and annual energy consumption are printed on a label so you can make comparisons in the showroom. All fridges must have the label, but watch for tricks like putting the display card over the label.
We recommend looking at these labels, the annual running costs from our test, or the Energy Rating website which has a 10-year running cost calculator.
Which brand is most reliable?
We ask thousands of Consumer members about their products to find out which brands are most reliable and satisfying to own. The results are available to members and Digital Pass holders.
- Stick to well-known brands under five years old, as newer models are more energy-efficient. They’re also easier to get parts for if anything needs fixing.
- Check the lid or door seal is intact, in good condition and the door or lid shuts properly. Tip: use a torch to check the seals.
- Make sure the door is hinged on the correct side for your kitchen (or is reversible).
- Make sure the interior is in good condition and free from funny smells. Only buy if it looks tidy and well cared for.
- If you buy a fridge or freezer from a second-hand dealer and then discover it’s faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.
- All electrical appliances for sale – whether new or second-hand, bought privately or from a dealer – must be safe.
Energy rating labels
The Energy Rating Label has a scale of stars to show how energy efficient a model is, compared to other models of the same size/capacity.
More stars = more energy efficient.
The energy consumption figure is in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and you can use this figure and the cost (tariff) from your latest power bill to calculate how much this model will cost to run. The MBIE-reported national average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 29¢.
Lower kWh = cheaper to run.
Fridge and freezer annual energy consumption in kWh is based on standards testing and assumes the appliance is on 24 hours a day.
You should only compare star ratings of fridges or freezers with the same or similar capacities.
There are now two fridge/freezer energy rating labels, using different standards and with different ratings. For information on energy ratings and how to use them, see our Energy Rating Labels explained article.
The fridge is one of the few household appliances that is always running. This means a loud one can become a major annoyance.
Over the many years of our testing we’ve analysed noise readings for household appliances, including dishwashers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Fridges were the quietest, with an average running noise of 33dBA. That’s almost as quiet as a cat purring.
The decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear so a sound difference of 10dBA will sound like double the sound. This means a 30dBA fridge will sound twice as loud as a 20dBA model, while a 40dBA fridge will sound four times louder. Most people will only notice a difference of 5dBA or greater, so two fridges with noise readings 3dBA apart will sound about the same.
- 30dBA – Fridges (equivalent to a whisper)
- 40dBA – Dishwashers (equivalent to running water)
- 50dBA – Clothes dryers and dehumidifiers (equivalent to moderate rainfall)
- 60dBA – Washing machines (equivalent to normal conversation/TV)
- 70dBA – Vacuum cleaners (equivalent to a dull roar)
The design and layout of your home also affects how noisy you’ll find a fridge. Sound waves are dispersed by objects, which will muffle the sound. This means open-plan areas do little to minimise a fridge’s noise. A fridge with walls or cabinetry at its back and sides will also be quieter as these help deflect the sound.
What’s that sound?
Here’s a guide to normal sounds fridges make and what causes them:
Plastic walls and shelves inside the fridge contracting and expanding as temperature changes.
Water draining during the defrost cycle.
Refrigerant gas moving through the coils during the compressor cycle.
Some fridges have an external fan that helps keep the compressor cool.
Usually found in models with an ice maker as it’s turning on or off.