Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best side-by-side refrigerators

Refrigerators are a modern convenience many of us can’t imagine living without. Side-by-side refrigerators offer all of the technological advances on the market but with narrower doors that require less clearance than other styles.

Some of today’s side-by-side refrigerators can be used as a full-on command center with a long list of capabilities from interior cameras to cooking timers. However, not everybody wants or needs a refrigerator with its own apps.

If you’re unsure about what you need, you’ve come to the right place. Here at BestReviews, we dig deep to bring you unbiased information. We’ve provided a shopping guide to side-by-side refrigerators to let you know what features are available and how they might be of most benefit to you.

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The four-door side-by-side is one of the newest refrigerator designs. With more food separation, you can keep food like raw meat away from vegetables more easily and prolong the freshness of your food.

Is a side-by-side refrigerator right for you?

There are lots of reasons why some people prefer a side-by-side refrigerator to a traditional unit.


  • Many people have come to love side-by-side refrigerators for their water dispensers and easily organized shelves. If you like having ice, cold water, and sometimes hot water dispensed in an instant, side-by-sides are the way to go.

  • The doors have a smaller clearance, which makes these refrigerators popular in galley kitchens.

  • These refrigerators also keep most food at eye level.

  • There are four-door models that offer extra organization and more temperature controls.


  • Because of the narrower shelves in side-by-sides, wide items like pizza boxes don’t fit as easily.

  • Water dispensers are one of the most common refrigerator repairs.


Side-by-side refrigerator features to consider


Like all the different refrigerator types, side-by-sides come in many sizes. Make sure to carefully measure your kitchen space to make sure the refrigerator you’re looking at is neither too tall nor too wide You’ll also need to consider whether it will fit through your front door, down hallways, or up any stairs to get to the kitchen.


Manufacturers usually recommend 19 to 22 cubic feet of refrigerator space for a family of four. But with many people buying more than a week's worth of groceries, 20 to 25 cubic feet is far more common. If you have a large family and you buy almost everything in bulk, you might need 25 to 30 cubic feet of space. Note that your amount of usable space could be as much as 20% less than the manufacturer claims.

Dual evaporators

Some side-by-side refrigerators have dual evaporators, which means there’s an evaporator for the freezer and a separate one for the refrigerator. Dual evaporators prevent air from circulating between the refrigerator and freezer. That keeps cold, dry freezer air from drying out food in the refrigerator. It also maintains higher humidity levels in vegetable drawers, keeping produce fresher longer.

Soft-close doors/drawers

Soft-close doors and drawers prevent slamming, which can prolong the life of your refrigerator. If you have children or teens, this feature could prevent the need for repairs, too.

"All refrigerators make some noise. They cycle on and off as part of their normal functioning, and those with ice dispensers periodically make and drop ice. If someone in your home is sensitive to loud noises, you might want to forgo an ice dispenser or turn it off unless you need it."

Water dispenser

A built-in water dispenser is one of the main reasons people like side-by-side refrigerators. Most dispensers do far more than dispense water, too. Some also make and crush ice and others allow you to choose the water temperature, which is convenient if you don’t want to wait for water to boil to make a cup of hot chocolate. Keep in mind that a water dispenser takes up some of the interior door space, and it is prone to breaking.


  • Door-in-door storage access: This type of organization and storage gives you extra space within the door of the refrigerator and helps maintain the interior temperature of the refrigerator. You can access these items without opening the entire refrigerator door. Many people put milk, juice, condiments, and other more frequently accessed items here.

  • Adjustable drawer and shelf configuration: The ability to adjust the shelves and interior configuration lets you fit the refrigerator to your lifestyle and food choices. Some models might offer one or two adjustable shelves, while others allow you to arrange the whole interior to your liking.

  • Crisper drawers: These drawers allow you to adjust the humidity of the drawer based on the type of food in it. Some models have digital controls that you can use to change the temperature in the drawer, while others have a simple manual slide mechanism to adjust humidity.

Energy efficiency

Most people are far more aware of energy efficiency now than they were a decade ago. A refrigerator with an EPA Energy Star rating tells you that it’s in the top 25% of the market for efficiency. An energy-efficient model can save you $50 to $60 a year or $500 over the lifetime of your refrigerator. When comparing models, check the annual operating costs and the kilowatt hours used per year to get an accurate idea of the savings.

Temperature controls

Basic side-by-side refrigerators have a dial numbered one through ten to control the interior temperature. It might take some trial and error to find the right setting for your model. More expensive models have a digital display that tells you the exact temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. While these models cost more, they offer better safety and control over the interior temperature.

Smart features

Who would have thought smart features would be an option for a refrigerator? More and more models are incorporating many of these technologies. If wireless control and monitoring are high on your priority list, you might be willing to pay the extra thousand dollars it takes to get many of these smart features. On the other hand, more complexity creates more ways for a refrigerator to malfunction.

  • Energy monitoring: Refrigerators with this option can sync with the smart grid in your city to then schedule defrost cycles for times with lower energy rates.

  • Voice control: Some models can sync with virtual assistants so you can check the interior temperature and adjust it from anywhere in the room. You can also check on the water or air filter simply by asking.

  • Multitasking kitchen command center: Refrigerator command centers have large touchscreens and a long list of apps that can include a cooking timer, recipes, digital calendars, and music.

  • Interior cameras: If you’re at the grocery store and can’t remember if you need milk, an interior camera gives you a visual. (It might also let you know who’s sneaking your favorite yogurt.)

Extra features

Some side-by-side refrigerators come with a long list of extra features like LED lights, door alarms, finish options, and child locks. Take a look at all of the listed features before buying to make sure you aren’t paying for features you’ll never use.

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Expert Tip
If your refrigerator has adjustable humidity settings for specific areas of the refrigerator, know what foods do best where. Apples, avocados, cantaloupes, figs, and kiwi do better in low humidity. Lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, cauliflower, and broccoli do better in high humidity.

Side-by-side refrigerator prices

Depending on features and brand, you can expect to pay from about $1,000 to $10,000 for a side-by-side refrigerator.

Inexpensive: Side-by-side refrigerators start at around $1,000, but you can find a few models for less. These refrigerators have up to 25 cubic feet of interior space. Some include a water dispenser, and most have at least a few adjustable shelves and drawers.

Mid-range: Between $1,000 and $2,000, you’ll find most side-by-side models. These all include water dispensers and automatic ice makers, but you’ll also see electronic temperature controls with temperature management systems that might have several sensors inside the refrigerator to make sure food stays cold.

Expensive: In the $2,000 to $3,000 range are models with smart features along with the other typical side-by-side features like water dispensers, child locks, and adjustable shelves.

Premium: At $3,000 to $10,000 are built-in side-by-side refrigerators with the most space and features. These require a custom fit in your cabinetry.

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Did you know?
Many of the newest side-by-side models have an air filter to not only keep odors from permeating the refrigerator but also remove bacteria and mold spores. Air purifiers work much better than a box of baking soda, but you need to replace the filter periodically according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.


  • Try a “counter depth” refrigerator for a built-in look. In your search, you might run across the term “counter depth.” Some refrigerators are designed to align with your countertops, with the open door being the only portion that extends into the floor space. These refrigerators look like built-ins but don’t require the extra installation cost. However, these do have less interior space and capacity.

  • Think about the foods you eat when deciding on extras. When you’re choosing features for your side-by-side refrigerator, think about the kinds of foods you love to eat. If fresh fruits and vegetables make up the majority of your diet, you might want a model with crisper drawers or dual evaporators.

  • Avoid packing too much food in the refrigerator. For a refrigerator to work properly, air must be able to circulate through the space. If items are packed too tightly, the air can’t circulate and the interior will have colder and/or warmer spots.
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According to the FDA, refrigerators should be kept at 40°F or below and freezers should be at 0°F to prevent bacterial growth. Some refrigerators display the interior temperature digitally, while you might have to use a freestanding appliance thermometer in others.


Q. What is a “food showcase” design?

A. A food showcase design means there are two doors over one portion of the refrigerator. The interior door is made of glass so that you can open the exterior door, see the food inside, and decide what you want without opening the door. This feature helps to maintain a more consistent interior temperature.

Q. What’s the capacity of a built-in side-by-side refrigerator?

A. Built-ins are larger than normal side-by-side models, with a capacity of 30 cubic feet. However, these come with a high price tag and need to be professionally installed. You might have to have your cabinetry customized as well, making the price even higher.

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