Searching online for affordable outdoor refrigerators can be really frustrating.
A basic online search for “outdoor refrigerators” will turn up results from as cheap as $200 to as expensive as $5,000. That's an extremely broad range!
But, don't let these results confuse you. Here's what's going on…
As I'm sure you're aware, many of these results are skewed because everyone is trying to sell you THEIR outdoor fridge.
The problem with many of those lower priced results is that they are not outdoor-rated refrigerators — they are not designed for outdoor use, and you'll need to read the manuals or the “fine-print” to discover this.
On the opposite end, the highest priced results are often commercial-rated, and not really favorable for use in your home.
I find that the “sweet spot” for really good outdoor kitchen refrigerators tends to be in the (somewhat wide) price range of about $1,000~$2,500.
However, there are still a number of models available that that do not skimp on the essential features of an outdoor refrigerator, and yet still fall below that $1,000 price-point, bottoming out around $600-700.*
*NOTE: Yes, you CAN get cheap outdoor refrigerators under $500, but you will sacrifice one or more of those ideal features I mention below, and may have to take extra care to maintain them.
In the second half of this article, I'll introduce you to (at least) 8 such outdoor fridge models, broken down into three categories of savings. I'll talk about those 3 categories in the next section.
Then, I want to talk about:
I really think you'll want to understand these things before you invest your hard-earned money in an outdoor fridge.
Here's how the article will flow:
The 3 Types of Outdoor Refrigerators Under $1,000
In keeping with this website's theme of listing “3 Good Ones”, I thought that, instead of just listing 3 good outdoor refrigerators under $1,000 for this article, I would list 3 Categories of outdoor refrigeration units that won't cost you more than $1,000. This way, you'll have three solid strategies for conducting your own search.
So, the three categories are:
- Outdoor Beverage Coolers
Good for storing drinks only—not for storing food long term.
- Sub-Compact Outdoor Refrigerators
Smaller than the standard outdoor fridge.
- Basic-Featured Outdoor Refrigerators
Only the most basic outdoor fridge features—no expensive bells/whistles.
(Click on any of those links above to jump ahead to that section.)
For each category, I'll explain the concessions or compromises the manufacturers made to reduce the cost of the units, the conditions in which they work best, and why you might want to go with one of these refrigerators to save your money.
Then, I'll list a few good options you might consider purchasing.
But first, let me talk a little bit about what makes for a good outdoor refrigerator. Then, I'll give you my suggestions for good ones under $1,000.
–> jump ahead to my suggestions, below
What Makes a Refrigerator Good for Outdoor Use
As I've reviewed in a previous article, there are a few reasons why outdoor refrigerators are more expensive than their indoor counterparts, and why you might not want to use an indoor refrigerator in an outdoor setting — aside from simply voiding the warranty.
It's hot out there. It's humid. The temperature can swing from blazing hot in the day, to extremely cool at night. And, it could potentially be rainy, or wet for other reasons.
To compensate for all this, outdoor refrigerators are designed to handle elements that indoor refrigerators don't have to put up with. Here are some of the basic defining features:
- Weatherproofing — The electrical components are protected from wet weather to avoid damage and electrocution. (Usually UL or ETL rated for outdoor use.)
- Rust Resistance — High-quality stainless steel is used to resist rust in wet weather and humid environments.
- Extra Insulation — It can get much hotter outdoors than indoors, so heavy-duty insulation helps to keep everything cool.
- Advanced Compressors & Components — The electrical and mechanical parts of the fridge are designed to work extra hard in the heat. Good insulation isn't enough to keep its contents cool during hot weather and drastic temperature fluctuations.
- UV Protection — The harmful rays of the sun may be beating down on, or reflected onto parts of your fridge. This will not only create extra heat, but can damage coloring or plastic surfaces. Make sure it can handle sunlight, or keep it covered.
- Ventilation — Building your fridge into an outdoor kitchen island or other fixture means it will need additional vents on the front to allow it to release heat and function properly. Otherwise, you will need to install it with extra space around it for ventilation.
As you can tell, there's a bit of extra engineering that goes into keeping your food and drinks cold in the outdoor summer heat, and into protecting your investment.
However, it doesn't mean you have to be more than $1,000 in the hole.
If you're willing to give up just a few bells & whistles, it's still possible to find good outdoor refrigerators that abide by these basic requirements, and at an affordable price.
Taking Care of Your Outdoor Refrigerator…
There are several things you can do to maintain your outdoor fridge for a longer life. Even though these appliances are specially engineered to hold up in outdoor conditions, you can still extend the lifespan and optimize your outdoor refrigerator with a little extra attention and care.
Each refrigerator's manual will have more specific instructions for how to care for your outdoor refrigerator, but here are a few general guidelines:
1. Keep It Dry
Just because it's an “outdoor” refrigerator doesn't mean it's “all-weather” — that it can withstand rain, snow, and hurricanes. Keep it out of the rain, away from the pool, and other sources of water.
2. Avoid Direct Sunlight
We all know that sunlight will heat things up. But just because the sun is not shining on the inside of our refrigerator, the contents are safe from the extra heat.
You can build it into (or store it under) a cabinet or kitchen island that will keep it out of the sunlight. Or, you can keep your fridge covered and in the shade.
3. Keep it Ventilated
Refrigerators need to release the heat from the inside into the air around it. If the air around it isn't properly refreshed, then the heat can't escape, and the contents don't get cold.
“Built-in” refrigerators have a vent on the front to make sure hot air can get out of the fridge even if you install it snugly into an outdoor kitchen island, or a cabinet.
“Freestanding” refrigerators do not have an vent on the front, and need to have the top, back, and sides exposed to some air in order to release the heat.
4. Read the Manual — CAREFULLY
All this information about how to make the most of your fridge is written out for you in your refrigerator's installation manual or owner's guide — but most people simply don't read this stuff.
Read it carefully for what kinds of environments and temperature ranges the refrigerator will work in properly, and kinds of protection you'll need to provide for.
That's why I've included links to the manuals here in all my my suggestions, below. These manuals are almost always available online.
You should read them carefully to be sure the fridge is a good fit for your space and your entertainment needs — before you make your purchase!
Good Outdoor Refrigerators Under $1,000
Ok, now that we have all the technical stuff that will help you make your decisions out of the way, let's take a look at three types of outdoor refrigerators that fit the bill…
Outdoor Beverage Coolers
Beverage Coolers (sometimes called “beverage centers” or “wine coolers”) are are a popular and affordable outdoor refrigeration appliance. They keep your drinks cold and at the ready for all kinds of outdoor entertainment activities.
However, they are not quite “refrigerators”.
I wanted to go over this category first, because these units are actually a slightly different beast than outdoor refrigerators, and knowing the difference between being a satisfied customer and wasting your money.
Outdoor Beverage Coolers vs. Outdoor Refrigerators
There's an important distinction between these two types of refrigerators — and, that is Temperature.
It can sometimes be confusing, and many people have been disappointed by accidentally buying an outdoor beverage cooler when what they really needed was an outdoor refrigerator.
Here's why it's important: The bacteria that ruins food thrives at about 40°F and above.
For this reason, Refrigerators are designed to preserve food between the temperatures of 32°F and 38°F. Below that, the food freezes. Above that, there's a chance for the bacteria to spoil the food.
By contrast, Beverage coolers are designed to simply keep a variety of drinks “refreshingly cold” — at temperatures ranging between 38°F and 65°F.
These beverages are usually in containers, so there's no real concern about bacteria spoiling the drinks. Additionally, some beverages (such as red wine) shouldn't be kept too cold.
I'm sure you can see the potential conflict of interests here. Even at its coldest, a beverage cooler won't preserve certain types of food in a hot outdoor environment.
This is why you'll see a number of unfair negative beverage cooler reviews online complaining about “spoiled food”.
So, the trade-off with beverage coolers is that, while they tend to be more affordable, and can operate outdoors in the heat, they can only keep their contents in a limited temperature range.
As long as you know you're not supposed to keep perishable food in it, and use it predominantly for drinks, you should be very happy with any of the outdoor beverage coolers below…
24″ 142-Can Built-In Outdoor Beverage Cooler
$1,384.00 Retail | $899.00 Online
EdgeStar's CBR1501 Outdoor Beverage Cooler is a very popular outdoor refrigeration solution online.
This cooler's 5.5 cu. ft. capacity can hold up to 142 twelve ounce cans on its 3 adjustable glass shelves.
The “outdoor approved” fridge is fully encased in stainless steel, including a Solid Stainless Steel Door, allowing this refrigerator to handle the elements in outdoor applications, whether built-in to a cabinet, or freestanding.
Its digitally controlled fan-circulated cooling system maintains an evenly distributed interior temperature range of 38°-50°F*, keeping your drinks cool in outdoor temperatures ranging from 50°F to as hot as 95°F.
*(For those of you that skipped over the information above, I want to remind you that this fridge is designed to cool drinks, not to store perishable food.)
One unique selling point for an outdoor refrigerator in this price range is the cool-blue lighting of the interior. Not only does it give the impression of being colder inside, but looks very impressive to guests, and sets a nice mood and ambiance.
This unit may be outfitted with casters for greater ease of movement, has a built-in lock for security, and comes with a 1-year manufacturer's warranty for labor & parts.
You might also consider EdgeStar's cheaper and slightly smaller (15-inch wide) OBR900SS 84-Can Outdoor Beverage Refrigerator for about $200 less. It has a glass door so you can see the contents, which looks stylish/professional. (See more 15″ models below.)
24″ Built-in Outdoor Stainless Steel Beverage Cooler/Refrigerator
$1,497.99 Retail | $992~$1,090 Online
|Shop online at:||Amazon|
While Whynter's BOR-53024-SSW is marketed as a “beverage cooler/refrigerator”, this 5.3 cu.ft. unit can actually cool its contents down to as low as 32°F (and up to 64°F), making it ideal to store food at the lowest temperatures, and even red wine at the higher temps.
The trade-off here, however, is a limited outdoor temperature range: between 60°F (16°C) and 90°F (32°C).
The full stainless steel body and front ventilation allows it to work freestanding or built in to an outdoor kitchen fixture, and digital controls and temperature indicators adapt to Fahrenheit or Celsius degrees.
Check out the manual for details about it's “fast cool mode”, which will prepare the fridge for cooling drinks and food as quickly as possible.
The unit features reversible door hinges for adaptable installations, safety locks, and included optional casters for mobility/portability.
3 adjustable and removable shelves accommodate beverage cans, bottles or foodstuff.
The Whynter BOR-53024-SSW comes with a one year limited warranty.
Sub-Compact Outdoor Refrigerators
If you're willing to save a little extra space, another way to save on cost is to buy a slightly smaller unit.
You get all the benefits of a full-fledged outdoor refrigerator, only with a little less storage space, which isn't a problem for many outdoor kitchens.
I'm calling this smaller, standardized size for outdoor refrigerators “sub-compact” because the standard-sized outdoor refrigerator is already pretty compact.
While the standard “full-size” outdoor refrigerator is about 24 inches wide, there is another smaller size that is still a standard for outdoor and under-counter refrigerators: 15 inches, with about 3 cubic feet of storage space.
Here are a few for your consideration:
17″ Built-in 3.2 cu. ft. Outdoor Beverage Cooler/Refrigerator
$839.99 Retail | $670~$829 Online
This smaller outdoor fridge from Whynter's is another “beverage cooler/refrigerator” can keep its contents as cold as 35°F (up to 50°F), which means it can store food at the coldest temperature setting.
THIS model, however, has a much broader outdoor temperature range—operating between 25°F (-4°C) and 100°F (38°C).*
*(Though the manual warns of storage limitations in temperatures lower than 40°F)
Like its bigger brother, a full stainless steel body and front ventilation allow it to work either freestanding, or built-in to an outdoor kitchen fixture.
Temperature controls are much more basic, with a knob that will turn it “off”, or rotate between “COLD” and “COLDEST” settings.
The unit features reversible door hinges for adaptable installations. 3 adjustable and removable shelves accommodate beverage cans, bottles, or food.
The Whynter BOR-326FS also comes with a one year limited warranty.
Maxx Ice MCR3U-O
3 cu. ft. Mini Outdoor Refrigerator in Stainless Steel
Company: Maxx Ice / Maxximum Food Service
$849.99 Retail | $729.99~$799 Online
|Shop online at:||Amazon|
Maxximum Food Service, maker of the Maxx Ice and Maxx Cold brands, is known for making a variety of refrigeration appliances for both home and commercial use.
The Maxx Ice MCR3U-O (The “O” for “outdoor” so as not to be confused with the indoor model) is a 15″ wide, all stainless steel construction, with a 3 cu. ft. capacity.
It's ETF rated to operate outdoors in temperatures ranging from 25°F to 100°F, keeping drinks and food at selected temperature range from 35°F to 50°F.
The reversible door allows for an adaptive installation, which can be either freestanding or built-in, thanks to the front ventilation. Other features include 3 adjustable (removable & reversible) shelves, a wire basket to hold cans and bottles, a digital thermostat, and interior light.
Avallon AFR151SSOD (right- and left-hand models)
Stainless Steel Outdoor Built-in Refrigerator
$1,099 Retail | $809~$929 Online
|Shop online at:||Amazon|
Avallon is an appliance development venture of EdgeStar that provides wine coolers, beverage coolers, and outdoor refrigerators. They say their mission is to offer these at more affordable prices by minimizing excess features, but their products are pretty full-featured by most standards.
Where other companies might make the door reversible, Avallon's AFR151SSOD is sold under two different model numbers: AFR151SSODRH for the right-hand door handle, and AFR151SSODLH for the left-handed version. (The links above are for the right-handed/hinged version.)
This unit takes advantage of its superior 3.3 Cu Ft storage capacity with three sanded-glass shelves and even door storage for large beverage bottles, milk, orange juice, or the like. LED lights illuminate the interior, with the option of using white or blue lighting for setting mood (like its Edgestar cousin I mentioned above).
Fully encased in stainless steel, the AFR151SSOD is designed to withstand outdoor elements, utilizing circulation fans that work with the compressor to provide even cooling throughout the unit — keeping your contents at a temperature range from 34°F to 50°F, based on your selection from the touch-control panel. It also includes a carbon filter that blocks unwanted odors.
With optional casters for mobility, a lock for security, and a front vent allowing for built-in installation, the matching stainless steel door and solid handlebar are the finishing touches on this professional-looking fridge.
The AFR151SSOD comes with a one-year warranty on defective parts and labor, and a 5-year limited warranty on the compressor.
Stainless Steel & Black Built-in/Freestanding Outdoor Refrigerator
Company: Summit Appliance
$929.99 Retail | $825.00~$916.99 Online
|Shop online at:||Amazon|
Summit Appliance supplies refrigerators, freezers, and cooking appliances for commercial, professional, foodservice, medical, and specialty applications, particularly catering to small or unusual spaces.
For that reason, you'll find their sales materials a little overly technical. But, don't let that deter you. This fridge is still a great option for an outdoor kitchen at your home.
Summit's SPR316OS outdoor all-refrigerator designed for use in residential or commercial outdoor kitchens.
On the outside, its weatherproof construction allows operation in the outdoors — while the vent allows for built-in to an outdoor kitchen fixture, its fully-finished cabinet also allows freestanding use in ambient outdoor temperatures from 44°F to 90°F. The reversible stainless steel door sports a 20″ long handle for a professional look, and a factory-installed lock for security.
Inside, the SPR316OS provides 3 cu.ft. of storage space, with adjustable glass shelves, and slots on the floor sized to hold wine bottles in place. Digital thermostat controls combined with fan-forced cooling keep the contents evenly cooled at an ideal range of 36°F to 43°F. Recessed LED lighting makes it easy to find what you're looking for.
Other added features include door-ajar and temperature alarms to prevent spoiling of food, a quick-freeze function to get things cold fast, and a Sabbath-mode setting to temporarily disable the lighting and alarm.
There is a one-year warranty on defective parts and labor, and a 5-year limited warranty on the compressor.
Basic Outdoor Refrigerators for Outdoor Kitchens
Some of you may be happy with the most basic functionality of outdoor kitchen refrigerators: keep your food and drinks cold and handy while you're out on your patio.
You don't need glass doors to display the contents without opening, nor special lighting, nor stainless steel interiors. As long as it does the basic job with a little adaptability to your storage needs, you're set.
At the lower end of many manufacturers' outdoor refrigerator lines is a basic model that will fit your needs. They save you money by cutting the cost of these extraneous features.
Here are a couple examples for you:
24″ Built-in/Freestanding Compact Outdoor Refrigerator
Company: Summit Appliance
$1,255.00 Retail | $859~$979 Online
|Shop online at:||Amazon|
Here's another option from commercial/professional fridge-maker, Summit Appliance.
Summit's SPR627OS Series are 4.6 cu.ft. “all-refrigerators” (no freezer). This certified commercial refrigerator is designed and constructed for use in the outdoors, and equipped with convenient user-friendly features for use in any residential or outdoor kitchen.
On the outside, the fully finished black cabinet and stainless steel door allow the unit to be used freestanding in the outdoors, functioning in temperatures up to 90ºF, while its front-breathable vent allows for under-cabinet, built-in installation. A keyed lock secures the interior from unwanted access.
Inside, you'll find:
- A digital thermostat to adjust the temperature at the touch of a button;
- An internal fan provides for an evenly cooled interior in this frost-free refrigerator; and
- An LED light illuminates the fridge with an elegant glow.
Contents are easily organized with the adjustable glass shelves, a specially slotted floor to hold bottles in place, and a flat door liner to accept larger trays. An optional shelf kit can be added for additional door storage.
Another cool feature of the Summit SPR627OS line is that some models have options for wood paneling and other door designs. Take a look here at Appliances Connection for some cool options.
5.12 cu. ft. Outdoor Refrigerator in Stainless steel
$1,095.00 Retail | $968.99~$1017.99 Online
|Shop online at:||Appliances Connection|
Here's another option from wine-cooler specialist, Vinotemp.
The Vinotemp VT-OUTDOORREF is a 5.12 Cu. Ft. outdoor refrigerator that can be installed as either a built-in or freestanding unit thanks to the front exhaust vent. It has a sleek black cabinet body, with a recessed handle in the reversible stainless steel door so that it can be easily adaptable, and sit even with other cabinetry without protruding.
This outdoor fridge is designed to work in temperatures from 44°F (7°C) to a scorching hot 106°F (41°C).
The internal digital control panel allows for setting the temperature easily and simply from 36°F to 43°F, while its “Dynamic Cooling” feature keeps everything on the 3 adjustable shelves evenly cooled at the exact same conditions.
Other features include an internal LED light, Silent and Sabbath modes, temperature and door alarms, a floor designed to keep bottles from jostling, leveling legs, and a security lock.
Finding the Best Outdoor Refrigerator for Your Budget
Knowing your options goes a long way toward finding the best outdoor refrigerator for your budget and situation. It's often just a matter of finding the right combination of features and concessions.
While I've listed a number of good options here that simply hold back on a few features, you might decide that there are a few good features that will be worth the extra expense.
Shop around, and take a look at some of my other articles on this site about good outdoor refrigerators:
- 3 Good Outdoor Compact Refrigerators
- Cheap Outdoor Refrigerators (under $500)
- Bull Outdoor Refrigerator Review
- More Outdoor Refrigerator articles on this site
Is there a an outdoor refrigerator under $1,000 that you love and respect that is not represented here? Or do you have a question about a fridge that you're considering purchasing?
Put your questions or suggestions in the comments below, so we can all benefit from each other's knowledge.
Happy Outdoor Living! Thanks for reading.
I ALWAYS forget to read the manual carefully! I’m terrible for rushing into the set up and then wondering how I’m left over with a bunch of random nuts and bolts!
Thanks for sharing Scott!
You’re very welcome! 🙂
very valuable info, Scott. I need a outdoor fridge that i can use in the colder months in New Jersey. i want to locate it in patio area, so though it is not exposed to the elements, it is in an area that is not heated in winter. the info you gave did notcover this requirement. can you help?
Are you saying that you need your fridge to keep items cold outside during the winter months? If so, then I would say to check the operating temperature ranges of the outdoor refrigerators in their manuals to be sure they can work in the cold. (The Whynter model I mention above works as cold as 25˚F. I know NJ gets colder, though.)
There might be an instance where the refrigerator shuts off, because is so cold that there’s no need for it to turn on. One drawback in such a case is that the insulation of the fridge might prevent the outside cold from penetrating the fridge, and the contents might warm up a bit. This is usually only a problem with freezers. (See this article.)
You might also unplug the fridge during particularly cold days to preserve its functionality.
Here’s another article that might help: 3 Important Things to Know About Outdoor Refrigerators
Please let me know if that’s helpful, or if you have other questions.
Thanks for reading!