Best 12v Refrigerator

Buying a refrigerator for your RV can be a difficult task. Even if you have settled on the number of volts, there are still a lot of different options available. 

While some RVs come with a built-in refrigerator. This is not a given. Having a refrigerator on your RV is absolutely essential. We are so used to having a refrigerator in our homes that it’s easy to forget how important they are.

Without a refrigerator in your RV, you won’t be able to store fresh food. This is a very important factor to consider.

Without a refrigerator, you will have to live off dried foods or dine out. This is very impractical. So a refrigerator is an absolute necessity. 

So, how do you decide on the best one for you? There are a lot of factors to consider. And not all 12V refrigerators will suit every kind of RV. 

But don’t worry, to help you choose, we’ve scoured the market and found the best 12V refrigerators available. Read on for our top picks. 

OUR TOP PICK

Koolatron Krusader P85 Thermoelectric Iceless Electric 12V Cooler Warmer, 49L / 52 Quart Capacity, for Camping, Travel, Truck, SUV, Car, Boat, RV, Trailer, Tailgating, Made in North America

Capacity: 52 Quarts
Dimensions: 20.75” x 15.75” x 19.75”
Empty Weight: 14.98lbs

This Koolatron P85 is our overall top pick for a lot of reasons. One of them is its ability to be super lightweight and portable but still have a huge capacity. 

This makes it ideal for packing in your RV. You will be able to fill this refrigerator with all of the snacks, meals, and drinks that you need for your trip. Then pack it away and not have to worry about it. 

One of the best features of this refrigerator is its overall shape. At first glance, it looks like a pretty standard cooler box. This is great for storage.

When you’re driving, you can pack food down into the two chambers, close the lid, and pack it away. But, this will be difficult when you actually want to access the food. Especially if you want something that is at the bottom of the box.

This is where the incredibly well-thought-out design comes into play.

If like most people you take your RV to a campsite and park up for a few days, you won’t have to worry about cupboards and refrigerator doors swinging open as you will be stationary for most of your trip.

This means that, if you choose a cooler box-style refrigerator, you’re going to be digging through it trying to find food every day.

But, with this Koolatron P85, you can rotate the refrigerator from a landscape cool box to a portrait refrigerator.

The dual chambers become two shelves. And the door will stay shut as a normal refrigerator door will. This is absolutely ideal for an RV refrigerator. 

Another great feature is the option to choose between hot and cold modes. You might not find yourself using the hot mode as often as the cold mode. But it’s still a great feature to have.

The hot and cold modes can be easily swapped over. You won’t have to mess around with a thermostat or any complicated settings. You simply need to swap out a single wire.

The cold wire has a blue dot and the hot wire has a red dot. Then you simply need to choose which setting you want and you plug in the appropriate wire.

With all these great features, the Koolatron 85 is surprisingly affordable. Especially compared to some other, less impressive, options on the market. 

Pros

  • Can be rotated between cooler box or refrigerator shapes.
  • Choice between cooling and warming.
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Reduced capacity when rotated to standard refrigerator shape.

DURABLE AND EFFICIENT

Whynter FMC-350XP 34 Quart Compact Portable Refrigerator, AC 110V/ DC 12V True Freezer for Car, Home, Camping, RV-8°F to 50°F, One Size, Gray

Capacity: 34 Quart
Dimensions: 24” x 14” x 16”
Empty Weight: 42lbs

Our top pick for the most durable and efficient 12V refrigerator is this sturdy-looking option from Whynter. This might not be the prettiest refrigerator on the market. But it will absolutely do the job you need it to.

A great feature of this refrigerator is the option to choose between freezing or cooling food. This means that you can store food for much longer. This is ideal if your campsite is far away and you’re worried about food not keeping well on the trip.

Instead of leaving it just slightly cool, you can freeze food and then allow it to defrost when you arrive. This is also a great option if your campsite isn’t close to any grocery stores.

A slight downside of this refrigerator is the capacity. While 34 quarts is by no means small, it isn’t the biggest available. This is especially true when considering the price.

This is definitely one of the more expensive options on the market. But, when the ability to easily change between freezing, cooling, or heating is considered. The price is more than understandable.

Pros

  • Includes freezing and warming options.
  • Strong and sturdy design.
  • Simple digital controls.

Cons

  • Expensive.

SMALLER OPTION

AstroAI 12 Volt Refrigerator 58 Quart Portable Freezer Car Refrigerator 55L(-4℉~68℉) with 12/24V DC and 110V AC, Compressor Refrigerator for Car, RV, Truck, Van, Camping and Home

Capacity: 16 Quart/60 Quart
Dimensions: 22.2” x 2.6” x 9.8”/28.7”/24.8”/15.7”
Empty Weight: 20.3lbs/38.4lbs

This is a great choice for a 12V refrigerator as you can choose between a very small or a very large capacity.

Despite the fact they are relatively similar, the shape of the two capacity options is pretty different. This is mostly down to the location of the door/lid and the controls.

The shape of the smaller capacity refrigerator is similar to a cool box with controls on the top of the lid.

Whereas the larger capacity refrigerator has the controls on the front end. This isn’t a huge difference. But it’s something to consider in terms of storage.

One of the most impressive features of both capacity refrigerators is the electric controls. These are definitely some of the most hi-tech 12V refrigerators on the market and definitely on this list.

The ability to change temperatures on a 12V refrigerator is a relatively standard feature. But not every refrigerator can transition between -4°F and 131°F.

This refrigerator can transition from 95°F to -4°F in under 30 minutes. This doesn’t mean that it will freeze your food in under 30 minutes. But the speed at which this refrigerator can change temperatures is very impressive.

This is great for when you’re at the campsite and want to switch from it from cold to warm. For example, if you have made food ready to be eaten as soon as you get to the campsite.

 You can easily and quickly heat it up. (This is also a top tip as few people want to be cooking as soon as they get to the campsite, especially if you have been driving a long way.

Pros

  • Option for a small or very large capacity.
  • Choice of cooling or freezing.
  • Choice of small or very large capacity.

Cons

  • Heavy empty weight for large capacity option.

MOST PORTABLE

Koolatron Slim Compact P20 Thermoelectric Iceless 12V Cooler Warmer, 17L / 18 Quart Capacity, For Camping, Travel, Truck, SUV, Car, Boat, RV, Trailer, Tailgating, Made in North America

Capacity: 18 Quart/26 Quart/29 Quart
Dimensions: 17.25” x 8.75” x 16”/15” x 11.5” x 15.75”/17.25” x 15.25” x 15.25”
Empty Weight: 5lbs/9.88lbs/11.1lbs

This is our top pick for the most portable 12V refrigerator for several reasons. One is, of course, the option for a very small-sized refrigerator.

But, there are other factors to consider. When you’re choosing a refrigerator for your RV, storage is very important. This is in terms of how much can be stored inside the refrigerator. But also storing the refrigerator while you’re traveling.

This might seem like it doesn’t relate much to portability but it all contributes. The feature that draws together storage and portability isn’t just size.

Due to their chest-like shape, a lot of 12V refrigerators have handles on either end. This is fine if you have someone to help lift it (or just a very wide arm span).

But, if you want to be able to easily carry the refrigerator yourself, you can pick this refrigerator up by its picnic basket-like handle. This might seem like an unimportant factor to consider. But you will realize its importance once you begin packing up your RV.

Pros

  • Choice between freezing and cooling.
  • Affordable.
  • Multiple capacity options available.

Cons

  • Tall and thin design might make it difficult to store beneath other items.

MOST RELIABLE

Portable Refrigerator for Car, Kalamera 25 Quarts Car Cooler for Camping | -8°F to 50°F Compressor Based Electric 12V Fridge for Vehicles and Trucks | AC and DC Travel Freezer for RV

Capacity: 25 Quart/52 Quart
Dimensions: 22.44” x 12.59” x 13.8”/27.8” x 14.4” x 19.7”
Empty Weight: 19.18lbs/37.7lbs

Our top pick for the most reliable 12V refrigerator is this sturdy option from Kalamera. This is our top pick for the most reliable due to its overall shape and the materials from which it is made.

The chest shape of this refrigerator means that it is very easy to store. This means that it can fit into a lot of different spaces. This means that it will be much less likely to become damaged.

It is made from some pretty sturdy materials. These are primarily plastic and metal which is very standard. But these materials are very thick. You won’t have to worry about it being bashed about.

Another reason why this refrigerator is so reliable is that it has controls on its lid. This is a surprisingly hi-tech feature for an RV refrigerator.

Most RV refrigerators are often shaped like traditional cooler boxes. The main difference is that they can be plugged in to control the temperature. But this refrigerator is very different.

With a lot of other refrigerators, you will have to sit and wait for it to become cold. You will of course have to leave this refrigerator to cool itself down properly.

But unlike other options where you will have to feel the refrigerator yourself to decide if it is cold enough, you will know for definite with this option. The controls of this refrigerator allow you to plug it in, choose the temperature, and then leave it to it.

Pros

  • Includes energy-saving mode.
  • Features easy-to-use controls on the lid.
  • Choice between small or very large capacity options.

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive than average.

LEAST EXPENSIVE

AstroAI Mini Fridge 4 Liter/6 Can AC/DC Portable Thermoelectric Cooler and Warmer for Skincare, Foods, Medications, Home and Travel (Black)

Capacity: 4 Quarts
Dimensions: 9.45” x 10” x 6.89”
Empty Weight: 4.53lbs

This is a very different option compared to most other options. This refrigerator is reminiscent of the mini-fridges that were the obsession of most teenagers in the mid-2000s.

It is essentially a very small refrigerator. One of the main differences between this mini fridge and other options on this list is the way it is charged. This mini fridge can be charged through the cigarette lighter on your RV’s control panel.

This mini-fridge is ideal for use in combination with a built-in refrigerator or a much larger refrigerator chest. Due to its small size, this mini fridge will likely be much too small to fit your food for a week or two away. But it is great for holding snacks and drinks.

This refrigerator is best-suited for storing snacks and drinks for the journey. This is great if you don’t like to power on your built-in refrigerator until you have parked up. As it can be charged in the cigarette socket on the control panel, it can sit near you and whoever is in the passenger seat.

This means that it can be accessed from the front. Now, we’re definitely not telling you to take your hands off the wheel to grab a snack. But, the person in the passenger seat can.

This is great if you have a separate, larger refrigerator that is stored away or full of food. You don’t want to have to pull it out of storage and dig through it just for a snack. This mini fridge allows for easy access. It’s also super affordable, so you won’t be splurging that much on a snack refrigerator.

Or, if you prefer to dine out while you’re on your trip, this refrigerator can store all your snacks and drinks in between those meals.

Another great feature of this fridge is that it comes in multiple colors. This might not be a practical feature. But it’s nice to have some options. Especially when you consider the style and general aesthetic of most other options available.

When it comes to most 12V RV refrigerators, practicality has definitely been considered over style. Of course, this is sensible. A refrigerator is a practical item. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it.

Especially if you have carefully designed the interior of your RV. You don’t want to have decked it out in your personal style, only for it to be ruined by some hulking beige contraption.

More modern options are much more stylish. But few have such a wide range of colors as this mini-fridge.

Pros

  • Available in multiple colors.
  • Can be charged in a cigarette socket.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Very small capacity.

BUDGET - FRIENDLY

SetPower EA20 21 Quarts Portable Freezer Fridge 12V Cooler, -4℉ to 68℉, Car Fridge Compact Refrigerator, for Truck, Van, RV Road Trip, Outdoor, Camping, Picnic, BBQ (EA20-21 Quarts)

Capacity: 21 Quarts
Dimensions: 22.7” x 14.3” x 14”
Empty Weight: 26lbs

This refrigerator isn’t the least expensive option on this list (scroll back to no.6 for that). But it is definitely the best option for a small budget.

It is the best 12V refrigerator for an RV if you have a small budget but aren’t simply going to settle for the absolutely cheapest thing you can find.

Although no.6 definitely isn’t of poor quality, it is definitely limited in terms of capacity and overall storage and placement.

So, this refrigerator is the best choice for you if you don’t want to be spending hundreds of dollars but still need a sturdy and large-capacity refrigerator.

At 22.7” x 14.3” x 14”, this isn’t a huge refrigerator but it is a very good size for the price. It also has a few cool features that are great for such an affordable price.

One of these features is the lid. This refrigerator can be opened from both sides. This might seem like a minor feature. But it will have more of an impact than you might think.

Being able to open the refrigerator from both sides means that you can position it anywhere within your RV. It will make storage and placement just that little bit easier. But, small features like this will add up and make your whole trip a lot easier.

One of the main features of this refrigerator is the ability to both cool and freeze food. This is an option that is becoming more popular on RV refrigerators.

But it is a great feature for such an affordable price. This means you can easily switch between using this refrigerator as a refrigerator or a freezer.

To adjust this setting, you simply need to alter the temperature on the controls. This makes the refrigerator super easy to use and control.

This is a big difference from your standard home refrigerator that has a dial with numbers corresponding to an unknown temperature.

Pros

  • Lightweight for size.
  • Only one capacity size available.
  • Choice between cooling and freezing.

Cons

  • Large overall size despite medium capacity.

GOOD VALUE

AstroAI Portable Freezer 12 Volt Car Refrigerator 16 Quart Fridge for Car, RV, Van, Vehicle, Boat, Portable Freezer 15L (-4℉~68℉) for Camping, Travel, Fishing Outdoor — 12/24V DC and 100/240V AC

Capacity: 16 Quarts/58 Quarts
Dimensions: 22.2” x 2.6” x 9.8”/12.6” x 10.4” x 17.6”
Empty Weight: 20.3lbs/38.4lbs

This isn’t the largest nor the cheapest refrigerator on our list. But it definitely has the best of both. This is a mid-size 12v refrigerator for the price of a mini-fridge (plus some change).

At 16 quarts, this is definitely a good enough size for a week-long trip. Or longer if your campsite is near a grocery store.

Despite its lower than average price, this is still a very good quality refrigerator. In fact, it’s more hi-tech than some more expensive options available.

Don’t be put off by the lower price, this is still a very strong and sturdy refrigerator. You can safely store it in the back of your RV without worrying that it will suffer from a few bashes or from going over any bumps.

As already mentioned, this refrigerator has some good hi-tech features. These are mostly in the controls. The capacity of most other refrigerators takes up the entirety of the overall size. But, on this refrigerator, around ⅕ of size isn’t used for capacity.

Instead, the temperature and on/off controls sit on the top. Before we get into the benefits of the controls themselves, it’s worth recognizing why the placement is good. This might seem like a minor or boring detail. But, it will actually help you in the long run.

On some other refrigerators, the controls are placed directly on the lid. This is fine for a while. But there is a risk that the regularly slamming shut of the lid will damage the controls, especially the internal workings.

With the controls on the side of the lid, this refrigerator is likely to last a lot longer. This will save you money in the long run.

The controls are relatively simple. But this is a good thing. It’s tempting with devices such as refrigerators to try and make them as impressive and hi-tech as possible.

This will usually result in the price being driven upward or the overall quality going down. With a simple RV refrigerator, ultimately all you need is for it to be cold and stay cold. This refrigerator does just that.

The controls on the lid allow you to turn the refrigerator on or off and to choose the temperature. The temperature range for this refrigerator is -4°F to 68°F. This is perfect for both freezing and keeping food cool.

Unlike in a dual zone refrigerator, you cannot turn this refrigerator into a fridge freezer. But, you can choose whether you want to have a freezer or a refrigerator. You will likely keep it as a refrigerator.

But the freezing option is useful. Especially if you have food leftover on your trip and you want to freeze it for the long journey home.

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Choice between small and very large capacities.
  • Choice between freezing and cooling.

Cons

  • Exterior design might not suit all RV aesthetics.

DUAL ZONE

ICECO GO20 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator, Separate Control, 21 Quart/20 Liter, DC & AC, 0℉ to 50℉, with Danfoss Compressor, Mini Fridge Cooler Refrigerator for Outdoor, Home Use, White

Capacity: 13.5 Quarts/21 Quarts
Dimensions: 22.4” x 12.6” x 9.3”/
Empty Weight: 19.2lbs

This dual zone refrigerator is an excellent choice. If it weren’t for the relatively high price, this would be a contender for our overall top pick. This is primarily down to its very modern and versatile design.

The overall look of a 12V RV refrigerator is not what a lot of people consider. This is why a lot of the options available, including many on this list, have a simple design. Only the practicalities have been considered.

But for this refrigerator, the manufacturers have created a great looking device.

Although most 12v refrigerators feature dividers, these are mostly just for organization. A divider will allow you to sort your food so that it is more easily accessible.

And that is absolutely an option with this refrigerator. But one great feature of this dual zone refrigerator is that it can be transformed into a fridge freezer.

This refrigerator gives you the option of using the entire capacity as a refrigerator. Or, you can choose to have one zone as a refrigerator and one as a freezer. This is a super useful feature that isn’t available in very many 12v refrigerators.

This is ideal for an RV. The combination of refrigerator and freezer means that you can have even more of your favorite foods with you on your trip.

You can even meal prep if you want to. This is a great option if you will be doing a lot of activities during the day and won’t want to be cooking when you get in.

It’s also super useful if you have children. You will be able to store way more snacks and won’t have to worry about any meltdowns due to running out.

You will also be able to have a regular supply of popsicles and ice creams which everyone will appreciate.

Pros

  • Very modern design.
  • Easy to use digital controls.
  • Choice between cooling or dual fridge freezer.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Best 12v Refrigerator Buying Guide

Temperature Range

This is an important factor to consider. Most of us wouldn’t be able to tell someone the current temperature of our refrigerator.

So it’s difficult to know exactly what temperature range you should be looking for in a 12v refrigerator.

If you only want a refrigerator that is a more portable version of a standard kitchen refrigerator, then you don’t need a refrigerator that has a range larger than 30°F to 40°F.

This will be more than enough to keep your food cool. The best temperature will be toward the higher end of this range.

But, as you will have noticed from the products listed above, there are many refrigerators with a much wider temperature range.

These can include temperatures that will turn the refrigerator into a freezer. Temperatures that will turn the refrigerator into a food warmer (although definitely not an oven or microwave). Or sometimes even both.

For traveling, you’re going to need to keep food cold or frozen more than you will need to warm it. Generally, the warming and heating settings will only be used when you’re parked up.

Even if you want to cook something before you leave and keep it warm on the journey, this won’t keep the food fresh. The best option is to keep the food cool or frozen as it will last longer. It will also be much more fresh.

If you want the potential to freeze, cool, and warm your food, then your budget will need to be higher than average. Unsurprisingly, the more features a refrigerator has, the more expensive it will be.

But, the option to turn a refrigerator into a freezer is becoming relatively standard. So they won’t be more expensive than a refrigerator that can only cool.

Shape and Style

As well as the actual ability to keep your food cool and fresh, the overall shape and style are super important.

It’s important to find a compromise between shape and style. You need to be able to fit all of your food inside. But you will also need to be able to lift it into the RV to position it or store it away.

When it comes to all of these factors, the shape and style of the refrigerator are very important. This is because, as you can see from the range of products listed above, there are a lot of styles available. The main styles are cooler chests similar to freezer chests.

Some refrigerators are shaped similarly but are closer in style to a cooler box. These are slightly smaller and open in a different way. The main difference comes from the style and positioning of the handles and the way in which the lid opens.

The main external factor to consider when deciding on size is how you will position the refrigerator. Some 12v refrigerator chests can be turned on their side to open as a standard small refrigerator.

If this style is within your budget, we absolutely recommend considering it. This style will allow you to pack away food to take on your trip and then store the refrigerator anywhere you can in your RV.

Then, when you park up and want a functional kitchen, you will be able to turn the refrigerator around. This turns the divided chambers into shelves. 

If you do not have the space in your RV for a freestanding refrigerator, then a chest or box is also a great option.

Most of these refrigerators will be very compact but still have a large capacity. This is great for packing the refrigerator away when it is not in use.

This can be a little difficult to use as the food will need to be packed on top of each other. So it will take you a while to dig through if you need something at the bottom. 

These are also an excellent option, even if your RV has a built-in refrigerator. You will be able to store food and keep it cool until you park up and turn on your refrigerator. Some very portable refrigerators can also be used as over-spill space. Or as a cool box to take on picnics.

Capacity and Weight

These are two factors that can often oppose each other. It is difficult to find a refrigerator with a large capacity that is still lightweight.

As you will likely know, a refrigerator is often relatively heavy even when empty. This is a really important factor to consider.

When considering which refrigerator to choose, consider its empty capacity and its empty weight. Then, remember that you will be filling it with food. 

This might seem obvious. But it is easy to forget that you will be filling the refrigerator up. So, for example, if you think you will be able to lift a 35lb refrigerator, remember that you will be filling it up with around 10lb to 15lb of food. 

Capacity will also relate to dual or single chamber refrigerators. These might not seem like a huge factor. But they can have a big impact. A dual chamber refrigerator will be best for storage.

When you’re driving or carrying the refrigerator, dual chambers will stop the food moving around as much. This is great if you will be packing a lot of fruits and vegetables that might become squashed.

If you can find one that suits you, the best option is a refrigerator with a removable divider.

Dual Zone vs Single Zone

Another important factor to consider is whether you will need a dual zone or single zone refrigerator.

As mentioned in the Capacity and Weight section above, you can find refrigerators with dividers. This is great for organizing your food. But these are not technically dual zone refrigerators. 

Dual zone refrigerators are refrigerators that are separated into sections with separate temperatures. These dual zone refrigerators are essentially customizable portable fridge freezers. This is absolutely ideal for RV travel.

When you’re considering the food you will need on your trip, you will generally consider dried goods and some fresh food. This is because dried goods won’t go bad for a long time. And some fresh food is of course needed for general nutrition.

But a good-sized refrigerator and freezer will be a game-changer. This is especially true if you will be traveling with a big family, lots of friends, or just a few fussy eaters.

These are also great if you have small children and need a freezer for their specific snacks or for breast milk. 

(Read on or scroll down to the FAQ section to check out our top pick for the best dual zone 12v refrigerator).

Portability

Weight and capacity also impact portability. For upright refrigerators, portability will be limited. These refrigerators are designed to be built into the kitchen or placed on countertops.

But, a cooler box or chest style refrigerator is going to be much easier to transport and move around. This is due to its overall shape. As well as the added features that are often included in the design.

These will be handles on either side of the refrigerator. Some refrigerators will even feature wheels. This will make moving it on and off the RV a lot easier.

These features will also make it easier to take with you when you’re out and about. While they will be much too big and heavy to take on a hike.

You will be able to take a cooler box-style refrigerator outside to use as a drinks cooler. Or even to the beach or on a picnic (if your choice of refrigerator isn’t too heavy, that is). 

So, the main thing to consider is whether or not you will need your refrigerator to be portable. If not, then you will be fine with a scaled down upright refrigerator.

But, if portability is an important factor for your trip, then a cooler box-style refrigerator is the best choice. 

Overall Size

While the internal capacity is a very important factor to consider. The overall size of the refrigerator is also very important.

It’s important to consider the dimensions of each refrigerator that you consider. Both upright refrigerators and cooler box-style refrigerators can be deceptive in their size.

Generally, upright refrigerators will be smaller than you would expect. And cooler box-style refrigerators are much bigger.

These are important factors to consider when choosing a refrigerator. But also when you choose the refrigerator space within your RV. This is especially important if you’re refitting your RV or converting a van into an RV. 

You will need to consider how much space the refrigerator will need itself. But also how much space it will need when it is opened up. 

Door Direction

While shape and style are very important factors to consider. They cannot be decided on without considering the direction of the door.

For most standard refrigerators, the door opens on the left with the hinges on the right. But, in a small RV kitchen, this isn’t always going to work.

Especially if you are planning on buying a cooler box-style refrigerator. Door direction ultimately comes down to opening outward left or right. Or opening upward.

Door direction will have an impact on where you can install or store your refrigerator. But it will also impact where you can store other items around it. It will also impact how much food you will be able to store and access.

Upright Opening Outward

Some 12V refrigerators, such as mini fridges or built-in refrigerators, will have doors that open outward like a standard kitchen refrigerator.

Cooler box-style refrigerators allow you to pack them away amongst other luggage. This isn’t really an option with upright refrigerators. This can be a slight issue when you’re on the road.

But, when you’re parked up, upright refrigerators will become much more space efficient. The door will open outward either on the left or the right.

Some refrigerators allow you to alternate or choose between opening on the left or right. But this is pretty rare and can be a lot more expensive.

So, it’s important to consider the space around the spot you have chosen for the refrigerator. As there is a chance that the door opening on one side might not be practical. 

Upright refrigerators can also be a little difficult to keep shut, even when parked up. This is because, no matter how steady you have made your RV, there’s always going to be some movement.

There is a chance that the door can swing open. This is definitely a risk when moving. But it is also a possibility when parked up. 

Cooler Box-Style Opening Upward

Some of the most popular 12V refrigerators are similar in appearance to a cooler box or a chest. These are the most portable options. They are easy to store away and don’t need the same space considerations as an upright refrigerator.

When it comes to opening a cooler-box style refrigerator, you will be essentially lifting a lid. Rather than opening a door. This is great in terms of keeping food safe, especially in comparison to an upright refrigerator. The risk of the door opening when you’re on the move is greatly reduced.

A lid, rather than a door, also means that these refrigerators can be stored away more easily. You won’t need to consider whether or not you can reach the front of the refrigerator. 

You can easily pack items around the refrigerator and then reach down when you need to access it. (That said, it is important to remember that all refrigerators require access to a power source and space for ventilation.)

Then, when you are parked up, you can move the refrigerator around. If it’s lightweight enough, you can even take it out and about with you. These style refrigerators are great for portability and practicality.

Combination Refrigerators

Although they are rare, there are refrigerators available that can be used in both upright and cooler box-styles.

These are perfect if you have limited space, especially when on the move. They can be used to easily pack down food when you’re on the road.

But, when you’re parked up, you can turn the refrigerator to an upright position. This will allow you to rearrange the food to be more easily accessed. 

These are essentially the best of both worlds. They can be easily stored away when you’re travelling. But then they can be used as a normal refrigerator for the rest of your trip. They are, however, usually more expensive than simpler options.

This means that the doors of the refrigerator will be flush when stored as a box. But when it is turned upright, the doors will open outward. This means that it can be moved to a countertop or stored elsewhere.

If you have limited space, you can easily choose the best spot for the refrigerator as you won’t have to worry about the door being blocked.

Powering a 12V Refrigerator

Powering a 12V refrigerator isn’t difficult. As 12V is very standard for most refrigerators, especially those for an RV.

But that doesn’t mean you have to use standard forms of power. Most 12V refrigerators can be powered by your RV’s batteries. But, this can be a difficult balance when you want to conserve power. 

When choosing a refrigerator for your RV, it’s important to consider the max power draw. But it’s worth bearing in mind that this won’t be the amount of power used all the time. It will vary depending on the external temperature.

For example, if the weather is very hot, then a refrigerator will adjust to this and keep your food even cooler.

So, the amount of power a refrigerator uses will vary. It will vary depending on the external temperature. But also on the type of refrigerator. The max power and power usage can vary quite a bit between different refrigerators.

So we won’t go into too much detail. But, it is worth considering how much power each refrigerator will use. It’s worth doing some research into the most energy efficient refrigerators.

While the compressor won’t be running constantly for 24 hours every day, it can still use a fair amount of power. As well as not being particularly energy efficient, it’s not very environmentally friendly.

One way of making your traveling more eco-friendly is by installing solar panels. Solar panels can also help with the varying levels of power required by a refrigerator.

Traveling Without a Refrigerator

We have mentioned a couple of times that some people choose to go without a refrigerator in their RV. If you’re going on a short weekend trip, then this might be do-able. You might be happy eating out for every meal. Or you might be fine living off dried foods. 

But, this definitely isn’t a sustainable option. While even the most affordable 12V refrigerator cannot be described as “cheap”, they are definitely essential. This is especially true if you regularly go on long trips which involve isolated stretches of road.

Even if you only invest in a small cooler-box style refrigerator to keep a few snacks and some water in. You definitely won’t regret it. It might be tempting to go without a refrigerator. But it’s best to have one, just in case.

That said, there are some factors to consider before you decide to invest in a refrigerator. They do take up a fair amount of space. And, as already mentioned, they definitely aren’t particularly cheap.

They do require a decent amount of energy to run. This can mean they draw their energy from the RV batteries. Else you will need to install a solar power system.

But these are all factors that are worth dealing with to make the most of having fresh food. Even if you only buy a small mini fridge that plugs into the cigarette socket. 

FAQ's

Are 12 volt fridges any good?

Yes, absolutely! 12V fridges will provide you with everything you need for your trip. 12V is pretty standard for a small RV fridge.

You will be able to find refrigerators that are more powerful. But these are generally intended for home kitchens.

In an RV, most power outlets will be best-suited to supporting a 12V refrigerator. If you opt for a mini-fridge, then you can easily plug these in anywhere in your RV. Some of the mini-fridges on this list can even be plugged into the cigarette charging point in your RV. These are usually 12V.

12V will be enough to support a wide range of temperatures. As you can see from some of the options on this list, it can support freezing, cooling, and warming. This will generally be between 25°F to 150°F.

This is a pretty decent temperature range. So, just because your refrigerator is small and compact, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be powerful and do the job well.

What is the best 12V fridge freezer?

If you regularly take your RV on long trips, then you’re probably going to need more than just a cooler box. Portable RV fridge freezers aren’t all that common. But there are some good options available.

Our top pick for the best fridge freezer is easily the ICECO GO20 Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator. It’s relatively easy to find a refrigerator that can be cooled down to a freezer. But this refrigerator is almost unique in its dual fridge-freezer design.

This is all down to it being a dual zone refrigerator. Although some other refrigerators feature dividers, these aren’t technically dual zone refrigerators. This is because the dividers can usually be removed. Their purpose is to simply divide up the food to make it easier to access.

A proper dual zone refrigerator, such as the GO20 from ICECO, has two completely different chambers. These chambers are still divided by a removable divider.

But it isn’t simply a piece of plastic. Rather, this divider allows half the refrigerator to be a freezer and the other half to be a refrigerator. When the divider is removed, it can either be a freezer or a refrigerator.

What is the best fridge for a campervan?

This entirely depends on your campervan. It depends on the overall space and the amount of storage available.

It also depends on whether or not your campervan has a built-in kitchen. If you have a built-in kitchen, this will often include a refrigerator. If it doesn’t, then there is a chance there will be space for a refrigerator.

A lot of 12V refrigerators are closer in shape, style, and size to a cooler box. Some of these refrigerators can be turned on their side or transformed into a more standard style. But, the majority are shaped like chests and boxes.

This has its pros and cons. It will make it much easier to store if you don’t have a dedicated space for a refrigerator.

But, storing food in a chest is definitely not as practical and easy to access as a refrigerator with a swing door.

How much power does a 12V fridge use?

This will depend on the style, shape, and features of your refrigerator.

For example, a refrigerator that can transition between freezing, cooling, and heating can potentially use more energy than a standard cooling refrigerator. But, this is not always the case.

Generally, a 12V refrigerator will require between 1amp to 6amps. This a relatively wide range. The average is around 2.5amps. But this, as mentioned above, can still vary depending on the features available.

So, it’s important to know exactly how much power your RV can produce. Remember, the power your van produces will need to be spread between a lot of different functions. These include the lights, heating, and other appliances such as the hob or shower.

If you have the budget and the ability, you can increase your power by using renewable energy. This will usually be from solar panels.

You can also swap out other forms of power for solar panels. This will save you money in the long run if you’re concerned about a 12V refrigerator using a lot of power.

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