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Most reliable refrigerator brand

What is the most reliable refrigerator brand today?

It is no secret that new appliances do not last as long as they used to back then, so it is very difficult to find the most reliable refrigerator brand nowadays.

In recent history, most appliance companies have been acquired by the largest brands in the world. So today there is a very small selection of refrigerator brands available to chose from.

There are just about six main companies producing refrigerators:

  • Whirlpool (USA)
  • Electrolux (Sweden)
  • Bosch (Germany)
  • LG (South Korea)
  • Samsung (South Korea)
  • Haier (China)

There are also some luxury brands such as; Sub-Zero, Miele, Viking… but they typically cost about three times as much as regular brands.

You can still buy well known Maytag, Kitchen-Aid, Frigidaire and so on, but they all belong to one of those six brands.

Who makes Kenmore?

Kenmore, known as Sears brand, does not really have a home. These refrigerators are manufactured by multiple companies. And reliability varies depending on who made the fridge. If you look at the label, the first three digits of a model number will represent the code of manufacturer.

Kenmore label manufactured by Whirlpool

In this case, the code is “106” which means Whirlpool made this refrigerator. The quality of this fridge should be slightly better then if it was made by a South Korean manufacturer. Here are some more examples of codes:

  • 106 – Whirlpool
  • 363 – GE
  • 401 – Samsung
  • 596 – Amana
  • 795 – LG Electronics
  • 970 – Frigidaire

Note – Sears is going through bankruptcy, therefore, Kenmore brand most likely would not get a lot of support in the future.

GE brands

An American company GE (Hotpoint) used to make decent basic refrigerators. However, in 2016 GE appliance brands were sold to Chinese multinational consumer electronics and home appliances company Haier. Therefore, it is difficult to recommend GE products at this time.

Bosch brands

The German company Bosch is well known for the good quality of their dish-washing machines. You can also buy a Bosch fridge that looks like a high-end appliance which will increase the equity of your kitchen.

However, the reliability of Bosch refrigerators is just about average. The bigger problem is that Bosch brands do not have enough well-trained authorized technicians in North America. So, when your ice-maker stops working, and most likely it will, you may not be able to find anybody in your area to fix it. Just because big-box retailers sell European appliances, it does not mean they can service them in a timely manner.

Electrolux (Frigidaire)

If you grew up with Frigidaire fridge in your kitchen which worked like a clock for a few decades, be prepared to be disappointed when you replace it with a new Frigidaire refrigerator. A Swedish company Electrolux is in charge of what used to be a great and reliable American company. The quality and reliability have gone down dramatically since then.

Whirlpool brands

Whirlpool is the largest appliance company in the world carrying famous brands such as; Maytag, Amana, Kitchen Aid, Roper, Jenn-Air and more. 

Whirlpool and Maytag used to make the most reliable refrigerators on the market. However, even they are having problems with computer motherboards, defrosting, and leaking water on the floor according to Michael Grimshaw, a veteran technician in Home Appliance.

LG & Samsung

South Korean LG and Samsung refrigerators are typically cheaper to buy and have fairly good sealed-system warranties. The problem is that most likely components of the sealed-system (compressor, evaporator, condenser) will fail and you will have to use that warranty. The second problem is that it may be difficult to quickly find an authorized technician in your area who can repair it.

Sealed-system failure is one of the worst things that can happen to your fridge.

For example: if your ice-maker or water-dispenser stops working, you can still use the fridge to cool groceries. But if the sealed-system brakes down, the refrigerator becomes a warm, useless box.

Here is an interesting story from Nathan Nelson. (Field Service Technician) When he was in training class for new Samsung models coming to market, the Samsung representative was repeatedly asked why the reliability of their refrigerators is so bad. In the end, he gave up and unwillingly replied…

“…we only care about the first year, if we can get our fridges to work for one year we are good. After that it’s more business for you, the Service-Tech guys”

While one Samsung rep told the truth about the company, it seems that all appliance companies have similar goals. All they want is for a refrigerator to work until manufacturer’s warranty expires. Then make the repair so difficult and expensive, that you would want to buy a new fridge. And since the competition is not that great anymore, they do not really care who you buy your next refrigerator from.

Customer Complaints

If you do a little research on any refrigerator brand, you will see people swear that they will never buy this or that brand again…

…won’t be purchasing Bosch products again…

…very disappointed with LG support…

…I will never buy a Haier product again…

…worst Kenmore I ever owned…

…not Maytag as I knew…

What this means is that every single brand has its own problems.

Good reviews

Can you really trust good reviews?

Well, when you see high review ratings on refrigerators, keep in mind that appliance sellers (stores) collect most reviews right after the purchase. And at that time customers are happy and excited about their new shiny appliance. However, problems typically begin after the positive review has been registered, and especially after one-year warranty expires.

No reliable refrigerator brands

As you probably realized by now, there is not a single reliable refrigerator brand today on the market, regardless of a price.

But we all need a refrigerator in our home, so which one do we choose?

There is no simple answer that will fit everybody. It all depends on what exactly you are looking for.

Are you looking for…

  • reliability and simplicity
  • style and reliability
  • the best money can buy
  • and how will you pay for it (important)

Reliability and Simplicity

If you are looking for a simple, reliable refrigerator and do not really care about how it looks, then buy a domestic top-freezer refrigerator. This design is based on the original “Ice Box” refrigerator which utilizes natural cold/warm air circulation. Even if evaporator fan stops working, the cold air from the top freezer will slowly drift down to the fridge section and keep it cool until you fix the fan.

top freezer most reliable fridge

Top-freezer refrigerators are typically more reliable then bottom-freezers or side-by-side refrigerators.

The most reliable top-freezer refrigerator will be the one with condenser coils on the back running almost to the top of the fridge. This is a passive cooling system (no fan needed) which used to operate for decades without problems. They do not make those refrigerators any longer, but you may be able to find one of them in used condition on Craigslist for a bargain price.

fridge with condenser coils on back

Style and Reliability

Need some style in your kitchen? Then consider a French-Door bottom-freezer American made Whirlpool refrigerator. New French-Door Whirlpool refrigerators over $1,500 have one year manufacturer’s warranty and five years sealed-system parts and labor (verify at the time of purchase). Included labor in the warranty is important because it costs a lot of money to have service technicians come out multiple times to your home.

KitchenAid has a better warranty but will cost a few hundred dollars more for a similar design.

Also, when something goes wrong with the fridge, Whirlpool brands have a vast network of authorized technicians who can work on those refrigerators. That means that your fridge will be fixed faster than European, Korean, or Chinese brand.

Since you are looking for a somewhat reliable and stylish refrigerator, some sacrifices need to be made to make it more reliable.

fridge without ice/water dispenser

Ice and water dispensers are useful features of any refrigerator. However, they brake more often than you would like. If you read hundreds of complaints, most of them would be about Ice/Water Dispensers. Even the most expensive refrigerators at over $10,000 have those problems.

A malfunctioned water dispenser is not only an inconvenience, but it could also cause rust and mold to your refrigerator. Slowly dripping water dispenser can ruin your expensive kitchen floor. So, if you can live without a dispenser, do not waste your money on it.

Dual evaporator system is a great innovation where one cooling element is located in the freezer and the second cooling element in the fridge compartment. This design helps to keep a more precise temperature in both sections of the refrigerator.

However, since the second evaporator is a part of the same “sealed system” it creates an extra weak point. Dual evaporator models have more problems with leaking refrigerant than regular, single evaporator refrigerators. Therefore, try to find a regular single evaporator model if you can.

Extra complexity reduces reliability.

Ironically, the cheapest refrigerator you can buy without any “bells and whistles,” would be the most reliable one.

Door Alarm (feature worth getting)

Simple refrigerator would be the most reliable. However, French-Door refrigerators, unlike single-door refrigerators, do not close by themselves. You have to physically push on the door to close it. Sometimes, you or your kids may forget to shut the door completely, which will defrost your refrigerator, and possibly damage the compressor.

In this case, the best safety feature to have is a Door-Alarm which will notify you if the door is still open. Try to buy the most basic refrigerator with this important feature.

The best money can buy

If your refrigerator budget is around $10,000 consider a built-in Sub-Zero refrigerator brand. Installing a Sub-Zero refrigerator in your kitchen is like parking a Ferrari or Bentley in front of your house.

Million dollar home buyers know Sub-Zero brand very well, and it would definitely make your kitchen and home more desirable.

sub zero build in fridge

In the past, Sub-Zero refrigerators were very reliable going strong for 20 -30 years. However, with the introduction of ice and water dispensers, reliability went down. Sub-Zero has a great warranty, but you have to make sure that there are qualified repair specialists in your area before buying the most expensive fridge in your life.

sub zero refrigerator

Sub-Zero refrigerators have some unique features like NASA designed air-purification system, dual compressors, commercial grade nanotechnology shelves, and vacuum seal.

While the competition is catching up, the Sub-Zero brand is still a status symbol for proud homeowners. And installation of Sub Zero appliances is actually considered as an investment into your home rather than an expense.

How you will pay for it (free warranty)

Whether you are buying the cheapest or the most expensive refrigerator, how you pay for it is an important consideration.

Did you know that if you pay for a brand new refrigerator with a credit card serviced by MasterCard, VISA, Capital One, or American Express, you will get at least an extra year of free warranty? Read more about the extended warranty here.

Exceptions: The refrigerator must be new, not a floor-model or refurbished.

Yes, by putting the full purchase amount on a single credit card you are protected from appliance failure for an additional twelve month after the manufacturer’s first 12-month warranty expires. Make sure you save the receipt from the store, the credit card bill for that month, and a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty in a safe location.

Some credit cards offer 24-month free warranty extension, but you will have to verify it for yourself before making a purchase.

So. even if you have saved enough money to buy a new refrigerator with cash, it is better to put it on the right credit card and pay it off in full next month. That way, you will get the additional warranty protection for free.

Manufacturer’s Warranty

Since modern refrigerators are not as reliable as they used to be, it is important to have an extra protection like a warranty. Different brands offer unique warranties. Even a single brand can offer different coverage on various models of refrigerators. Also, warranties change over time, so make sure to check exactly what you are getting before the purchase of a refrigerator.

Here is the list of warranties you may expect from different companies. (better warranties on top of the list including parts & labor)

Sub Zero – 2y Limited, 5y Sealed Sys. parts&labor, 12y Sealed Sys. parts

KitchenAid – 1y Limited, 5y Sealed Sys. parts&labor, 10y Sealed Sys. parts

Samsung – 1y Limited, 5y Sealed Sys. parts&labor, 10y compressor parts

LG (Studio) – 2y Limited, 2y Sealed Sys. parts&labor, 7y Sealed Sys. parts, 10y Compressor parts

Whirlpool (above ~ $1,500)  – 1y Limited, 5y Sealed Sys. parts&labor

GE (Profile & Cafe) – 1y Limited, 5y sealed Sys. parts&labor

LG – 1y Limited, 7y Sealed Sys. parts, 10y Compressor parts

Haier – 2y Limited

Maytag – 1y Limited, 10y Compressor parts

Electrolux – 1y Limited, 5y Sealed Sys. parts

Bosch – 1y Limited, 2y non-electronic parts, 5y electronic parts

Whirlpool – 1y Limited

Kenmore – 1y Limited

Frigidaire – 1y Limited

GE – 1y Limited

Hotpoint – 1y Limited

Amana – 1y Limited

Danby – 1y Limited

And of course, if you buy your refrigerator with the right credit card, the first year of Limited Warranty (which is the best kind of warranty) will be extended by at least one more year. And if you have a really good credit card, the warranty may be extended by two more years.

Maintenance

Refrigerators do not require a lot of maintenance, which is great.

However, condenser fan on the bottom of your refrigerator pulls-in a lot of dust, lint, and hair. All this stuff settles on condenser coils, covering them like a blanket. Condenser coils supposed to dissipate heat from normal operation of the refrigerator, but the thick layer of dust prevents it from doing its job. The compressor has to work much harder to cool your refrigerator to the desired temperature.

At first you may notice that the refrigerator is not cooling as well as it used to, and eventually, an overworked compressor will die after the warranty expires.

If you clean condenser coils at least once a year or twice if you have pets, the refrigerator will become more reliable. Also, you will save some money on electricity, because the compressor will have shorter working cycles.

Some condenser coils are easy to clean from the front or the back of the refrigerator. You can use a vacuum cleaner and a coil brush to loosen up the debris.

fridge dirty coils with grill

But some refrigerator brands make it very difficult for you to clean condenser coils by installing a grill in front of it. Wonder if they do it on purpose.

In either case, if you want to save money on your electric bill and make your fridge more reliable, try to clean those coils regularly.

In conclusion

  1. There are no reliable refrigerator brands today in 2020.
  2. Buy a domestic brand (Whirlpool, Maytag in the USA) which can be quickly repaired by local technicians.
  3. If you are looking for reliability, then buy the simplest refrigerator you can find. All “bells & whistles” malfunction, especially Ice/Water dispensers.
  4. Buy refrigerator with relatively long manufacturer’s warranty.
  5. Put refrigerator purchase on a credit card which offers at least 12-month warranty extension.
  6. Keep condenser coils clean to prolong the life of the compressor.

(Even if your fridge is under warranty, but the service tech finds super dirty coils, the warranty may be rejected. You must keep coils clean for the manufacturer to repair your refrigerator under warranty).