How we picked
Most freezers do an admirable job of accomplishing the basic task of keeping things frozen, but they aren't all created equal. The best freezers are those with an upright configuration, with a capacity of at least 15 cubic feet and a cost per cubic foot of less than $45. They come from reputable companies with reputations for long-term reliability, and they include these five key features:
- Storage baskets and shelves that you can move around
- Bright interior lighting
- Adjustable leveling legs
- Power-on indicator light
- Safety lock
We leaned toward upright freezers over chest freezers because they offer more storage space in a smaller footprint and are easier to organize. Most uprights are "frost-free," which means the temperature periodically rises to melt frost buildup. This eliminates the need for a painstaking manual defrost, but increases the risk of freezer burn. We have recommendations for both frost-free and manual-defrost designs.
Because we weren't able to test the freezers physically, we devoted dozens of hours to researching, spreadsheeting, and reading about 60 different freezers. We disqualified any models that lacked a power-on light, a safety lock, and an interior light. We also cut models that didn't have at least 100 reviews and an average rating of 4½ stars out of five. Finally, we considered other editorial reviews, warranties, price, consumption, and availability to winnow the list to just four models.
The best freezer: Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW
The Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW is the best upright freezer for most people. It offers 20 cubic feet of storage space in a modest footprint, and has a lower cost-per-cubic-foot price than any other freezer of its size and type. It's even more energy-efficient than our top pick, drawing only 480 kilowatt-hours of energy per year. That amount of power will add about $61 to your annual energy bill. The FFFH20F2QW is a frost-free machine that has all five of the most important features we think any freezer should have.
We're confident in the FFFH20F2QW's long-term performance, mostly because of Frigidaire's reputation. According to Yale Appliance and Lighting, just 8.3 percent of the 5,657 Frigidaire products it sold in 2016 required service. The FFFH20F2QW also has solid reviews from professional testers like Consumer Reports and customers on the Home Depot and Best Buy websites.
Runner-up: Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW
If you're looking for something slightly smaller or slightly cheaper, or if you simply prefer a manual-defrost system, we recommend the Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW. At 17.4 cubic feet, it's still quite a large freezer, and its cost per cubic foot is among the lowest we've seen in the mid- to large-size category. Like our top pick, it has all five of the most important features you should expect in an upright freezer. The FFFU17M1QW draws an estimated 362 kilowatt-hours per year, enough to add about $50 to your annual energy bill.
The FFFU17M1QW is really just a scaled-down version of our top pick, with manual defrost instead of a frost-free design. That means a lower risk of freezer burn and spoiled food, but you'll need to defrost your freezer whenever the ice reaches a quarter-inch in thickness. It's the highest-rated manual-defrost upright freezer in current Consumer Reports rankings, and it maintains glowing customers reviews too.
Budget pick: Maytag MZF34X16DW
Among mid- to large-size upright freezers, the Maytag MZF34X16DW is the best pick for the price. A 15.7-cubic-foot frost-free machine, it has top ratings for its temperature performance and energy efficiency, and its price is notably less than our top pick's. In terms of price relative to capacity, no freezer matched the value of the MZF34X16DW: Its cost per cubic foot was the lowest among all the upright freezers we researched. You can expect it to cost you a little over $40 a year to run continuously.
This freezer lacks a few important features found in our other picks, like a power-on light, safety lock, and adjustable leveling legs. But we still think it's a good value for more budget-conscious folks.
The MZF34X16DW has solid reviews among owners and professional testers, due in no small part to Maytag's reputation for long-term reliability. It's currently Maytag's top-selling upright freezer. It also has one of the most comprehensive warranties we've seen: a one-year limited warranty and a 10-year warranty on the compressor.
The best chest freezer: GE FCM11PHWW
For a chest freezer, we recommend the GE FCM11PHWW, which strikes the right balance of price, performance, features, reliability, and required floor space, despite being much smaller than our other picks at only 10.6 cubic feet. We considered larger chest freezers, but found they were difficult to organize and took up far too much floor space. If you need a larger capacity, we think you're better off with an upright freezer.
This GE costs roughly half the price of our top pick, and it is one of the most popular, top-reviewed freezers you can get. It offers three storage baskets and was one of the only chest freezers we saw with adjustable leveling legs. It's backed by one of the best freezer warranties available: the standard one-year limited, and an additional 10-year warranty on the compressor.
Consumer Reports currently ranks the FCM11PHWW as the top overall freezer—chest or upright. It draws only 218 kilowatt-hours per year, so as CR estimates, it will cost just $30 a year to operate, less than any other freezer in this guide. Customer reviews for the FCM11PHWW are glowing, averaging out to higher than those of any other freezer we looked at.
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