After more than 40 hours of research, including interviews with two butchers, an engineer, and a bunch of hunters, we think the Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW is the best freezer for most people.
The vast majority of freezers do a perfectly good job of maintaining low temperatures, so it’s better to focus on the capacity, efficiency, features, and price. With 20 cubic feet of storage space, the Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW offers a larger capacity than most freezers, at a price that makes it cheaper than competitors of its type and size—all within a smaller footprint that’s easier to organize than an equivalent-size chest freezer. This upright freezer has all the most important features our experts identified—including a power-on light, a safety lock, and adjustable leveling legs—and it’s one of the most popular, well-reviewed freezers we’ve found. It’s also highly efficient, and its manufacturer has a good reputation for long-term reliability.
The Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW is essentially a scaled-down version of our top pick, except it’s manual defrost rather than frost-free—a difference that has its up and downs and is mostly a matter of personal preference. At 17.4 cubic feet, this model is smaller and only slightly cheaper than our top pick, but it has all the same features and similarly positive reviews. At the moment, the FFFU17M1QW is the top-rated manual-defrost upright freezer in Consumer Reports rankings. And with this model, you can expect to save about $12 a year on your energy bill in comparison with our top pick.
The 15.7-cubic-foot Maytag MZF34X16DW may cost more than our chest-freezer pick, but for a frost-free upright freezer, its affordability is unmatched in terms of its price relative to its size. This Maytag is one of the most popular, well-reviewed, and energy-efficient freezers we’ve encountered. It also comes with one of the most comprehensive warranties we’ve seen, as well as a strong reputation for long-term reliability. It’s missing a few key features—such as a safety lock and a power-on light—but we think the low price justifies their absence.
We prefer upright freezers because they offer more space within a smaller footprint, so when it comes to chest freezers we put less of a premium on capacity. The 10.6-cubic-foot GE FCM11PHWW is the best chest freezer for most people because it manages to hit all the notes in terms of price, features, performance specs, and efficiency, while consuming only a modest amount of floor space. It costs significantly less than our top picks and is currently Consumer Reports’s top-rated freezer overall.
We then did a very thorough version of what any regular shopper would do, going through hundreds of models and owner reviews, and comparing all that we could against professional reviews from testing houses like Reviewed.com and Consumer Reports.
Personally, I’ve been covering and writing about appliances for more than five years, having previously worked as a staff writer at Reviewed.com. I’ve also attended a lot of trade shows and interviewed a lot of appliance manufacturers.
Like refrigerators, most freezers work well. Unless you found yours in a Dumpster somewhere, chances are, it’ll accomplish the basic task of keeping things frozen. Yes, you can find variations in temperature performance and efficiency, but most of the freezers you can get are perfectly adequate. Our recommendations are an attempt to zero in on the most optimal balance of specs and features (and admittedly subjective preferences) within a huge category of seemingly identical, equally capable models.
In addition to all that, the best freezers come from a company with a solid reputation for customer service and long-term reliability—with strong professional reviews, positive owner reviews, and a good warranty.
As for chest freezers versus upright freezers, we leaned toward upright models for a few reasons. Uprights look and operate like regular refrigerators (only at subfreezing temperatures). Because they’re vertically oriented, they offer more space within a smaller footprint. Most experts we spoke to agreed that uprights are more convenient for retrieving and organizing food, since you don’t have to go digging around for items buried at the bottom, as you often have to with chest freezers. The convenience factor is especially relevant if you’re a hunter. Greg F, a hunter from California with decades of experience, told us that uprights were ideal specifically because they were easier to organize. “I piled elk on top of ducks and dove in a chest freezer and had to move the elk meat every time I wanted duck or dove,” he said. “I had a hell of a time just finding the dove.”
But the trade-off here is in air circulation. Unlike chest freezers, in which items are just sort of piled up on top of one another, uprights allow more air to move around inside the freezer, increasing the risk of freezer burn and lowering the appliance’s overall energy efficiency. Most uprights are “frost-free,” which means the machine periodically rises above 0 degrees Fahrenheit (the ideal freezer temperature) and fluctuates between 0 °F and 32 °F to melt frost buildup. This feature is convenient because you’ll never have to manually defrost the freezer (which is quite an ordeal), but it may compromise some foods or cause freezer burn in improperly sealed items. You can protect against this effect by vacuum-sealing or just tightly wrapping your foods.
As for capacity, we think most folks would be wise to overestimate rather than underestimate their needs. “If you hunt big game, you are likely to need a lot more freezer space when successful,” said hunter Greg F. “Larger is better for the times you need more room like storing ice before a party.” As Heather Marold Thomason, butcher at Primal Supply Meats, told us, there’s nothing worse than running out of space. “Freezers are like purses,” she said. “The bigger they are the more you fill them up.”
Generally, you do want to fill them to capacity—doing so makes the machine more efficient (since the thermal inertia helps maintain the low temperatures longer), and it also helps ward off freezer burn because it offers less room for air to circulate. We focused our search on uprights with capacities of 15 to 22 cubic feet, after confirming with a Frigidaire engineer that this was the most popular range of sizes. For chest freezers, we looked at models in the range of 10 to 15 cubic feet—we didn’t go bigger because we wanted a modest footprint that was manageable to organize. We did not consider anything much smaller than that. (We know there’s some interest in 5- to 7-cubic-foot “mini” freezers—we hope to look into them further in the future.)
Price is mostly a reflection of the freezer’s capacity: The larger the machine, the more you pay for it. This makes for a pretty wide price range, with “mini” freezers available for as low as $150 and giant upright units as pricey as $1,000. We tracked price per cubic foot of space, aiming for a figure of about $45 or less per cubic foot. That isn’t a perfectly fair metric, since other things factor into a freezer’s asking price, but it is useful for comparison.
Once we felt confident in our background understanding of freezers, we started throwing all the available data we could find into a giant spreadsheet, separating each freezer by design type (chest or upright). Then, for each of the nearly 60 models we cataloged, we listed all the relevant details: price, capacity, chest or upright, specs, cost per square foot, warranty information, and whether it had certain features like a power-on light or leveling legs. We also looked at more abstract things such as online customer reviews, long-term reliability reports, and testing data from sources like Consumer Reports and Reviewed.com. Because we weren’t able to test the freezers physically, we devoted our time to researching, spreadsheeting, and reading about each of the top models in the category—a process that took dozens of hours over the course of several weeks.
With all that information, we were then able to narrow down our list of contenders by disqualifying any freezer that lacked a power-on light, a safety lock (if it’s a chest freezer), or an interior light. We also cut models that didn’t have at least 100 reviews with at least one retailer, and we then cut the models with an average customer review of less than 4½ out of five (this was not a huge hurdle, as most top-selling freezers at Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowes, and the like have very positive owner reviews). Then we compared our short list of contenders against individual freezer reviews from Consumer Reports and Reviewed.com; this step helped us eliminate a few on-the-fence candidates. Coordinating all of that with other data, including warranty info, price averages, annual energy consumption, and general availability, we were able to winnow the list down to four freezer models we recommend.
The Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW is the best freezer for most people. This upright freezer offers a huge amount of storage space in a modest footprint at a cost-per-cubic-foot price lower than that of every other freezer of its size and type. As a frost-free machine, it’s easier to maintain, and it has the five most important features we think any upright or chest freezer should have. It’s one of the most popular and well-reviewed models we’ve come across, and trustworthy sources rank Frigidaire among the most reliable appliance brands.
With a 20-cubic-foot capacity, the FFFH20F2QW is the fourth-largest upright freezer we found in our research. We think bigger is better in most cases, since the type of people who shop for a stand-alone freezer tend to have lots of food-storage needs, and they often end up requiring more room than they expect. Upright freezers like this one deliver more space within a smaller footprint than any chest freezers.
The FFFH20F2QW is especially attractive because it offers the storage space of a high-capacity freezer at the price of a mid-capacity freezer. When we calculated the cost (based on the street price) per cubic foot of the six largest upright freezers, the FFFH20F2QW was the cheapest of all.
This model includes all five features we identified as being most important: It has a safety lock, an interior light, a power-on light, adjustable leveling legs for uneven floors, and four shelves that you can adjust and move around at different heights within the machine. These five key features are pretty much standard among Frigidaire freezers, but the other major players in the category (GE, Maytag, Whirlpool) rarely offer all of them. For this reason, Frigidaire models were common on our list of the top competitors. If the size of our pick doesn’t work for your needs but you want something similar, we recommend looking at another Frigidaire.
When it comes to frost-free versus manual-defrost freezers, we don’t prefer one or the other, as each design has its ups and downs, but the frost-free FFFH20F2QW is attractive to folks who don’t want to deal with defrosting their freezer periodically. But because frost-free machines vary the temperature in order to prevent freezer burn, it’s a good idea to seal your food as tightly as possible; vacuum-seal it or wrap it in an extra layer of wax paper to keep air out. None of the experts we talked to said that they had encountered issues with freezer burn in frost-free freezers, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW has solid reviews from current owners and professional testers. Consumer Reports currently has it ranked as the fourth-best upright freezer, with top marks for temperature performance and energy efficiency. (We disqualified CR’s other top three for being too expensive or having limited availability.) On the Home Depot website, the FFFH20F2QW has an overall rating of 4.6 out of five stars at this writing, with 94 percent of the 1,000-plus reviews giving it a rating of at least four stars. Customer reviews on the Best Buy website are the same currently, with an overall rating of 4.6 out of five.
We’re confident in the FFFH20F2QW’s long-term performance mostly because of Frigidaire’s reputation, which we assessed from sources such as Consumer Reports and Yale Appliance and Lighting. Yale Appliance (a Boston-based high-end appliance retailer) annually ranks the most reliable and least serviced appliance brands, drawing on its own customer service requests and repair data. Last year, Yale ranked Frigidaire at number three, with just 8.3 percent of the 5,657 units sold requiring service. Similarly, in the Consumer Reports list of the most reliable refrigerator brands (not quite the same as freezers but still comparable), the testing house cited Frigidaire (and Maytag) as being less repair-prone than Kenmore and GE.
Upright freezers tend to be less efficient than their chest counterparts, and the Frigidaire FFFH20F2QW, with its relatively high 480 kWh/year energy draw, is no different. According to Consumer Reports, you can expect this machine to add about $61 per year to your energy bill. That’s slightly higher than average among upright freezers.
You could see the frost-free mechanism as a flaw, if you’re especially concerned about freezer burn. This slight fluctuation in temperature, which means you never have to go through the trouble of manually defrosting the freezer, can cause improperly sealed food to spoil or “burn.” To prevent that result, either make sure your food is sealed—wrap another layer of wax paper around meat or buy a vacuum sealer—or buy our runner-up or our chest freezer pick, the latter of which you’ll have to manually defrost once a year. Overall, we think most people would rather seal their food better than deal with the defrosting.
Last, this is not a flaw, but it is a general fact that could steer you toward another model, and we hope it makes the buying process easier for you: This model is not the only good freezer out there. The FFFH20F2QW in particular is strong in its balance of size and affordability, but functionally it is virtually the same as several other Frigidaire freezers—so if you encounter another Frigidaire freezer with a size that suits your home better, go for it.
If you’re looking for something slightly smaller or slightly cheaper, or if our top pick isn’t available, 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—well within the ideal size range for an upright—and its cost per cubic foot (based on the manufacturer’s suggested price) 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, plus a relatively low energy draw, as well as consistently positive owner reviews and a reputation for long-term reliability.
The FFFU17M1QW is really just a scaled-down version of our top pick, with manual defrost instead of a frost-free design. It’s a bit shorter and a little less expensive than our top pick, and it costs less than pretty much every other freezer in its size category. Among the 17 upright freezers we looked at with capacities between 13 and 20 cubic feet, the FFFU17M1QW was among the cheapest, but like our top pick it doesn’t skimp on features or performance. This freezer includes a safety lock, an interior light, a power-on light, and adjustable leveling legs for uneven floors. (Most of the other freezers in this size category don’t have all of those features.) It offers three shelves and five door bins, and it’s even more energy efficient than our top pick, with an estimated annual energy draw of 362 kWh. You can expect that to cost you a bit less than $50 a year to run.
The Frigidaire FFFU17M1QW is the highest-rated manual-defrost upright freezer in current Consumer Reports rankings, with an overall score of 74; it received a mark of “very good” for power outage and temperature performance, and a score of “excellent” for energy efficiency. The FFFU17M1QW maintains consistently glowing reviews among owners, too, with an overall rating of 4.6 out of five stars on the Home Depot website; at this writing, 93 percent of the nearly 200 reviews give it at least four stars. As with our top pick, we were further assured by Frigidaire’s reputation for long-term reliability, attested most clearly in Yale Appliance’s list of the least serviced appliance brands. (Frigidaire ranked number three in 2016.)
Some folks may be turned off by the manual-defrost system, but both manual and frost-free machines have their ups and downs. Although you will likely have to defrost this thing once every year or two, you can rest easy knowing your food is at less risk of freezer burn. This advantage is partly the reason for the model’s positive efficiency rating—and its great price. If you like this freezer but the manual defrost turns you off, check out the Frigidaire FFFH17F2QW; it’s a bit smaller (16.6 cubic feet) and slightly less efficient (431 kWh/year), but it offers all the same features in a frost-free system.
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 it costs notably less than our top pick. While the actual cost varies from season to season, the cost per cubic foot at the time of this writing was the lowest among all the upright freezers we came across in our research. The MZF34X16DW has solid reviews among owners and professional testers, and it is currently Maytag’s top-selling upright freezer. It also has one of the most comprehensive warranties we’ve seen, backed by solid long-term reliability ratings from Consumer Reports and Yale Appliance. This freezer is lacking a few important features that competitors from Frigidaire tend to have, but we think it’s a good value for more budget-conscious folks.
The price may seem high for a “budget” pick, but among upright freezers we tend to favor machines with a capacity of at least 13 cubic feet, and among those the MZF34X16DW is one of the most cost-friendly options. When we calculated the street price as a measure of its capacity (cost per cubic foot), it was the cheapest upright freezer we found at the time of our research.
But a cheap freezer should still be reliable and work well, and its long-term energy cost should also be low. In those regards, the MZF34X16DW beats most of the competition. In addition to being Maytag’s top-selling upright freezer (Maytag reps confirmed its top-selling status for us), it has a great review from Consumer Reports, with an overall score of 78, including a score of “excellent” for energy efficiency. (You can expect it to cost you a little over $40 a year to run continuously.) Owner reviews are also good: On the Home Depot website, the MZF34X16DW has an overall rating of 4.5 out of five stars at this writing, with 90 percent of the 1,000-plus reviews awarding a score of at least four.
Maytag’s reputation for long-term reliability adds extra assurance. Yale Appliance, in its most recent reliability study, for 2016, ranked Maytag eighth on its list of the most reliable appliance brands, with 13 percent of the 700-plus Maytag units the retailer sold in 2016 requiring service.
Maytag has one of the most comprehensive freezer warranties we’ve seen: a one-year limited warranty on the entire freezer (which is pretty much standard), as well as a 10-year warranty on the compressor—something we’ve seen from only one other freezer manufacturer (GE).
Because the Maytag MZF34X16DW is a frost-free machine, you’ll never have to defrost it manually, but as with our top pick, the risk of freezer burn is slightly higher as a result. Seal your foods as tightly as possible and pack the freezer as fully as you can. This Maytag model’s price is sometimes nearly the same as that of our runner-up—which is a manual-defrost model. Because people tend to prefer a frost-free design, we think the slightly lower capacity here is a worthwhile trade-off.
The MZF34X16DW does have an interior light, but it lacks a power-on light, a safety lock, and adjustable leveling legs—three features all of our other upright picks have. These are features we believe most people don’t think of at the time of purchase but appreciate further down the road. We would have liked the MZF34X16DW even more if it had included them, but its low cost, performance scores, and efficiency rating allow us to excuse these missing details.
For a chest freezer, we recommend the GE FCM11PHWW. Despite being much smaller than our other picks (at 10.6 cubic feet), this model strikes the best balance of factors that most people look for in a chest freezer: price, performance, features, reliability, and required floor space. At this writing it costs roughly half the price of our top pick, and it is one of the most popular, top-reviewed freezers you can get. It has everything you should expect from a freezer (including some features that are rare among chest models), it offers more storage baskets than most competitors do, and it’s backed by one of the best freezer warranties we’ve found anywhere.
Chest freezers are generally more affordable than their upright counterparts, and the GE FCM11PHWW is especially affordable for the category, costing roughly $140 less than our budget pick. That lower cost is largely due to the modest 10.6-cubic-foot capacity, but because it’s a chest freezer, we thought this size struck the right balance of capacity and occupied floor space. Moreover, it enjoys some of the best performance scores of any freezer. Consumer Reports currently ranks it as the top overall freezer—chest or upright—with a score of 89, including a rating of “excellent” for temperature performance, energy efficiency, and noise. With an energy draw of 218 kWh/year, CR estimates, this model will cost you just $30 a year to operate—less than any other freezer in this guide. On the Home Depot website, it has an overall customer rating of 4.7 out of five stars currently, with 96 percent of reviewers giving it at least a four. Considering the similarly stellar review scores on the Lowe’s (5.0) and Best Buy (4.8) sites right now, this model boasts the very best overall customer reviews of any freezer we looked at.
The GE FCM11PHWW has all the most important features you should expect from a chest freezer, and then some. All of its competitors in the chest-freezer category have a safety lock, an interior light, and a power-on light, but only the GE FCM11PHWW has adjustable leveling legs as well. It offers three baskets inside, which is more than most in this category and something we weighed heavily considering how difficult it can be to organize and retrieve items in a chest freezer. The FCM11PHWW is also backed by an impressive warranty: the standard one-year limited, with an additional 10-year warranty on the compressor. The only other freezers we’ve seen that also offer such coverage are Maytag models.
The flaws of the FCM11PHWW are the same as those you’ll find in chest freezers in general. The modest 10.6-cubic-foot interior may not be enough space for you. This model takes up more floor space than an upright (but far less than the more expensive 15- to 20-cubic-foot chest models we dismissed). You’ll have to manually defrost the thing once every year or two (whenever the ice reaches a quarter-inch in thickness). And organizing and retrieving items may prove difficult, since you’ll probably have to stack a lot of items on top of one another.
Manual-defrost machines (obviously) need periodic defrosting. Frost buildup consumes space inside the freezer and compromises the machine’s overall performance and efficiency, as frost hinders the freezer’s ability to pump heat out of the interior. The general rule of thumb is to defrost whenever the buildup reaches one quarter of an inch, but you can put off this task by doing a few things:
When defrosting the machine, keep the door open, remove the drain plug, and place a pan beneath it to collect meltwater. The process will probably take several hours. Make sure the interior is completely dry (using paper towels) before turning the freezer back on, as any leftover water will just refreeze as frost once the freezer gets back down to 0 °F.
Most of these points apply to frost-free freezers as much as they do to chest freezers. Although you won’t need to defrost a frost-free unit, the machine will be less efficient overall, and the food you store in it will be more prone to freezer burn. Again: Tightly seal your food, store it in as small a package as possible, and keep the freezer stacked to prevent air circulation and to use the thermal inertia to your advantage.
Frigidaire FFFU21M1QW: A lot of the freezers on our list are pretty much identical, just scaled for whatever capacity folks are looking for. This model, for example, is nearly identical to our runner-up pick, offering manual defrost, all the important features (safety lock, interior light, power-on light, leveling legs), and similarly positive owner reviews. At 20.9 cubic feet, it’s just a bit bigger and a bit pricier—more so than what we think most people are looking for. However, if you’re shopping for this capacity in particular, you should expect this freezer to function more or less the same.
Frigidaire FFFH21F6QW: Another very popular freezer, this 20.5-cubic-foot Frigidaire is pretty much a scaled-up version of our top pick. In fact, Consumer Reports currently ranks it higher—it’s the testing house’s second highest-rated upright freezer. It has a digital temperature indicator on the front door, too. But we don’t think any of that justifies its costing between $150 and $200 more than our top pick, even if you should expect it to function identically to our top pick. It just crosses a threshold of price and capacity that’s beyond what most people are looking for.
Frigidaire FFFH21F4QW: This model is identical to the FFFH21F6QW, only without the digital temperature display. We disqualified it for the same exact reasons: The price and capacity are out of whack with what most people are shopping for, but you should expect it to perform just as well as our top pick.
Frigidaire FFFH17F2QW: Another popular, top-selling freezer from Frigidaire, this 16.6-cubic-foot alternative is just a scaled-down version of our top pick, but it costs roughly the same and doesn’t have quite as stellar reviews. You can expect similar performance, as its features are the same.
Frigidaire FFFH17F4QW: We couldn’t see any difference between this machine and the FFFH17F2QW, except that this one cost $100 more at the time we checked. Enough said.
Frigidaire FFFC16M5QW: This freezer offers a decent capacity (15.6 cubic feet) for the price, plus all the important features (safety lock, interior light, power-on light) and a relatively low energy draw of 306 kWh/year. It does not have leveling legs, though, and it has only a single storage basket. It also has a so-so performance review from Reviewed.com. Overall, this model is less impressive than our top chest pick, but if that one isn’t available or you’re looking for something a bit larger, we would recommend this one.
Whirlpool WZC5422DW: One of the largest freezers we came across in our research, this model is actually relatively affordable for the cubic footage it offers (which, keep in mind, will take up a lot of floor space). It has strong owner reviews and all the important features, except leveling legs, but it suffers from very poor ratings from Consumer Reports (subscription required), and it’s still quite pricey next to our top pick.
Frigidaire FFFC22M6QW: Another massive freezer, this 21.6-cubic-foot Frigidaire is a top seller and has all the most important features and a lot of interior storage baskets. You’ll find a lot to like if you’re going for capacity, but for most people this model is simply too big and too expensive to beat our top pick. To get this much size, we strongly urge people to consider an upright model.
Frigidaire FFFC18M4RW: If you’re going for something really big, this model is another good option, as it has all the most important features plus a 17.5-cubic-foot capacity. But like the rest of the competition, it fails to strike the same balance of price, size, occupied floor space, and performance that our top pick offers.
Whirlpool WZC5415DW: This Whirlpool has all the most important features plus a temperature alarm for when it gets too warm. But with its somewhat limited availability, as well as its cost relative to its capacity, it failed to impress us more than our top pick.
Whirlpool WZC3122DW: This 21.7-cubic-foot freezer is fairly popular and among the largest freezers we’ve come across. In our opinion it is too large for most people seeking a chest freezer, as it compromises a lot of floor space. It also costs significantly more than our top pick, lacks both a power-on indicator light and leveling legs, and bears a lackluster performance review from Consumer Reports, with a score of 55.
Let's make waffles.