Truck Refrigerator: Over-the-Road Trucker Fridge Buying Tips

Let me start off by saying that I am not an OTR trucker.  I hauled wheat four summers within states from Texas to Montana and that is the extent of my trucking experience.  I have spent a lot of time in truck stops talking to truckers and I even spent a year pumping diesel at one.  Something I learned from my experiences and those long talks with OTR professionals is that there isn’t a lot of room in a truck and you need to keep things as simple as possible.  Take a truck refrigerator for instance.  It seems like that would be a simple thing to buy, but it turns out that a truck refrigerator is definitely not.  This article aims to simplify the process of choosing a truck refrigerator as much as possible.

Truck Refrigerator Kenworth Trucks

 

Truck Refrigerator: Over-the-Road Trucker Fridge Buying Tips

Truck Refrigerator Dometic Small Portable Fridge Outdoors ViewThere are many considerations that can go into buying a truck refrigerator:

  • Are you short or long haul?
  • Do you have a sleeper?
  • Are you looking for a permanent installation or more portable?
  • Do you need a lot of room or are mostly interested in keeping drinks and snacks cold?
  • Do you need a freezer, too or just the truck refrigerator?
  • Do you operate in very hot climates mostly or mostly moderate to cold climates?
  • Would a chest refrigerator or an upright refrigerator work better for your situation?
  • Do you have readily available 120V power or are you counting on using 12V DC power?
  • How much can you spend?

Truck Refrigerator ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer 50-Quart Full ViewLet’s look at some of these considerations in an effort to help you choose a truck refrigerator:

Short or Long Haul

Short haul truckers often don’t have sleepers and in other words don’t have a lot of room.  They also, typically don’t need to store food for long periods because they don’t spend as much time on the road during each trip and can reasonably stop more frequently.  Short haul truckers probably need a smaller refrigerator mostly designed for beverages and snacks.  Short haul truckers should also definitely consider an ice cooler as an alternative to a refrigerator or electric cooler.

Long haul truckers will have a sleeper of some sort and usually more room for a larger refrigerator or cooler.  They need to store more food and drinks longer because they stop less frequently.  Ice coolers probably won’t be as effective for long haul truckers.

 
 

Heat Waves or BlizzardsTruck Refrigerator Dometic Small Portable Fridge Canted View

There are basically two types of truck refrigerators to choose from.  There are thermoelectric coolers and true compressor-based refrigerators.

The compressor-based models are like the refrigerator you have in your kitchen at home.

Thermoelectric coolers on the other hand are completely different animals.  They depend on the ambient temperature to perform cooling.  They are normally rated to cool down to 40 degrees F below the ambient temperature.  That means if you mostly operate in cooler climates a thermoelectric cooler can more easily reach temperatures you might expect for cold drinks and to preserve food.  In hot climates where it might be difficult to keep temperatures cool in your truck, the cooler may struggle to get the temperature down to 45 or 50 degrees F.  In reality, at those temperatures, your food may not seem cool at all. Depending on the foods, you may even find that it’s not cool enough to keep them from spoiling.

ChTruck Refrigerator Dometic Blue and Gray Portable Fridge Canted Viewest or Upright Refrigerator

Chest refrigerators have the advantage that when you open them the refrigerator experiences less loss of temperature because the cold air stays in the fridge.  Uprights let cold air out and hot air in when you open the door and it may take several minutes to restore the temperature inside the fridge.

Chest refrigerators have the disadvantage that you have to stack food in horizontal layers and you will need to remove food to get to food at the bottom of the fridge.  Vertical fridges allow you to stack the food vertically and you can usually get to most of the food with just a small amount of moving things out of the way.

Most chest refrigerators are designed to be portable and have features that make them easier to move around.  Uprights are not usually designed to be portable and so you should plan to leave them in one place for most of the time.  The portability of chest models also gives you the flexibility to use them in other vehicles like your personal vehicle or other situations when you’re away from the truck like camping or sporting events.

Freezer and Refrigerator

When you talk about a truck refrigerator you usually mean without a freezer.  Freezers are available either by themselves or in combination with a refrigerator.  Some models can turn the whole unit into a freezer or refrigerator/cooler depending on what you need.

Power

If you decide buy a standard compact refrigerator because they are inexpensive, you will either have to have an AC port in your truck already or you will need to have an inverter.  An inverter simply converts DC power to AC power.  Be sure and check the power requirements of any AC fridge to buy to make sure you get the right size inverter.

Cost

About the cheapest thing you can do is to put a good quality ice chest in your truck.  It’s hard to say if it’s actually cheaper in the long run because you have to buy ice.  But, an ice chest could be a short term immediate solution.

 

Image
TitleColeman 6201A748 100 Quart Xtreme 5 Wheeled CoolerRubbermaid FG2C0902MODBL Extreme 5-Day Wheeled Ice Chest/Cooler, 75-Quart, BlueColeman Steel Cooler, Matte Black, 54-QuartColeman 50 Quart Xtreme® 5 Wheeled CoolerYeti Tundra Coolers - White - 65 QuartRubbermaid DuraChill 5-Day Wheeled Ice Chest / Cooler, Platinum, 50-quart (FG2A9200PMTL)Yeti 10065010000 Tundra 65 Cooler - TanIgloo 70 Quart Maxcold Extended Performance Cooler
FeatureHolds 160 cans - more than six cases of soda
Xtreme® 5 Technology keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90° F (32.22° C)
ThermOZONE(TM) Insulation contains no CFCs, HFCs or HCFCs, which deplete the ozone
Hinged lid with four cup holders keeps drinks close
Two-way handles for easy carrying
Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining
Lid accommodates 24-in. (61 cm) elastic cords (not included)
Exterior Dimensions: 36.5 in. x 16.75 in. x 18.25 in. (92.7 cm x 42.55 cm x 46.36 cm)
Interior Dimensions: 23.75 in. x 11.75 in. x 13 in. (60.33 cm x 29.85 cm x 33 cm)
Empty weight: 18 lbs. (8.16 kg)
This cooler's extra thick insulation keeps ice frozen up to 5 days even in temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit
Large size accommodates up to 130 cans plus ice; The rugged wheels make maneuvering over multiple surfaces easy
Great for camping, picnics, tailgating, or any party
Durable metal and plastic extended tow handle, drain for easy draining of liquids; Side swing handles with comfort grip for easy carrying
Built-In cup holders fit both 12-ounce cans and 20-ounce bottles
Steel construction
Rust resistant
85 can capacity
Stylish lid and case designed for durability and protection
Solid steel latch securely seals contents for up to 10 lbs of force
Holds 84 cans - more than three cases of soda fit inside a 50-quart cooler
New, stylish outer casing
Long, telescoping handle and all-terrain wheeled cooler handles loads with ease
Side handles for controlled carrying
Four molded cup holders keep drinks close
Have-A-Seat(TM) Lid supports up to 250 lbs. for a place to sit and rest
Retextured EZ-Clean top for quick, easy washing
Xtreme® 5 Technology keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90 °F
ThermOZONE(TM) Insulation contains no CFCs, HFCs or HCFCs, which deplete the ozone
Color: White
Dimensions: 30.5 x 17 x 16.25
This cooler's extra thick insulation keeps ice frozen up to 5 days even in temperatures up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Large size accommodates up to 130 cans plus ice. The rugged wheels make maneuvering over multiple surfaces easy.
Great for camping, picnics, tailgating, or any party.
Durable metal and plastic extended tow handle, drain for easy draining of liquids. Side swing handles with comfort grip for easy carrying.
Built-in cup holders fit both 12-ounce cans and 20-ounce bottles.
Outside Dimensions - 30-1/2 L x 17-1/2 W x 16 H in., 29 lbs.
Heavy-duty, high performance cooler
Super tough, 1-piece construction
Superior insulation
Freezer style sealing gasket
70 Qt.Ice chest cooler
Wide reinforced handles for added durability
Insulated lid, keeps contents cold for 5 days
Holds 114 cans plus ice
Molded in lid drink holders
Model6201A748FG2C0902MODBL300000185765WFG2A9200PMTLYT65T44366
Warranty
Price$74.00$61.87$114.64$39.20$$60.32$398.99$69.99
Height17.9 inch19.39 inch17.25 inch18 inch19 inch17 inch15.8 inch
Weight4.25 pound14.88 pound20 pound15 pounds35.15 pound4.96 pound35.15 pound
Width36.4 inch33.31 inch17.13 inch18 inch23.38 inch18 inch30 inch
Length17 inch16.9 inch25.25 inch23 inch15.25 inch31 inch16 inch
Rating4.3 out of 5 stars4.4 out of 5 stars4.5 out of 5 stars4.1 out of 5 stars4.8 out of 5 stars3.8 out of 5 stars4.8 out of 5 stars4.2 out of 5 stars
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of Dec 19 17:51:52 UTC but are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the merchant site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

 

You could also buy a compact refrigerator.  These can be inconvenient for a number of reasons.  They are typically boxy which makes them difficult to place in a truck.  They use AC power which means you have to use an inverter.  They don’t stay cold easily if you open them often because they lose cooling when you open the door.  Their upright configuration means you have to be able to swing open their door so although there may be room for the fridge, there might not be room to open the door.  Drinks and food may fall out easily when you open the door from shifting that happened during driving.  Compact refrigerators are not designed to be portable and certainly not designed to endure the vibration and shock of riding in a semi.  In general, it’s not recommend that you use a compact fridge in a truck.

 

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TitleSPT 2.5 cu.ft Compact Refrigerator Stainless Door with Black SidesDanby DAR195BL 1.8 cu.ft. All Refrigerator - BlackHaier HCR17W 1.7 Cubic Feet Refrigerator/Freezer, WhiteDanby DAR259BL 2.5-Cu. Ft. Designer Compact All Refrigerator, BlackMidea White/Black/Stainless Steel Compact Refrigerator Mini Fridge 1.7 CF/ 2.4 CF/ 3.1 CF
ColorStainless SteelBlackWhiteBlackBlack
Feature2.5 cu.ft. net capacity with adjustable thermostat and HCFC free
Reversible door with slide out wire shelf for storage versatility
Estimated yearly operating cost: $28 based on 10.65 cent per kwh 2007
Transparent begetable storage drawer with glass shelf
1.8 cu.ft. (51 litre) capacity all refrigerator
Reversible door hinge for left and right hand opening
Cycle defrost
Gen II CanStor beverage dispenser holds 5 beverage cans
Integrated handle
Half-width freezer compartment with ice cube tray
Full-width slide-out wire shelf
Full-width and half-width door storage shelf
2-liter bottle storage
Recessed door handle
2.5 cu.ft. ( 70.79 litres) capacity
Compact counter-top all refrigerator
Automatic defrost; Mechanical thermostat
2-1/2 shelves for maximum storage versatility
Tall bottle storage; CanStor beverage dispensing system
Mechanical control with adjustable thermostat
Adjustable leg; Reversible door
Energy saving; Low noise
Separate chiller compartment
Full 1-Year / Compressor 2-Year Warranty
ModelRF-250SSDAR195BLHCR17WDAR259BLHS-65LB
Warranty1 Year part and laborLimited 5 Years: 18 months parts and labor, plus an additional 42 months parts only coverage18 month parts and laborFull 1-Year / Compressor 2-Year Warranty
Price$159.00$140.07$109.99$139.99$69.99
Height24.9 inch19.69 inch17.88 inch27 inch19.4 inch
Weight47 pound44 pound34.2 pound52 pound41.9 pound
Width18.6 inch17.5 inch19.38 inch17.62 inch18.6 inch
Length17.7 inch19.62 inch18.88 inch20 inch17.7 inch
Rating4.6 out of 5 stars4.4 out of 5 stars4.2 out of 5 stars3.8 out of 5 stars4.4 out of 5 stars
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of Sep 23 17:04:50 UTC but are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the merchant site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

 

Thermoelectric fridges or thermoelectric coolers can be cheaper than compact fridges and are typically designed to be portable.  They cool down to 40 degrees F below ambient temperature which makes them less effective in hot climates.  Comments we have received from truckers seem to say that thermoelectric fridges are a problem in most cases.  They just don’t cool very well.  One advantage of a thermoelectric fridge is that some can also be used to warm food and drinks.

 

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TitleKoolatron P95 Travel Saver Cooler 45-Quart, Light GreyKoolatron P75 36-Quart Kool Kaddy Electric Cooler/Warmer, Light GreyBlack & Decker TC212B Travel Cooler & WarmerColeman PowerChill Thermoelectric Cooler with Power Supply (40-Quart)Dometic TC-35US Portable Thermo Electric Cooler/Warmer 37 Quart, Gray/GreenIgloo Cool Chill Thermoelectric Cooler (Mercury/White, 40-Quart)
FeatureDomed lid design
Cools to 40° F below the ambient temperature
Can be used to cool or warm food or drinks
Easy-to-clean and maintain
45-quart capacity
No more ice
Electric travel cooler/warmer with cigarette-lighter adapter
Sits horizontally or vertically for use as chest or upright fridge
Includes shelf for optimal storage and easy access to foods and beverages
Cools to 40 degrees F below ambient temperature; heats to 135 degrees F
Measures 15.8 by 21 by 15.5 inches (height by width by depth); weighs19 pounds; holds 57 12-ounce cans
Thermo-Electric System cools down to 40°F below ambient temperature and heats up to approximately 120°F
Plugs directly into vehicle's or boat's 12 volt DC outlet or any other 12 volt power supply
Rests on vehicle seat, tailgate, hatch or floor for easy access during travel
Zippered side storage and accessory pouch
Dual can/cup holder
Portable thermoelectric cooler ideal for camping, dorm rooms, and more
40-quart interior holds up to 44 beverage cans in addition to snacks
Plugs into any vehicle's cigarette lighter .
Redesigned motor cools contents down to 40 degrees F below outside temperature
Adjustable door opens to left or right; measures 15 x 21.75 x 17.125 inches (W x H x D)
Seven-stage temperature regulation for cooling and heating
Power-Save circuitry switches on when desired temperature is reached
Easy to read LED temperature display, wear-free fan
Detachable lid with magnetic lock
Sturdy, fold-away handle
Powered by 12V DC auto plug adapter
Convection cooling with a fan circulates cold air and allows plastic bottles to cool as much and as quickly as cans
Can be used upright like a refrigerator or horizontal like an ice chest
Adjustable food shelf or divider
21 3/4 inches by 15 1/3 inches by 16 2/3 inches
ModelP95P75TC212B5644-760TC-35US00040346
Warranty2 year1 year
Price$152.47$130.99$139.99$109.00$168.75$180.00
Height17.5 inch15.5 inch14 inch15.5 inch18.7 inch
Weight16 pound16 pounds9.6 pound18 pound22.51 pound25 pounds
Width20.6 inch21 inch10 inch17 inch15.16 inch
Length15.8 inch15.75 inch18 inch23 inch22.05 inch
Rating0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars4.2 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars4.2 out of 5 stars3.0 out of 5 stars
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of Dec 18 15:51:49 UTC but are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the merchant site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

 

True refrigerators come in portable and mountable models and are the most expensive of the fridges you might consider putting in your truck.  True fridges are compressor-based and can keep food and drinks cold just like your fridge at home.

The portable models have the advantage that they can be removed from your truck to use in other vehicles, in your home, camping, sporting events, or other outdoor adventures.  Portable fridges are also typically capable of using either AC or DC power which adds to their flexibility.

 

Image
TitleWhynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer, PlatinumWhynter FM-62DZ Dual Zone Portable Refrigerator/Freezer, 62-QuartDometic CDF-11 Smallest Portable Freezer/RefrigeratorARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer- 50 QuartEdgestar 80 QT Portable Fridge/freezer - GreyEngel MR040 Portable AC/DC 12 Volt fridge-freezer (40qt)Engel MT45F-U1 Dual Voltage AC/DC Portable Fridge/Freezer 43 Qt.Dometic WAECO CF-035AC110 Coolmatic 33 QT AC/DC with Touch Control Refrigerator and Freezer
FeatureCapacity: 45 Quarts or 60 Cans (12FL oz)
Operates as a refrigerator or freezer
8-feet AC power cord and 5-feet DC power cord and two removable wire baskets are included
"Fast Freeze" mode rapidly cools to -8°F
LED temperature display
Premium quality and innovative design to meet your frozen and refrigerated needs
Two separately controlled temperature zones, you can set either zone as a freezer and the other as a refrigerator
Works with either a standard household 110 Volt outlet or a 12 Volt power source, like an automotive battery
Internal LED lights also allow for easier, more convenient access in low-light conditions
Cools to between -8°F to 50°F
Three stage battery monitor
Temperature read out
High impact weather-resistant polypropylene cabinet
LED indicators and soft-touch operating panel
Can maintain an interior temperature of 0 degrees for true in-vehicle refrigeration and freezing
Holds up to 72 12-ounce cans, and can also accommodate a two-liter bottle of cola
Continues to actively cool contents while the vehicle is off, and features an adjustable automatic battery protection system that prevents vehicle battery run-down
Includes two power cables: the DC power cable connects to your vehicle's 12/24-volt DC power outlet, and the AC power cable plugs into a standard household AC power outlet
Exterior Footprint: 27.75"L x 14.96"W x 20"H -- Main Compartment: 13.27"D x 11.22"W x 15.79"H -- Dairy Compartment: 5.95"D x 11.22"W x 8.11"H
Storage for both fridge and freezer foods for added convenience
Temperature range: -8 F to 50 F, Fast freeze mode
Storage capacity: 83 qts, Dimensions: 23 6/16" H x 28 3/16" W x 18 12/16" D.
Power: 115 V/60 Hz/1 A/80 W
Small & large basket, Latched lid, Side handles
Power consumption: 0.7 - 2.5 Amps
Volume: 40 qt. - Equivalent 58 cans (12 Fl.oz)
Weight: 48 lbs.
Freezing Ability: From 40°F to below 0°F
Warranty: 2 years
Portable 12/24V DC - 110V/120V AC fridge-freezer - With Both AC and DC Cords Included.
Vibration Resistant for Extreme Conditions - Incline Operation up to 30° off level.
Solar Compatible - Highly Efficient Engel Swing Motor - Low Amp Draws (even at start-up) - Variable from 0.7 Amps (110V AC) - 2.5 Amps (12V DC).
UL Approved - 100% CFC-Free Compressor.
Variable Temperature Control - Will Operate Up To 90 Degrees From Ambient Temp. - Capable of 0 Degree Farenheit Operation.
12/24 volt DC and 110 volts AC
Detachable lid
ModelFM-45GFM-62DZCDF-1110800472FP861MR040F-U1MT45F-U1CF-035AC110
WarrantyOne Year Limited Manufacturer WarrantyOne year limited manufacturer warrantyN2-Year Manufacturer's Warranty.
Price$431.10$640.00$333.34$835.98$699.00$849.00$910.00$555.01
Height20.8 inch21 inch9.45 inch21 inch18.5 inch20 inch
Weight49 pound62 pound19.84 pound70 pound35.3 pound48.5 pound52.91 pound
Width28 inch28 inch14.17 inch23 inch24.8 inch14.3 inch
Length18 inch18.5 inch21.26 inch23 inch15.51 inch25.5 inch
Rating0 out of 5 stars4.2 out of 5 stars4.1 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars0 out of 5 stars4.6 out of 5 stars5.0 out of 5 stars
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of Jan 2 19:37:51 UTC but are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the merchant site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

 

The mountable models are uprights and have some of the same issues as compact refrigerators.  The advantage of mountable models is that they are designed to take the vibration and shockTruck Refrigerator Engel MR040 Open View associated with moving vehicles like RVs and trucks.

Our recommendation is to buy a portable true refrigerator.  Their flexibility, performance, and design make them perfect for using in a truck.  Although they are more expensive, their reliability, durability, and ability to be used away from the truck make it easier to justify the additional cost.  Our feeling is that most truckers will be happier with the performance of a portable true refrigerator.

There you have it.  We have given you our tips on buying a truck refrigerator.  Ultimately you have to decide, but we hope this article has given you valuable information that helps you choose a truck refrigerator for your rig!





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