You’re looking for a portable refrigerator, but you’re not sure which one to buy. Your specific needs and how much you’re willing to spend will determine if you get a true portable refrigerator or just a cooler. This article takes a look at true portable refrigerators and freezers and leaves the less expensive, less effective thermoelectric coolers for another article.
The difference between a thermoelectric 12V cooler and a portable refrigerator is the compressor. A thermoelectric portable cooler has the advantage of being less expensive, but because of its compresssor-less design, it depends on the ambient temperature to determine what temperature it can maintain.
Interested in seeing other portable cooler and refrigerator solutions? Be sure to see our other articles about some of the best!
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If you’re looking for a portable beverage refrigerator that can actually keep milk and other foodstuffs at kitchen-refrigerator temperatures, a 12V real refrigerator, an outdoor refrigerator, a portable freezer, or an RV refrigerator, then you’re definitely looking for an actual fridge with a refrigerator compressor, not a thermoelectric cooler.
Depending on the ambient temperature, a thermoelectric cooler may even have a hard time maintaining 40 degrees F while a true outdoor refrigerator might cool down to -8 degrees F in the freezer section with corresponding cold temperatures in the refrigerator section.
Don’t misread us, there is nothing wrong with a thermoelectric cooler. It’s just that many people buy them thinking they’re getting the cooling capability of a real refrigerator instead of the cooling capability they really provide.
Probably the biggest complaint we see in customer reviews and forums around the internet is that they bought what they thought was a portable refrigerator, but it turned out to be a thermoelectric cooler and doesn’t perform the way they expected. Then they give it bad reviews because it can’t cool below 40 degrees F. The real problem is usually that the customer wasn’t paying attention more than it was the fault of the cooler.
This article is for those who want true refrigeration capability in a portable device and are willing to pay for it.
We searched appliance forums, social media, RV forums, consumer sites, camping forums, retail sites, customer review sites, and manufacturer sites to find the most popular and highly rated portable real refrigerators.
Take a look at our list and see if one of these models is the best portable refrigerator for your needs!
Dometic is a well-known and very popular brand in portable true refrigerators. They put a lot of quality and features into their units and use high-tech, durable Danfoss compressors in their designs. This portable refrigerator model has a 33 QT capacity and can be used with either 12V DC or 110V AC power input. This Dometic refrigerator features a detachable lid hinged at the rear with a secure-top lid lock and even interior lighting. An electronic thermostat keeps the temperature right where you want it while a 3-stage battery monitor and low voltage protector provide safe and secure operation. It has many great features that you’re sure to love.
Portable Refrigerator: Features
- 33 QT (1.1 cu. ft./31 liters) interior capacity has standing room height for standard 1.5 liter bottles
- High-tech, durable Danfoss compressor
- Quick Chill/Turbo function runs the compressor at maximum performance to reach desired temperature faster
- Memory function maintains temperature presets if the system is turned off
- It uses 44 watts of power from a 12/24V DC or 110V AC source
- High-impact polypropylene cabinet has a handy detachable lid (hinged at rear) and a simple secure top lid lock
- Interior lighting
- Variable electronic thermostat maintains accurate temperatures between 0 to 50 degrees F
- Very quiet operation
- UL Approved portable refrigerator
- Dimensions are 22.8L x 15.1H x 14W inches and it weighs 33 lbs.
- Accessories include DC connection cable, detachable carrying handles and handy coated wire grid divider
- 3-stage battery monitor and low voltage protector can handle either standard consumer or starter batteries and protects against dead battery. It also has a slide regulator and electronic fuse with automatic reverse polarity protection
- UL approved, standard accessories DC connection cable, detachable carrying handles, grid divider.
- Cools quickly
- Handy temperature control
- Great portability
- Perfect for off-road vehicles
The Dometic CDF-11 Portable Freezer/Refrigerator claims to be a portable refrigerator and freezer that is the smallest real model refrigerator available on the market. If you like your beer cold…and who doesn’t, this model will hold 6-12 oz. cans and keep them as cold as you like. Weighing only 19 lbs., the CDF-11 is a lightweight, portable fridge that is easy to carry. It even comes with cup holders to hold those cold cans comfortably while you relax making it a great car refrigerator. Even for a small package it has some great features.
- Claims to be the smallest true freezer/refrigerator available
- True refrigeration in a thermoelectric size doesn’t depend on ambient temperature
- Deep freeze-capable down to approximately 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C)
- Nice looking two-tone light/dark gray cabinet
- Uses very low power for long refrigeration times without a power source
- Electronic thermostat has a digital temperature display to keep you informed
- 3-stage battery monitor reduces risk of a dead battery
- Can easily be fastened into any vehicle using safety belt
- Comfortable shoulder strap and light weight of only 19 lbs. (8.8 kg.) makes this unit easy to carry
- Handy interior light
- Twin cup holders keeps cans right at hand during trips
- Holds 0.37 cu. ft. (10.5 liters) or 6 – 12 oz. cans
- Comes with a DC connection cable
- Great quality
- Love dual-voltage design
- Great passive cooling with heavy-duty insulation
- Very low power usage
- AC/DC adapter must be purchased separately
- Interior may be smaller than expected
Whynter is known for its premium quality true refrigerator/freezers with innovative designs and the Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Fridge/Freezer is a great example. Its portability makes it the perfect companion for your RV, boat, campsite, or fishing trip. This portable refrigerator gives you the flexibility of using either standard household 110V power or any 12V DC power source and has cooling and freezing capability between -8 to 50 degrees F. Check out its many features.
- Large capacity of 45 qts or 60 – 12 oz cans
- Runs on 115V/60Hz – 60W/0.75A AC power or 12V/24V – 4.5A/2.5A DC power using vehicle power port
- Operates as a true compressor-based refrigerator or freezer providing cooling and freezing capability between -8 to 50 degrees F
- LED temperature and power-low indicators keeps you in the know
- Fast Freeze function lowers temperature rapidly to as cold as -8 degrees F
- Suitable for short day trips or long haul expeditions
- Tough and solid outer casing provides durability and long life
- Side handles provide comfortable portability
- Functions properly at angles up to 30 degrees
- ETL approved
- Internal dimensions are 18.5W x 11L x 15H inches including a compressor step of 7.5W x 11.25L x 8H inches and external dimensions are 23.5W x 16.5L x 20.5H inches while the unit weighs in at 45 lbs.
- Comes with an 8 foot AC power cord, a 5 foot DC power cord, and two removable wire baskets
- Whynter provides a 1-Year limited warranty on the FM-45G
- Cools down quickly
- Very low power consumption
- Very quiet operation
- Excellent quality
- Included power cord is very short
- A little large for in-vehicle usage
- Handle quality is questionable
- Heavy unit
The Engel MT45F-U1 is another very capable dual-voltage portable refrigerator/freezer that boasts 43 qts of interior storage and a pedigree of over 50 years of rugged durable performance on adventures worldwide. They feature the highly efficient Engel Swing Motor Compressor draws minimum power and can run on either AC or DC power. Take a look at this model’s tough features.
- Features the high-efficiency Engel Swing Motor Compressor that typically draws as much as 40% less power than traditional compressors making it ideal for solar power applications (low amp draws even at startup – variable from 0.7 amps (110V AC) – 2.5 amps (12V DC)
- Large 43 qt capacity portable refrigerator
- Runs on either battery power 12V/24V DC or 110V AC with automatic voltage selection
- Vibration resistant and designed for extreme operating conditions including inclines up to 30 degrees from level
- Variable temperature control operates up to 90 degrees from ambient temperature and is capable of zero degree F operation
- Perfect for camping, hunting, boating, RV adventures, or for home use
- Handy removable carry handles provide great portability
- Engel offers a 2-Year limited manufacturer’s warranty on the MT45F-U1 model
- Both AC and DC cords are included
- UL Approved with 100% CFC-Free Compressor
- Internal dimensions are 15.4L x 10.8W x 16.4 H inches and external dimensions are 25.5L x 25.5W x 14.3H inches with a weight of 66 lbs.
- Accessories include AC and DC cords, interior wire basket, green rubber mat, 1 additional fuse, and heavy-duty removable handles
- Low power draw
- Easy to clean
- Great build quality
- Very efficient
- Very heavy, could use wheels for transport
- Needs temp readout
Engel true refrigerator/freezers have been known for their rugged durability, reliability, and high-efficiency since 1963 and the Engel MR040 40 Qt Marine Refrigerator/Freezer is a great example. This model can operate from either a 12V DC power plug or a 110V AC outlet. This portable refrigerator is designed specifically for harsh marine environments the MR040 features a tough, corrosion-resistant ABS case. Here are its main features.
- Durable, corrosion-resistant ABS case is designed specifically for the harsh marine environment
- Can operate from either a 12V/24V DC power port (2.5A average draw) or a 110V/120V AC outlet (0.7A average draw) with automatic voltage selection
- Large 40 qt capacity
- All Engel models use the high-efficiency Engel Swing Motor Compressor which draws only 1-2 amps/hr or about 40% less than traditional compressors and features ultra efficient cooling making it perfect for solar power operation
- A variable temperature control can maintain temperatures within 90 degrees F of ambient temperature and is capable of zero degree F operation
- Designed for some of the harshest environments in the world, this model is vibration-resistant and can operate even at angles up to 30-degrees from level
- UL Approved with 100% CFC-Free Compressor
- Convenient reversible lid
- Internal dimensions are 14.5L x 10.5W x 14.4H inches and external dimensions are 25L x 15.5W x 18.5H inches with a weight of 48 lbs.
- This model comes with a 2-Year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- Accessories include AC and DC cords, interior wire basket, and heavy-duty removable handles
- Sturdy construction
- Very low power usage
- Quiet operation
- None noted
Known for its innovative designs and unmatched quality, Whynter has included some great capability in its Whynter FM-62DC Dual-Zone Portable Fridge/Freezer. This portable refrigerator has two separate temperature zones that you can set either as a freezer or refrigerator or any temperature that is required. It can run from either a 12V power source (automotive battery) or a standard 110V outlet. Check out its many features.
- Dual-zone portable refrigerator/freezer with separate temperature control for each zone and a 62 qt capacity
- Operates from either a 12V24V power source (vehicle battery) (4.5A/2.5A average draw) or a standard 110V/115V 60Hz outlet (0.8 A average draw)
- Internal LED lighting makes contents more visible in low-light conditions
- Designed for a day trip or longer adventure alike, this portable, dual-zone refrigerator/freezer provides the ultimate in flexibility and convenience with cooling capability between -8 to 50 degrees F
- Can operate at angles up to 30 degrees from level
- Tough and durable outer casing portable refrigerator
- Side handles provide easy portability
- An LED monitoring display provides temperature, power-low indicator, and battery level
- ETL approved
- Internal dimensions for Big Zone are 13W x 12.5L x 15.5H inches including a compressor step of 7W x 8H inches. Internal dimensions for the Small Zone are 8W x 12.5L x 15.5H inches. External dimensions are 28W x 18.5L x 21H inches and its weight is 62 lbs.
- Unit comes with a 1-Year limited warranty
- Comes with both an 8 foot AC power cord, a 5 foot DC power cord, and two removable wire baskets
- Both zones hold temperature nicely
- Very efficient power usage
- Quality construction
- Cools down quickly
- Heavy unit
- Needs longer power cord
This large Edgestar FP861 80 Qt Portable Fridge/Freezer can keep food cooled or frozen and is perfect for storing up to 83 qts of food while camping, hunting, fishing, on RV adventures or during other activities. Dual refrigerator and freezer sections and easy-to-use controls provide added convenience. Get the strength and insulation of a home freezer in a compact, rugged, and portable unit. Here are its main features.
- Perfect for boating, camping, hunting, medical transportation/storage, RVs, cabins or any outdoor application
- Can be powered by 12/24V DC or 110/115V 60Hz AC power sources
- True refrigeration with compressor capable of cooling from 50 degrees F down to -8 degrees F with a full-range thermostat
- Dual refrigerator and freezer sections with easy-to-use control panel
- Portable refrigerator with Handy Flash Freeze Mode rapidly cools freezer section down to as low as -8 degrees F in just minutes
- Insulated metal walls and lid keep food cold for hours at a stable temperature
- Large (12-13/16H x 18-15/16W x 15-9/16D inches) and small (12-13/16H x 10-7/16W x 7-1/2D inches) wire baskets keeps food organized
- Low indicator light lets you know when power is low
- Side-grip comfort handles make transport easy and latched lid keeps contents in during transport
- Easy-to-read control panel
- 90 day limited labor warranty and 1-Year parts warranty
- ETL Listed
- Overall dimensions are 23-6/16H x 28-3/16W x 18-12/16D inches and weight is 66 lbs.
- Both AC and DC adapters are included with 8 foot detachable AC power cord and 6 foot detachable DC power cord
- Quiet operation
- Great power efficiency
- Lighter than competitive units
- Some reports of sticky lid
The ARB 10800472 50 Qt Refrigerator/ Freezer is a true compressor-based unit that is great for keeping food and beverages chilled or frozen while camping, hunting, boating, off-roading, or during any outdoor activity. Its large internal capacity is capable of cooling up to 72 12 oz cans and then keeping them cold for as long as you need using 12V/24V DC from a power plug or 120V/240V AC power from a standard outlet. It is also capable of reducing the interior temperature down to 0 degrees F for true freezing. Here are its main features.
- Large 50 qt capacity is the largest internal capacity of any vehicle portable refrigerator in its class and is capable of cooling and maintaining up to 72 12oz cans at temperatures between 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) to 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C)
- Completely self-contained unit operates on 12/24V DC or 120V AC power without need for separate power transformers or adapters is solar power and generator compatible
- Compact footprint is perfect for small groups and is suitable for medium to large SUVs, wagons, and pickup trucks
- Easy-to-read front-mounted, recessed digital control panel features large buttons, a convenient on/off power indicator, a forward-facing digital electronic thermostat, and a bright LED display
- Heavy-duty construction with a powder-coated, corrosion-resistant zinc steel cabinet shell and two-piece injection-molded, UV stable lid were designed with off-road drivers in mind from its super-durable patented hinge system with front-opening lid to its extreme angle up to 30 degrees from level operating capability
- Rounded edges and corners protect vehicle interior
- Heavy-duty, reliable Danfoss compressor provides true refrigeration and freezing capability
- Designed for both active and passive cooling, the digital thermostat monitors internal temperature and activates the compressor when required
- Large EZ latch keeps the lid on tightly for a secure seal
- Stainless steel detent hinge features quick-release mechanism
- Separate dairy/fruit compartment
- Recessed, powder-coated steel fixed handles are non-rotating and suitable for tie downs
- Fully removable lid, basket, and handy drain plug makes cleaning easier and can be used to air the cabinet when not in use
- Ventilation grills allow operation even in tight cargo spaces
- User-friendly, right-angled plug-in point from cord to refrigerator
- Rear-facing LED illumination makes contents easily visible in low-light conditions
- Heavy-duty insulation and hardware keeps contents cool while power is off
- An adjustable integrated battery protection system protects your battery by reducing power draw to a minimum while your vehicle’s engine is off
- Capable of maintaining sub-freezing temperatures even in 90 degree heat while only drawing on average about 0.87 amp per hour from a 12V power source (less than a single headlight)
- Main internal dimensions are 13.27D x 11.22W x 15.79H inches and the dairy compartment measures 5.95D x 11.22W x 8.11H inches
- Deep storage capability for large upright bottles
- External dimensions are 27.75L x 14.96W x 20H inches and it weighs 49.6 lbs. (22.5 kg)
- Built-in cable retention system keeps dual power cords neat and tidy while not in use
Includes two separate power cords for 12/24V DC and 120V AC power
- 100% CFS-Free compressor
- ARB provides a 3-Year limited warranty on this model
- Solid, sturdy construction
- Can be used as a seat
- Low power usage
- Easy to clean
- Some reports of inaccurate temperature control
- Some reports of loud clicking noise from compressor
- Fuses are non-standard so carry spares
- Transit bag not included with unit
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What do you think of these portable refrigerators? Which portable refrigerator/freezer are you planning to buy? Please take a moment to leave a comment below.
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Portable real, compressor-based refrigerators operate the way you expect them to because they work much like your refrigerator at home. That means you can depend on them to cool or even freeze without being dependent on the ambient temperature. We sincerely hope that this article has provided you with valuable information that helps you choose a portable refrigerator that is best for your needs!