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These are the Best Campervan Fridges (2023)

Eating out at restaurants is nice and all, but after a while the bills can really rack up! A fridge is an absolute necessity for sustainable living in a campervan. But with so many fridges on the market, how do you know what fridge is the best choice for your camper van?


In this guide we will look at some of the very best campervan fridges, including 12v compressor fridges, 3-way fridges, and thermoelectric coolboxes.


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for many years, I'm the author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, instructor of The Van Conversion Course, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and look at 12v camper fridges!


The best campervan fridge

Index

 

Note: Before we hop in, you will can to grab yourself a free wiring diagram by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter 🙂

 

3 Types of Campervan Fridges

There are three types of campervan fridges, they are;

  • The Compressor 12v fridge

  • The Absorption fridge

  • The thermoelectric coolbox

These three fridges can easily fit into any campervan. Now let's have a look at these in more detail and find out the best campervan fridge in each category.


The Compressor 12v fridge

The compressor fridge is the most common fridge you will find in people’s homes - it is fully electric. In your house you will find a 110/230v compressor fridge, and while you can use these in a campervan, they are generally not recommended (it must be powered through an inverter which is less efficient). In a campervan people more commonly use a 12v compressor fridge which can run directly from your leisure batteries or run through the inverter if you so choose. These fridges are known as 2-way fridges as they can run on either 12v or 110/230v.


There are two types of compressor 12v fridges:

  • Permanent

  • Portable


Permanent compressor 12v fridges:

Unsurprisingly, this is a fridge which you wire up and install permanently (don't worry, it's very simple to install!).


In terms of 12v compressor fridges, hands-down the best campervan fridge in this category is the Dometic CRX1050 . It is a 50L fridge / freezer that can also run on mains (230v). This is the fridge I have in my campervan.




Portable compressor 12v fridges:

These 12v compressor fridges have a battery that you can charge up which allows you to move them about! They have become phenomenally popular in the campervan community.


Without a shadow of a doubt, the best campervan fridge in this category is the Dometic CFX3 55L fridge.


The compressor 12v fridge is very economical. Its compressor only turns on when the fridge temperature increases above a specified range that you choose with a dial at the back of the fridge. Once the refrigerator cools to the desired temperature, the compressor turns off.


This means that the fridge only draws power from the batteries when the compressor is on for a short period of time.


Apart from being energy-efficient, here are the other benefits of using a compressor 12v fridge:


Benefits of a compressor 12v fridge

  • It is easy to install

  • It is efficient

  • It is safe

  • It consumes low power. (You can use a solar panel or leisure batteries)

  • It is bigger on the inside

  • It is durable and needs little or no maintenance

  • It is easy to use

  • Some models can run on 12v or 110/230v (2-way compressor fridge)

  • Cheaper that absorption fridges

Disadvantages of the compressor 12v fridge

  • It doesn’t operate silently

  • Some brands are costly


My thoughts: In my opinion, The best campervan fridge is the compressor 12v fridge. And in most use cases will be the best choice!


The Absorption fridge

The absorption fridge is also known as a 3-way fridge, so called because it can run on three different energy sources. You can either use LPG gas, a mains electric supply (240V), or the 12V (batteries).


If you don't have much electricity in your van (ie. no solar power, split charging, or shore power), the absorption fridge is likely your best option; you can use gas instead!


A nifty thing about 3-way absorption fridges is that you can usually get them in bigger sizes that compressor 12v fridges or thermoelectric cool boxes - so if you have a big family it could be perfect for you!


One of the biggest pros of using the 3-way fridge is that it runs silently. This is because it runs on gas. So if you are on the road when you want to enjoy your silence or don't like noise, this 3-way fridge is an excellent option for you.

In terms of absorption fridges, two of the best campervan fridges are the Vitrifrigo VTR5040 and the Dometic RMV 5305. They uses propane, electricity (12V/110V), and an electric/gas thermostat.


3-way Absorption fridge

Benefits of the 3-way fridge

  • It runs on 12V, 240V, and LPG gas

  • It runs silently

  • It comes in larger sizes

Disadvantages of the 3-way fridge

There are things to consider when installing the 3-way fridge in your campervan.


Safety

3-way fridges run on gas. And this makes them very efficient and durable. On the other hand, gas comes with its risks. Gas installation is tricky. You must exercise reasonable care while installing the gas components of the 3-way fridge. Any mistake or negligence can lead to gas leaks which exposes you to dangers like fire.


Costly

Relying on gas to run your 3-way fridge means that you will have to maintain its constant supply. And if you have committed to living in your campervan, this can increase your travel costs.


Other disadvantages of the 3-way fridge

  • It needs more expert installation

  • It requires routine maintenance and servicing

  • It produces more heat than the 12v compressor fridge

  • It needs good ventilation and a flue to the outside

  • It sometimes experiences difficulty in hot weather

Knowing these things will help you make the necessary changes or allowances during your van conversion. You can plan where to put the vents and gas lines in your campervan.


Thermoelectric coolbox

The thermoelectric coolbox are the best campervan fridge if you are on a budget.


Thermoelectric coolboxes work in a simple way. They keep your food cool by heat reduction. A thermoelectric coolbox uses electricity to remove any hot air from the inside of the coolbox. This makes the temperature in the coolbox up to 20 degrees Celsius cooler than the temperature or air outside in the campervan.


Because of this, it is the best campervan fridge if you are travelling for a short time and want to save money.


But although they maintain the items within the cooler at a lower temperature, they are not as efficient as other fridges. They will not provide you with the cold temperatures you will need in very hot places / seasons.


Thermoelectric coolboxes are small, so you might not be able to use them for long travels or with many travellers.


The Igloo 40Qt thermoelectric cooler is the best campervan cooler in this category.





Benefits of a thermoelectric coolbox

  • It is durable

  • It is environmentally friendly

  • It is easy to install

  • It runs silently

  • It comes in smaller sizes (are compact)

  • It runs on dual voltages; 12V and 240V


Conclusion

Whatever fridge you end up getting, it should have these features;

  • Energy efficiency

  • Safety

  • Quiet operation

  • Extra insulation

  • Airtight doors

  • Handle road vibrations sufficiently


And that's about it! Everything you should know about the best campervan fridges! Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion.


Be sure to check out the rest of the Electrics Guides. Related articles include: 12v campervan lights, campervan switch panel, campervan fuse box.


If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!


Until next time,


Shane ✌️

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