What are the differences between a french door refrigerator vs side-by-side fridge? Well, wonder no more as you’ve come to the right place as we’ll take a close look at the advantages and disadvantages of the two types of refrigerators.

Many consumers will testify to their preference regarding a French door, or side-by-side refrigerator – and neither side of the argument is entirely wrong. Some features of each configuration are ideal for a few and inconvenient for others. For example, many owners of side-by-side refrigerators complain of too little freezer space. Similarly, some French door refrigerator owners dislike vertically storing frozen food since it’s difficult to organize stacked items.

Listed below are the most common differences between these two refrigerator types: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

French Door Refrigerator vs. Side-by-Side

  French Door Side By Side
Largest Storage Volume green-check-mark red-x-icon
Freezer Location Bottom Left Side
Less Space Used for Ice Machine red-x-icon green-check-mark

What is a French Door Refrigerator?

Three-Door French Refrigerator

A three-door French Refrigerator

French door refrigerators come in a wide variety of configurations however, they differentiate themselves from side-by-side refrigerators with a third (and even fourth) door. The refrigerator portion of the appliance is located on the top two-thirds of the fridge as a dual-door chilling space (just like a traditional side-by-side), but the bottom one-third of the refrigerator includes either one or two pull-out freezer compartments.

A 3-door vs. 4-door French refrigerator has one freezer compartment on the bottom instead of two. French door refrigerators are ideal for larger kitchens that don’t require custom-built, or built-in machines. Custom-built refrigerators are specifically designed and constructed based on a customer’s unique specifications. They can be as large as the customer wants and include any features requested, however their cost, as should be expected, is quite a bit higher than usual. If price might be an issue for you then you’re likely better off going with a standard build instead.

Built-in machines are prefabricated refrigerators designed to be used in custom-fit cabinetry installations. Cost is usually in-between the average of regular, consumer models and completely custom refrigerators.

What is Side-by-Side?

Side by Side Refrigerator

A standard side-by-side refrigerator

A side-by-side refrigerator has two full-length doors which open out and away from one another. Typically the section on the right is used for cold storage and the section on the left is used as the freezer. Side-by-side refrigerators are ideal for medium-sized kitchens, and are the most frequently purchased style out of all others available today.

Benefits of French Door Refrigerators

French door refrigerators usually offer more storage volume than other styles, and typically you’ll see a difference of about three cubic feet in the refrigerator and a little more lateral width for storage compared to side-by-side models.

Consumers that prefer French door machines to side-by-sides often say it’s because the majority of chilled contents are at eye level, while the freezer compartments (which are accessed less frequently) are stored at the bottom of the unit. Access to the primary fridge area is thus easier because it’s full-width unlike a side-by-side unit.

A compromise with this style of refrigerator is that frozen foods must be stacked on top of one another, and owners will need to bend, or squat, down to access the freezer compartments.

French door refrigerators we love: Samsung Chef Collection 4-Door Flex, GE Profile Series

Avg Cost: $3,600

Benefits of Side-By-Side Refrigerators

The biggest benefit of this design is that access to the freezer section is much easier, and the overall storage area can be organized for accessibility in a way that French door machines cannot.

Another, often overlooked, benefit is that the ice dispenser usually takes up less space in a side-by-side than it does in a French door design, due to the engineering style of more compact features in a French door refrigerator.

Cost is another big advantage that side-by-side machines have over French door units – they’re typically quite a bit cheaper (sometimes as much as a $500 difference).

Side-by-side refrigerators we love: LG Door-in-Door, Samsung Showcase

Avg Cost: $2,060

What Type of Refrigerator Should I Buy?

Ultimately the decision is your own, because everyone has unique preferences and needs for their particular home and kitchen. If you’re someone that rarely uses the freezer space you have, and would like your most frequented items around eye level, then a French door refrigerator might be your best option.

Related: What is a Counter-Depth Refrigerator?

If, on the other hand, you prefer easier access to your freezer section, and believe that a French door arrangement might make freezer accessibility a pain, a side-by-side refrigerator could suit you better – it’s worth mentioning that individuals with limited mobility could benefit from a side-by-side since access to a lower freezer compartment (like on French-door units) could be difficult, especially if the user is in a wheelchair. Small kids that raid the fridge often will also benefit from a side-by-side over a French-door unit since access isn’t hindered by height.

Another thing to consider is the difference in style, and the variation in cost. If aesthetics are of high importance, many prefer the French door to the side-by-side because the three-door and four-dour models break up a normally plain wall of stainless steel. Some even believe that it adds value to their home (although the significance of that value could be argued). Others are more budget-centered, and have value at the forefront of their buying decisions. If that’s you, many side-by-side refrigerators offer a great combination of storage space, features, and visual appeal for less money than most French door machines.

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