Finding a good, dependable fridge that’ll actually keep your food and drinks cold for the long haul can be a real challenge. There are so many out there, and a lot of them are junk.
Let’s look at how to find the best mini fridge for truckers. To make things easier, we’ve identified the five best on the market today.
Why Have a Mini Fridge?
From man caves, college dorms, hotels and even truck driver cabs a lot of folks like using mini fridges (I keep one in my office).
Why is that?
It’s nice having a small refrigeration unit to provide cooling for drinks and snacks in your workspace where you spend the most time. For truck drivers specifically, it allows them to control their budget and dietary habits. So, let’s take a few minutes and gain working knowledge about mini fridges and give you an idea of what’s out there.
In a Hurry?
If you’re short on time and want to cut to the chase to find the best mini fridge that will work for you when your on the road, here are some good choices you can find on amazon.
Best price: Black and Decker 1.7 cubic ft mini fridge
Best overall: Alpicool 21 quart, Driving and travel fridge
Related: Check out Trucker Mini Fridges in the store
- Why Have a Mini Fridge?
- Mini Fridges Vs Electric Coolers
- Best Mini Fridges For Truckers, Staff Picks 2022
- How Much Voltage Do You Need To Run A Mini Fridge?
- What Size Do You Need?
- Cleaning Your Mini Fridge
- Do Mini Fridges Actually Keep Stuff Cold?
- Temperature Range
- Door Configuration
- Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator
- Danby DAR026A1BDD-3 Compact Refrigerator
- Trucker Mini Fridge FAQs
- In Conclusion…
Mini Fridges Vs Electric Coolers
Yes, there is a difference. A mini fridge is an actual refrigerator that works off of a compressor, just like the fridge in your kitchen. Of course, they’re smaller and more compact so that they can fit into smaller spaces.
There are two types of electric coolers that you’ll come across when looking for a fridge for your truck: absorption and thermoelectric.
Absorption coolers may run off of propane, AC or DC. Some can run on all three. But the electric mini fridges have the potential to use a tremendous amount of electricity. Cheap fridges can really tax the electrical system of a vehicle and don’t hold temperature very well because they’re not well insulated.
Thermoelectric coolers can keep their contents cold or warm. But you don’t have very much control over the temperature. Partly because they rely on ambient temperatures and either cool or warm the air from there.
Mini fridges are hands-down the best option for truckers as well as RVs and other vehicles. They use about a tenth of the electricity of coolers, they keep their contents cold and you can adjust them to the temp you want (more control). We outline some of the differences in our article “How to know if a mini fridge is working” and give you a more complete explanation.
Best Mini Fridges For Truckers, Staff Picks 2022
How Much Voltage Do You Need To Run A Mini Fridge?
Some mini fridges run on DC, and some run on AC. Some can work on either one which of course will provide you with more flexibility.
You’re most likely going to be running your mini fridge on AC. Regardless of the size of the fridge you get, it’s doubtful it’ll pull more than 75 watts from your inverter. 55-65 watts is a more realistic range, on an intermittent draw. The compressor only runs when the fridge’s inside temperature rises above your setting.
If you do the math of watts/volts=amps, you’re looking at an amp draw of about 1.7 for a 65-watt mini fridge. That’s not a heavy load on your inverter. Compare that to 6.5 amps for a 700-watt microwave.
Any 12 or 24-volt DC system with a good inverter will run a mini fridge with no problem. Just be aware of the power draws of the fridges you look at while shopping, and make sure that it won’t pull too much power for your system when added to your other mini appliances. This article can give you an idea how to determine voltage and current requirements to help you decide if you’re using the best power inverter to do the job.
What Size Do You Need?
One of the biggest regrets that truckers have after buying a mini fridge is not getting a bigger one. Avoid that regret.
You need a fridge that’s big enough to hold all the drinks and food you need for a trip, but not so big that it’s going to take up too much room in your truck. It’s a balancing act.
The capacity of mini fridges is measured in quarts, or sometimes cubic feet. The exterior is measured in inches.
There’s right at 30 quarts in a cubic foot. The best size for most truckers is in the 25 to 35 quart range. To put that in perspective, a 30-quart mini fridge will hold around 28 12-ounce cans comfortably.
Think of one cubic foot, or about 30 quarts, as a starting size. If you wanna go smaller to save space in your truck, look at smaller fridges. If you want more room inside, look at bigger ones.
Cleaning Your Mini Fridge
Do Mini Fridges Actually Keep Stuff Cold?
Some do. Some don’t, just like we’ve discussed previously some mini fridges are junk.
Generally, you can look at the capacity of a fridge and tell how much food it will hold. Also, you can look at the power draw rating and tell how much stress it will put on your electrical system, but there is no spec that indicates how cold your food and drinks will stay.
Sure, there’s the advertised temperature range and well-established manufacturers can be trusted on that, up to a point.
This is where reviews from people who bought and actually use any particular mini fridge are crucial. Our team spent an obscene amount of time going through reviews and trucker forums to come up with my list of the five best mini fridges for truckers. If you don’t go with one of my picks, take the time to do some heavy reading anywhere you can find mini fridge reviews. Google is your friend.
Good mini fridges will keep your drinks tooth-shatteringly cold, if that’s your preference. The ones with freezer compartments will keep frozen foods at or below 0 degrees F, which is the best temp for ice cream, by the way.
Here’s another place where customer feedback is important, and another obscene amount of time spent analyzing reviews and interviewing pro truckers.
There’s a big difference in the stress put on a mini fridge that’s sitting undisturbed in a college dorm or garage and one that’s being almost constantly vibrated and sometimes bounced around in a semi’s sleeper cab.
The biggest durability issues I’ve found in trucker fridges are thermostat malfunction and compressor failure. My best guess is that it’s the vibration from the engine over the road use.
Although many mini fridges are advertised as being “for truckers,” there really aren’t any that are built specifically for trucks or for truckers. Even RV fridges are built the same way dorm fridges are. There are no special features that make a mini fridge more durable through the special stresses of living in a semi.
We took several factors into account when sorting the gazillion mini fridges we scrutinized for this review and buyer’s guide. Build quality, customer reviews, brand reputation, warranty claims and recall histories, if any, all came into play.
Speaking of warranties, you should consider them when making your choice.
One-year for parts seems to be a standard mini fridge warranty. Many warranties cover labor for six months to a year. Of course, longer is better. You should get some kind of warranty for your money, though.
While studying the endless models of mini fridges on the market today, we paid special attention to dis-qualifiers. In other words, we wanted to see what voids the warranties. Some warranties don’t cover non-residential installations. If you drive for a living and have your mini fridge in your truck, you’ve got a commercial installation.
Pay attention to the fine print. But you can consider your cab a living space, can’t you? I mean, if your fridge stopped working after a few months, you wouldn’t be dishonest by claiming that the fridge has been in your living room. You work, sleep and eat in your cab. It’s home.
The important things about warranties are the length of the parts coverage and whether or not labor is covered.
I bet you haven’t even thought about this yet. But shelves aren’t just a nice feature to have. They’re necessary to make the most out of the capacity you have. Shelving is especially important if you have go go small to save space in your truck.
Nearly all mini fridges have at least one shelf. Cheaper models may have one non-adjustable shelf. That can be a real headache. You’ll want drinks and at least some cold or repeatable snacks. A shelf that can’t be raised or lowered is just going to be in the way.
One cool feature that you’ll find in some mini fridges is a can dispenser. They really save space.
Door shelves are useful for small things, like little bottles of ketchup or medicines that have to be refrigerated.
So think about how you’ll stock your fridge before each haul. Make sure that you’ll be able to configure the shelves and have room for everything you want to put in it.
Not all mini fridges have freezer compartments. But not everyone needs them.
If you want to have ice cream or ice cubes, then you’ll obviously want a fridge with a freezer. But if you don’t necessarily need a freezer, you’ll end up with quite a bit more refrigerator room by getting a model without one.
This varies somewhat between models.
The good thing about mini fridges, as opposed to electric coolers, is that the temperature inside the fridge isn’t affected much by the outside temperature, which is the temp of your cab in this case. The compressor cycles more often when it’s hotter in your truck to maintain the temperature in the fridge.
For ice-cold drinks, you’ll want a temperature range that goes down to 40 degrees F.
If you do want a freezer compartment, get a fridge that can be set down to around 6 to 10 degrees F. That’s cold enough to keep ice, frozen burritos, personal-sized pizzas and just about anything else safely frozen solid.
There’s not much to say about this, but pay attention to which way the fridge’s door opens. It can be a real pain to have a door that opens to the left if the right side of the fridge is going to be up against a wall. It’ll be hard to see and get what you want.
Some mini fridges have reversible doors. That’s a great feature. It let’s you change your mind at any time and put your fridge on the other side of your cab. That kind of flexibility is nice in a cramped sleeper, where space is at a premium.
Alpicool C20 Portable Refrigerator
Our top pick for a travel style mini fridge that’s portable and won’t kill your budget.
It’s a lot like the Winter FM-65G, but it’s much more compact at 22-½”x12-½”x12-½”. Larger models are available all the way up to 58 quarts should you need that kind of capacity. The Alpicool has some helpful features that truckers and travelers will appreciate.
The capacity for this model is 21 quarts, which is a little small but functional out on the road when space is an issue. As mentioned above, the Alpicool portable fridge is available in eight differant sizes all the way up to 58 quarts. With this model, you can fit a couple six-packs of cans and some fruit and snacks inside. There’s no shelves or baskets included with the 21-quart model that we reviewed, but you may not need all that.
You can set the temp on the digital control panel from -6 to 50 degrees. Again, there’s no way to have both cold and frozen foods. But, again, you may not need that.
It comes with a DC cord that’ll go right into any standard 12 or 24-volt DC socket. Almost all DC mini fridges have a low-battery shutdown that will kill the power to the unit before it runs your battery completely dead. But this one has a three-stage system. It gradually reduces its battery consumption as your battery loses juice. If it has to cut completely off, it will.
Speaking of batteries, you can charge your phone, tablet or other device with the USB port on this fridge’s control panel.
What We Liked
- Wide temperature range
- Advanced battery protection system
- Digital control pad displays the unit’s temperature, so there’s no guessing when you go to set the temp
- Has a USB charging port
Not So Much
- DC only
- No shelves or compartments included with the compact 21-quart model
Danby DAR026A1BDD-3 Compact Refrigerator
The thing that jumps out right away when you first see this mini fridge is the way it makes the most of its interior space.
Two full and one half-width shelves are included. They’re just plastic, but they’re strong. There are two shelves for the door, too. Oh, and you get a can dispenser that’ll hold eight 12-ounce beverages.
You can fit a lot in its small 20″x18″ footprint. At a height of 27″, its top can make a good mini table. All six colors have scratch-proof paint, so you won’t have to worry about it getting too scuffed up.
It’ll only run on AC. But if you have to get a small inverter just to run this fridge, it may be worth it when you consider the value of this unit.
It’s surprising that the total capacity: 2.6 cubic feet. That’s almost 78 quarts.
If you absolutely must have a freezer, this one isn’t for you. There’s no freezer compartment, and the temp range goes down to only about 40 degrees. That’s plenty cold enough for drinks, including the two liters you can put in the door shelf, but it won’t keep anything frozen.
What We Liked
- Several included shelves let you pack in a ton of smaller items
- Small footprint and reversible door makes for a good range of placement options in your truck
- Large overall capacity and removable shelves mean you can also stock big stuff, like tall bottles and even watermelon
Not So Much
- It would be perfect if there was a small freezer compartment
Trucker Mini Fridge FAQs
Which is better: AC or DC?
It’s usually best to have the option for either power source if you’re a company driver that drives different trucks. Mini fridge technology has advanced to the point where DC models refrigerate just as well as AC ones.
Does Outside Temperature Make A Difference?
If it’s an actual mini fridge that operates on a compressor, like the ones we reviewed above, then outside temp doesn’t really matter. The compressor will run more often if it’s hot in your truck’s cab, but the fridge will maintain the temperature you set.
Will A Mini Fridge Run My Battery Dead?
Most mini fridges, and all of the ones we reviewed, have some kind of low-battery protection. If you run it on AC, you likely have a battery protection system built into your truck’s inverter.
The best mini fridge for truckers is durable, dependable, versatile and it won’t run your battery dead. It has to keep your food and drinks cold. It can’t take up your valuable cab space.
Now you know how to pick one. And you’ve learned about the five mini fridges that we think are best for truckers in the reviews above.
Do you feel like you’re ready to make a choice? Keep what you’ve learned here in mind, and you’re sure to pick the right one for you.
More Reading: What should I put under my mini fridge?