Truckers only make money when they’re putting miles on their truck. Yes, there is deadhead and other ways to make money, but if you’re stopping to grab a drink or some food, you’re losing money.
Truckers don’t need to make frequent stops.
A truck fridge allows you to keep all of your food and beverages cold while on-the-road. If you’ve pulled over for the night, you’ll also have a fridge stocked with food that’s unspoiled thanks to the refrigerator.
And you need to be prepared to spend good money on a refrigerator.
Why? Cheap models break.
I highly recommend a 12-volt refrigerator for trucks because they work the best.
Requirements for a great truck refrigerator are pretty standard:
Requirements for a Truck Fridge
Requirements change, but as of writing this guide, I recommend you adhere to the following:
- Price. Everyone loves a deal, and while great, cheap models will break on you when you need them the most. Standard truck fridge prices, for a good model, will be around $500 or higher. These are exceptional, deep freeze models that will keep your food items cool the entire time you’re on the road.
- Quarts. The overall capacity of your fridge matters, too. This is a touchy subject for a lot of truckers, but remember that the more food you bring with you on the road, the less you’ll be spending at your local fast food joint. Of course, larger capacity will give a boost to the price, too. I recommend a starting point of a 27-quart to 34-quart model. Keep in mind that adding 10-quarts is often negligible in price, so it’s best to see if you can get a larger size for $20 or less.
- Voltage. The 12-volt models are the best, but they’re also more expensive. The reason for choosing a 12-volt model is that the lower voltage models are more like coolers than refrigerators. And at 12-volts, the fridge won’t be using a massive amount of your rig’s power.
Next, we move into the more refined options, starting with the type of truck refrigerator. You see, there are several types available.
Thermoelectric coolers are inexpensive, and this is their main benefit. Often an “impulse buy,” these models are in the low-hundred-dollar range, and it’s often the choice of someone that wants to give their own truck refrigerator a try.
And what’s nice is that these smaller models plug right into the cigarette lighter in many cases.
- No rewiring
- Quick install
An issue with a lot of thermoelectric models, often called coolers, is that they require energy in short bursts. When you’re running the unit off of your truck’s battery, it will slowly start to drain the battery, posing a potential risk of depleting your battery.
I don’t want to go too in-depth into the operation of these truck fridges, but it’s important to know that they use peltiers. These are small metal cubes inside of the fridge that are cooled when plugged into the outlet.
Unfortunately, these little peltiers don’t work that well and cool for 12 – 24 hours.
Your refrigerator at home runs off of a compressor. If possible, find one of these models for your truck. The compressors will keep your food cold, or frozen if you want, even when you’re on the road. This makes the most sense because it mimics your home’s refrigerator pretty well.
It’s misleading when you buy a glorified cooler rather than a fridge that can keep your food truly cold on the road.
In essence, it’s almost like you’re using ice to keep your items cool with these models. They’ll work, but you can’t expect the same level of quality as a true 12V car refrigerator.
A true truck refrigerator that you can rely on needs to have 12V, and this often means coming with:
- AC power cord, or
- DC power cord
Some models will plug into the car lighter, too. These models aren’t cheap, but they’re what we have listed below because they’re the best of the best. You’ll be confident that your food will stay cold for 24 hours or longer.
You can set these models up to work just as well as the models in your home.
There are also fridge / freezer models (we list one below). These are ideal for anyone who is on the road day and night.
Deep cycle batteries can keep these models running day and night, and you’ll even find models that have adjustable temperature ranges. You’ll be able to set the temperature as low as –6F in many cases, or as high as 50F.
In comparison, this is very similar to the temperature range you can expect in your home’s fridge.
Anyone that is big into the do-it-yourself world will find that there are options available to setup your own fridge using wiring diagrams and a few hacks along the way. I recommend going with a commercial solution because it is your best chance of your battery being able to survive your fridge.
Now, you’ll find a lot of companies doing a lot of unique things with their fridges.
The most unique features that I’ve seen recently is Wi-Fi options. These models will allow you to adjust the temperature of your fridge right from your phone.
But this isn’t necessarily a must-have feature.
Digital temperature controls work very well. If you choose to use these models, which are often much cheaper, you can change the temperature with the touch of a button. I recommend using a digital model because they allow you to change temperatures without dials.
3 Best Semi-Truck Refrigerator Options
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing and researching some of the best truck refrigerators on the market. I have found that there are a lot of different truck refrigerators, but the top three brands from my research include: Whynter, Dometic CFX and TruckFridge.
And the three models that make the top of my list are:
1. Dometic CFX-28 Cool Freeze Review
Dometic is a leader in portable refrigerators and freezers, and the CFX-28 is one of the most highly-recommended models on the market. When it comes to capacity, this model offers a cool 27-quart capacity with options for:
I do want to mention that the 64-quart also has a dual zone option, which can keep some items ice cold, or some items warmer. Of course, I like the 64-quart option best, but it all depends on your budget and needs.
There’s also a 90-quart option with a dual zone, but this option is almost always sold out or not available.
If you do come across the 90-quart model, snatch it up because it won’t last long.
Despite the large number of models available, I’ll be reviewing the 27-quart model. This model has the following features and specs:
- Holds 43 drink cans
- 27-quart, 26-liter capacity
- Weighs 29 pounds
- 12/24V DC, 120V AC and solar operation available
Designed for minimal power consumption, this model uses a CFX compressor that’s able to act as a refrigerator or freezer. Optimal cooling performance, this model is heavy duty and comes with stainless steel hingers and reinforced corners for the rigors of the road.
The lid comes with its own lining to keep the inside of the unit cool.
And temperature control is done through an accompanying app. You can use Wi-Fi to adjust the temperature via an app. This is useful if you stop at a hotel at night and forget to adjust your unit’s temperature.
You can set the temperature as low as –7F. You never need ice with the CFX-28.
Seamlessly move this model from home to rig thanks to the 12/24V DC cord and 120V AC options. All cords are available. You also have the option of powering the CFX-28 with solar. All of the cords needed are provided, so you can swap this portable unit from your home to your camper and back to your semi-truck with ease.
Digital temperature control ensures accuracy of the unit.
And this model also features a slew of extras, like:
- Drain plug for quick and easy cleaning
- USB port to charge your phone or small electronics
Built-in memory presets will “remember” your unit’s temperature setting even after it’s been unplugged. If you have a certain temperature you keep your food or beverages, the CFX-28 will remember each time you unplug and plug your unit back into a power source.
There’s also 3-stage battery protection that will monitor your unit and ensure that it doesn’t deplete your battery on you.
If you’ve ever went into your rig and it wouldn’t turn over because the battery had been depleted, you know how valuable this type of protection can be.
There’s also a neat wire basket in the cooling compartment that will allow you to store fruits and smaller items neatly away in your truck refrigerator.
- Wi-Fi, app control
- Digital temperature control
- Dual zone options
- Powerful enough to freeze water
- Comes with multiple power cords
- Wire baskets tend to rattle
The one major complaint that a lot of truckers have is that the wire baskets tend to rattle when you’re on the road. These baskets are easy to remove, and this is one option that you do have if you plan on riding day and night with the fridge on.
Keep in mind that this model’s freezer option, which can freeze water, will require about 0.95 amps per hour. You’ll need something like 25 amps per day to run the unit at a very cold temperature. The unit requires more power for the initial cooling and less as the unit cools.
2020 Update: You can now order direct from Dometic and save 10% With code PATHFINDER.
Click here to view pricing and availability of the Dometic CFX-28.
2. Whynter FM-45G Platinum Review
Whynter is another premiere brand in the portable refrigerator / freezer industry. And unlike our first choice, this model only comes in two size options:
You’ll find that this model’s starting price is around the $510 – $515 mark, but prices tend to vary. The larger model will cost slightly more, but it does offer nearly 50% more capacity, which is significant for those long rides on the open road.
I’ll be reviewing the 45-quart model, so keep in mind that any of the capacity figures I mention will be much higher on the 65-quart unit.
When choosing the 45-quart model, you’ll be able to hold up to 60, 12-ounce cans inside of your unit. And when you choose the FM-45G, you’ll be choosing a model that acts as:
- A refrigerator
- A freezer
You’ll power this model with an 8-feet AC cord, or the 5-feet DC cord. There are also two wire baskets inside of the unit that allow you to hold multiple items inside and on top of the baskets. Each basket is removable, so you can remove the baskets if you have other items that you would like to store in your portable unit.
What’s really nice about this model is its fast freeze feature.
Fast Freeze comes in handy when you go to the store, buy something frozen and need to keep it frozen until you reach your drop off. This feature is designed for rapid cooling, and while energy intensive, it will cool your entire unit down to –8F.
Voltages are as follows:
- AC (115V / 65W / 0.75A)
- DC (12V/24V)
Your unit will weight 45 pounds and it runs on 65 watts.
Use this portable model everywhere, such as:
- Fishing trips
It’s a universal truck refrigerator. Easy to adjust, you’ll find the temperature control right on the side of the unit. A touch of a button allows you to adjust the digital temperature to your preference.
The temperature can be adjusted between –6F and 50F.
This is not just a portable cooler. Whynter makes it clear that this is designed to be a refrigerator / freezer model. You’ll also have the option of operation when tilted at 30 degrees. The walls and lid of the refrigerator are insulated to keep the contents cool at all times.
Offering compressor cooling, this model is just as powerful as your home unit, but It’s portable and much easier to setup.
- Fast Freeze cools contents rapidly to –8
- Insulated lid and walls keep items cool
- Compressor cools like a home fridge
- Extremely well-built
- Dies after about 2 years
Well-built, the one issue that some users have, and I’m not saying you’ll experience the same thing, is that this model seems to have a two-year lifespan before it starts having issues. Yes, this is a long time, and there seems to be some concern when going off-road with this model.
But truckers should not be going off-road with this unit, so there shouldn’t be much of a concern about off-roading damaging the unit.
You’ll find that this model works as advertised. I did want to note that when you use the fast freezing option, it will be a major energy drain. The unit can use as much as 4 amps for a short period of time, but on a consistent basis, you’ll use around 0.75 amps per hour, which is pretty standard.
If you plan on taking this unit out of your rig, you can hook it up to a solar panel for all-day use, too.
The model works great, keeps contents cool and can even keep the contents of your unit frozen. It has a very powerful compressor, the energy demands are modest, and it should work well with any newer battery.
Click here to view pricing and availability of the Whynter FM-45G.
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3. TruckFridge T65 Black Refrigerator Review
Who better to supply your truck refrigerator than TruckFridge? The company designs units specifically for commercial vehicles, and while their products might be a bit more expensive, they’re very well-rated and are designed to last.
And the T65 comes with factory OEM wire connections.
What’s this mean?
You can set this unit up quickly. You’ll be tying it into the rig’s wiring, and if you’re replacing a stock unit, this means it’s even easier to get started with your new truck refrigerator.
TruckFridge’s model is 2.4 cubic feet, and it runs on 12VD DC. The compressor offers true refrigeration, meaning this isn’t your standard “cooler” by any means. There’s also a wide range of cooling, from reliable at 38F to freezing.
You can even freeze the contents of the unit when the cab is at 120F – that’s impressive.
Medium-designed, this model is perfect for an inner cabinet and allows for full customization, too. There’s a built-in low voltage cutout, so the unit will cut if the voltage goes too low.
TruckFridge is open and honest about their model’s power demands. The demands are as follows:
- Power draw is 6 amps
- Average amps are 40 amps / 24 hours
You’ll find that the power drawer is higher with the T65 than the other two models on our list, but it’s also slightly more powerful than the competition. It’s a trade-off between power and power draw.
The weight of this model is 51.7 pounds, and since it’s wired to fit into your cab, it’s not as universal as other units. You can’t quickly put the unit in a boat or another vehicle. It’s designed to be used primarily in commercial vehicles.
But as a trucker, this is something you should be able to appreciate.
Temperature is controlled through an adjustable thermostat. The unit is all black, so it’s more stylish than most other models. Any system defects or electrical issues will be covered under the 2-year warranty as well as: trim, interior and fan.
Misuse is the only time that the warranty is not honored.
A built-in LED light allows you to easily see the contents of the unit.
The compressor will cycle to meet the demands of your temperature setting. If you set the unit to its lowest setting, you can expect it to cycle often and draw more power.
- Long warranty and great customer service
- Keeps items cool even in 100F weather
- Wires directly into the truck
- Excellent space organization
- High power demands
The one thing that I want to mention is that this truck refrigerator will demand 40+ amps, depending on the temperature of the cab. Some users claim that in very high temperatures, when it’s 100F degrees, the unit can use as much as 50 amps of power in a day.
But the good thing is that even in these temperatures, the contents of the refrigerator remain cool.
You can’t say the same for most truck refrigerators on the market.
The amount of food storage is exceptional, and the energy consumption is negligible considering how cold the food will be kept. I almost forgot to mention that this unit is near-whisper quiet.
You won’t have to deal with a loud, clunky refrigerator keeping you up.
The unit is designed to be very quiet, and most users will get so used to the low humming sound that they’ll never even notice it’s on. It’s the ideal solution for commercial vehicles where you might be spending the night in the cab or taking a nap.
Click here to view pricing and availability of the TruckFridge T65 refrigerator.
Truck refrigerators make sense for truckers that spend their days and nights on the road. You’ll be able to keep food and drinks cold inside of your cab at all times. You never have to drink a hot soda again or worry about your food spoiling.
Even if you plan on stopping at a hotel for the night, you can bring food with you so that you don’t spend more money on the road.
I will break it down for you: if you eat at truck stops exclusively, you can spend $30 a day easily.
You can hit up Walmart or your local grocery store and eat for 33% – 50% cheaper per day.
The food will be healthier, and you won’t have to make stops often. Truck refrigerators will save you money in the long-term and will pay for themselves in just two months.