Buying Your First Portable Fridge

Everything you need to know before making a purchase.

Buying a portable fridge is a big investment, and being able to make an informed decision is critical. There are many to choose from, ranging across several brands and hundreds of models - it can all be a bit overwhelming.

Here, we’ll give you a brief introduction to portable fridges, and outline everything you need to know before taking the plunge on purchasing your very first portable fridge.

Let’s get started.



What is a Portable Fridge?

A portable fridge is a mobile, fully portable cooling system designed to be used as a means of keeping your food and drinks cold when on the road or in remote locations.

Portable fridges are well suited to camping, off-roading and travelling, where power may not be readily available and space is at a premium. They are also great cooling solutions for caravanning holidays, as a spare fridge for parties, a small cooler for trade vehicles, and those all-important fishing trips.



What Do I Need?

Most portable fridges will require three things:


  • The portable fridge itself;
  • A battery for power;
  • A means of charging the battery.

Portable fridges do not run themselves; they require some sort of power source to function. Most fridges are able to be connected to a standard 240v power socket, like the ones in your home or on powered camp sites. When power is not available, they can also be connected to a battery, with some fridges also being able to run on a gas cylinder, just like your barbeque.

Using a battery, however, will require some means of recharging, which we talk more about in our Power and Charging Guide.



What Styles Are Available?

The bulk of portable fridges are built as a “chest fridge”, with a lid on top that opens upwards, similar to your chest freezer at home. There are other options, however, such as units with a door in the front, like a more traditional fridge.



How Do I Choose A Size?

Portable fridge sizes are measured in Litres (L), but this doesn’t help much when you are trying to get an idea of exactly how much it can hold.

Luckily, we’ve created this handy Size Guide to aid in selecting the right sized fridge for your needs.



Compressor Fridge or 3-Way Fridge?

Portable fridges are made in two different ways. The majority of models are called ‘Compressor Fridges’; they use a compressor for cooling power, and require some sort of power source to function (such as main power or a battery).

Some fridges are made as what’s called ‘3-Way Fridges’. ‘3-Way’ stands for the 3 methods of power they can use; mains power, battery power or gas.

For a more detailed look at the pros and cons of each make, check out our Compressor vs 3-Way Comparison Guide.


Can I Also Use It As A Freezer?

The majority of portable fridges can be used as either a fridge or a freezer; this will be detailed in the specs of the fridge.

Many brands also offer a solution for both simultaneously. These fridges are usually called ‘Dual Zone’, or ‘Combi’ models, and have different compartments inside for both Fridge and Freezer.

There are also models available that operate as a fridge only, and others that can even be used to heat up their contents. Be sure to read the specifications carefully to make sure the fridge will do what you want before purchasing.


How Much Does It Cost?

Portable fridges come in a whole range of brands and sizes, and costs can range from about $150 for a small in-car cooler, right through to $2000 for a full sized, upright fridge. On average though, for a standard 40L chest fridge, you’ll be looking to pay somewhere around$800 - $1300.

If you plan on using your fridge remotely away from power (such as for camping or travelling), don’t forget to include your battery and charging options in your budget.

Portable Fridges Online has a huge range to choose from, and solutions for just about every budget. Our Specials are always a good place to start!



What’s The Best Brand?

Whilst there is no out and out ‘best brand’, there are some that are more popular and better suited to our Aussie conditions than others.

For help choosing which brand is right for you, check out our Brand Comparison Guide.



How Long Will It Last?

Like anything, this can vary depending on the usage and treatment of the fridge. Most fridges offer a 2 or 3 year warranty on the unit as a whole, but with good care, maintenance and a bit of luck, a good quality portable fridge could last you anywhere between 5 and 20 years!




Introduction to Portable Fridges by Fishing World

Different Fridge Types by Waeco



Where To Now?

Portable Fridges Online has a number of other useful guides to help in choosing the right fridge for your needs. Also check out our:

  • Waeco Buyer’s Guide: An in-depth look at the range of popular Waeco portable fridges.
  • Engel Buyer’s Guide: An in-depth look at some of Engel’s more popular models.
  • EvaKool Buyer’s Guide: An overview of EvaKool’s range of portable fridge solutions.
  • Installation Guide: A rundown of some of the installation options available for your portable fridge.
  • Tips & Tricks: Our tips for getting the most out of your new portable fridge, taken from our own camping experiences.
  • Current Specials: Our current range of heavily discounted specials on portable fridges is a great place to start when looking to buy.