The Best Fridge for Your Campervan – Which One to Choose?

RV fridge guide - how and which one to choose the right fridge for your DIY van camper

Buying a trivalent or compressor RV refrigerator?

Horizontal or vertical?

12V or 110/220V?


In this article you will find all the information you need to choose

the best fridge for Your Van, tailored to your Needs! 🙂



There are so many details about my van conversion, that when I look at them, they make me feel at home.

However, if I were forced to choose only my favorite: without a doubt, I would choose THE REFRIGERATOR!

It’s strange because in the end, it’s one of those things that I didn’t build with my own hands (like almost everything else in my van), I just picked it out, paid for it, and installed it (with a lot of love, that yes!). Yet I really fell in love with it!

Returning to one’s RV after a day of travel, and finding food in the fridge, or better yet some cold beers, is something truly magical, making every pitch and every parking lot truly home .

If you plan to travel for longer periods on your own, one of the essential things to do is to think about how best to refrigerate and store your food!

A quality refrigerator, is really one of the factors that more than any other changes your travel experience and allows you to travel longer, more independently and more freely!

In this article, I will explain how they work and the differences between the best RV/Van refrigerator models on the market-there really are many types and for all budgets!

We’ll go over the pros, cons, and value for money, and give you all the tools to make an informed and accurate choice for Find the RV refrigerator that best suits YOUR needs and YOUR VAN!

Let’s start with the article right away! 🙂


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1. The Types of RV/Van Fridges:

Thermoelectric, Compressor or Trivalent?

RV refrigerator - which is the best - complete guide

Choosing the refrigerator that best suits your needs is one of the most important choices to make during a DIY Van Conversion and it is a choice that needs to be made as soon as possible in that:

  • the size of the refrigerator will probably determine the design and size of the surrounding furniture (if you want to fit it between walls/furniture),
  • it is important to know in advance the consumption of your refrigerator in order to planning an electrical system be able to power it 24 hours a day, or possibly a gas system

To find the right refrigerator for your needs, the first choice you will probably have to make is to choose whether to install a compressor refrigerator, thermoelectric or a trivalent refrigerator. In this chapter, we look together at the differences between the three.


The Thermoelectric Camper Fridge is a type of refrigerator/cooler that can run on 12/24V DC or even 110/220V AC electricity (depending on the model).

The operation of a thermoelectric refrigerator is very simple and is based on the Peltier effect: electric current, passing between two different metals, causes heat to pass from one to the other.

The thermoelectric refrigerator is the weakest performance refrigerator among those we will see (in fact, it is often considered a “cooler” rather than a true refrigerator), which nonetheless can be a good one in some situations.


  • For Medium-Short Trips
  • For hiking, picnics and camping
  • For Saving Money
  • To wedge a refrigerator between the two front seats.


  • The cheapest models are thermoelectric refrigerators
  • Generally small in size (easy to fit in)
  • Transportable, they keep their interior at a constant temperature, much the same as a cooler
  • They can run on 12V from the cigarette lighter


  • They do not cool much when the outside temperature is above 25°C
  • They reach a maximum of -15/20°C relative to the outside (so no ice cold beer in summer 🙁 )
  • They require constant energy (run all the time)


The Compressor Fridge is the classic refrigerator encountered in most homes (in RVs it is only smaller). This type of refrigerator uses a compressor motor to expand and compress a gas, cooling the inside of the refrigerator in the process.

12V RV compressor refrigerators are the ones that best withstand high outside temperatures, are the ones that reach the coldest temperatures, are the most energy-efficient, but are also the ones that cost the most.


  • For Longer Trips
  • For those planning to live Full-Time in their camper van.
  • For those who like their beer well chilled in all seasons (like me!).
  • For those seeking the highest performing and most efficient refrigerator


    • Efficient, Low Energy Consumption
    • They reach Very Cold Temperatures (and may have a Freezer area!).
    • They work well in all seasons, even with the vehicle not level
    • Easy to Install and Connect at 12V


    • The High Cost Compared to Other Types of Fridges


    The Trivalent Fridge (also called “3-way fridge) is a type of RV refrigerator that can be powered in three different ways: with 12V DC power (when traveling), with 220V AC power (when camping), or with LPG gas (when idling with the engine off). The choice of power supply can be automatic or manual.

    The operation of this type of refrigerator is based on a solution of water, ammonia and other elementities that by thermo-absorption extract heat from the inside of the refrigerator.

    Normally, trivalent refrigerators are those installed on factory motorhomes. Their main advantage is that they do not depend on the services battery (using gas, column, or alternator current in motion). The main disadvantage, is that depending on the power supply they cool more (gas) or less (12V).


    • To replace a factory refrigerator on a factory motorhome/RV
    • If you already have a gas system installed on your RV and do not have solar


      • Convenient if you don’t have solar installed and rely mainly on gas (always available)
      • Reaches fairly cold temperatures (gas-powered)
      • No noise, even for the cheapest models
      • More options of power sources


      • Does not reach very cold temperatures when in absorption (AC or DC powered)
      • On the Road cannot be fueled with gas, only when parked
      • Requires an on-board gas system (in do-it-yourself camper vans requires certification/testing)
      • The refrigerator must be level to function, with a maximum slope of 2-3°
      • Lower longevity than a compressor refrigerator


      As mentioned above, there is no best fridge for everyone, but it all depends on YOUR needs!

      In general, I would personally recommend:

      • a Thermoelectric Fridge: to those who want to go for savings and invest the minimum
      • a Trivalent Fridge: to those who own a factory motorhome or otherwise a vehicle that already has a gas system and want to continue using it
      • a Compressor Fridge: to anyone who is RVing a Do-It-Yourself van, has access to solar, and wants to invest the right amount for a quality fridge that will work for a long time and in all seasons

      In the next two chapters, we will discuss size, design, compartments, freezer, and all the useful features to consider when choosing your van refrigerator.

      In Chapter 4 instead, I will show you what, after long and exhausting research, I consider to be the best RV refrigerators currently on the market.

      Let’s continue! 🙂

      2. Vertical or Horizontal Fridge?


      Another important choice to be made immediately after choosing the type of refrigerator, which will surely affect the layout and composition of your camper van, is to choose whether to install a horizontal (cockpit) or vertical (shelf-mounted, like the one at home) refrigerator.

      Let’s look together at the pros and cons of each option.


      RV cockpit refrigerators provide access to food and beverages by simply lifting the top lid.

      Given their shape and the tendency for the cold to go downward, when opened they let less cold escape than a classic upright refrigerator.


      • Less frost escapes when opened compared to a horizontal refrigerator
      • It can fit between the cockpit seats by being able to access it while driving
      • Easier touse all available space (one thing on top of another)


      • If you need something on the bottom, you have to pull out everything on it
      • Storing food in the refrigerator is a little puzzle, and if something gets spilled you have to pull everything out to clean the bottom.
      • In the Layout,you need to plan for convenient access to the refrigerator (if under a shelf, perhaps with a pull-out drawer)


      The upright fridge is the classic fridge found in most homes, it is the one where you open the door, take what you need (for example, a beer 😉 ) and close the door.

      The main advantage of an upright refrigerator is accessibility and being able to see all its contents more or less immediately. That said, let’s look together at the main pros and cons:

      camper RV VAN BEST shelf refrigerator - pros and cons


      • Quick and immediate access to all content
      • If you don’t care about maximizing every inch of space and filling the whole fridge, surely a horizontal fridge is neater
      • Easier to clean than a sump refrigerator


      • You have to calculate the space to open the refrigerator door
      • When open, it loses temperature faster than a sump refrigerator (relevant especially for “weaker” refrigerators without a compressor)
      • Need to leave space for ventilation at the back of the refrigerator


      The choice of refrigerator is definitely based on a very personal preference. While there are obvious differences between a horizontal or vertical refrigerator, I personally do not consider them so significant as to make one option significantly better than of the other.

      A quality fridge, will keep food (and beers!) perfectly cold whether vertical or horizontal, while a poor fridge will have problems whether horizontal or vertical.

      In choosing your refrigerator, I would suggest that you think:

      • to the layout of your van: think about your space and the most convenient solution for YOUR project
      • think how much stuff you have to put in there
      • think about how you would like to organize the food and how to access it

      The choice of type of refrigerator (thermoelectric, compressor, trivalent etc.) and its capacity are choices that will impact much more the use you can make of your RV refrigerator than the horizontal vs. vertical decision: for this, think about what would work best for your VAN, and then start looking: there are many solutions on the market for all kinds of projects 🙂

      Personally, I chose to install an upright shelf refrigerator (Isotherm 85L) because opening the refrigerator door “like at home” makes me “feel like at home,” and that was the feeling I tried to recreate when creating the layout of my whole van.

      In the next chapter, we discuss the size of RV refrigerators and how many things you can stow inside them.

      3. What Size of Fridge you Need for your Van?

      cooler for camper - how many liters capacity

      The ideal refrigerator capacity for your RV, of course, depends on your intended use of your vehicle.

      The larger the refrigerator, the more fresh food you can carry and the longer you can travel without necessarily stopping at a supermarket.

      Of course, a larger refrigerator also means less storage space for other things.

      Therefore, it is important not to go beyond your needs so as not to waste valuable space inside your van.



      Will you be traveling alone or in pairs?

      Just for the vacations or will you live in your van full-time?

      Do you plan to visit a supermarket every 3-4 days, once a week, or once in a while?

      Try to Give an answer to all these questions: in the end, your use of your truck camper is what should most influence your choice of refrigerator.

      As General Guidelines, I recommend that you keep these dimensions in mind when choosing which refrigerator to install in your RV:

      • 30-45Liters -> Weekends, Getaways and Short Vacations (2-3 days)
      • 45-85Liters -> Vacation of a week or so (with the need to refill from time to time)
      • 85-130+Liters -> Full-time use with independence of even 2 weeks (obviously, the larger the capacity of the refrigerator, the longer you can go without grocery shopping)



      Different refrigerator models have more or fewer compartments.

      Since the refrigerator for an RV (and your future vanlife!) is still a major investment, it is important to make an effort from the planning stage to think about how you will organize your food and what would be the most convenient way to access it.

      Personally, for my camper van, I chose to install an Isotherm Cruise upright shelf refrigerator that allows me to divide food between multiple compartments of varying heights, just as I would in my home refrigerator.

      That said, cockpit refrigerators can also be divided into zones and compartments, and it is up to you to choose the one most convenient for your needs. Later in the article I will show you the best RV refrigerators currently on the market.


      3.3 FREEZER YES OR NO?

      Having a freezer on your RV opens you up to more food possibilities: depending on the size, you may be able to carry frozen pizzas, chips, fish, ice cream, popsicles any other kind of frozen food. Carrying long-lasting food can allow you to travel longer without refueling.

      Also, and not to be underestimated, an on-board freezer allows you to create Valuable ice cubes for use in summer to keep your drinks well chilled or to create tasty cocktails (I admit this is the first thing I thought of when I was deciding whether to install a freezer on our VW Crafter camper xD).

      If you are considering installing a freezer unit on your van, I recommend that you go for compressor refrigerators: the only type of refrigerator that can keep a freezer at a truly all-season temperature (there are a few models of absorption trivalents as well, but they cost much more and still require a gas system that is up to code)!

      In the next chapter we look together at the best RV refrigerators currently on the market and their most important technical features 🙂

      4. Best Camper Fridge Models.

      fridge camper van - DIY camperize a fridge van

      Now that we have talked about the various types of RV refrigerators (thermoelectric, compressor, and trivalent) and the various features they can have (capacity, power supply, freezer etc.), I want to show you what I consider to be the best refrigerators for an RV van currently on the market.

      Personally, after a long and exhausting search on all the specifications of the various models, I decided to purchase for my van a Fridge Isotherm Cruise 85L of Indel-Webasto, which so far has always met our needs without giving the slightest problem (of all the campering we have done, Is still my favorite element! 😉 ).

      However, in order not to lose all the information I acquired during my research (and to simplify yours 😉 ), I have compiled the following list with all the best RV refrigerators and their main features.

      For your convenience also, I have included a button under each product that will take you directly to the manufacturer’s website or to the Amazon page should you be interested in buying it or simply interested in understanding the qualities of the product in more detail.

      For the sake of transparency, I would like to point out that I participate in the Amazon Associate program and that for any purchase made through the links on this site, I receive a small commission that I use to support the costs of this blog, obviously at no extra-cost to you ?

      The Best Compressor Camper Refrigerators.

      4.1 DOMETIC CFX


      DOMETIC CFX Cockpit Fridge - for motorhomes

      FRIDGE FOR: Compact Projects, Space-Saving, Max Efficiency

      AVAILABLE SIZES: 32L, 46L, 60L

      POWER SUPPLY: 100-240V AC, 12-24V DC

      Dometic is synonymous with quality, and the Dometic CFX line of refrigerators features some of the best RV cockpit refrigerators currently available on the market: maximum performance and minimum consumption.


      • Energy Class A++
      • Temperature Adjustable from +10° to -22°C
      • Reinforced Corners
      • Control Panel with Digital Display and Temperature Control via Wi-Fi APP
      • USB Sockets for Mobile Phone Charging
      • Consumption 0.36-0.5 Ah




      FRIDGE FOR: Full-Time Travel, To Feel Like Home

      SIZES AVAILABLE: 49L, 65L, 85L, 130L

      POWER SUPPLY: 12V/24V DC

      Isotherm is the result of a collaboration between Indel and Webasto, which led to the creation of what I consider to be the best RV refrigerator/freezers on the market, despite being originally designed for boats.

      Quiet, efficient, and high-performance, it’s hard not to fall in love with them after the first use (I installed one in my camper van!).


      • Pre-drilled internal holes to easily recess and secure it
      • Opening Door in Both Directions
      • 5-Year Compressor Warranty
      • Available in various Designs and also in “Elegance” version
      • Average Consumption: 0.6-1.1Ah (depending on model)



      isotherm inox - camper built-in refrigerator

      FRIDGE FOR: Full-Time Travel, Cashing Out, Feeling at Home

      AVAILABLE SIZES: 42L, 65L, 85L, 130L, 220L

      POWER SUPPLY: 12/24V DC

      Ihe Isotherm Inox/Elegance refrigerator is almost entirely similar to the Isotherm Cruise (power supply, energy efficiency, etc.), but it has two differences in construction that may be useful for certain projects: a recessed handle – which allows it to be recessed flush – and a “DR – Drawer” version” so it can slide and become a removable sump refrigerator.


      • Created to Be Flush Mounted
      • Available in both shelf and cockpit-sump versions
      • Snap Lock
      • Freezer Compartment reaches -6°C in all conditions
      • Power consumption: 265-420W/24h (0.8-1.3Ah – depending on model)

      4.4 ALPICOOL NX


      alpicool - best portable compressor refrigerator camper boat

      COOLER FOR: Compressor + Portable, For Camping

      SIZES AVAILABLE: 42L, 52L, 62L

      POWER SUPPLY:12V-24V DC, 220AC

      Alpicool is a relatively new company that is making a name for itself in the world of recreational vehicles thanks to excellent quality for a price that is significantly lower than its more emblazoned rivals.

      The Alpicool NX Line is the perfect choice for those who are looking for a powerful compressor refrigerator but do not want to give up the convenience of being able to transport their refrigerator when needed.


      • Portable with Reinforced Wheel
      • Adjustable and Usable as a Fridge or Freezer (down to -18°C)
      • Possibility of 12V power supply in camper, and 220V in campsite
      • USB Charging for Mobile Phone and Low Noise
      • 1 Year Warranty



      MOBICOOl built-in camper fridge com

      REFRIGERATOR FOR: Compressor, Travel and Camping


      POWER SUPPLY: 12V DC – 220-240AC

      If you only have two seats in the front in your van/camper, the idea of installing a refrigerator between the two probably popped into your head: in the end, having an accessible refrigerator while on the road is a great advantage that allows you to drink and eat without having to stop.

      Mobicool FR compressor refrigerators are designed for exactly that: small enough to fit between seats, and light enough to be carried outside for a picnic.


      • Energy Class A+
      • Adjustable Temperature +10°C / -10°C
      • Digital Display, Both DC and AC Power Sockets
      • Transportable and Versatile
      • Space for 1.5L Bottles in Vertical
      • Less Noisy than a Thermoelectric Fridge

      The Best Absorption Camper Refrigerators (Trivalents)

      4.6 DOMETIC RM (WAECO)



      REFRIGERATION FOR: Factory Camper, Hybrid/Gas Power Supply


      POWER SUPPLY: 12V DC – 220V AC – LPG GAS

      In factory motorhomes, or at any rate in camper vans with a certified gas system, trivalent refrigerators can be used.

      In this area, Dometic (Waeco) is definitely the industry leader, and the RM line are the most efficient and high-performance absorption refrigerators around.


      • Silent Absorption Refrigeration
      • Removable Freezer Cell
      • Led Control Panel
      • Average consumption: 2.8kw/24h (230V), 270g/24h (Gas), 130W (12V)

      4.7 VITRIFRIGO VTR 5000+


      MADE IN ITALY vitrifrigo - trivalent fridge camper van

      REFRIGERATION FOR: Factory Camper, Hybrid/Gas Power Supply

      SIZES AVAILABLE: 40L – 60L – 70L – 80L – 105L – 150L

      POWER SUPPLY: 12V DC – 220V AC – LPG GAS

      Another renowned manufacturer of trivalent refrigerators is the Italian company Vitrifrigo, which offers a wide range of absorption refrigerator models.

      A good alternative to Dometic, both in quality and price.


      • Italian quality product
      • Average Consumption: 2.6kW/24h – 450g/h (depending on model)
      • Electronic Thermostat for Temperature Regulation
      • Lower price than Dometic and still excellent quality

      The Best Low-Cost and Thermoelectric RV Refrigerators.

      4.8 SEVERIN KS



      FRIDGE FOR: Saving, Camping


      POWER SUPPLY: 230V

      A good thermoelectric refrigerator running on 230V. Great for those who plan to use the refrigerator only in camping and want to spend little (<150Euro).


      • Low-Cost, but cools properly (doesn’t freeze though)
      • Consumption: 107 kWh/year
      • Reversible door
      • Temperature control knob



      DOMETIC tropicool - refrigerator cooler for camper low consumption

      REFRIGERATION FOR: Recessed between Seats, Camping,

      SIZES AVAILABLE: 14L – 21L – 33L

      POWER SUPPLY: 12/24V DC and 220-240V AC

      Dometic is one of the undisputed leaders in this type of product and is a name, a guarantee.

      Tropicool is an adjustable thermoelectric refrigerator that can cool down to -25°C below the outside temperature and heat its contents up to 65°C, really important values compared to all the competition.


      • Intelligent Circuit for Energy Saving
      • 7-Stage Adjustable Thermostat
      • Lightweight, Easy to Carry and Recessed Between Seats
      • 12/24V DC and 220-240V AC power supply

      5. How to Connect the Cables and Fix the Fridge in Your Camper.

      fuse box - to connect camper fridge

      If like me, you have opted to choose a 12V refrigerator, once purchased you will obviously need to connect it to your service batteries to power it and make it operational.

      To do this, I recommend that you read the Complete Guide to a DIY Van Electrical System. in which I explain step-by-step all the operation of every single component of a camper’s electrical system (batteries, solar, fuses, charging systems, 12V DC, 230V AC, etc.) and where you can download a complete schematic to connect all your equipment, including the refrigerator 🙂

      Here I leave you the Links to the two Guides on Electrical Installation 🙂


      Complete Guide and Electrical Scheme for your D-I-Y Van Conversion

      Converting a Van: How to Connect Electric Cables Without Mistaking

      Diagrams for Installing your DIY Electric System on your Van

      Complete wiring diagrams for your van’s electrical system

      6. Conclusion

      isotherm van camper refrigerator

      The on-board refrigerator is definitely one of the elements that transforms your travel experience more than any other and, if you travel full-time, makes you feel at home in every parking lot.

      If you are converting a van and plan to travel in it for a long time, my advice is to invest some extra money, but get a quality product that will last.

      Personally, I can say that our experience with our Isotherm 85 so far has been great: super easy to fix, never a problem, never a noise, great fridge and freezer temperatures, and ice cold beers! 😉

      And you, what refrigerator have you decided to install in your van? Let me know in the comments below!

      As always, I invite you to quietly write me with questions if something is unclear, if you have any other doubts about any of the steps we covered in the article, or if you find any inaccuracies (they can always slip through 🙂 )!

      Thanks for reading, and see you in the upcoming insights!

      Be good, and enjoy your conversion! 😀 😀





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