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RV Fridge vs Residential: Which is a Better Choice?

Written by Philip Lopez / Fact checked by Paul Lemaire

rv fridge vs residential

An RV with full size fridge can make camping a lot more comfortable with plenty of cold food and beverage items. I’ve owned an RV fridge for many years, but it got me thinking about whether I should replace it with a residential refrigerator unit. RV fridge vs residential refrigerators, which is a better option?

An RV fridge seems to be a better choice when you want to boondock in any remote spots. If you want more storage space and won’t camp off-grid, a residential refrigerator might be a smarter option.

There are more features that set these two units apart. Let’s learn more about them below.

Table of Contents

When to Use RV Fridge?

If you boondock frequently, it’s ideal to get a full size RV refrigerator. You don’t need extra batteries and a large inverter to power it when you’re staying somewhere without shore power. You can use propane instead for extra convenience in remote areas.

The versatility is the main selling point of RV fridges. You can use shore power whenever it’s available and switch to propane when you’re boondocking.

These models also suit those who don’t need much storage space for food or only plan to dry camp for a short period.

However, the main issue with an RV fridge is to make sure that it’s level while driving on steep roads. You might also need to turn off the unit when fueling. And also, keep an eye on the vents to know whether they’re exposed to the sun or not.

When to Use Residential Refrigerators?


If you’re staying in one place, you’re better off with a residential fridge unit. A travel trailer with residential refrigerator can enjoy many benefits, such as a large storage space and good temperature control. These units are even more economical than RV fridge models.

However, they would be a hassle if you decided to camp in remote areas. You’ll need a large inverter and some spare batteries to power the unit. Also, consider getting solar power for more energy efficiency and a generator for backup during the overcast days.

On the downside, when your residential fridge unit gets broken on the road, the warranty might not cover it because these units aren’t designed for mobile use.

RV Refrigerator Vs Residential Refrigerator Comparison


Choosing between an RV refrigerator and a residential one may depend on your storage food requirement, location, and budget. Let’s explore several features that set these two appliances apart.

1. Size

RV fridges offer less food storage space than residential refrigerator models, as most of the bulk is found at the back. These units often lack freezer space, which may be an issue when you want to stock up on plenty of frozen goods.

To solve this dilemma, you can use a cooler to store your beverages or frozen items that won’t fit in the fridge.

If you want more space, it’s ideal to get a residential refrigerator for RV. Most of its inner workings are slim, so more space is allotted for food items. Compared to RV refrigerators, the residential fridge has a larger freezer that’s perfect for storing large tubs of ice cream and ice cubes.

The size of RV fridges ranges from four to six cubic feet, while a residential refrigerator can go as big as 21 cubic feet. Of course, you need to consider your RV size.

2. Power Consumption

An RV fridge either runs on propane or electricity, but the unit works more efficiently on propane. This makes it the perfect choice for boondocking. You can also find some new 3-way models that can work with 12-volt batteries.

A residential fridge in RV consumes less electricity than the RV-specific types. However, they need 120-volt electricity or nearby shore power. The crucial part is finding an alternate source to run the fridge when boondocking.

3. Cooling Efficiency

A residential refrigerator uses a compressor to cool things. Compared to an RV fridge, a residential model cools better and faster. It can keep ice cream hard for several days.

An RV fridge uses absorption refrigeration for cooling. The cooling system is near silent, but it performs less effectively than residential refrigerator units. This type tends to have a hard time cooling in hot weather or at higher altitudes.

One way to solve this temperature control problem is to install a fan behind the fridge for better air circulation. Also, seal any leaks to ensure that the outside air won’t alter the cold air inside the fridge.

4. Durability

You can bet on the durability of RV refrigerators because they’re made of heavy materials. Also, these products are designed to withstand the constant motion of traveling around. Since they have no moving parts, they stay intact even when you drive on a rough road.

Residential refrigerators are designed for the house, so they may not endure the constant bouncing of the RV. That said, if your travel trailer is built with a shock-proof air suspension feature, then this won’t be a problem. You may also look for a residential fridge unit with a rugged compressor.

5. Cost

When the fridge gets broken, an RV type may cost more than a residential fridge unit to repair. RV-specific appliances aren’t found just anywhere, so the lack of supply makes the price go high.

This is a different case with residential refrigerators because they’re available in many domestic brands and models at a competitive price.

If you’re short of budget, you can try a small residential refrigerator for RV. These models are way cheaper than RV-specific refrigerators.

6. Safety Issues

There’s a high risk of running propane for your RV fridge. Any leak can cause a fire or explosion.

But as long as you do regular maintenance, then you can avoid this problem. Every time you stop at a fueling station, make sure to turn off the RV fridge beforehand.

Residential refrigerators, on the other hand, need to be installed properly to avoid future problems. Keep them secure in their place, especially the doors, while you travel. Secure the doors with a latch or duct tape.

Additionally, you might not want to run a portable generator when driving because it might release toxic carbon monoxide.


In this RV fridge vs residential refrigerator comparison, the better choice all depends on your travel preferences. Consider what you must get from a fridge and which option ticks off more of your requirements.

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