What’s the best portable 12-volt refrigerator for RVs?
If you want more options to choose from just keep reading!
Down below I review the top five best 12-volt refrigerators that you can take along in your RV to keep your food and drinks cold while camping.
So no more messing with that cooler and bags of ice!
Keep reading to learn about how a 12-volt fridge operates, what to ask yourself before buying a 12-volt refrigerator, and my top five best RV 12-volt refrigerator reviews with pros and cons and details about each model.
What Is a 12-Volt Refrigerator?
A 12-volt refrigerator (sometimes known as a 12-volt cooler) is a portable unit that keeps food, drinks, and even medicine cold while you travel.
Built specifically to operate with a 12-volt power source these units are perfect for use in RVs that utilize a bank of 12-volt batteries that charge from driving, from a converter inside your RV that transfers 120-volt shore power to 12-volt, or from a solar-power system.
Most 12-volt refrigerators run on dual power, so if you have power at your campsite, you can conserve your battery and plug it into the pedestal.
Some 12-volt refrigerators have a compressor that allows the fridge to maintain low temperatures and can keep food frozen. Others are just a fridge that will keep your items fresh, so read descriptions carefully when selecting a model.
Portable RV 12-volt refrigerators are going to be much smaller than you expect. Some look more like a regular plastic cooler or small dorm-room or bar fridge.
The smaller size makes them perfect space savers inside your RV, but they will not replace the ease of using a full-size fridge nor keep your food as evenly cold.
They will make camping trips much more relaxing over struggling with ice chests to hold your food while on a trip.
What to Know Before Buying a 12-Volt Refrigerator
When you need refrigeration on the road, you’ll want to have the best 12-volt refrigerator in your RV so when you reach your campsite you can pop open a cool beverage and de-stress from your drive.
So what do you need to look for in a good 12-volt RV refrigerator?
The list includes:
- Storage capacity – will it hold enough food for your trip?
- Cooling capacity – will it keep items frozen or just cold?
- Vent location – can you place it where you want and still have it function correctly?
- Durability – can it handle the bumps and vibrations of travel?
- Insulation – will it hold the cold in any climate or will you need to purchase an extra insulating jacket?
- Power usage – will it draw too much power for your 12-volt battery?
- Solar – can you use it off-grid by hooking it to your solar-power setup?
- Price – how much do you want to spend for the convenience of cold food?
- Battery protection – will the unit shut off automatically if it senses low battery power?
- Dual zones – do you want separate sections for frozen and cold food?
Before you buy a 12-volt refrigerator, you must ask yourself all these questions so you can purchase the right one for your RVing needs.
Answer all those questions first, then read the reviews below to find the best RV 12-volt fridge for you!
Top Five Best 12-Volt RV Refrigerators
Get ready for camping season with these top RV fridges. I review several types so you can find the perfect one to suit your needs.
#1 – ARB 10800472 Fridge Freezer
BEST FOR – RVers with small travel trailers, teardrops, pop-ups, or custom-built campers that do not have a built-in RV refrigerator. This model is also perfect as an outdoor accessory fridge for large fifth-wheels, travel trailers, and motorhomes that have space in their basement compartments to place it.
- Easy to remove and secure lid
- Large capacity
- Maintains zero degree temperature
- Includes two power cables
- Durable material that is UV stable
- Works well in high-temperatures
- Some units have faulty fuses that need replacement
- The only US service center is in Washington
The ARB 50-quart portable RV fridge deserves its great customer reviews because it can keep food and drinks for your family camping trip at the right temperature to avoid spoilage and waste.
The ARB refrigerator works even when your vehicle is off, and has an automatic battery protection feature you can adjust so you won’t have to worry your battery will run down.
While this refrigerator does a fantastic job keeping the contents at the temperature you select on the digital display; you can also purchase an insulating jacket if you’ll be camping in scorching locations.
Customers appreciate that the fridge comes with two different power cables so you can plug into your RV’s 12-volt cigarette lighter-type outlet, or connect it to a solar power or RV 12-volt system.
Customers also like that they can keep frozen food at the bottom of the fridge to keep it from thawing while utilizing the space above for food and drinks they want to stay cool.
This model RV fridge is a true refrigerator and freezer that uses a compressor so having sufficient battery power to run the unit is critical. While having enough juice in your battery bank to run the compressor is a concern, overall the unit uses little power in comparison to other RV refrigerators.
#2 – Dometic CDF11 12v Electric Powered Cooler, Fridge Freezer
BEST FOR – RVers who travel solo or as a couple who don’t want to use up much space inside their camper for a place to keep a day or two’s worth of food cold.
- Low power consumption
- Space saving
- 3-stage battery protection
- No need for ice
- Long-lasting material and design
- Portable (comes with carry strap)
- Small for family camping needs
- Expensive for the size
- Heats up when unplugged
- Slightly noisy
The Dometic CDF11 12v portable RV cooler/fridge is a reliable choice if you are looking for a smaller unit that you can take with you while camping to hold enough food to get you through the weekend.
This fridge has a quick-chill feature so that you can get your food or drinks cold fast. It takes less than 30 minutes to drop from 90-degrees Fahrenheit to 20-degrees Fahrenheit. Once the refrigerator reaches it’s set temperature, it draws very little power from your 12-volt system.
The built-in battery monitor avoids a dead battery by shutting off when it detects low-voltage.
Customers find this model to be user-friendly, with a digital display and soft-touch control panel. The memory feature will store your presets even if you turn off the fridge.
Customer like they can set to a freezing or cooling temperature so that it can handle various types of food purchases. They also like the easy maneuverability and how well it works with off-grid solar-power systems.
On the downside, this unit is very much like a residential refrigerator, in that it will heat up fairly quickly when not plugged into power.
#3 – Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable Refrigerator/Freezer
BEST FOR – Any RV that can handle the weight and space this RV fridge needs and who like to utilize shore power while camping.
- Maintains cold temperature efficiently
- Two power cords
- Removable wire basket inserts
- AC or DC use
- Sleek design
- Use as a fridge or freezer
- Has a fast-freeze mode
- Bit pricey
The Whynter FM-45G is a workhorse RV fridge and/or freezer for those who want the option of 12-volt or 120-volt power while camping.
The larger size and flat-top design make it perfect for doubling as a table inside your camper. This portable RV refrigerator is heavier than others when empty, so keep that in mind if you plan to move it around after you load it with food.
This Whynter model is very well-insulated which eliminates the need to purchase a separate insulating jacket to keep food and drinks cold.
Customers are delighted with the way this fridge maintains its internal temperature and keeps all items equally cold whether they are sitting at the top or the bottom of the unit.
Customers also like the removable wire baskets that help separate items inside the fridge making them easy to locate.
#4 – Dometic CFX 65DZ 12v Electric Powered Portable Cooler, Fridge Freezer
BEST FOR – Any RVer that wants to invest in a dual-zone fridge/freezer for their camper or basement compartment that can hold plenty of food and drinks.
- Durable materials and construction
- AC or DC use
- Energy efficient
- Dual-zone feature
- Can charge devices through built-in USB port
- Large capacity
- Use as a fridge or freezer
- LED interior light
- Removable wire baskets with dividers
- Touchy battery-protection mode
- Large and heavy
The Dometic CFX 65DZ is the biggest RV refrigerator on this list, with enough space to carry plenty of food and drinks for your camping adventures.
Even though this RV fridge is large, the power consumption is very efficient so it won’t stress your 12 or 24-volt system even when running off solar power.
Customers find that the unit works best on the lowest of the battery setting levels and that once it hits the temperature, you set on the digital display, the compressor barely runs, which keeps things quieter inside your RV.
Customers like the quality insulation on this unit, that achieves a deep freeze if necessary. They also like the dual-zone feature that allows you to keep food on one side frozen and the other side cool.
#5 – SMAD Domestic Absorption Portable Mini Refrigerator with Lock, 12 volt / 110 volts
BEST FOR – RVers who don’t need to keep food frozen and desire an upright, front-opening door on their RV refrigerator.
- Energy efficient
- Stands upright with front-open door
- Reversible door swing
- Door lock
- Stylish design
- Quiet operation/no compressor
- Dual power AD/DC
- Only a fridge/will not freeze food
- Takes a long time for initial cool-down
The SMAD Domestic Absorption 12-volt/110-volt Portable Mini Refrigerator is the 12-volt RV refrigerator you want if you are looking for an upright design.
The ability to change the way the door swings open makes this fridge easy to fit into most RVs. The front-opening door allows you to install this refrigerator into a cabinet space. You can also tuck the fridge into a corner and use the top as a table.
This 12-volt RV refrigerator does not have a freezer section, but it does have six coldness settings. You can utilize shore power when you want to conserve your RV batteries.
Customers love that they can lock the door while traveling in their RV and not have to worry about the door opening and the contents spilling out. They also like that this unit has plenty of interior space to keep food cold while camping.
While customers note that it takes quite a while for the initial internal temperature to cool down, they are happy with the silent operation and low power draw because this RV fridge does not have a compressor.
An Accessory to Consider When You Buy a 12-Volt RV Fridge
Many RVers add a 12-volt refrigerator to the storage bay or basement compartment of their camper to use when entertaining outside or as an additional place to keep food.
So what is the best way to access this fridge?
An RV fridge slide mount is an ideal accessory to any 12-volt cooler-style refrigerator.
No straining, bending or twisting inside your storage bay to access your fridge, just pull your fridge out on the sliding tray to quickly load or unload food and drinks.
For RVers who like to make their camping trips as stress-free as possible, investing in a slide-mount is worth it.
A 12-volt RV refrigerator is a necessity when camping or traveling in your RV if you want to bring along fresh food for cooking or to keep your drinks cold without having to bother with bags of ice that melt quickly.
If you want the most bang for your buck, the Whynter FM-45G 45-Quart Portable RV Refrigerator/Freezer is the overall winner from my top five list above. From durable construction, storage capacity, energy efficiency, and reliable cooling this model comes in as the top RV refrigerator for 12-volt use.
The best part about owning a fridge that can run on 12-volt is the ability to camp off-grid using battery power from your vehicle or a solar set-up.
I hope you found the information and reviews in this guide helpful in deciding which 12-volt RV fridge is right for you. For a great overview of the four types of refrigerators available for RVs watch the below video.
What do you love most about your 12-volt fridge? Share your comments below!