11 Best Mini Fridges for Van Life (12V, DIY, Coolers)
11 Best Mini Fridges for Van Life (12V, DIY, Coolers)
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Living in a van is a fantastic way to live rent-free and have the freedom to travel wherever you’d like!
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But van life does pose a few challenges, including food storage. Fortunately, a mini fridge for van life can make things much simpler.
Overall, our top pick is a 12V compressor fridge like the BougeRV 30-Quart 12 Volt fridge freezer.
Still, several options are available.
The right one for you depends on your budget, preferences, and available space. So, let’s explore some of the best mini fridges for van life to help you select one that works for you and your setup!
1. Best Overall: BougeRV 12V Compressor Fridge
The ideal mini fridge for van life should be spacious, compatible with 12V outlets, and energy efficient. The BougeRV 12V Compressor Fridge is all of those things and more, making it our top pick for van lifers.
It offers three modes of operation:
ECO (for power-saving)
MAX (for rapid cooling)
Depending on your chosen mode, this fridge can consume as little as 450Wh of electricity daily.
That’s far less than the average mini fridge! The optional fridge cover can help keep energy consumption even lower while helping your fridge (and its tasty contents) stay cool.
2. Best Dual-Zone Fridge Freezer: BODEGA 12-Volt Fridge Freezer
Often, van lifers have to decide between a fridge or a freezer. But those in the know can have both, especially with the help of the dual-zone BODEGA 12-Volt Fridge Freezer.
This hi-tech fridge freezer is divided into two internal compartments capable of maintaining different temperatures. Even better, you can remotely control the fridge freezer’s temperatures thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity and downloadable app interface.
3. Best Range of Sizes: Dometic 12V Fridge
Dometic is well-known for producing some of the best mini fridges for van life, and they have several different models and types to suit every need.
One of the best of these is the top-opening Dometic CFX3, a 25-liter (about 5.5 imperial gallons) fridge freezer that accepts 12/24V and 120V connections, although not simultaneously. Still, you could easily hook this appliance up to an AC/DC or solar-powered electricity system.
4. Best for Tight Spaces: EDHBay 12V Drawer Fridge Freezer
Most mini fridges made for vans and mobile setups have top-opening lids.
Fortunately, there are drawer fridge freezers for those preparing multi-level van interiors. The EDHBay 12V Drawer Fridge Freezer is one such option, and it features a pull-out basket-lined drawer that makes storing your fridge freezer beneath your bed or other furniture a breeze.
5. Best Compact App-Controlled Mini Fridge: F40C4TMP 12V Refrigerator
The F40C4TMP 12V Refrigerator might be tiny, with a comparatively low capacity of only 10 quarts (about 9.46 liters). But it offers convenient app-based control options for those who prefer to monitor their van’s fridge remotely. It’s also a solid choice for cramped van interiors!
Setting the temperature, monitoring the current temperature, and shifting between modes (like ECO to Standard) only takes a few seconds.
6. Best Lockable Van fridge freezer: Whynter CUF-210SS FM-45G
While some van-friendly mini-fridges come with lockable doors, some do not. This can become a problem when driving on off-road terrain or pot-hole-ridden roads.
This 45-quart (42.5 liters) chest-like fridge freezer has a solid metal front latch to keep food items insulated and cool at all times. This latch also prevents the lid from popping open unexpectedly.
7. Best Cooler and Warmer: Cooluli 12V Mini Fridge
Few mini fridges for van life can both cool and warm your food. But the Cooluli 12V Mini Fridge is a rare exception.
This 20-liter (about 4.39 imperial gallons) mini fridge comes with a digital thermostat on its door, allowing you to select a precise temperature to keep food items warm or cool. This device can heat up to 149°F (65℃) or chill down to -40°F (depending on the “room temperature” of your van).
So, if you’d like to keep your microwaved food warm while attending to other tasks or ensure your favorite snacks are nicely chilled, this fridge could be a great choice.
8. Best for DIY Setups: Koolatron Compact Chest Freezer
This top-opening chest freezer can function as a fridge or freezer, depending on your chosen thermometer settings.
All told, choosing this for your DIY system could help you reduce energy use and increase your refrigerated food storage capacity. Though it’s a 120V freezer, connecting it to an inverter will reduce electrical problems.
9. Best Cooler for Long Ice Life: Grizzly 15 Cooler
A 10lb (4.5kg) bag of ice costs about $2. But if your cooler can’t keep those ice cubes cool for very long, you’re looking at a weekly ice expense of about $14! Those dollars quickly add up, as does the water inside your cooler.
To keep your refrigerated food cool longer (and less soggy), you’ll want to use a cooler known for its long ice life. The Grizzly 15 is a fantastic example.
This lockable cooler box can keep ice for up to ten days. It has a rubber gasket for optimal insulation and a rotomolded body for superior durability.
10. Most Durable Cooler: YETI Roadie 24 Cooler
Discovering that your cooler has sprung a leak can be devastating, especially when you’re storing it in tight spaces inside your van. Fortunately, there are exceptionally durable models like the YETI Roadie 24 Cooler.
This highly-insulated cooler has locking latches and is rotomolded for ultimate durability. So, if you’re traveling some bumpy roads, you don’t need to worry about this cooler’s lid suddenly snapping open or its sidewalls developing problematic leaks.
11. Best Budget-Friendly Cooler: Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler
Those hoping to keep initial costs low might want to choose a tried-and-true Coleman cooler instead of a pricier YETI or Grizzly one.
The Coleman Xtreme Portable Cooler is one of the best for van lifers looking to avoid spending hundreds of bucks on a cooler for their rig. It can keep ice intact for up to five days, is short enough to store beneath elevated bed platforms, and has thick side handles for easy retrieval.
Things to Consider
When choosing a van-life-friendly mini fridge, you’ll want to consider your chosen devices:
Ease of use
Taking the time to think about the above factors is a fantastic way to ensure that your chosen van fridge is the ideal fit for your vehicle, lifestyle, and preferences.
Many van lifers opt to install removable, rechargeable 12V lithium-ion batteries in their rig for immediate and long-term power supply. Consequently, several of the best and most popular mini fridges for van life are 12V options.
However, if you’re relying on a different type of power source (such as 24-volt solar panels), you’ll need to select a fridge suited for that voltage.
The average mini fridge consumes about 600Wh of electricity per day. A standard 12V 50Ah lithium-ion battery can keep this fridge running for about two days, while a more powerful 12V 100Ah battery could keep it powered for up to three or four days.
Choosing a 12-volt mini fridge with a lower-than-average energy consumption can help you reduce your overall power consumption, making it easier to go several days without recharging stored batteries.
Selecting a smaller fridge can also help you reduce your overall energy use while living in a van. Besides, space is a premium commodity for most van lifers, so opting for a tiny mini fridge could be the best way to go!
Like any other type of vehicle, vans come in many sizes. But unless you’re traveling in a spacious RV, you’ll need to carefully plan and divide your van’s interior into specific areas.
Before investing in a mini fridge for van life, measure your available space and draw up a storage plan. Doing so can ensure you don’t purchase a fridge freezer too large for your van’s interior.
This helpful video offers some great storage and space-saving ideas for first-time van lifers.
If you feel like you could use a little inspiration, check it out:
Ease of Use
If budget and power consumption are two of your greatest concerns, you’ll probably want to opt for a straightforward cooler refrigeration setup.
But while a cooler can reduce your initial costs, keeping coolers within the ideal temperature range can end up being time-consuming and more than a little messy. After all, ice cubes eventually melt, leaving your van cooler full of tepid water.
Emptying a water-filled cooler every day can become a chore. Ensuring that you don’t accidentally soak your bedding or other personal items while emptying your cooler can also be tricky.
12-volt compression coolers have a higher initial cost, but they’re much easier to work with over the long run—and they won’t spill water everywhere if you hit a nasty bump in the road!
The best overall mini fridge for van life is a 12V compression fridge. These fridges are energy-efficient, come in a wide range of sizes to fit every van interior, and don’t need to be perfectly level to continue functioning.
One of the best 12-volt compression options for those living the van life is the cooler-sized BougeRV 30-Quart 12 Volt fridge freezer. This device can function as a fridge or a freezer and offers a power-saving eco-mode that only consumes about 450Wh per day.
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