The 12v Fridge/Freezer Thread

CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
Ok, so many of us either have or have experience with a 12v fridge. This is meant to be for anyone who has a fridge, or is looking to get into the game. Please stay on topic and respectful. I'm no expert, but I've been reviewing them heavily for the last few days and figured I needed a place to store all the info that I've gathered. So why not make it public and help anyone else out who might also be in the market.

Some manufacturers are quick to release specs or technical information about their fridge and others are less willing to do so. Some seem to be unique and built in house and others appear to just be rebranded generic stamps.

I think everyone will agree that Dometic and ARB seem to be the leader in the off-road fridge market, but there are a LOT of other players. Some have been around and others are relatively new to the game.

So first, what is a 12v Fridge/Freezer? In short, it's an insulated box with a compressor, refrigerant, and a fan. I'm not going to get into thermoelectric coolers, absorption coolers or anything like that. For our purposes here, let's stick to compressor driven units. So, back on topic, the compressor and coils are filled with refrigerant. As the refrigerant is compressed into the coils, it cools significantly. A fan blows cold air from the coils into the insulated box. I'm going off memory here and not copy/pasting from another site, so I'm sure someone will correct that statement if I'm wrong. The point is, there is a compressor. These compressors are said to work at up to 30* incline and are not required to be level to function properly.

I have read that you should leave a fridge in the upright position for 10 hours before turning it on to allow the refrigerant to settle into the compressor after shipping. I don't know if that's true, but figured it was worth mentioning.

So it seems that there are 3 major compressor manufacturers.

The most prolific in the industry appears to be the Danfoss BD-35F. I'm seeing this listed as the compressor in almost every one that I've compared. The Danfoss compressor appears to have be produced in two countries: China and Germany; and is capable of cooling a 12v refrigerator to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dometic seems to have a proprietary compressor that is capable of cooling to -7 degrees Fahrenheit. If anyone knows the name, I'll add it here. I know I read about it, but can't find the article.

Engel has also been in the game for a long time and has a proprietary compressor: the Sawafuji Swing Compressor, which is capable of freezing to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.


No matter what size, it seems that every article I read says that Dometic is the clear winner and I can't find much information to refute those claims. The compressor seems to be more efficient both in terms of power draw and cooling ability. Many, but not all, also have features like a free wifi app that allows you to check and change temperature with your smart phone. Others might have a remote control option, but I haven't found any others with smartphone capability. They also have some other well thought out features like edge guards and stronger plastics. The downside to all the innovation of a Dometic is the price. They are one of the most expensive units available.

Rather than talk about specific models here, I'll just post the link to the Dometic site. https://shop.dometic.com/store/dometic/en_US/list/categoryID.4874363700

dometic_cfx50w_9105306497_54611_11.png


Engel also seems to be a solid, but expensive, option. I'm not going to spend much time on them either, so here's the link.
Fridge Freezers
medium-large-43-quart-combi-engel-12-volt-acdc-fridge-freezer-3.jpg


Utilizing the Danfoss compressor, ARB is clearly the other big player in the market. Their prices also indicate that they are proud of the fridge/freezers they produce. Again, too many options to list a single unit, so here's the link. https://arbusa.com/portable-fridge-freezers/
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CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
But what if you don't want to spend $1000 on a fridge that will only see occasional use? There are several options that are available for less money. My big question here is "are they still reliable?"

Many of the options below this point in this post will have the Danfoss compressor. I'll try to specify which ones have it. I have not found many that say where the Danfoss compressor they use is manufactured. I did see one article that suggested that Danfoss moved production from Germany to China....so they might all be made in China. I just don't know.

With such a massive price difference, what sets them apart?

Good question. I'm glad that you asked. Features.

Does it have a drain plug?
How are the carry handles attached? Do the handles fold down to the body, collapse, or are they stationary?
Quality of electronics that control the compressor?
Quality of the plastic (or metal) used for the body?
Quality of insulation?
Does it have an LED light inside?
What does the warranty cover?
Does it operate on AC and DC power? How long are the cords?
Does it come with any accessories (like a basket)?
Does it have a digital temp sensor or just a knob?

While they offer many sizes, I'm going to focus on the 50L (approx.) options.

The next 4 all appear to be the same even though the side of the picture is not. They all have 3 plastic "bands" around them, the control panel is on the backside of the lid opening, and they all use the same compressor.

Ironman4x4America has a decent sale right now on their 50L IceCube. They have a 5 year warranty on the Danfoss compressor and a 3 year warranty on everything else. Seems like a pretty good option of price and warranty.
ICECUBE FRIDGE/FREEZER 50L (52 QUARTS)
upload_2020-8-4_11-45-54.png


Next up is Dobinson. Fairly close in style, it would seem that the handle here is removable. They also come with an insulating bag. Again, a 5 year (Danfoss) compressor warranty, but only 1 year on everything else.
Dobinsons 4x4 50L 12V Portable Fridge Freezer with FREE cover
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Truck Fridge is another that uses the Danfoss and seems remarkably similar to the Dobinsons.
TB51A - AC/DC Portable Refrigerator or Freezer
upload_2020-8-4_11-46-18.png

Warranty on the TruckFridge is 1 year.

Indel-B is another offering what appears to be the same fridge. Many options to choose from on this link, but we'll focus on the TB41A
Truck and van fridges IndelB
upload_2020-8-4_11-46-30.png

No mention of warranty on the Indel B website that I found.


The next ones seem to be the same even though there are a variety of manufacturers who sell it. Look at the handle, lid and control panel. While they don't look wildly different from the Dobinsons or the Ironman, they have some distinct differences. I can't find the compressor listed for any of these, but the specs as far as operating angle and temps is the same as the units above.

***Update: This model fridge appears to last 2-3 years before having electrical issues and needing to be replaced. For the price, I would recommend skipping this model entirely. (The 12v Fridge/Freezer Thread) ***

The CSI Black Ice ($480):
Black Ice Fridge/Freezer 52 quart Black Ice Fridge/Freezer : Mike's Custom Toys
upload_2020-8-4_11-46-43.png

CSI has a 1 year warranty.

Costway ($399):
https://www.amazon.com/Costway-Port...ic-Camping/dp/B07CG4Q1YJ/?tag=rvwebnetwork-20
upload_2020-8-4_11-46-54.png

No mention of warranty on the Costway.

Foho ($260):
https://www.amazon.com/Freezer-Portable-Refrigerator-Compressor-Compact/dp/B083CWD4G2
upload_2020-8-4_11-47-2.png

No mention of warranty on the Foho.

I should mention that most of the reviews of the above 3 units are positive either on Amazon or TacomaWorld. Though some of them have reported cracked outer cases or broken handles.
 
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CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
Looks like the FOHO went up $100 between yesterday and today, so I guess it would warrant keeping an eye on it if you are ready to make a purchase.

The good reviews make it seem like it would be worth giving the lower cost units a try even though I can't find any information on warranty. Is that worth saving $200+/-?


My personal experience with the ARB 37L was both good and unimpressed. It was awesome to have the ability to have cold drinks anywhere we went. It also helped keeping milk for the baby cold and made it so that we didn't have to run home immediately after the grocery store if we bought something that needed to stay cold. On the other hand, and I don't know if this plagues all fridges, the temperature would not hold constant. If I set the thermostat for 32*, it might range from 29 to 36* Fahrenheit. Of course, it was not full all the time and I'm sure being full helps to regulate internal temperature and prevent fluctuation.

At this point, I'm thinking the mid-range fridge with the Danfoss compressor is probably the way to go if you want function for a slightly smaller price tag.
 

CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
There are, of course, many other options that get good reviews.

Ausranvik has a 48qt option that is currently listed at $339. No mention of warranty or compressor manufacturer. This one came up in several "what's the best 12v fridge" type searches.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FMC4LFW/?tag=smartrvingnet-20

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Whynter FM-45G is another metal body offering that does not list compressor used, though they do provide energy usage specs for the compressor. It comes with a 1 year warranty and is listed around $550.
FM-45G Whynter 45 Quart Portable Fridge/ Freezer - Whynter
upload_2020-8-4_12-7-51.png


The 45L Alpicool is listed at $320 on Amazon. No mention of compressor manufacturer or warranty
https://www.amazon.com/Alpicool-Portable-Refrigerator-Freezer-Vehicle/dp/B07L3FLBQ4?th=1
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I should mention that a quick google search of this unit brought up Alibaba with units as low as $90 each with a minimum number to order of 1.

There are others, but I'm done looking at stats and comparing for now.
 

Silverback

Lima Gulf Bravo Foxtrot Juliet Bravo
My ARB 50l fridge has been keeping things cold at a steady 27 degrees for the past 10 years or more. When it dies I will get another fridge, I would like a dual zone one though.
 

Silverback

Lima Gulf Bravo Foxtrot Juliet Bravo
The bots are watching...

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Oswego

n00b
I like the research ~ Been a while since we had this kinda thread in here so props for all that work :clap:

I'm a KISS guy so Ill never own a truck fridge. To me it's just one more thing to go wrong and stop working then screw up a weeks worth of food for camping, burn down your truck, kill your battery, or be a thief magnet. Ice never breaks down, but obviously has a limited life and costs money on the road.

That said ice does suck and I understand both sides of the debate - I just choose to go with ice. Spent less than 1k and have three US made coolers with a great designs that keeps ice a week and I can take them anywhere I want out of my truck/car for the rest of my life and possibly others if I pass them down. Think I got a 25qt, 50qt, and 70qt for the cost of a good name brand truck fridge.

/rant (my last post here ~ had to get both sides of the story in here for the uninitiated lol)
 

Silverback

Lima Gulf Bravo Foxtrot Juliet Bravo

TacoXpo

HOAX DENIER
Just my 2.5c - I have had the ARB - it was good for about 8 years until, it wasn't. It was out of warranty and ARB said that if they could fix it they would for free if I shipped it to them. It wasn't repairable. I bought a dual zone Dometic and it has been great. I wish it was BT compatible, but hey. All in all, make sure you use the baskets, and make sure things don't poke at the walls. I typically use a couple of microfiber cloths - one on the bottom and around anything that could poke or srcape the rubber coating of the baskets.
 

CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
I like the research ~ Been a while since we had this kinda thread in here so props for all that work :clap:

I'm a KISS guy so Ill never own a truck fridge. To me it's just one more thing to go wrong and stop working then screw up a weeks worth of food for camping, burn down your truck, kill your battery, or be a thief magnet. Ice never breaks down, but obviously has a limited life and costs money on the road.

That said ice does suck and I understand both sides of the debate - I just choose to go with ice. Spent less than 1k and have three US made coolers with a great designs that keeps ice a week and I can take them anywhere I want out of my truck/car for the rest of my life and possibly others if I pass them down. Think I got a 25qt, 50qt, and 70qt for the cost of a good name brand truck fridge.

/rant (my last post here ~ had to get both sides of the story in here for the uninitiated lol)

You research things more than I do seemingly, so I hope that isn't your last post.

When we went to Arkansas, @tex and @balakay both had fridges and I had two borrowed Yeti coolers. by day 3 their beer was still ice cold and my food was swimming. The yeti style cooler is awesome if you don't open it....but it doesn't keep ice frozen when you open a new beer every 15 minutes because you're camping with avid beer drinkers.

Aaron made the comment, or maybe it was Blake, that you could purchase a fridge for not much more than a Yeti.

Also, I trust the opinions of folks here more than I do over on TW....though I think I'm going to copy/paste this over there as well just to cast a wider net for opinions of people with the various models.


My ARB 50l fridge has been keeping things cold at a steady 27 degrees for the past 10 years or more. When it dies I will get another fridge, I would like a dual zone one though.

Good to know that it's lasted that long. I read other reports of similar with the ARB, Engel and Dometic. I don't know that the others have been around long enough to make that kind of claim, but I don't know that they haven't either....

The bots are watching...

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I forgot about Smittybilt. Theirs appears to fit the same bill as the CSI/Costway/FOHO but at a much more expensive price. I guess they jack up the price because it's black instead of grey? No mention of compressor brand or warranty.

...but hey, it includes an insulated bag!
arctic fridge - Smittybilt
upload_2020-8-4_13-42-56.png


Appears the new ARB "Classic" series fridges have the ability a phone app.
https://arbusa.com/portable-fridge-freezers/classic-sii-range-fridge-freezers/

I'd really like to see some good reviews on the ARB Zero and the D0metic DZ75. Seems they are very similar. I know they are not a "budget" friendly fridge, but I like to buy things once and keep them as long as possible.

Good to know. In all fairness, this is not meant to be a "budget fridge" thread. It's an every 12v fridge thread. I didn't spend much time looking at the ARBs because I know that they are beyond what I'm looking to spend right now. That said, I'm glad to know that Dometic isn't the only phone enabled fridge on the market.
 

tex

That's Mr Asshole to you
Funny this topic has come up. I noticed over the weekend that my fridge kept cutting off even when it had plenty of power. It would even cut off when the truck was running. Battery tested good but the fridge was still cutting off. I started messing with it and connected the app to monitor the voltage while running. after about 30 seconds I get a warning message on the app saying compressor system failure. It also seemed like it was very power hungry with the drop in voltage.
I then plugged it into 110 in the garage and it stayed running and cooling down from 54 to the set 39. While it ran it did seem like it was blowing A LOT of heat from the fan and the pitch of the motor/compressor running did fluctuate a little and it has not done that in the past. Fridge is a 3 year old Dometic and waiting to hear back from Dometic if its under warranty since I cant find how long it is in the owner manual or online.
If it is out of warranty I am probably going to get a SnoMaster unit since its a 5 year warranty and from what I have read online is very well made. But before I buy another fridge I am going to do gears.
 

balakay

She ain't fat, bruh... She just a lil' thick.
Snomaster is worth mentioning here too will probably be my next fridge if I get to the point I need one again.
 

Oswego

n00b
Never keep beer with food. That's the first mistake. I go into my food cooler maybe twice a day at most. Beer cooler is open every 20 min. Even if I hit the lotto and bought a truck fridge and duel battery with solar my beer would still be in a ice cooler cause I like my beers as cold as my women
 

CowboyTaco

Well-Known Member
Funny this topic has come up. I noticed over the weekend that my fridge kept cutting off even when it had plenty of power. It would even cut off when the truck was running. Battery tested good but the fridge was still cutting off. I started messing with it and connected the app to monitor the voltage while running. after about 30 seconds I get a warning message on the app saying compressor system failure. It also seemed like it was very power hungry with the drop in voltage.
I then plugged it into 110 in the garage and it stayed running and cooling down from 54 to the set 39. While it ran it did seem like it was blowing A LOT of heat from the fan and the pitch of the motor/compressor running did fluctuate a little and it has not done that in the past. Fridge is a 3 year old Dometic and waiting to hear back from Dometic if its under warranty since I cant find how long it is in the owner manual or online.
If it is out of warranty I am probably going to get a SnoMaster unit since its a 5 year warranty and from what I have read online is very well made. But before I buy another fridge I am going to do gears.

Has it been defrosted ever? Might do it some good to let it rest before powering it back up?

I have seen a lot of the "overland" YouTube and/or Instagram guys going SnoMaster. I looked them up, but forgot to include. I'll look into them more tomorrow.
 

tex

That's Mr Asshole to you
I may
Has it been defrosted ever? Might do it some good to let it rest before powering it back up?

I have seen a lot of the "overland" YouTube and/or Instagram guys going SnoMaster. I looked them up, but forgot to include. I'll look into them more tomorrow.
plug it back in tomorrow and see if that does anything. There is a local SnoMaster dealer here that I talked to on Saturday and was really pleased with them. After pricing out new fridges I will go to CB Adventure Supply and go with SnoMaster. More than likely the 56. It does come with an insulated jacket for the price so its pretty comparable in price to ARB and others.
 

Silverback

Lima Gulf Bravo Foxtrot Juliet Bravo
Never keep beer with food. That's the first mistake. I go into my food cooler maybe twice a day at most. Beer cooler is open every 20 min. Even if I hit the lotto and bought a truck fridge and duel battery with solar my beer would still be in a ice cooler cause I like my beers as cold as my women

Just set your fridge to 26 degrees (what mine is set at) and the beer stays super cold yet not frozen.
 

TacoXpo

HOAX DENIER
Never keep beer with food. That's the first mistake. I go into my food cooler maybe twice a day at most. Beer cooler is open every 20 min. Even if I hit the lotto and bought a truck fridge and duel battery with solar my beer would still be in a ice cooler cause I like my beers as cold as my women
You want fighting batteries?
 
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