12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

This is a buyers’ guide to assist in the selection of 12-volt fridge freezers for camping and overland use. They are all compressor-powered types. They used compressed gasses, and not electronics to cool the condensers. (I.e Not heat-exchange Peltier types.)

Most of my testing has meant taking each of these freezers on an extended trip where I used them as most buyers would – in the bush. These are impressions and the data has not been gathered using scientific controls. I have scored marks out-of-five indicated by stars.

The efficiency of any kind of fridge is best measured by taking into consideration the combination of the current draw, and the efficiency of the insulation. In the long run, good insulation is every bit, if not more important, than efficient electronics and compressor.

ENGEL 40L fridge/freezer: * * * *

12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

Engel was one of the pioneers of the 12v motor-compressor fridge/freezers.

• Best current draw ±2,8 amps @ 12.8 volts. Excellent.
• ±40mm insulation. Not one of the best.
• Easy to operate single knob for adjustment. Can be knocked, i.e. adjusted ‘accidentally’.
• Time to freeze from turn-on: I would say extremely fast.
• Removable lid, which can also be extremely annoying as there is now way to stop it coming off.
• One large basket with no dividers. (The least practical of all but the Pro-Cool)
• No internal light.
• Compact and good space utilization. Not as heavy as the Luna.
• Excellent record of reliability, spare parts supply and service backup.
• Priced average. Excellent quality. Reliable.
• Available in just about everywhere.

 

ARB 47L fridge/freezer: * * * *

12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

ARB camp fridge, one of the relative newcomers

• Best current draw ±3,3 amps @ 12.8 volts.
• ±40mm insulation.
• Easy to operate electronic keypad. Adjustable cut-off voltage. Cannot be adjusted ‘accidentally’. The best control panel of all.
• Time to freeze from turn-on: I would say slower than average.
• Removable lid.
• One large basket with one divider – very practical
• Internal LED light.
• Compact and good space utilization. Not as heavy as the Engel.
• Made by Dometic for ARB.
• Priced average. Excellent quality. 47L capacity.
• Available in Europe, South Africa, most of Asia, Australia and North America.

 

NATIONAL LUNA 40L fridge/freezer: * * * * *

12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

National Luna is one of the best camp fridges on the market today. They are made in South Africa

• Best current draw ± 3,4 amps @ 12.8 volts. Excellent electronics and unsulation makes NL one it of the most efficient of all.
• ±60mm insulation.
• Control panel cannot be readjusted ‘accidentally’.
• Time to freeze from turn-on: I would say maybe the fastest.
• Not only a removable lid, it can be reversed. Nice! (only on some models)
• Two baskets. Practical size and shape.
• Internal LED light.
• The heaviest of the five.
• Hella-plug external power supply on some models. Nice!
• Excellent record of reliability, spare parts supply and service backup.
• Priced above the others but I do not thing the price warrants the higher price.
• Available in Europe, South Africa, most of Asia, Australia and North America.

 WEACO 40L fridge/freezer: * * * 

12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

Weaco might not be one of the better camp fridge available, for a number of reasons. But is still a well-loved, good product.

• Current draw ±4.0 amps @ 12.8 volts. By far the highest current draw and least effiecient of all these reviewed here.
• ±40mm insulation.
• Very easy to adjust settings. Unlikely to be readjusted ‘accidentally’.
• Time to freeze from turn-on: not as fast as the others.
• Not only a removable lid, it can be reversed.
• One basket with divider. Practical size and shape.
• Internal light, cleverly designed and practical.
• Most compact; the smallest and by far the lightest of the five.
• Made by Dometic for Weaco.
• Weaco has earned itself an excellent reliability record. The least expensive of the five, good value, and made chiefly of plastic so does not feel as well made as the others.
• Available almost everywhere.

 

SNOMASTER 40L fridge/freezer: * * * * *

12V Fridge Freezer Buyer Guide

SnoMaster is a South African company. Their products are made in China. For the most part they are excellent value for money.

• Best current draw ±2.8 amps @ 12.8 volts. Excellent.
• ±60mm insulation. The best next to National Luna..
• Very easy to adjust settings. Unlikely to be readjusted ‘accidentally’.
• Time to freeze from turn-on: I would say in the middle of the group.
• No removable lid. LED light.
• Two baskets and very practical.
• Compact; about the same size as the Nat Luna.
• Optional remote temperature indicator is very nice.
• Most models have a remote control thermometer/controller that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket.
• Designed in South Africa, built in China in their own factory.
• Snomaster is I think the best value for money of all 12V fridge/freezers made anywhere.
• Available in Germany, South Africa, Australia and North America.

 

Additional ideas when selecting a compressor fridge/freezer

• Compact and efficient space utilization is very important because space in a vehicle is always at a premium.
• Stainless steel looks better in the shop but deteriorates rapidly and before long looks shabby in the vehicle. Stainless steel is a particularly poor insulator so a stainless fridge will be a little less efficient.
• Fabric covers do not improve insulation. But they can keep the unit looking newer for longer.
• Buy new. Old designs are far less efficient as new technologies have improved designs significantly over the past five years.
• In the confines of a vehicle, a removable lid is a real bonus.
• Internal lighting is nice but not essential.
• Low-voltage cut-out is essential and prevents a battery voltage from dropping to a level which could cause damage. Even a deep-cycle battery can be damaged in this way.
• Tie-down handles ensure that the unit can be well secured which is essential for travel in rough country. To prevent damage to the fridge, it must be secured.
• A slide out tray, on which to bolt the freezer, is really worthwhile.
• Poor installation can easily have an adverse affect on the workings of the fridge when inside a vehicle. So if yours isn’t working as well as it should, then read the next section. CLICK HERE