5 Tips For Buying A Used Refrigerator

featured image thumbnail for post 5 Tips For Buying A Used Refrigerator

Buying a used fridge can be great for the pocketbook. Our tips will help ensure that you are equipped to buy one that fits your needs.

Used Amana fridge, $300

There are used refrigerators and refurbished refrigerators and there is a big difference between the two. A refurbished refrigerator (also known as a "reconditioned refrigerator") has been thoroughly inspected and had its worn parts replaced. Further, refrigerators, unlike all other appliances, work 24-7, non-stop, throughout their lives, so finding a reliable model and make is essential. Here are a few things to think about before you buy a used refrigerator.

  1. Online research: Use Craigslist and Kijiji as starting points for finding a used fridge. As soon as you’ve identified a fridge online you think has potential, contact the seller to see if they have the model number if they haven’t listed it. From there, you can start looking into whether there have been any consistent issues with that model. Go onto repair forums, review sites and the manufacturer’s website to check reviews and for any issues such as recalls. You can usually track down the owner’s manual online and it will give you information on whether it’s EnergyStar rated as well as what its other features are, and its dimensions (if not already listed). One thing to consider is whether or not to purchase it if the model has been discontinued. If it breaks once you buy it and the model was discontinued a few years earlier, it may be difficult to get replacement parts, depending on the manufacturer. Some provide parts for many years after a model’s been discontinued, and others don’t. The photo will also give you an indication of the shape of the appliance. It should be clean and if it’s not in use, stored in a dry place away from the elements and pests.
  2.  Dimensions and style: Refrigerators offer the most variation compared to other appliances. Defining what you need in terms of dimensions will help narrow down the choices available to you. Refrigerators come in two depth sizes – a counter-depth fridge is intended to blend in with your kitchen cabinets and counters, while standard depth offers a deeper fridge, usually placed at the end of the set of kitchen cabinets for ease of use and design aesthetic. Height and Width - Measure the dimensions of your current fridge, your doorways, stairwells, hallways, elevator, etc. and any other area the fridge will have to travel through to get to your kitchen. This is particularly essential if you are increasing the size of the fridge. Freezer style - Top-mount and bottom-mount refrigerators rank almost the same in popularity. One of the advantages of bottom-mount freezers is the ability to access food more easily – especially if it’s designed with a pull-out drawer freezer.
  3. Energy Efficiency: In the past few years, the energy efficiency of refrigerators has improved dramatically, and the majority of refrigerators sold are EnergyStar certified. This is even true despite the average size of refrigerators increasing over the last 20 years. In fact, compared to 1990, the average refrigerator uses less than half the amount of energy. You might want to confirm that the model you are buying is EnergyStar certified. It will help with your monthly electric bill as the refrigerator is the highest consumer of electricity of the five major household appliances.
  4. Transportation: Buying from another homeowner does have the additional challenge of transportation. Unless you own a truck or have access to one, you will need to figure out how to get the new fridge home. You can find local delivery services through online marketplaces if the seller can’t provide transportation.
  5. State of the Refrigerator: If possible you will want to see the refrigerator in cooling mode, so hopefully it’s operating when you arrive. Check to make sure it’s cooling on the top and the bottom, as well as in the freezer. There shouldn’t be any ice build-up in the vegetable drawers or behind them. If you’ve brought a thermometer, you can always leave it inside and on the top shelf towards the front for a few minutes to see what it reads (The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is 35F/1.5C but anything between 33F and 40F is fine. The temperature will likely vary depending on the area of the fridge – coldest at the back and bottom, warmest top and near the front). Look for signs of wear beyond normal wear and tear. If there is any rust it would be better to pass.

    • Interior – is the interior clean and does it smell of mould or old food? Does the light work? What are the interior shelves like? Easy to remove and clean? Are they adjustable? Are they all there? Are the vegetable and produce drawers in place and easy to use? What about the door shelving? Is it all there and in good shape?
    • Noise – How loud are the compressor and fan? If it’s resting when you arrive (but plugged in), turn up the refrigeration mode so you can hear it in operation.
    • Exterior – Check for dust and debris build-up around the coils as well as the state of the coils themselves. Also look at the shape of the insulation around the fridge and check for black spots if the insulation is pink or yellow (it indicates moisture and possible mould).  Open the fridge and note how the doors swing and how sturdy they are. They should swing open and shut without effort but should also stay securely shut. Inspect the door seals to ensure they are effective – you can use the flashlight trick¹.

One thing to keep in mind once you decide to purchase a used fridge. Once you get it back to your place, do not plug it in for 8-12 hours. The refrigerants need time to settle.

For more tips on how to buy, sell and maintain a fridge, check out our other articles on the Refrigerators page.

¹ Test a fridge door seal by turning on a flashlight (your smartphone will also work), put it in the fridge or freezer and shut the door. If you see any light protruding from the fridge, the door seal should be changed.