If you are shopping for a new refrigerator for your home, you've probably found the French door style tempting due to its popularity and its prominence in stores. French door refrigerators took the market by storm a few years ago and haven't slowed down! But before you make the plunge, it can't hurt to take another look at the side by side refrigerator style. With their modern features and styling, side by sides may be a good option if you consider the shelving options and the efficiency of the food storage. New ice maker designs give you more shelf space in the freezer section, too! They can be a great alternative to French door models for budget-conscious shoppers.
It's a tough choice – so let's dig into the pros and cons of both styles! (Quick tip: If you're looking for more info on choosing the best refrigerator for your needs, check out our refrigerator buying guide!) We'll also review two top-selling models from each category.
The Craze for French Doors
French door refrigerators are, in general, a higher-end refrigerator type. The cheapest models start at around $1,300 for an 18 cubic foot model. When you get to the 21 cubic foot and up range, you'll have to spend at least $1,600.
French doors offer the narrow door swing of a side by side with the storage convenience of a bottom freezer refrigerator. With two refrigerator doors and a drawer-style freezer, French door models don't require a lot of space in front of them to be accessed while still providing the convenience of a full-width storage space.
Cubic footage is only part of the picture - how that storage space is organized can have a big impact on how you use your refrigerator. The main complaint about side by sides is that the fridge and freezer compartments are narrow since they're arranged like columns. Frozen pizzas have to be stacked upright like books, and you may not be able to fit a party platter or tray of deli meats in the refrigerator section! So French door models offer a wider space in both compartments that can be easier to use.
Narrow door swing used to be the niche of side by sides: if you had a narrow kitchen or maybe an island in front of the refrigerator cavity that meant a top freezer or bottom freezer model's doors couldn't fully open, a side by side was the perfect solution. Now that French doors are offering the best of bottom freezers and side by sides, French doors are all the rage!
Side by Sides: Still Kicking
Although we definitely sell more French doors than side by sides, this style of refrigerator still has value. The multiple small shelves can make it easier to keep everything front and center rather than losing things in the back of the fridge. Side by sides also tend to have a more even split between refrigerator and freezer space rather than the refrigerator dominating - good news if you want a lot of room for frozen goods. The drawer-style freezer found on French doors means things pile up and can get lost, whereas the open shelves of a side by side freezer will keep everything visible.
If you need a narrow door swing but have a limited budget, a side by side may be a better choice for your needs since side by sides tend to be cheaper. The cheapest side by sides retail at around $1,100 and offer 22 cubic feet of capacity, while the cheapest French door we sell with that capacity is $1,700.
As far as exterior dimensions go, both fridge styles tend to be similar: widths range from 30"-36", depths range from 29"-35", and heights range from around 67"-70". Although French doors are trendier, there are still a lot of nicer side by sides available, including counter depth models.
Review: Top-Selling Side by Side vs Top-Selling French Door Models
Frigidaire Gallery refrigerators are some of our most popular models, and we're going to compare two similar Frigidaire Gallery models in each style so you can get an idea of the prices and other differences you can expect to find between French doors and side by sides. Both are counter depth smudge proof stainless steel models with around 22 cubic feet of capacity. Let's dig in!
First up: the side by side model. The Frigidaire Gallery FGSC2335TF offers 22.2 cubic feet of capacity and comes with an exterior ice and water dispenser. Multi-level LED lighting illuminates the interior from corner to corner. The refrigerator capacity is 14.2 cubic feet and the freezer is 8 cubic feet.
The refrigerator section features humidity-controlled crisper drawers, a Chill Drawer with temperature control settings to quickly cool food and drinks, and Store-More gallon door bins with a clear door can rack as well. The glass shelves come with metallic trim that feels high-end, and the adjustable shelving and door bins help you make the most out of your space. The freezer section features four fixed door bins, two wire baskets, and two fixed wire shelves. The compact icemaker sits on the top shelf of the freezer and still leaves some storage space beside it.
This model comes in stainless steel at just $1,699 and is also available in black stainless steel starting at $1,799.
Next up: the counter depth French door, the Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2368TF. It has the same exterior dimensions but a slightly smaller total capacity at 21.7 cubic feet. Like the side by side model, it comes with an exterior ice and water dispenser and multi-level LED lighting. The refrigerator section is 14.9 cubic feet while the freezer is 6.8 cubic feet. Frigidaire also offers a "total shelf area" metric in square feet, and it's worth noting that there is no significant difference in total shelf area between the two models despite the overall capacity differences.
The refrigerator section features CrispSeal humidity controlled crispers that can be configured side by side or stacked, and the half-width shelves can be configured in a variety of ways to handle different sizes of items. There's also a full-width Cool Zone Drawer that can store anything from snacks to sheet cakes. The ice maker is located in the fresh food section and takes up about 30% of the upper shelf. The drawer-style freezer offers a deep plastic basket on the lower level with an adjustable divider and a full-width wire upper basket.
So you're definitely getting more storage flexibility, which is important for refrigerator organization, but the cost difference is significant: this model costs $2,949 in stainless steel and $3,049 in black stainless steel - more than twice the cost of the side by side model!
Although it's hard to compare them exactly because the styles are so different, here are the features that these models share:
Counter depth design, with the same dimensions to boot!
External ice and water dispenser
Multi-level LED lighting
Humidity controlled crisper drawers and a chill drawer
Adjustable shelves and door bins
Besides the look, paying for the French door design may be worth it to some people because of the wider shelves in the refrigerator. Being able to easily make room for particularly tall or wide items seems easier to do in a French door than in a side by side. It's important to note that counter depth refrigerators cost a few hundred dollars more than full-depth models, around $200-300 in most cases. Even ignoring that up-charge, the price differences between these two similar models is significant.
It's up to you to decide if paying hundreds of dollars more for this fridge style is worth it. Check out French door and side by side models in person if you can and see how they measure up before you buy!
We hope you enjoyed our review of these two great models and our discussion of the differences between French doors and side by sides. Thanks for reading this blog post. We hope you found it to be informative. Consider purchasing from a local independent appliance dealer for better service after the sale. Most local dealers will match the prices of Big Box stores.
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Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in August of 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.