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.
Table of Contents
- The Craze for French Doors
- Side by Sides: The Advantages
- Typical Dimensions
- Review: French Door vs Side-by-Side Models
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: The Advantages
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 model we sell with that capacity is around $1,700.
Both fridge styles tend to be similar when it comes to exterior dimensions:
Width: 30"-36" (Most side by sides are 33"+, some French doors are 30")
Height: Around 67"-70"
Review: Top-Selling French Door vs Top-Selling Side-by-Side Models
GE Appliances refrigerators are some of our most popular models, and we're going to compare two similar GE 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 stainless steel models with around 25 cubic feet of capacity. Let's dig in!
GE Appliances French Door Refrigerator - $2,598
First up in our review is the French door model, the GE GFE26JYMFS. It offers 25.6 cubic feet of capacity and comes with an exterior ice and water dispenser. On the dispenser, you'll also find the external controls (including child lock and door alarm controls) and the refrigerator temperature display for convenience. Crisp LED lighting illuminates the interior from corner to corner. The refrigerator capacity is 17.46 cubic feet, and the freezer is 8.18 cubic feet.
The refrigerator section features two humidity-controlled crisper drawers, a full-width deli drawer with adjustable temperature, adjustable door bins with gallon storage, a Quick Space shelf that allows for storing tall items, and adjustable spill-proof shelves. Since this model has an in-door icemaker with integrated bins, you get more space in your fresh food section. With these features, you can definitely make the most out of your refrigerator space! The freezer section features two storage baskets.
This model comes in fingerprint resistant stainless steel at just $2,598 and is also available in other colors: fingerprint resistant slate at $2,598, fingerprint resistant black slate at $2,698, and black or white at $2,398.
Click here to read over 90 real customer reviews of this product!
GE Appliances Side-by-Side Refrigerator - $1,898
Next up: the side-by-side model. The GE GSS25IYNFS offers similar exterior dimensions but a slightly smaller capacity at 25.1 cubic feet. Like the French door model, it comes with an exterior dispenser and LED lighting, although the dispenser isn't quite as sleek. You also get electronic touch temperature controls. The refrigerator section is 16.23 cubic feet, while the freezer is 8.91 cubic feet.
The refrigerator section features adjustable spill-proof glass shelves with an integrated shelf support system for extra stability and multi-level drawers, and you can adjust the humidity for the middle drawer. You also get adjustable door bins.
This model comes in 5 different colors - it's available in fingerprint resistant stainless steel or fingerprint resistant slate at $1,898 and in black or white at $1,698. It's also available in fingerprint resistant black slate at $1,998.
Click here to read over 545 real customer reviews of this product!
Although it's hard to compare them exactly because the styles are so different, here are the features that these models share:
Humidity controlled drawers
Adjustable shelves and door bins
Advanced water filtration system
The French door model costs almost $1,000 more than the side-by-side option (before sales and rebates).
Consider Buying a French Door If...
You want wider shelves in the fresh food section
You prefer easier access to the fresh food section and don't mind bending over to reach the freezer
You want a premium look for your kitchen
You need a 30" or 33" wide refrigerator, as most side by sides are 36" wide
Your budget is at least $1,800 or so
Consider Buying a Side by Side If...
You like having fresh and frozen goods at eye level
You have a 33-36" wide space for your refrigerator
Your budget is under $2,000
You aren't dedicated to having the latest style in your kitchen (although a side by side is definitely a step up from a top freezer refrigerator!)
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.