Cheap AC or DC powered refrigerator for vanlife
This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. I have purchased this exact product and used it for a year. If this review is helpful to you, please consider purchasing through the links on my page.
A chest-style refrigerator was a necessity for us. If you are also considering something comparable to a Dometic refrigerator, seriously think about getting a Costway 12/24V freezer/refrigerator.
Pros of the portable Costway refrigerator
At roughly half the price of a similarly-sized Dometic, the Costway performs well. We’ve been able to keep it plugged in and running without even thinking about it with our solar setup. It barely pulls any energy at all, however it does kick on quite a few times which can be a little distracting when trying to fall asleep. I can’t compare this to another refrigerator, however. It may be the same experience with a more expensive option.
Often times the energy consumption is so low at night, we check the battery levels first thing in the morning and it’s still sitting at 100%. Absolutely no regrets in that aspect.
It fits perfectly underneath our counters. However, constructing something that allowed it to tuck under the countertop wasn’t super easy. The shape of it kind of ‘bulges’ outward so it’s not exactly cuboid. Accounting for that fact took a couple of attempts for an amateur builder, but it wasn’t so bad. We knew the weight of it was going to be a bit hefty when it was totally full. So we loaded it to the brim with beverages and weighed it at about 70 lbs (32 kg). We built ours on a platform with wheels, but drawer slides could be used as well, if rated for the full weight.
The van gets pretty warm in the summer months, even with windows and the fan running. It’s not unusual to see 90° F (30° C) inside the van, but our drinks are always nice and cold when we set the fridge to 38° F (3° C). Don’t underestimate this fridge because of it’s price. The chest style of this fridge also prevents cold air from escaping when opened, so things stay cold even while digging around.
The LCD screen allows for temperature setting, changing between Celsius and Fahrenheit, and setting the eco options.
One big plus for this product is the AC adapter it comes with. It’s a typical 12v receptacle, which allows for other 12v appliances to run indoors. Very cool to include that in the product with no additional charge.
Additionally, this little thing fits right in behind a seat if you’re thinking of purchasing it to keep things cool just for road trips. The price point also allows this to be a great start to an outdoor set up. You could reasonably purchase this fridge, a portable lithium ion generator and a solar panel for the same price as a Dometic refrigerator.
Cons of the portable Costway refrigerator
But now that I’ve sung the praises of the fridge, there is a flip-side. Because of the chest style set up, it becomes difficult to find things you know are packed in. This is true of all chest refrigerators and freezers, but it’s a trade-off that needs to be mentioned. The dorm-style refrigerators may be more desirable for those that need to feel more organized.
One thing that bugged me at first is the fact it’s called ‘freezer/refrigerator’. It does one OR the other, not both like a dual-zone appliance would. Call me stupid, but I was fooled when I purchased this. Don’t make this mistake. If you need both, you will need to purchase a different appliance. However, if you can live with having just a refrigerator this is a very solid purchase.