It is no secret that Big Rigs, 18 Wheelers and Long Haul drivers spend countless hours on the road, so the need for healthy, nutritious meals is no small matter to them. That is especially true for over the road truckers who spend weeks on the road, without coming back home.
It is true that the USA has plenty of road-side restaurants, serving all kinds of snacks and dishes. However, you cannot be sure whether the food is fresh or well-prepared. Improper nutrition might result in acute stomach problems, chronic diseases and other conditions that can have a major impact on one’s health, productivity and income in the long run.
With this in mind, many drivers choose to bring homemade food along for the trip. This calls for proper selection of food and storage appliances, as the trucker’s job means spending long periods of time on the road, and it is critical to keep the food fresh and healthy.
In this article, we aim to present all the pros and cons of purchasing various types of truck refrigerators in a market brimming with brands and models.
- How to Choose a Semi-truck Refrigerator?
- Important Points to Consider When Choosing a Semi-truck Refrigerator
- What Types of Devices Can Truly Be Called Refrigerators for Truckers?
- Best Mini Fridge for Truckers
- Best Large Fridges for Truckers
- Best Portable Fridges for Truckers
- Best Built-in Fridges for Truckers
- Best 12V Truck Fridges
- Best Electric Cooler for Truckers
How to Choose a Semi-Truck Refrigerator?
Here are some tips on how to choose quality refrigerators for truckers.
- Available space in the cab is the main point to consider: the more space you have the bigger fridge you can fit.
- Choose your favorite format: a portable trucker freezer or fridge you can carry with you any time, a built-in model for maximum comfort, or even a small standalone fridge you can jerry-rig inside your cab.
- Think of the way you will open your fridge: it may be a hinged door (right and left options are available), a chest, or a drawer type.
- Next, do you want a freezer? Some models are the combined refrigerator/freezer type, others are single purpose (refrigerator, cooler or freezer).
- Volume and power are interdependent and they ultimately mean self-sufficiency. The greater they are the longer you can drive without stopping. Keep in mind that excessively high power consumption can drain your battery fast!
- Power type is important, too. There are two general options here: 12V models ready to be plugged into your cigarette lighter socket, or high voltage models that require a 110/220V source — this must be available on board or requires an inverter device. The 12V models are the best and consume less power. Or, if you want real self-sufficiency, look at models that run on propane.
- The devil is in the details. Small features, such as lighting, can make your life easier or harder, so keep your eyes open and think ahead.
- The refrigerator should maintain a certain temperature throughout the trip, regardless of whether it is hot or cold outside, night or day, and that might mean choosing a more expensive model. Buy nice or buy twice!
Important Points to Consider When Choosing a Semi-truck Refrigerator
The purpose of a fridge you take on a trip is more than just providing space to store stuff you eat. This is food, which has to stay fresh and keep you healthy for the duration of the trip. Below are just a few of the things to consider.
The price of a fridge depends on the type, size, features, brand and many other properties. For example, small coolers are cheaper than thermoelectric refrigerators, whereas compressor refrigerators are the most expensive ones.
On the other hand, compressor-type refrigerators are the coldest (and the coolest!) option, and they can keep your food cold or even frozen. By choosing a quality device, you save on maintenance.
Ultimately, the question is: how much are you willing to spend to get what you want? It is true that the price of a regular truck fridge can start at $500 and higher, but they are the best in terms of usability.
- Thermoelectric coolers/warmers start at $130 and go up to $300.
- Portable refrigerators and freezers go for $500–$700, with both DC and AC versions available.
- Built-in refrigerators can cost $700–$1200 and offer a range of options.
- Freestanding refrigerators are $250–$500 depending on volume.
Take the time to understand and properly consider your needs. The volume of the refrigerator is a very important property that is directly related to its dimensions.
The most compact devices have a capacity up to 21–39 quarts. They are large enough to store a moderate amount of snacks and drinks.
For longer trips, choose a fridge with a capacity of 31–52 quarts, as it allows storing much more food than compact models.
The largest models have a capacity of 73–84 quarts. Remember, though, that not every truck is capable of accommodating a huge 84 quart refrigerator. In our opinion, the ideal truck fridge should have a capacity of 73 quarts or smaller.
The best truck fridges connect to the vehicle power circuit via a 12V lighter socket. This is the perfect plug-and-play solution, where you simply connect the cable to the socket on the front panel and you are good to go.
Mini-fridges, originally intended for home use, can be wired via a 120V inverter, which is connected to the battery and looks like a box with 1–3 standard sockets to connect your fridge. Note that the voltage itself does not affect power consumption much, but devices which are not intended to run off of a car battery might just be too powerful. You may want to consider putting a larger battery into your truck to compensate for that.
A mostly European phenomenon, 24V refrigerators are not very common in the US, but if you do come across one, you can use a voltage inverter to adapt the power supply.
What Types of Devices Can Truly Be Called Refrigerators for Truckers?
Many trucks leave the factory with a built-in truck cab fridge already installed. This option normally suits truckers best in terms of power supply specs, noise level, etc., in addition to being a perfect match for the truck cabin size, designed by the truck manufacturer’s experienced engineers.
However, there is a catch. If the stock fridge breaks — and unless covered by the warranty — you might be shocked at the price of the original unit. It is not uncommon to see replacement fridges costing upward of $1600.
This is the reason why many truckers choose to replace stock units with cheaper, but still adequate, alternatives. Remember that you still can use the original installation space for the new fridge after some adjustment.
Thermoelectric fridges operate based on the Peltier effect. To put it differently, the operating principle is based on the temperature difference under the current flow. The effect creates a temperature difference by transferring heat between two electrical junctions. A voltage is applied across joined conductors to create an electric current. When the current flows through the junctions of the two conductors, heat is removed at one junction and cooling occurs. Heat is deposited at the other junction.
The pros of buying a thermoelectric fridge:
- Compact and occupy little space;
- Completely silent;
Standalone Mini Fridges for Truckers
The main advantage of freestanding models is that you can put them anywhere, even inside a trailer. You can even find models with temperature adjustment controls, and choose from a wide range of volume, power input, opening type and cooling type options. However, securing and wiring a freestanding fridge inside the cab can be a real pain. Luckily, there are installation kits available — God bless whoever invented those!
Large Fridges for Truckers and a Trucker Freezer
If the capacity of your vehicle is high enough, a large fridge can be a good option, as it allows you to store more and refill rarely. Naturally, you want a large fridge if you work on an interstate or intercontinental route where Walmarts are few and far between.
Portable Fridge for Truckers
Every long-distance traveler knows that a portable fridge is a must-have. These things are fairly small and light, and they fit inside a relatively small space. They are the best choice for those truckers who work local routes, and they can save them time, money and energy on a busy day.
Built-In Fridges for Truckers
You can often upgrade your stock fridge, and built-in models should be your number-one choice when doing so. They take up minimal space and often can even go into the slot designed by vehicle manufacturers. Alternatively, you can put one into your cabinet or replace it altogether. When choosing a built-in fridge, make sure it is compatible with your truck — see the fridge specs for the list of supported truck models. Built-in refrigerators are roomy and are often combined with freezers. Besides, they have a minimum footprint area, helping you to save the space inside the cab.
Electric Coolers With a Top Lid
A 12V truck cooler with a top lid is the ideal choice for a long trip, as this is a convenient option that easily fits inside the limited space of a truck cabin. The fridges use little energy, yet they perform well.
Best Mini Fridge for Truckers
If you are in the market for a semi truck refrigerator, you are probably focusing on the following qualities:
- Low noise;
- Low price;
- Up to 30 quarts of capacity;
- Low power consumption;
- Compact size.
In our opinion, the option below can be officially declared as the best mini fridge for truckers.
We have chosen this fridge as the best small refrigerator for truckers because it is:
- energy efficient;
- easy to install
- Precise and intuitive temperature control
- Reversible door that can open from the left or right
- Always fresh fruit and vegetables in a separate drawer
- Low power consumption: 270 kWh/yr
- Freezer compartment at top
- Manual defrost system
Best Large Fridges for Truckers
What you have to keep in mind when choosing a device like this is the potential need for custom installation. High capacity goes hand in hand with a large size, so be sure to measure the space inside your truck cabin before you buy. The option below seems to have the best ratio of footprint to price and overall efficiency.
This space-saving compact fridge is definitely a good choice for truck drivers, with dimensions of 17.5" x 18.5" x 26.6" and a capacity of 73 quarts.
- Large capacity. The appliance has extra door shelves to store taller bottles;
- Low noise;
- Leveling legs for easy height adjustment.
- Requires an inverter to power.
Best Portable Fridges for Truckers
We suggest you consider the device linked below, as it is very reliable, easy to carry and capable of fitting into practically any space.
This powerful and compact stainless steel refrigerator has a capacity of approximately 63 quarts and operates at 12V. It holds the temperature well and also can be used as a freezer. The specifics of the device are:
- Adjustable temperature ranges with a “fast freeze mode”;
- A dual zone, so you can rearrange the space inside the fridge to your liking;
- Operates under both AC and DC power;
- Insulated lid and walls;
- Price: this fridge is a little expensive.
Best Built-In Fridges for Truckers
At the end of the day, the ideal choice for limited spaces, such as trucks, cars and trailers, are built-in bridges.
It should be noted, though, that these units are on average 30% more expensive than other types of fridges. They are also difficult to clean and maintain, as the access to some of their parts might be obstructed.
The following model is worth considering.
This unit can be easily built into the case under the cabin bed. The model has the following specs: capacity of 37 quarts, dimensions of 30.31"D x 18.9"W x 16.93"H. This compact appliance is the best choice for trucks with limited space in the cab.
- Bluetooth transmitter that allows full control and monitoring via Android and Apple devices.
- An additional battery may be required for the unit to run it when the engine is off;
- Many users say the internal temperature of the fridge is always several degrees off compared to what the front panel says.
Best 12V Truck Fridges
The Smad Mini fridge is a compact refrigerator with a lock. It has a capacity of 31 quarts. This is enough for storing one person’s food and drinks. However, it normally requires a deep-cycle battery.
- Easy to clean;
- Reversible doors;
- Safety locks;
- Automatic defrosting system;
- Adjustable thermostat.
- Does not cool well — just keeps food from heating up.
Best Electric Cooler for Truckers
This is a portable 12 V truck fridge having a capacity of 25 liters, enough to cover the daily needs of one person.
- Battery protection;
- Two modes: fast cooling and energy saving;
- Two power supply options.
- Small capacity.
Read about other best coolers for truck drivers in our article.
Any device that is used for work rather than leisure has to be chosen very carefully, as it might directly affect how much money you are making.
After reviewing available products, we have selected the most popular and reliable options for a fridge for truckers and presented these in the article above. We hope that this overview will help you to make the right choice and enjoy the device you purchase.
One more option for getting a truck with a high-quality fridge inside is joining HMD, as each truck in our fleet is equipped with a fridge by default. That is not the only benefit of working with us, so please visit our website for more, and join our team.
We also recommend that you read our article on cooking equipment for truck drivers.