built-in vs counter depth refrigerator, real differences

goofyynoOctober 26, 2012

Besideds the obvious, what are differences between the built-in vs counter depth refrigerators?

or why does a free standing one cost less than a built in model? I understand that the price of the built ins was higher because only the high end companies made them, but if I am looking at say a liebherr, which has both options, with the same exterior dimensions and cubic feet storage, why is the built in more. if anything I'd think the free standing would need more detail to the sides and back.

are there other differences I'm overlooking?


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Great question ..... I'm wondering, too. Someone respond please?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 8:54PM
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Okay, I'll give it a shot, based on my limited knowledge on the subject.

Major differences...first off built in fridges are often smaller in size to their free standing counterparts because of the cabinet design. That is why you'll see a lot of 42inch+ BI fridges. My SZ is quite a bit smaller when compared to my old freestanding Kenmore. Also, the fancier BI fridges come with multiple compression units/vacuum sealing functions, heavier insulation, and usually (which is a pretty important factor) a very solid warranty for years.

Also, the price differences. There is a much much much larger market for free standing less expensive fridges. It would be safe to assume that for every built in fridge that is sold, the major players (Kenmore, Whirlpool, GE, Samsung) probably sell 10 or 20 units. Supply and demand is a huge factor. The major brand fridges also make their products overseas to keep the costs down. A SZ, Viking, or Northland fridge would be made in the USA and that adds a lot to their price.

Also, the major built in manufacturers sell primarily to high end installations where people are throwing around $100,000 or more for a remodel. These companies have a brand image of being good quality and, more importantly, expensive, the SZ pro48 is like 16 grand. You take someone who knows high end kitchens and show them one with a sub-zero, viking range, and what not, and they will automatically assume the remodel was expensive. Compare that to walking into a house with a Kenmore freestanding, a GE range, and a Samsung microwave. That looks more "pedestrian" (I am not using that word as a put down by the way).

I like to put it this way to people. Think about it like cars. Sure you can buy a Toyota Camry for 25,000, it'll run well, fit all the stuff you need, and get you from A to B for years to come. That is the best selling car on the road so you'll see a ton of them. Now imagine buying a car that does same thing, but paying $150,000 or more for it (think a Bentley or something). It will do the same thing as the Camry, but it'll be more powerful, handcrafted, and look incredible while doing it for years to come, and you'll rarely see one on the road. People will know it does pretty much functionally the same as any other car, but it has an image, and people will know it's expensive.

All fridges do one thing, they keep your stuff cold. Some preserve food fresher for longer if they have vacuum sealing like SZ, and I can tell you from experience it DOES keep veggies/fruit fresher a lot longer than my basement fridge. Sometimes extending the shelf life of the food for a week or two more, sometimes even longer.

Anyway I hope that this helps answer your question.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 10:49PM
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thanks Jgopp. I appreciate you very thorough answer. I agree with what you said, which makes sense. then next step of the question is if the two refrigerators are made by the same company, and are the same size, with mostly the same equipment, why are the built in more?

the answer may be simply supply and demand. people are used to paying more for built in, so the market is there. I'm good with that.

But if all else seems equal, and I don't want/need a fully integrated unit, why not spend less, AND have the ability to take it with me if I move?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:50PM
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Goofy: I would assume the built in costs more because of the engineering that went into making a built in type fridge which they will sell less of. Also it probably has to do with the fact that built in fridges go into higher end remodels and that they know the pockets are deeper.

When you think about it though... are you really going to take your appliances with you when you leave? I mean it seems quite strange to leave a kitchen and then take the stuff with you, unless you live in Europe. I think in the US we all get cabinets custom fitted around the fridge or at least a cut out to fit the fridge. I don't think I'd feel comfortable taking away the fridge or any other appliance for that matter.

One thing about BI fridges is that when someone installs them into their home, they are paying a lot more to have custom or semi custom cabinetry surrounding them. This appeals to owners/buyers a lot more than just having a cutout. The BI look is beautiful as it just sinks into the surrounding cabinetry. I've often found myself standing back in awe of how my fridge is just a part of my cabinetry, it's a very pretty sight. There is something very nice about having the fridge just fit right into the cabinets, it looks custom and feels custom.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 3:16AM
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true, I would never take them with, not when I can buy new ones. I enjoy the upgrading process way too much.

while I also agree with you on the integrated ones with custom panels which look like you're opening a cabinet, only to find the frige. that is cool.
I have a built in viking in SS. It is obviously a separate piece. I'm not sure it would bother me if there was a small seem open around it. Now if it stuck out 6-12 inches, that would be a different thing.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 12:30PM
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