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2019 Ram PM 3500 High Top 159" WB EXT
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Discussion Starter #1
I've seen several fridges recommended, everyone has a different preference it seems. I want the best bang-for-my-buck for capacity and price. Dometic (and a couple other brands) is very expensive for not a ton of space. Maybe I don't need as much space as I think I do... However I love to cook and eat healthy, so I'm quite sure I do...

I was looking at the Dometic CFX3 75L Dual Zone chest, it's around $1300 not including shipping. An ARB 82 Quart chest is around $1250.

Currently I'm looking at a couple front-loading fridges:
TruckFridge TF130 - $850 shipped
Vitrifrigo C115ibd4-f - $980 shipped

I'm leaning towards the Vitrifrigo due to the much larger freezer space, which I would use mainly for frozen fruits for smoothies. The TruckFridge freezer space is too small to fit even one bag of my frozen fruit.

Any thoughts on either of these two fridges? Why are the Dometic/ARB/Engel so much more expensive for much less capacity? Better insulation/efficiency?

Also a side note, I notice the Vitrifrigo has both internal and external cooling unit models. I'm assuming internal will be easier to install and work with in my van, don't know where I'd even place the external unit. Am I right with thinking an internal unit will be better for me?
 

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I have an ARB, a dometic, and a truckfridge. The ARB and Dometic are top loaders and the truckfridge is a front load (TF49). They all work flawlessly and I am sure the vitrifrigo would as well. I've had the ARB and Dometic for over 5 years each and they are still good as new.

I would pick based on what best fits your design and use. I have the TF49 permanently installed in my van and it is the day to day fridge I use. I don't need a freezer (except to make ice for my whiskey, which I can easily do in the small compartment of the tf49). I have an outlet in my storage area for adding either of the others should I need them. I did use the ARB back there last week to take some ice cream on a trip.

Just decide which has the features you want and go with it. Among reputable brands I don't think there is a big quality difference. I think if you have a failure it would be early and during warranty for most of the good quality units. That said, I can't fault anyone for buying a cheaper unit, these things just aren't that complex for the most part. You can buy 3 off brand china units for the price of a name brand unit.

I have my ARB 50QT running as an extra freezer in my house right now, when I go back on the road I might buy a cheap unit and leave the ARB in the house.

Pick what fits your van and use.
 

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2018 Silver 159 HT
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My sister has a split or external Vitrifrigo on her boat. It's looks great, but has had several issues. I have the TF130 DC, it was $699 OTD, I like. Adding fans to help it cool, with less work. The freezer is small, but makes ice overnite so I'm good
 

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2019 Ram PM 3500 High Top 159" WB EXT
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Discussion Starter #4
My sister has a split or external Vitrifrigo on her boat. It's looks great, but has had several issues. I have the TF130 DC, it was $699 OTD, I like. Adding fans to help it cool, with less work. The freezer is small, but makes ice overnite so I'm good
Where did you buy the TF130 from? Prices seem higher than they have been a year or two ago, I wonder if it's due to the current situation... I imagine there is lower supply and higher demand.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I have an ARB, a dometic, and a truckfridge. The ARB and Dometic are top loaders and the truckfridge is a front load (TF49). They all work flawlessly and I am sure the vitrifrigo would as well. I've had the ARB and Dometic for over 5 years each and they are still good as new.

I would pick based on what best fits your design and use. I have the TF49 permanently installed in my van and it is the day to day fridge I use. I don't need a freezer (except to make ice for my whiskey, which I can easily do in the small compartment of the tf49). I have an outlet in my storage area for adding either of the others should I need them. I did use the ARB back there last week to take some ice cream on a trip.

Just decide which has the features you want and go with it. Among reputable brands I don't think there is a big quality difference. I think if you have a failure it would be early and during warranty for most of the good quality units. That said, I can't fault anyone for buying a cheaper unit, these things just aren't that complex for the most part. You can buy 3 off brand china units for the price of a name brand unit.

I have my ARB 50QT running as an extra freezer in my house right now, when I go back on the road I might buy a cheap unit and leave the ARB in the house.

Pick what fits your van and use.
Solid advice. I do not want to over-analyze this to the point of paralysis, but wanted to see what has worked for others. I've never done van camping before and certainly not for the length of time I expect to be in the van (plan is to travel full time all over the US/Canada while I work my full time job remotely), so I suppose I just won't really know what I need until I have been living in the van for some time - until then I just have to make the best guess with the information I have at the time.
 

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Discussion Starter #7

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They run free shipping on certain models from time to time, right now there are portable models with free shipping.
 

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Solid advice. I do not want to over-analyze this to the point of paralysis, but wanted to see what has worked for others. I've never done van camping before and certainly not for the length of time I expect to be in the van (plan is to travel full time all over the US/Canada while I work my full time job remotely), so I suppose I just won't really know what I need until I have been living in the van for some time - until then I just have to make the best guess with the information I have at the time.
I understand the analysis, but realize that nothing you do in this regard is permanent.
I used my van as a home away from home while working in the northeast to save on apartment or hotel costs, and serve as a vehicle. But for me that meant usually I was in the vehicle for 3-4 nights a week and would fly back home on the weekends. Due to covid I am back at home and renovating my van. If you decide you want to change something you always can. I did not originally have a permanent fridge in the van and used ice chests at first and occasionally the dometic. I decided during Covid to add the TF49 permanent, i got tired of getting ice and moving the fridge out of my way. I have an office where I can store food in a fridge and freezer so I never needed a large amount of fridge space. Those kind of considerations should be factors you need to decide. If you plan to always be on the move it is different than if you plan to be remote for weeks at a time.

If you want to go with something cheaper at first and decide later that is also a valid strategy.

There is no right answer to be sure, but if you want a freezer, I might suggest a smaller fridge and a separate small freezer. If you really want to freeze stuff you won't be happy with the small freezer in most fridges.

Focus on the size you need and don't worry about the brand much. I had the advantage of 4 years of using a small class b rv, and after 9 months in my van I still decided to make a change.

I don't know the details of your planned build or electrical system but there are plenty of people who use a regular dorm style fridge as well. They open up a few more options especially in the freezer size. I hate to give too many more options when you already have trouble deciding but there really are a lot of options.
 

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I have this fridge:

There are many others like it on amazon. I feel like prices have gone up a bit, but still much cheaper than dometic. I have had no issues in two years of using it although it is used infrequently.
It is quiet, efficient, and easy to use with great storage.
 

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i have an isotherm but If i were buying one today id get two china models, one to use as a fridge for short trips and and use two with one as a freezer and one as a fridge for longer trips. they werent selling chinese 12v compressor fridges when i bought mine...

If you really want something with a danfoss compressor keep an eye on defender.com they frequently have rebates on isotherm and other brands...not sure where the danfoss compressors are made but pretty sure all of the the cabinets are made in china.
 

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When it comes to all products today, aside from a few isolated components (like the compressor), most of the materials and components are sourced from the same places and manufacturers. Like plastics, fasteners, assembly labor, etc.
The big difference in products today are going to be in QC during the assembly process and then what name sticker they slap on it.
Seems to me that when a product is expensive, you're paying for the name and product support. So I would research a brand's reputation on product support, before paying the premium on the name. Not all of them are great.
The cheap off brand stuff usually has less QC during assembly so you get a higher number of products that have issues. And product support is non existent. Usually they send a replacement or it was so cheap, you buy another one.
If I remember correctly, vitrifrigo is an Italian company and the truck fridge is the same fridge, branded for the US. I've never heard anything horrible about any of the popular name brands. But if you are paying upwards of $1300 for a tiny refrigerator, make sure you research their product support. That's what you are paying for. Other than the compressor they use and product support, the $1200 fridges aren't much different than $300 no name fridges.
 

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If you are still considering a dual-zone chest fridge/freezer, we've had good luck so far with our Iceco VL-60. It is on the large size for the internal volume, but I think they make a larger volume one as well. It looks like amazon now only has the version that includes the padded cover for $800, the one without that was $100 cheaper so maybe other places have it still. Customer service was decent, our fridge arrived with a small dent in one side (cosmetic-only) and they answered their phone and got back to us in a timely manner. Instead of returning it we accepted a refund of some of the cost. We've only had it a few months, so who knows about longevity, but it uses a Danfoss compressor.
 

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NovaKool is another brand that uses danfoss compressors. They are made in Vancouver, BC. We choose their R4500 model simply because it's the biggest one that fits in the space we have, and it has a pretty big freezer for its size. It's a solid, simple unit that has been working great for us.

When deciding which fridge to get, also consider their ventilation requirements in relation to the space/location you have in mind.
 

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This is the one I have Whynter FM-901DZ, 90 Quart Dual Zone Portable Fridge/ Freezer $600 in 2015. I needed a freezer/ fridge combo or one of each I travel every other month for a month. It was cheaper to empty the home fridge of its contents and take with me. I only buy for my home fridge what will fit in the portable fridge. I have had some freezer items not freeze but I think it was just of the eco mode the freezer does not like and there is no air movement, the meats have always been rock hard. You need batteries and solar more the better. On over cast skies summer I only get 2-3 weeks before I need to plug the aux charger in to top up the batteries, that's with 4 6v batteries and 360w solar. I use my batteries I do not baby them.
 

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I love my TF130.

Super efficient, I have the 12v only version. Good customer service too. I bought refurb to save a few bucks. Was kind of a pain because the door that came with wasn't closing flush. Had to ask for a new door, they shipped in a jiffy. Then the fan died last summer but I noticed early so the compressor was fine. Consumer Products mailed me a new one for free, easy install and I was back in business. No problems since, she's humming along nicely. The fan is louder than I'd like. But I'm in a 136" with my head a mere six feet away... what should I expect? Doesn't wake me up at night so no biggie.

The Vitrifrigo has a solid reputation. And if it has a bigger freezer, that's another plus.
Personally the trunk style fridges are a total non-starter for me.
 

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I love my TF130.
..cut..
Personally the trunk style fridges are a total non-starter for me.
I love my TF49, but I love my ARB and Dometic chest fridge/freezers too.

I used an ice chest, and my Dometic for a while in my build, but I am limited on floor space. Because I have a shower, sleeping and seating for 4, I don't really have a lot of tabletop space or floor space,so I used a front opener.

If it magically fit into my floor plan, I would prefer a chest style, nothing falls out and they can store more in the same volume. The efficiency difference isn't enough to worry about in my mind.

The advantage of the front opener is that it doesn't require an open space above to use (open). I tried and tried but couldn't figure out how to fit a top opener in my floor plan (in the passenger space at least, they fit fine in the storage space in the back). Since I already had two chest style it would have been good to use what I already had, but alas it was not to be.

I don't think the advantages or disadvantages of either are enough to override more practical concerns about what fits best in a floor plan or lifestyle. I have both and am happy with all of them.
 

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2019 PM 1500 136" Low White Tow Nav Park
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I obsess over details and start overreaching/overspeccing but find that it helps to step back and make decisions on real-life expectations. Definitely wanted a dual zone chest for off-van versatility and...popsicles. The biggest impact was floorplan and cabinet layout.

With that, I ordered a dual-zone 50L cheapo model for $369, plus a 3 yr Amazon/Asurion warranty for $34. With 250# rated, 18" lockable drawer slides, I plan to call it good.

 
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