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Dometic 12V Fridge Review: The Best Fridge for RVs

We love driving out into nature and boondocking for up to a week at a time. One of the most enjoyable aspects is cooking our own meals surrounded by nature’s most beautiful environments. But being able to keep our produce and meats fresh is critical. So, in this post, we wanted to review our camper’s Dometic Fridge and argue why it’s one of the best 12v fridges for campers and RVs.

We’ll look at what we like about our Dometic fridge and some things we wish to change.

Is a 12V Fridge Worth It for Campers?

Woman opening the top lid of a Dometic 12V fridge
What’s inside our Dometic fridge?

Absolutely yes! While 12v fridges aren’t cheap, they are worth the additional cost over standard ice coolers. These fridges are energy efficient and keep your food cold indefinitely. Imagine not having to rush out to the nearest grocery store for ice every 2-3 days! They’re hassle and stress-free.

If you’re on a tight budget, then keep reading. We’ll also talk about some more affordable, off-brand fridges that are more cost-friendly and won’t break the bank.

Convinced? Let’s get to our Dometic 12v fridge review.

Top Fridge Recommendation
DOMETIC 45-Liter 12V Fridge

A 12V fridge is a top van life essential. It keeps food cold & fresh and allows us to wild camp for more days. We recommend getting a top quality fridge with a durable compressor, electric components, and frame. Our Dometic fridge has handled all the crappy roads we've driven on.

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The Controls on a Dometic Fridge

Yuko pressing the controls on her 12V Dometic fridge
Yuko modeling the controls on our Dometic fridge 🙂

We have an older Dometic model, but the control system remains unchanged.

To keep things simple, Dometic fridges have only four buttons:

  • On/Off
  • Increase Temperature
  • Decrease Temperature
  • Set Temperature

We hate fumbling around with complicated user interfaces and want a product that keeps things simple and works. And we think our Dometic 12V fridge does just that.

What We Like About Our Dometic Fridge

There’s plenty to like about the Dometic 12v fridge. Below are several of our favorites.

1. Rugged Design

Side view of Dometic CFX 12V fridge showing the handles
Dometic fridge handles

Life in a camper isn’t always smooth. When we drive, there are always bumps and jolts and sliding around. That’s why we appreciate the heavy-duty design of these Dometic fridges.

Every corner is reinforced with a thick plastic protective cap, and the wide handlebars are fastened solidly to the fridge’s frame.

2. Easy Control System

Front view of Dometic CFX fridge showing the control buttons
Updated Dometic fridge control buttons

As we mentioned above, the Dometic refrigerator has only four buttons. And this makes operating the fridge easy.

3. Still Operational After Five Years

After five years (and 60k miles) on the road, our Dometic fridge still functions as it did on Day 1. Things tend to break down on the road, and we’ve had our fair share of maintenance chores. But our fridge hasn’t had any issues…yet.

What We Dislike

1. Drain Location

Dometic fridge drain location
We wish the engineers had placed the drain in the corner instead

The issue we dislike the most with our fridge is the location of the drain. In our model, the drain is located in the center of the main compartment.

The drain lets out the excess water that accumulates at the bottom of the fridge, but its central location makes it difficult to tip the refrigerator to drain the water.

It would be more useful if the drain were located at the back corner of the fridge. This would make eliminating the water that accumulates at the bottom easier. 

2. Gimmicky Bluetooth/App Feature

Smartphone with Dometic fridge app
Connecting to the fridge via Bluetooth

While this isn’t something we necessarily ‘dislike,’ we do not find the Bluetooth & app capabilities particularly useful.

All the app can do is help you change the temperature of your fridge without you having to touch the refrigerator physically. But considering in a camper, the fridge is never more than a few steps away, this feature is lost on us.

We would rather have Dometic do away with this Bluetooth/App capability and offer us a more affordably priced fridge!

3. Price Tag

Admittedly, Dometic fridges aren’t the cheapest option on the market. We paid close to $900 for our 40L fridge, one of the most expensive purchases we’ve made during our entire camper van conversion.

But considering that our fridge is still working after several years of abuse is a testament to how well it’s been manufactured and assembled.

Still, there are other cheaper alternative 12v fridges available for purchase online. We talk about several popular alternatives further below.

The Inside of a Dometic 40L 12v Fridge

Inside view of an empty Dometic 12V fridge
Inside view of an empty Dometic 12V fridge
Full Dometic 12v Fridge
Half Full Fridge

Our 40-liter Dometic fridge separates the inside into two sections: a more extensive, deeper compartment where we store our bulky food items and a smaller, shallower section where we keep our dairy (eggs & butter) and wet cat food.

If we pack our fridge well, our 40L fridge can usually fit about a week’s worth of food.

Dometic 12V Fridge Models

Dometic fridges come in different sizes and features. Below is a handy table we put together to help you understand the differences.

 
 
 
 
Size:
D22.4" x H16.5" x W13.5"
Size:
D27.3" x H16" x W15.7"
Size:
D27.3" x H18.7" x W15.7"
Size:
D17.9" x H18.9" x W28.4"
Size:
D22.4" x H16.5" x W13.5"
Size:
D27.3" x H16" x W15.7"
Size:
D27.3" x H18.7" x W15.7"
Size:
D17.9" x H18.9" x W28.4"

For more technical info, download Dometic’s 12v fridge User Manual.

Affordable Alternatives to the Dometic 12V Fridge

There are several popular & affordable alternatives to our Dometic fridge.

We haven’t put our hands on these other 12v fridges to test them out, but the happy reviews we’ve seen on Amazon suggest they’re worth checking out if you’re on a tight budget.

Below are several favorites.

Top Loading vs. Front Loading 12V Fridges

Image of top loading=
Top loading vs front loading 12V fridges

Whether to get a top-loading fridge or a traditional front-loading (think college dorm fridge) was one of the choices we had to make when converting our camper van.

Ultimately, we chose the top-loading type, and we’re happy we did for the following reasons.

  • Energy Saving: Less cool air escapes when opening a top-loading fridge.
  • Space Efficient: You can fit more in a top-loading fridge.

But in the end, the decision is entirely up to you. For many, visual aesthetics is an important aspect. And in this regard, the traditional front-loading fridges win, hands down.

But packing as much food in a smaller space is critical for us. And, not to mention, we open and close our fridge as much as 50 times per day. So limiting cold air loss is also an important factor for us.

12V Fridges vs. Ice Coolers

12v Fridges vs Ice Coolers

If you’re still debating whether to get a simple ice cooler or splurge on an electric fridge, we think the answer is straightforward: get the fridge!

A proper 12V fridge will keep your produce and meat fresh and cold without worrying about returning to the store to purchase ice. If you have battery power, your fridge will do its job and keep your food cold.

And if the price tag of a name-brand 12V fridge (e.g., Dometic, ARB, etc.) makes you hesitant, remember that there are several popular off-brand fridge models that others in the camping community have been pleased with for a fraction of the price.

How To Wire a 12V Fridge to a Camper Battery

Wiring diagram for a 12V fridge in a camper van
Wiring a 12V fridge to a RV electrical system

The Dometic fridge has two electric cords for a 12v or 120v connection. You choose which plug (and socket type) you want to use.

120V AC socket –Plug your fridge into any standard household socket. We don’t prefer this method because, in a camper, you’ll have to keep your inverter on 24/7, which wastes electricity and depletes your batteries faster.

12V DC Socket – You can plug your fridge into a standard 12V socket. This is how we do it, and it’s the most efficient method.

To learn more about how to connect a 12V fridge, download our free electrical wiring diagrams PDF.

How To Clean a 12V Fridge

Wiping the inside of a Dometic 12V fridge
Cleaning out the grime at the bottom of our fridge

Roughly once a month, you’ll find a sizable puddle forming at the bottom of your fridge. When you see water forming, it’s a good idea to drain the liquid and clean your fridge out.

Remove all the contents from the fridge and open the drain to let out all the water. You may have to place a towel inside to soak up any remaining water.

After all the water is out, spray the fridge’s inside with a cleaning solution and wipe away any dirt or grime that forms on the surface.

FAQ

How Much Power Does a 12V Fridge Consume?

The power a 12V fridge consumes depends on the temperature you set. For our 40L Dometic fridge, we set the temperature to 3C and the energy required hovers around 0.8A per hour.

Does a 12V Fridge Require Ventilation?

Yes, they do! Like a standard air conditioner, a 12v fridge will exhaust warm air. And this warm air must be vented to keep the refrigerator from working too hard for long periods. Venting a fridge can be done by simply installing a vent grate out the back of your kitchen counter.

Can a 12V Fridge Produce Ice?

Yes, many can! However, you should double-check the product information to make sure.

All the CFX3 12V fridges for Dometic fridges can go as low as -7F.

Final Thoughts: Get a 12v Fridge for Your RV Today!

Yuko kneeling behind her Dometic 12V fridge
Our 40L 12V Dometic fridge

When we were doing our research, we spent a lot of time debating whether or not it was worth it to purchase a pricey 12v refrigerator for our camper. But in the end, we’re delighted we did and love our Dometic fridge.

We can boondock for extended periods because we have a fridge that keeps our food cold. We also don’t have to worry about finding a convenience store every 2-3 days to restock on ice.

And for us, our fridge has helped reduce the stress associated with carrying fresh food in our camper van. Long-term van life can be tricky enough, and if a single product can help make van life easier, we’ll give it a shot!

If you have any questions about our experience traveling with a 12v fridge, please let us know in the comments below!

Happy building!

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