Upright freezer or chest freezer: Which should you buy?

Extra freezer space comes at a cost, but it can help you save money in the long run.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
2 min read
Frozen food in full freezer with open door
Howard Shooter/Getty Images

I like to take advantage of sales on meats and vegetables and then freeze them to use later. Many times, I end up buying way more than my refrigerator freezer can hold. My fix? Getting a dedicated freezer.

The two basic choices for a standalone freezer are upright freezers or chest freezer. Here's how to decide which is best for you and what size you'll need.

Chest or upright freezer?

This really comes down to personal preference and space. These two different appliances have pros and cons to consider before you go shopping.

Chest freezers:

  • Chest freezers have around 20 percent more usable space than a upright freezer.
  • The temperature in a chest freezer stays consistent because it doesn't have a self-defrost system. Here's how to defrost a chest freezer.
  • Air doesn't circulate as much in a chest freezer. This helps prevent freezer burn better than uprights.
  • If there is a blackout, the chest freezer will keep your food frozen longer than an upright.
  • They also tend to use less electricity than uprights, but be sure to compare Energy Saver tags while you're shopping to see which models are more energy-efficient.
  • It's really hard to find the food you need in chest storage without rearranging and searching.

Upright freezers:

  • Upright freezers are easier to organize because they have shelves.
  • Upright freezers take up less space. A 22-cubic-foot chest freezer uses a rectangle floor space of 2 feet by 6 feet, while an upright 22-cubic-foot freezer only takes up 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet of floor space.
  • They usually come in a variety of finishes.
  • Chest freezers tend to be around $100 cheaper than upright versions.
  • Though they are convenient, the temperature of door shelves are often warmer than the inside of the freezer.
  • Uprights are typically noisier than chest freezers.
Watch this: Use this hack to 'vacuum seal' any freezer bag

Space requirements

Generally, chest and upright freezers are available in four size ranges. Compact units are 5 cubic feet and under, small units are 5 to 9 cubic feet, medium units are 12 to 18 cubic feet and large units are more than 18 cubic feet. 

To determine which size you need, multiply the number of people in your family by 2.5 cubic feet. The answer will tell you what size freezer you need. For example, my family of four needs a unit that is around 10 cubic feet.

If you really like to bargain shop or you have a hunter in the family, you may need more space. To give you an idea of food versus space, 1 cubic foot of freezer space will hold around 35 pounds of frozen food.

Pro tip: When measuring a space for either type of freezer, be sure to add at least an inch to the width accommodate air flow around the unit.

15 foods you should never put in the freezer

See all photos