Side-by-side and top freezer refrigerators both have pros and cons depending on the needs of the individual buyer. While top freezer models tend to provide more usable storage space, their wide swinging doors can make them difficult to fit into small kitchens.
Top freezer models are more cost effective than side-by-side refrigerators, and their wide shelves make it easier to reach foods at the back of the unit. However, customers must bend down to access items in bottom drawers.
Side-by-side models come with narrow doors, making them better equipped for small kitchen spaces. They generally include automatic ice machines with water and ice dispensers built into the door, but according to Consumer Reports, models with these features tend to require significantly more maintenance. Fitting a pizza box into a side-by-side model can prove challenging, and customers may also find it difficult to access foods in the back of the refrigerator.
For customers who are concerned about energy efficiency, the top freezer option is generally more efficient. The federal government's Energy Star label program can be confusing because side-by-side and top freezer models are placed in two different categories. Side-by-side refrigerators are allowed to use up to 30 percent more energy and still carry the label.