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Icebox or Refrigerator: What’s the difference?

Writen by Tom Hank

Fact checked by Joseph Varney

Icebox or Refrigerator

When it comes to decking your RV with all the essential items, you cannot possibly forget about keeping your food fresh. If you intend to travel for days, weeks, or months, you need to be prepared. You need to keep your beverages and food from getting stale. That’s where you will need a cooling apparatus.

Refrigerator and icebox are the two primary options that are preferred for recreational vehicles. There are many debates for refrigerator vs. icebox, which will further confuse you regarding making a well-informed decision.

Table of Contents

Why Do You Need a Cooling System in Your RV?


Before going into refrigerator vs. icebox for RV, it is essential to understand why you need a cooling device in your RV. Here are a few reasons you cannot ignore the prominence of a cooling system in your RV-:

  • Keeping Food Fresh: If you are traveling in an RV, you need to cook something on your own. For this, you need a cooling system that can store vegetables and fruits for longer durations.
  • Cool Beverages: No one likes to drink warm beverages on a sunny day trip. Hence, a cooling system is a must in your RV.
  • Completes your Kitchen Setup: If you have installed a proper kitchen set up in your RV, you must have a cooling system, whether refrigerator or an icebox, depending upon your purpose.
  • Minimizes Cost: If you don’t have a cooling system in your RV, you will have to stop by eating joints, and beverage shops for a food refuel. Instead, you can just buy a cooling system that you need to refill in between.

Everyone has their reasons to buy a cooling system for RV. If you are also among those who have not yet thought about a cooling device, you should read this article about refrigerator vs. icebox for RV.

Maybe you don’t know, most fridges work using ammonia-based coolants instead of CFC or HFC. So, we recommend you check the ammonia level in the RV fridge before embarking on your latest trip.

What is an Ideal Choice for RV: Refrigerator or Icebox?


There has always remained debate about whether a refrigerator or icebox is an ideal cooling system for RV. Well, both have their own sets of pros and cons that make them distinctive from each other. There are certain factors against which you need to weigh both the options and conduct a refrigerator vs. icebox to make a better decision.

Here are a few of the deciding factors that will compare both the options unbiasedly. Without further ado, let’s dig in.

Price: Icebox

You have bought an RV, that’s already a significant expense , so you should look for something that is pocket friendly. When it’s about refrigerator vs. icebox for RV regarding price, we have an evident winner- camping coolers.

Portable gas refrigerators installed in RVs come at a thousand dollars range, whereas you can take a camping icebox at a couple of hundred dollars. Icebox works on ice and insulation, and refrigerators work on either electricity or propane gas.

Though you need to fill the icebox with ice regularly, it is much cheaper than the electrical system or propane gas. Solar panels power some refrigerators, but still, it’s a costly affair, even more than an electrical system.

Temperature Control: Refrigerator

Refrigerators can steal the limelight in terms of its fantastic temperature control. They have different freezing and cooling models that allow you to preserve food items and beverages at different temperatures.

You don’t get features in an icebox; it will always remain icy and stable. There are many modern refrigerators as well that allow controlling the cooling system through your smartphones. If you carry a different set of eatables and beverages that will require different temperatures, it would be best to go for a refrigerator.

Maintenance: Icebox

It is quite evident that your refrigerator will need more maintenance than an icebox. While the only thing you need to worry about an icebox is filling it with ice, you will need to cater to the diverse maintenance requirements of a refrigerator.

You might not be able to address all the issues of a fridge along the way that will further disrupt your traveling experience. Not only the maintenance, but you also need to look after the power needs of the fridge.

You can either power it up with solar panels, battery, electricity system, or gas; either way, you will have to take a lot of stress maintaining your fridge throughout the trip. Icebox will be a less cumbersome option for you in terms of ongoing maintenance.

Cleaning: Icebox

When you install a cooling system in your RV, you need to clean it properly. When it comes to cleaning the icebox, all you need to do is open the drain and clean it with a hose. But, the refrigerator will require more strenuous cleaning. Though they have drain plugs, you cannot possibly clean them with spray or hose.

You will have to hand-wipe them with a cleaner to avoid short circuits and affecting the motors. If you need to avail of the convenience of cleaning, you can choose an icebox over the refrigerator. To clean the fridge, you need to put it upside down to let it dry possibly; it will all become a tiring process for you while traveling in an RV.

Weight: Icebox

You need to consider the weight as well when you are looking to buy a cooling system. It is evident that your refrigerator will weigh more than an icebox. Though you can take them anywhere, they have a considerable amount of weight that makes it difficult to carry them around.

For instance, you can carry your icebox even to your camping site, but your refrigerator will stay inside the RV. There are instances where you need to take your cool beverages to places, and a refrigerator will make things inconvenient for you.

On the other hand, an icebox is a much convenient option as it is easy to carry around without any troubles. There are many lightweight ice boxes as well that will never add to your camping luggage. So, when it comes to weight, iceboxes are a more desirable option.

Extra Features – Refrigerator

A place where the refrigerator becomes a hand-down winner is its additional features. There are many features in a fridge that you can hardly imagine in an icebox.

Precise temperature adjustment is an exclusive feature that is only available to the refrigerators; you can easily alter the temperature according to your needs. Refrigerators also have internal lighting that makes it convenient for you to use it even in the dark, whereas, to use an icebox at night, you will need a torchlight.

Many fridges come with dual-zone options. i.e., fridge and freezer, icebox, on the other hand, has only one mode, which is freezing cold. Refrigerators have digital displays as well to control different modes and adjust the temperature.

Warranty – Refrigerator

Durability and longevity of the cooling system are also imperative. With a proper warranty, you can ensure the same. Refrigerators have an extended warranty period as compared to the icebox. Refrigerators are made for extended use so that you can expect better durability from them.

Iceboxes can only be used for a short period, so there is not much scope to get an extended warranty. The 12V RV refrigerators are just enough for a long trip that will offer your 2-3 years warranty depending upon the seller.

The Bottom Line

When you are traveling in an RV, you need to be prepared with everything. Whether it is taking your beds or bringing a cooling system. If you are bringing food, you need to keep them fresh, and only a cooling device can help you in that case.

Both refrigerators and ice boxes are considered an ideal choice for RV. Weigh the pointers mentioned above and ascertain how refrigerators and ice boxes for RV are different from one another and which can serve your purpose well. Make sure to do your research and know more about both options.

Why Choose an Icebox?

  • You are looking for a budget-friendly option
  • You are camping for ten days or less
  • You need to take your food to different places
  • You need a durable product
  • You need a lightweight option
  • You need convenient cleaning

Why Choose a Refrigerator?

  • You have a lavish budget
  • You need multiple temperature settings
  • You are traveling for longer distance
  • You know how to tackle electronics
  • You also need a freezer
  • You can clean at regular intervals

Either refrigerator or icebox, you will have to choose one to ensure a convenient traveling experience. Make smart choices and have an amazing trip.

Happy Journey!

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