Buying a Used Refrigerator

The choice to buy used will lower the price for a refrigerator. But in making any major purchase there are many things to consider.

Answer these questions before you shop:

  • Where will you put the refrigerator? Measure the height, width and depth of the space where you will put the refrigerator. Take these numbers and a tape measure when you shop. Measure the refrigerator that you are thinking about buying. Make certain that it will fit.

  • What type of refrigerator do you need? There are two designs for a refrigerator. The type with the freezer on top offers the best value for the space.

    The side-by-side refrigerator usually is larger and takes up more floor space. This type has more organized freezer space. The doors are shorter and take up less space when opened.

  • How much will it cost to run? Refrigerators more than 10 years old may use more energy and cost more to run. Newer models use about one third less electricity.

  • Where should I buy? Some department stores and appliance shops sell repaired, used items. Also check second hand shops and newspaper ads.

    Wherever you buy, find out the return, repair and refund policies. Know what you can do if your refrigerator has problems.

  • How do I operate the appliance? You may not get an instruction book. Call 1-800-555-1212 for the manufacturer's toll-free phone number. Ask for a use and care manual. Look for the model number on the door inside the refrigerator.

Check these items when you shop:

  • Temperature. The refrigerator may not be plugged in. You will not know if it cools properly or if it is noisy. Check the refrigerator when you get it home. Take care of any problems right away. The refrigerator should be between 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be 0 degrees.

  • Door gasket. Place a piece of paper between the door and the refrigerator. Can you pull it out easily? The door may not be closing tight enough to keep in the cold. The gasket may need to be replaced. Or the door hinges may need adjusting.

  • Shelves, drawers and racks. Check to see if all parts are there. Do they slide or move smoothly? Can they be removed for easy cleaning?

  • Working parts. Do the light and temperature control knob work?

Use these tips to clean your refrigerator:

  • Avoid scratchy powdered cleansers or rough cleaning pads. For tough spots use baking soda with a damp towel. All purpose liquid cleaner may be used.

  • Take out shelves, baskets, and drawers. Wash these and the inside of the refrigerator with all purpose cleaner. To get rid of odors, wipe down with one tablespoon of baking soda to 1 quart of water. Rinse, then wipe dry.

  • Is the door gasket mildewed? Wipe with a mixture of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach to 1 quart water. Wipe and towel dry. Do not use bleach on other parts of the refrigerator. It may cause plastics to yellow.

  • Condenser coils are located to the back or underneath the refrigerator. Clean them at least once a year. Vacuum and wipe with a damp cloth. Also, clean the drip pan if there is one.

  • Wipe down the outside with all purpose cleaner. Finish by applying a creamy polish to give your new refrigerator a bright new shine!

Prepared by Rhonda Hardy, Consumer and Family Economics Educator, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

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