This is a real world review of the Vitrifrigo C115L Fridge/Freezer, and we’re going to give you the low down, warts and all, based upon our real experiences with this fridge in our van.
If you are looking for a front loading fridge/freezer combo for your van or RV then the Vitrifrigo could be right up your alley. It is a well made, high quality product that has stood the test of time for us on our travels.
We travelled across all sorts of bumpy, pothole ridden terrain and we never had the fridge open on us. It is one sturdy product.
A good fridge is a “must have” when living on the road. This fridge ticks a lot of boxes. At least it did for us.
It does come at a fairly steep price, but unfortunately, all fridge and freezer alternatives to this model are also of a fairly similar price.
STARS: 4.5 out of 5
Vitrifrigo C115l Pros and cons
- Big storage capacity – a whole 118L including the freezer.
- Durability! This fridge is purpose made to travel through the rough and tumble of life on the road.
- The Airlock door design.
- Reversible hinge – you can choose which way the door opens. This can be a lifesaver in a cramped space like a van.
- Operates on both 12v and 24v systems.
- Fitting frame included. This allows for a flush mount, and good looking install.
- Interior lighting is LED and is bright.
- High insulation rating – this means more energy efficient.
- The door panel exterior can be swapped out for something that matches your existing decor. This is kinda cool. Like a mobile phone cover, you can swap it to achieve a totally different look.
- We got the black fridge – we thought it looked kinda sexy.
- Integrated “vent position” system – This will keep the door ajar when not in use. Doing this prevents unpleasant mould and odours from forming when the fridge is not in use.
- Built in freezer compartment with magnetic door lock.
- Minimal noise. It has a sound certified compressor which delivers maximum silence. This is so important, especially at night.
- The Price! At $1000 USD the fridge is not cheap.
- The shiny exterior is prone to getting smudged and will end up being covered in fingerprints. A wipe down fixes this, but when the light catches the fridge door a certain way you can’t help but notice the smudges and marks.
- Not portable. Once it is installed, that’s where it stays. Some top loading options can be used as portable coolers.
Why choose a compressor fridge for vanlife?
There are 2 main types of fridges to consider for your van build. They are the compressor and 3-way (absorption) fridges. Let’s quickly dive into each of them, and I’ll share with you why I decided to go with a compressor fridge, and why I think they are the best option for full time van living.
First up… compressor fridges.
Compressor fridges are, at least in our experience, the most common type of fridge used in van and caravan living.
Compressor fridges are purpose built for use in adventurous circumstances, whether that be 4 wheel driving, van life or even boat life.
Because they are purpose built for adventure, compressor fridges tend to be built with durability at the forefront. They are designed to take the hits and bumps the road can provide. Where a traditional residential fridge would fall apart, a typical compressor fridge will not bat an eyelid.
Compressor fridges come in 12v/24v varieties. A compressor fridge works by using electricity to power a small compressor. This compressor is used to pump refrigerant through the fridges cooling system. These compressors draw very small amounts of juice off of the battery system.
Compressor fridges typically come with a fridge/freezer setup, in a wide variety of configurations. These include top loading chest style or front loading.
Compressor fridges can be run at an incline of 0 to 30 degrees (this is in comparison to other fridges that need to be used completely upright).
So, as you can see, there is no doubt that compressor fridges are awesome. However, that awesomeness comes with one pretty significant downside – price.
12v compressor fridges are more expensive than other options, by a lot. We paid just under $1000 USD for our Vitrifrigo compressor fridge, ouch! But, our goal was to create a fully liveable van life existence, and in order to do that, a durable, reliable and efficient fridge is a must have.
The other main option.. 3-Way Absorption Fridges.
The other contender for you to consider is the Absorption fridge. These fridges are more commonly known as 3-way fridges because they can be powered by either 12v & 24v, mains power (240/120v) or LPG gas.
A 3-way fridge works by using a heat exchange system. This is located in the back of the fridge. Absorption 3-way fridges attain a cold environment by removing the heat, rather than creating the cold (such as a compressor fridge does).
3-way fridges are not the best choice for full time mobile living, and here is why.
They are very, very inefficient when on 12v power. Wildly inefficient when compared to compressor fridges. They are more efficient on mains power (240/120) but then you are losing efficiency through your inverter. The inverter also has to be on constantly to power the fridge, which isn’t really ideal.
If you were looking to run the fridge on LPG gas then you need to plumb the gas in (at an additional cost!) and also have the fridge vent to the outside of the van – which means ruining any stealth inspired aesthetic you were going for).
But, to be fair these aren’t even the worst points. The worst point is that a 3-way fridge needs to be perfectly level in order to function as it should.
On the road, sometimes flat, level ground can be hard to find. A lot of the time you have to make do with what is available.
If you are looking to take your van on some rougher adventures, or are really watching your energy consumption numbers, then I would suggest you consider compressor fridges over 3-way fridges.
Who makes the Vitrifrigo C115L?
Vitrifrigo is an Italian brand that specialises in fridges and freezers designed specifically for marine and road use. Because they work in such a small niche, they have built a brand that is known for its high quality, robust design, and italian good looks.
Who is theVitrifrigo C115L fridge for?
When it comes to keeping your food cool on the road, everyone’s needs are different. Every van or RV is different, and so unique, like a person’s fingerprint, no two are the same.
With this in mind, there are a multitude of different compressor and 3-way fridge and freezer products on the market to suit each scenario. Nearly all of the fridge options you will come across come in two different main styles of design –
- Standup front loading fridges – These are like what you would find in your own family kitchen.
- Top loading fridges – Essentially large cool boxes that are powered by electricity.
Both of these styles have their own positives and negatives, for instance the front loading fridges are typically able to fit more food, and it is easier to access the items within the fridge and freezer. The tradeoff is that they are typically taller and need more vertical space within your build plans.
Top loading refrigerators for vans are the opposite. It can be a pain getting to the items in the fridge you want, as you have to also remove whatever else is on top. But, their size can be utilised more efficiently in most cases. They can be stored under seats, and built onto slide out rails. Also, they are substantially cheaper at the entry level. Though once you start looking at sizes up around the 100L mark, the prices start to align a little bit more.
We settled upon going down the road of a front loading refrigerator. We did this because of the following reasons –
- We knew we would need at least 115L of size, as there were three of us travelling. And at that size we found that the best looking and most functional options were the front loading fridges. If we were looking at a smaller capacity, like 70L then the choice would be a lot harder.
- We didn’t want to live with the hassle of moving things around to get to the items we wanted. This is a common occurrence in top loading fridges that we were looking to avoid.
The front loading fridge we decided to go with was the Vitrifrigo C115I Fridge & Freezer 115L.
It gave us a large 118 litre capacity. It had a freezer compartment, which was a necessity for us, and it had a really stylish black look.
The front door had a clasp lock that was easy to operate, and never once opened on us while travelling. We travelled through bumpy rough tracks many times, and the Vitrifrigio C115L took it all on the chin.
We decided that the fridge should be installed under our fixed bed frame. This meant that at night, we were lying right above the fridge.
Because of this, whatever refrigerator we decided to go with had to be quiet. The Vitrifrigio shined in this aspect, and was barely noticeable at night. Also, sometimes in our travels, depending on the climate, we would simply turn the fridge off overnight to save energy. The fridge was designed well enough that all items would still be cold to the touch come morning time.
I would say that the Vitrifrigo C115L fridge is for anyone that needs a front loading large capacity fridge (by marine and van life standards) and is ok spending extra for peace of mind when it comes to quality.
Key features of the Vitrifrigo C115L Fridge
The key features of the Vitrifrigo C115L are many.
Rock solid build quality.
The italians… what more is there to say. All jokes aside, this is a really well put together unit. We installed it in our van, and it went over countless bumpy, corrugated, potholed road surfaces, and never once showed sign of wear. We would open the door an immeasurable amount of times each day, and the door mechanism held up perfectly.
The door lock seemed well built and never once failed on us. We never experienced any nasty surprises after reaching our destination and opening up the van. When we first started travelling we were sure that one day we’d find all of our fridge ingredients all over the floor, but soon enough we had such confidence in the fridge we never gave it a second thought.
Door can be locked in a vented position.
This is a nifty feature that we didn’t find use for on the road , but did find use for when we had the van in storage for a little while when covid hit.
The integrated “vent position” system is used to keep the fridge door slightly open. This is to prevent the formation of unpleasant odours and mould when not being used. You could easily enough just chock the door open with a book, but the fact that this small feature is integrated, shows clever thought in design.
Comes supplied with a fitting frame for a flush, clean look.
This fitting frame made the fridge sit seamlessly in place. If the frame wasn’t there, we would have just had the wood ending around the fridge, and it wouldn’t have looked anywhere near as neat.
The freezer door is insulated.
The freezer door has it’s own insulation. This means that it keeps the two compartments more separate in terms of temperature. If this door wasn’t insulated, I’m sure the top rows of the fridge would be of a lower temperature than the rest of the fridge.
Fridge door is reversible.
This is really neat. The fridge door can be taken off and the hinge swapped to the other side. This means it opens in the reverse of what it comes from the shop.
This would benefit anyone who is installing the fridge into a space where getting to the right side of the fridge is a bit more cumbersome.
Imagine that you are installing the fridge to the left of your kitchen bench. Well then, when you want to reach for something from the fridge, you have to lean more to the left to grab the handle, and then you have to reach over the door to get to the items in the fridge. Sure this seems like a small annoyance. But times that by the amount of times you use the fridge in a day, week or month and suddenly reversing the door starts to seem pretty appealing!
Can be run off mains power with a vitrifrigo power adaptor.
This is a popular option for when you have access to mains power. It will need a specific Vitrifrigo adaptor. But this option can still end up cheaper than other 3 way fridge options, and could actually work more consistently and deliver better cooling than a standard 3-way fridge.
We are extremely happy with the Vitrifrigo C115L. There is no doubt that it was a big purchase up front, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt our wallet. But, after using the fridge full time on the road for over 3 months, we can say that it was totally worth it.
Installing the fridge in the van is easy enough. Just make sure you get a little bit of help as the fridge is heavy, and if you are trying to maneuver it on your own you could end up ripping your brand new vinyl flooring… trust me, I’d know.
We did have one negative that we encountered. The freezer compartment would ice over and the door wouldn’t properly close. In order to rectify this we had to take everything out and let the fridge defrost. This icing got bad enough to warrant attention 2 times in 3 months of full time use. It was annoying. We think it had something to do with the seal to the freezer compartment not making a tight seal when closed. The moisture from the fridge air would then create the freezing over. We could be wrong about the cause, but either way, it was a tad frustrating.
Overall, we give the fan 4.5/5 stars. It is a great choice if your budget allows for it.
What are the best alternatives to the Vitrifigo C115L fridge?
Ok, we reckon the Vitrifrigo is a great purchase, but there is no doubt it’s price is a stiff pill to swallow. So with the price point in mind, let’s take a quick look at a couple of alternatives on the market. Hopefully these help you with your purchase decision.
We wanted comparable space and all fridges needed a fridge and freezer section. There are both top and front loading fridge options below.
This is the first of the top loading fridge competitors.
- Large capacity of 100L (or 105 quarts). This means plenty of space for food and drinks. This is good if you plan to go off grid and out back for more than a few days.
- This unit has two separately controlled temperature zones. Each zone can achieve fast cooling down to -0.4 degrees fahrenheit (-18dec celsius) to be used as a freezer.
- The fridge has variable temperature control, so you can set it exactly how you like it.
- This costway fridge is fairly quiet. The working sound of the fridge is lower than 45db. To put this into context – a quiet library is 40db.
- It comes built with battery protection to stop any shorts in power that may damage your battery. If your battery system cannot support this fridge’s draw, the fridge will shut down in order to stop any serious damage coming to your battery for being drained so low.
- Works with both 12v and mains (240/110v) giving you more options when travelling.
- Nifty LCD display screen. This screen grants control over the digitized temperature adjustment. According to reviews on Amazon, it seems easy enough to operate.
- According to some of the more negative reviews online, it doesn’t look like COSTWAY has the same level of post purchase support as other brands.
- The fridge only comes with a 3-month warranty. This is a massive red flag for me. A long warranty from the manufacturer is like a symbol of the confidence they have in their product.
- Real world accounts seem to state that it draws a lot of power.
- Reviews on amazon suggest that the fridge does not retain its set temperatures. This means that you can be looking at a lot of wasted food. Not ideal, especially if your fridge is full!
- This isn’t a reputable brand. I personally would hesitate to put an appliance in your van that doesn’t have the reputation of quality and longevity. This is especially true if you are converting a van. You will likely be building the fridge into your van in clever ways, such as a slide out drawer. This means all measurements will be bespoke to your fridge choice. Get the choice of fridge wrong, and it could be a nightmare to find another fridge with the same dimensions.
Unlike the first fridge option above, ICECO is a well known and trusted brand. This is reflected in the price.
- Good storage size. 90L of storage is more than enough for most situations. Though, you will notice that this unit is $300 more expensive than our Vitrifirgo C115L and yet has nearly 30 less litres of space.
- The lid can be arranged to be opened from 2 different directions. This means access to this fridge becomes easier in tight situations.
- 12v plugs in convenient locations. This is a good one. ICECO were smart enough to design this model with the 12v plugs on both ends of the fridge unit.
- The fridge also comes with 2 usb ports for charging mobile devices. This is handy and means you may not have to install as many usb ports in your van as you may have thought.
- The fridge also has a built-in AC transformer so that it can be run off of home socket mains power.
- Can continue to work even when at 40 degrees of tilt. Perfect for offroading.
- This unit has a 5 year warranty on the compressor and a 1 year warranty on all other parts. Compare this to the COSTWAY unit above which doles out a mere 3 months.
- Personal opinion, but to me this is a pretty badass looking fridge. Like if Batman was to own a portable compressor fridge, it would be this one.
This Australian company makes things tough to survive the brutal Aussie outback, so you can count on this fridge standing any test you can throw at it. And it should too. It is 18L smaller in capacity than our vitrifrigo C115L, but is nearly $650 more expensive! Whoa that’s some biccies.
- Dual zone, meaning you can have a fridge and a freezer.
- Good space allowing for longer off grid, out bush types of adventures.
- 5v 3000ma USB charge points near the display are convenient for charging your mobile devices. They can also mean that you may not have to install as many usb ports in your build.
- Steel outer casing means this fridge is about as tough as they come.
- Interior low power LED light.
- Purpose built racks are available for ARB if you are looking to install this fridge in some kind of pull out drawer.
- Price, price and price. This fridge has the same features as the ICECO fridge above, yet it is nearly $400 more expensive. For that you get a little bit more toughness in the steel casing I’d guess.
- There’s only one color, cat pee yellow… each to their own I guess!
This Nova Kool fridge is pretty much a like for like of our Vitrifrigo C115L. This Nova Kool fridge is a little bigger, but otherwise the specs are roughly the same.
- Massive 122L space – this is more than our 118L in the Vitrifrigo.
- Has freezer in upper part of fridge interior for easier access.
- Comes with the ability to reverse the door opening from left-swing to right-swing
- It Contains a low battery protection mechanism to cut off its power draw if it senses your house batteries are too low.
- Made in Canada and comes with a 2 year warranty
There are no real cons that I can tell of. Everything I have read online about this fridge is a positive. In fact, it was nearly the fridge we purchased. We only went with the Vitrifrigo on price. I think you’d be more than happy with either. Both are reputable brands, and when compared to the chest freezers, offer better interior size to money value.