12-volt RV Refrigerator vs Propane

When it comes to choosing a refrigerator for your RV, you have two main options: 12-volt and propane. While both types of fridges can do the job, there are several differences between them that should be taken into account when making your decision. This article will outline these differences, including their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision about which type of fridge is best for your needs.

12-Volt RV Refrigerator

A 12-volt RV refrigerator works by running off the 12-volt battery in your vehicle. It does not require an external power source like propane does, making it more convenient for on-the-go camping trips or extended stays in remote locations where no other power source is available. 12-volt fridges tend to be smaller in size than propane models, making them ideal for smaller RVs and campervans.

However, one of the biggest disadvantages of a 12-volt RV refrigerator is that it does not run as efficiently as a propane model. They often require frequent battery recharging or replacement, especially when running continuously for long periods of time. Additionally, they take longer to cool down and can sometimes struggle to keep food cold during hot weather.

How long do 12-volt refrigerators take to cool?

With the advent of 12 volt only refrigerators, using a PWM electric compressor for cooling, this new technology is vastly improved from prior 3 way fridges. My Mini Lite has an 11 cu. ft refrigerator that can cool in as little as two hours – offering quick and efficient chilling solutions with just electricity!

Benefits of a 12 Volt RV Fridge
  • More convenient for on-the-go trips and remote locations
  • No external power source required
  • Reliable Cooling
  • Safe use
  • Can Be Powered by Solar
  • Auto Defrost

Propane Refrigerator

A propane refrigerator operates by burning fuel from an attached tank to produce refrigerant gas which is then used to cool the internal environment. One of the main advantages of a propane fridge is its efficiency, as it uses less fuel to cool than a 12-volt model does. Propane fridges are also better at maintaining a consistent temperature in hot weather, making them ideal for camping trips during summertime.

On the other hand, propane fridges require an external power source and tend to be bigger and bulkier than 12-volt models. Additionally, they can be more expensive to operate due to their larger size and fuel consumption.

How long do propane refrigerators take to cool?

If you’re considering an RV fridge, take note of size and age! Smaller and newer models will cool down in a matter of hours – 5.5 to 6 on average, but bigger sizes or older models can take up to 24 hours for the optimal temperature at 40°F or lower.

Benefits of a Propane Refrigerator 
  • More efficient than 12-volt models
  • Can maintain a consistent temperature in hot weather
  • Easy Refilling
  • No Electricity Required
  • High Energy Efficiency
  • Cheapness


Both 12-volt and propane RV Refrigerators have their advantages and disadvantages. When choosing between the two, you should consider your needs: do you need something small that doesn’t require an external power source? Or do you need something with more cooling power that can cope better in hot weather? Whichever you choose, both types of fridges can get the job done and help keep your food fresh.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which type of refrigerator is best for your RV – 12-volt or propane. With this information in mind, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which type of fridge will best suit your needs. Happy camping!

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Philippe strives to give you the best overview of automotive equipment, tools, parts, and solutions to a variety of complex automotive problems, based on his own experience. You can read his car reviews on TopSpeed.

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