Whether you’re on the road for work, enjoying a camping trip, or want to keep things chilled in your RV, you need a great 12 volt refrigerator. Two of the leading brands offering these types of refrigerators are Dometic and ARB. So, here we’ll explore how these brands compare and which offers the best models.
Dometic is the number one choice for millions of boat owners, RV users, and Overlanders. The company aims to make mobile living as easy as possible.
ARB is a 4×4 accessory brand that dates back to 1975. Today, ARB is one of the largest manufacturers of 4×4 accessories with operations around the globe. The company invests heavily in R&D to create new and innovative products. ARB has three main refrigerator lines with several lines in each line.
Both brands have an excellent reputation, so here we’ll look at how the popular models compare.
Small Models: The Dometic CDF 11 vs ARB Portable 50 Quarts
Dometic CDF 11
The CDF11 is the smallest in the Dometic refrigerator line. While it is only large enough to accommodate 18 cans, it does have a small form factor. Additionally, it is a highly energy efficient unit. It takes just 30 minutes to go from 90F to 20F. Once it reaches the target temperature, it only consumes approximately 1 or 2 watts to maintain the cool temperature.
What makes this refrigerator great is that it is durable; you can immediately tell that it is not cheap plastic with a quick tap. It is also small enough to be portable for overnight camping or other outdoor adventures.
However, it is not exceptionally insulated, so if it is not plugged in, the temperature may easily increase.
- Takes only 30 minutes to reach 20F
- Highly energy efficient
- Not well insulated
ARB Portable 50 Quarts
If you have the need to store two weeks of food for your road trip, the ARB Portable 50 Quarts may be the ideal model for you. The size is ideal for a couple of week’s solo trip, or three to five days for a family.
There are both AC and DC options, so you can plug it into a solar energy system or your cigarette lighter. It works continuously to keep your food frozen; just watch your battery drainage.
There are two sections, with a distinct temperature difference between the top and bottom sections. You can also help to keep the temperature down with an insulation jacket.
- Has both AC and DC power options
- Two separate temperature zones
- Can drain your battery
If you’re looking for a highly portable refrigerator, the Dometic CDF11 is a great option. While it may be smaller than the ARB, it can quickly get to temperature and is small enough to take on camping trips.
50 Quart Models: Dometic CFX3 55 vs ARB Classic II 50 QT
Dometic CFX3 55
The CRX3 55 is one of the most costly Dometic models, but it is also one of the biggest. It has a 55 liter capacity, which is the equivalent of approximately 100 cans. However, despite its size, the power consumption is only slightly more than the CFX40W.
The CFX3 55 makes a great portable refrigerator for camping trips. It can allow you to store a week or two’s food for a family of four or five. There are three battery setting levels, but once it reaches the set temperature, the compressor hardly runs.
The model has excellent insulation and can reach -7F, so it can also handle your freezing needs.
- Excellent insulation
- Low power usage
- Some users report cut off issues
ARB Classic II 50 QT
There is a reason why ARB called this line its Classic series, as it has a classic design. However, despite these classic aesthetics, it also has an impressive variety of features. The 50 quart interior can hold up to 71 cans, but there is also a removable lid for easier access. You can also connect your Classic II to a Bluetooth app that will not only allow you to adjust the settings, but also receive an alert if the fridge lid is left open.
Despite its modest weight at 53 pounds, the Classic II has the capacity for temperatures that range from 50F to 0F.
The Classic II also features three-phase battery protection. This enables you to preset off a shutoff voltage to avoid depleting your starting battery. There is also a real-time readout of the fridge voltage so that you can keep an eye on the battery’s voltage.
- Temperature capacity of 50F to 0F
- Only weighs 53 pounds
- Can deplete your battery, so you need to check the battery voltage
Both these models have three battery settings and a similar capacity, but the ARB Classic has the edge with its abundance of features, including the compatibility with a Bluetooth app that provides alerts and setting flexibility.
Fridge Freezers: The Dometic DM2862RB vs ARB Zero 73
If you’re looking for a refrigerator for your RV, the Double Door style DM2862RB by Dometic is a great option. This is a powerful refrigerator that will meet your road trip needs.
It stands at 8 cubic feet, so it easily fits into an RV space. The design features solid steel framing with a two-position freezer shelf and door lock to prevent spills. There is even a dedicated juice rack, so the kids can easily access drinks without needing to shift the contents of the refrigerator around.
You can power the DM2862RB using electricity or propane, with a gas power consumption of 1501 BTUs per hour. However, the thermal fuse can be a little twitchy. Aside from this minor flaw, this Dometic refrigerator offers top notch performance to keep everything chilled when you’re on the road.
- Can use propane or electricity
- Dedicated juice rack
- Thermal fuse can be a little twitchy
ARB Zero 73
The Zero 73 is a dual zone fridge freezer that allows you to adjust the temperature zones via the control panel or the smartphone app. It has an interior volume of 69 liters or 18.25 gallons, which provides ample space for food storage.
However, where the ARB Zero 73 stands apart from many other fridge freezer models is that it also has USB ports to allow you to charge your devices. If you’re still struggling for space, this model is also available in a larger size.
- Has USB ports
- Compatible with the smartphone app
- The latches feel a little cheap
Both these models provide excellent chilling and freezing capabilities, but choosing a clear winner between the two is tricky. While the Dometic has the flexibility to be powered with electricity or propane, the Zero 73 has USB ports, so you can charge your devices. So, we’ll call this one a draw.
Best High Tech: Dometic TC21 DCA vs ARB Elements
Dometic TC21 DCA
If you’re looking for something more than an appliance to cool your drinks, the TC21 DCA could be just what you’re looking for. This is a thermoelectric cooler and warmer. While it is not able to achieve the really low temperature as a cooler with a compressor, it does offer great versatility.
The TC21 DCA is not only energy efficient, but it provides the functionality to warm up food and drinks. The unit is portable and can use AC or DC. This means that you can plug it into an outlet or use a vehicle cigarette lighter, with both types of plug included with the device.
Just be aware that the unit can get a little hot if you accidentally cover the vents. Additionally, if the outside temperature is very high, it may struggle to reach the desired refrigerator temperature. However, you can counteract this somewhat by plugging it in at home for up to 12 hours before you use it in your vehicle to ensure it is cool enough. You can also shade your windows to avoid direct sunlight on the unit.
- Energy efficient
- Compatible with AC or DC power
- Can get a little hot if the vents are obstructed
The ARB Elements 63 quart fridge freezer is another of the brand’s best offerings. The 63 quart capacity is the ideal size for most users. However, it is also energy efficient, using an average of 0.89 amps/hr at 12VDC.
One of the biggest advantages of the ARB Elements is its rugged construction. It has a stainless steel exterior, which feels far more durable than many of the plastic models on the market. It is also designed for exposure to the elements, hence its name.
You can store or mount the fridge outside your vehicle when you’re traveling or camping. You can even leave it in an open truck bed, as it can handle prolonged exposure to weather. Additionally, if you spill something on the fridge, you can just pull the drain plug and the bottom and spray it with a hose.
As with the Classic II, this model features three phase battery protection, and it can also operate as a fridge or freezer with a temperature range of 0 to 50F. However, this durability does come at a cost; it is 16 pounds heavier than the Classic II.
- Rugged construction
- Easy to clean
- It’s quite heavy
Both these models are the highlights of each brand’s line with unique features. However, the ARB Elements is a superb offering. With its rugged construction, battery protection and temperature range, it is a fantastic option for any outdoor adventures.
Dometic vs ARB: Which is Best?
Of course, this will come down to a matter of personal preference. Both brands have excellent reputations and offer high quality products. While Dometic does have more models, ARB concentrates on its core product lines.
So, your choice of Dometic vs. ARB will depend on your specific needs. If you want to use a portable refrigerator in your truck bed and don’t want the hassle of moving it, the ARB Elements is a great option. However, if your priority is both heating and cooling foods, the Dometic TC21 DCA would be a solid choice.
So, it is well worth working out what you need in a refrigerator and checking out both the ARB and Dometic products to find the best one for you.