Here are the 5 most important factors when buying a new kegerator:
The typical price range for kegerators is from around $400 for a super low end unit all the way up to around $1500 dollars for a nice but over priced Summit. $400 will get you a Nostalgia brand kegerator from a big box store. My current price for a Nostalgia Electrics Kegerator from Walmart is $339 base. This would be around $370 for me after tax. This is an “OK” no frills unit. The initial reviews at Walmart look pretty good, but if you look more closely you’ll see a lot of comments about cheap parts and all around jankiness. This kegerator will probably do the trick if you are in college and simply need to consume as much cold beer as you can at the most affordable price possible. Damn, I miss those days, but I digress.
The sweet spot price range for a kegerator is more in the $500 to $650 range. This much money will get you a well built unit with a lot less funkiness than you are going to encounter with the Nostalgia brand one. The EdgeStar line from Kegerator.com and the Kegco line from BeverageFactory are your best bets in this price range with the EdgeStar being my personal favorite.
The big question here is how do you want to use your kegerator. If you simply want to put a half barrel (full size) keg in the unit almost any kegerator will work. If you are into homebrew, you will want to see how many 5 gallon cornelius kegs (also known as soda kegs or Corney) the unit will hold. Most full size kegerators will hold two 5 gallon kegs, although some units will hold three.
Another size consideration are the oversized 1/4 barrels from Miller Coors. Miller uses rubber sided 1/4 barrel kegs. Coors uses bulged non-straight wall 1/4 barrel kegs. Both of these keg shells are 17″ in diameter. This is compared to a standard size 1/4 barrel with a diameter of 16 1/6″. If you plan to use 1/4 barrels from Miller or Coors, make sure your future kegerator will fit a 17″ shell.
Temperature is the cause of most kegerator complaints. Cheap units often won’t get cold enough. Another big problem is caused by faulty, cheap thermostats.
Temperature is the main reason I like the EdgeStar line of kegerators. Their units will get down into the lower 30’s. This makes for some damn fine tasting beer! After all, isn’t that why you want a kegerator in the first place?
We have all bought something that has crapped out on us well before it should. It’s always a cruddy feeling. In regards to longevity, there are some brands like Nostalgia that I would tend to avoid. Most of the other units use refrigerators from a handful of factories in China. Some units will die prematurely but the vast majority will last a decade or more. Refrigerator technology is fairly simple and has now been used for a long time.
Most reputable kegerators come with 1 year warranties on parts. If this doesn’t seem long enough consider either buying an extended warranty from the manufacturer or from a warranty company like Squaretrade.
Appearance is the most subjective aspect of selecting a kegerator. Base units typically come in all black. The next level up often come with stainless steel doors. If you buy a super fancy unit it might be covered in stainless steel on all sides. The other main appearance option is whether you want a single tap or dual tap unit. You can also replace the stock taps to add more character to unit.
The major manufacturers will incorporate all these aesthetic variations into their kegerator lines. Since these preferences are so subjective, I can’t help you much here.