If you're planning a high-end kitchen renovation, chances are you're working with a designer, and if you're working with a designer, she's probably mentioned Sub-Zero as a possible refrigerator to consider. Among pricey, built-in models, Sub-Zero is perhaps the most recognized brand. But is it worth the $7,500 or more you'll have to pay?
Speaking strictly in terms of performance, the answer is no. Just within the built-in category, Thermador and Jenn-Air are two competitors that cost slightly less than Sub-Zero and earned higher overall scores in Consumer Reports' latest refrigerator Ratings, largely on the strength of their quieter operation. The Sub-Zero B1-36U, $7,700, is particularly noisy, which could be an issue if you're sound-sensitive.
Looking across all types of refrigerators, the highest overall scores belong to several French-door bottom-freezers that cost between $1,500 and $2,700. That top performance has helped make French-door fridges the fastest-growing configuration. But then, part of the reason people spend $7,500 on anything, including a refrigerator, is so that they can own something that everyone else doesn't have.
That gets to the less quantifiable value of a Sub-Zero, or any built-in refrigerator for that matter. Take style, for example: there's simply no mistaking the imposing 80-inch-high frame of a built-in—a foot or more taller than other configurations. Then there's the fact that integrated panels, often desired in high-end kitchens because they make the appliances disappear into the cabinets, are easier to do with built-in models because they often don't have through-the-door ice and water dispensers.
Last but not least, there's brand recognition. Like we said at the top, Sub-Zero is one of, if not the biggest name in high-end refrigerators. So anyone who visits your kitchen is going to know you spent top dollar on the appliance. That includes would-be buyers down the line. Indeed, real estate professionals have told us time and again that most luxury-home buyers expect to see professional appliances in the kitchen.
So are Sub-Zero refrigerators worth the price? There's no easy answer. But if you're going to spend that much on a refrigerator, make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.