Review: Waeco CF-50 Fridge/Freezer

10 Years On

Waeco car fridges are often portrayed as the cheaper alternative, the poor man’s Engel.

Brand loyalty is a funny thing. Just look at cars – Ford vs Holden. Four wheel drives – Toyota vs Nissan. Hang on, that’s not quite true – it’s actually Toyota vs every other brand ever made, according to Toyota owners! Anyhow…

Access to the fridge is easy when mounted on the fridge slide.
Our Waeco fridge lived in the back of our Pajero for 10 years.

Car fridges are no different. Waeco owners swear they are the best. Engel owners likewise. And neither camp will be swayed.




Engel (and other) fridge owners will tell you that Waeco are cheap plastic rubbish, the lids break, the compressors break down, they draw lots of power, the cigarette lighter plugs melt… the list of supposed ailments is a mile long.

So what’s the truth?

Well, we’ve had a Waeco CF-50 fridge/freezer for over 10 years now. So we’re qualified to give you an honest answer. I’ll attempt to remain impartial and just give you the facts.

Have We Used It Much?

Yes, lots. We bought the fridge in 2007, with a Waeco fridge slide. It was bought as a promotional pack – fridge, insulating cover, tie down straps, a RAPS (a Waeco 12V power unit with one Merritt socket and one cigarette lighter socket) and a portable Waeco 36Ah battery.

We installed the fridge slide into the back of our Pajero, tied the fridge down and did a 3 week trip from Wollongong to the Gulf and return. Ambient temperatures varied from around 5 degrees C to well over 40 degrees C.

We did a similar trip the following year, with a similar range of ambient temperatures.

Then in 2009 we did the Big Lap of Oz. Twelve months of travel with the fridge running the entire time. We encountered several consecutive weeks over 35 degrees C in Western Australia, up to 47 degrees C on the Nullarbor.

Our Pajero loaded on one of our trips. Note the air gap around the Waeco fridge, especially around the ventilation slots.
Our Pajero loaded on one of our trips. Note how the ventilation fins were given plenty of space so that the fridge could breathe.

Of course, there were lots of other weekend and day trips. We even used the fridge as a drinks fridge for parties at home or as a second freezer at busy times like Christmas. As a freezer, it was set at -18 degrees C and maintained this easily – even on hot days.

So yes, we’ve used our car fridge many times over the last ten years.

How Does It Handle The Heat?

This fridge has never had a problem maintaining temperature. Keep in mind 2 things:

  • There were usually four of us – 2 adults and 2 kids. Being kids, they were constantly in and out of the fridge.
  • On the road, we only used it as a fridge, not a freezer.
Simple but effective display on Waeco CF-50 fridge.
Simple but effective control panel. The yellow button is “Turbo Mode”. It brings the fridge down to temperature very quickly.

Normally, we’d set it to 2 degrees C. It would maintain this very closely, never varying by more than 1 degree either way.

Does It Use Much Power?

We never measured actual current draw. However, it was connected to a 100Ah AGM battery. In hot conditions the battery would run the fridge for a couple of days, as a rough rule of thumb.




Of course, this depends on how full it is and how cool overnight temperatures are.

Waeco fridge has 3 levels of battery voltage, below which the fridge will switch off.
You can easily set 3 levels of battery voltage. LOW – the fridge will cut out at 10.4V (use when connected to a 2nd battery). MED – the fridge will cut out at 11.4V. HIGH – the fridge will cut out at 12.0V (use when connected to starting battery).
100Ah second battery, used to power the Waeco fridge.
100Ah second battery is tucked in on the side (to the left of the fridge).

 

100Ah battery powers our Waeco fridge.
After issues with the Waeco cigarette lighter plugs, we connected the fridge directly to the second battery via an Anderson plug and fuse.

Any Problems?

We had two issues. The first was the bane of pretty well every fridge on the market – the cigarette lighter plug. After two melted lighter plugs, I replaced it with an Anderson plug and an inline 10A fuse. Problem solved.

A 50A Anderson plug solved plug melting issues with our Waeco fridge.
A 50A Anderson plug solved plug melting issues with our Waeco fridge. If you do this, make sure you fit an inline fuse as shown here.

The second issue is a known problem with these fridges. The lid is reversible, ie it can hinge from either side. The hinges on the lid are in fact just a short stub of plastic – see photo below. These are known to break off.

The lid hinges are a known weak point on Waeco fridges.
The weak point. The lid hinges (the plastic pin on the lid that slides into the groove) are known to snap off.

Ours finally let go a couple of years ago. I wasn’t surprised. After enduring years of kids dropping the lid from a great height, not closing it properly or just generally being rough, I had expected the hinges to snap off years ago. No big drama. We simply ordered another lid online.

Has It Lasted Well Or Is It Worn Out?

This fridge has done at least 100,000 km on badly corrugated roads, probably more. It has been pounded, bounced and shaken for years. Our Waeco has endured -5 degree C temperatures in the Southern Tablelands and 45+ degree C in Western Australia. But it just keeps chugging along.

Of course, it has wear and tear. The insides have marks where containers have been slowly revolving due to mile after mile of bone-shaking corrugations. The outside has scratches and the cover is looking a little worse for wear. But it still works as well as the day we bought it.

Inside our fridge. It is still in very good condition, considering the pounding it has copped in the last 10 years.
The dairy compartment of our Waeco fridge. Normal wear and tear after 10 years of use.
The dairy compartment has rub marks and scratches, but nothing more than you’d expect after 10 years. The light shown here illuminates the whole fridge.
Our Waeco fridge cover is showing a few signs of age after 10 years of use.
The cover is getting tired after being opened and closed thousands of times. Nothing a piece of duct tape wouldn’t fix…

Any Tips?

We have a few tips, not just for a Waeco fridge but for any portable fridge. Go here for ideas on how to avoid problems with your car fridge.




Would We Buy Another One?

We wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. This fridge has been so reliable. Yes it was bought as a mid-range model, but has exceeded our expectations. I fully expect it to last many more years. In fact it will soon be pressed into service as a full time freezer in our expedition vehicle.

Hopefully, we’ll do a 20 year review!

So if you’re looking to buy a reliable mid-range fridge, a Waeco CF-50 is a great choice.


In Summary

Pros:

  • Competitively priced.
  • Accurate control of temperature within a small range.
  • Proven to maintain set temperature, even in extreme heat.
  • Will comfortably maintain -18 degrees C in hot conditions.
  • 3 position battery monitor to prevent battery draining or battery damage.
  • Easy to clean.
  • Last-lasting and durable.Internal lighting is sufficient.
  • Removable basket allows large items to be stored.
  • Can stand up a 2 litre milk or juice bottle in the main compartment.

Cons:

  • The lid hinges are a known weak point.
  • The supplied cigarette lighter plugs are not up to the job and should be replaced with an Anderson plug.

 


  • How old is your fridge?
  • Do you have an old clunker that refuses to die?
  • Or have you have a bad experience with a portable fridge?

Let me know in the Comments section below.


Any errors or omissions are mine alone.

For more product Reviews and useful Articles, go here.

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