Waeco CFX vs Engel – a Campfire Debate


Like Holden and Ford, Land cruiser and Patrol, you will not find a topic that causes greater divide around the campfire than an Engel or Waeco debate?

Which one really is the best portable fridge?

Rather than listening to stories about someone’s mate’s uncle’s neighbour that had a fridge that didn’t work very well… let me take you through some key differences so you can make up your own mind.

Which fridge is more reliable?

  • It cannot be argued that when it comes to reliability Engel is the clear winner. With a company history spanning over 50 years, it is not uncommon to hear of an Engel still functioning after 40 years.
  • The Engel is built with a steel exterior and there are plenty of story’s of Engels surviving endless outback tracks, falls from the back of ute trays and vehicle rollovers.
  • Waeco has been leading the pack when it comes to product development. Unfortunately, that has made them the guinea pigs when it comes to new technology
  • In the early days Waeco were not known for their reliability, but on our experience to date, the CFX range looks to be changing this.
  • After chatting with one of Adelaide’s leading fridge repairers, it seems the Waeco CFX is tremendously reliable, especially in comparison with its older CF counterpart.
  • Time will tell how the CFX competes in a battle of reliability.

What features do they have?

  • Both fridges have battery protection and the ability to set the temperature.
  • Both fridges will run from 12 or 240V
  • The Waeco has a built in Bung for washing out the interior making it easier to clean.
  • The Waeco CFX range has elements flush with the sides, while the Engel cooling elements are attached to the side, this creates a gap that is hard to clean.
  • Waeco has a USB output so you can charge mobile devices or lighting etc.

Engel MT45FP 40 Litre Fridge Freezer

The Engel MT45FP Fridge Freezer. A fine size for an outback 4WDing trip or long weekend away.

How much power do they draw?

Power draw is extremely variable as there are many factors to consider such as

  • the ambient temperature
  • what setting you have your fridge on
  • what’s inside the fridge and how cold was it before you put it in there
  • how often you open the lid

Find out how to increase your fridge efficiency here.

Let’s assume both fridges are operating in identical conditions and power consumption is calculated as an average over 24 hours. Both are current 40Ltr models.

  • At low ambient temperatures (20 – 30deg) both fridges will use similar amounts of power, both are considered very economical.
  • When the temperature heats up (40deg +) the Engel will start to use more power than the Waeco, in fact up to 3 times more power according to recent testing by 4WD Action
  • UPDATE: The comment above referring to the Engel using up to 3 times more power than the Waeco was based on information published in issue 228 (Jan 2015) of 4WD Action, this has since been claimed to be incorrect by Engel. There was a piece published on their website explaining this but it has since been removed.
  • The Engel will still use a little more power for the reasons below, but it is not as much as previously thought.
  • The Waeco is still one of the most efficient fridges on the market.

Why does Engel use more power?

  • The Engel compressor uses less moving parts making it very efficient when in cooler conditions.
  • Their compressor is limited to a maximum 2.5amps per hour.
  • This design means it runs out of puff very quickly, and before long it will be on flat out trying to stay cool, and will remain running almost constantly using more power over a 24 hour period.
  • Engels are made from metal, and whilst they are very strong, metal conducts more heat than plastic. It’s much harder keeping a hot metal box cold than the plastic ones.

Why is the Waeco so efficient?

  • Waeco use a variable speed compressor that has the ability to work harder in the hot conditions.
  • This allows the fridge to cool down quickly so it can turn itself off and “cycle” which reduced the average power consumption.

Dometic Waeco CFX 35W Fridge Freezer

The popular Waeco CFX-35 Fridge Freezer. Ideal size for a couple travelling on an extended camping trip, or even a weekend.

Where are Engel and Waeco made?

  • Whilst Engel used to be made in Japan, to compete with price manufacturing is now in China.
  • Waeco fridges are made in China and used to have the German “Danfoss” now known as SECOP compressor in them. The CFX range runs a new compressor also made in China.

The Verdict

Honestly, I don’t think anyone would be disappointed with either of these fridges.

There is a lot to be said about Engel’s reliable history, but you pay extra for this and sacrifice a little on efficiency.

You don’t get this reliable history with a Waeco CFX yet, but the efficiency, functionality and lower price tag make them great value for money.

In my humble opinion, the Waeco out spec’s the Engel on paper and appears to be much better value for money. I must add that I have had a Waeco since 2010, it has never missed a beat, and uses less power than my mate’s Engel every time…. he loves to hear about it!

Have you used an Engel or a Waeco? Post your opinion in the comments below (let’s keep it clean and friendly).