Dometic cooler alternatives?


Has anyone had any luck with any of the other compressor fridge/coolers out there? I’ve been looking into this one from costway that has some pretty stellar reviews on amazon:

It seems most of the blogs I come across all point to dometic, but there seem to be a lot of alternatives out there such as this as well:

Just wondering if anyone else has any other suggestions or experience with any of the other brands. I’m all for reliability but $1k is pretty steep compared to a lot of these other options. Thanks.



After going through 3 of the big name brand ones (Whynter, Engel, & Dometic) in 2.5 years, I will NEVER buy another 12v only ice chest style fridge from anyone. They’re all cheap chinese garbage, the customer service sucks, and the warranties are worthless. They’re all energy hogs, and they add a ton of heat to your interior in the summer. The repair shops are practically non-existent, and will cost you as much as just replacing it. I switched back to a good old fashioned ice chest and have never been happier.

The only people promoting this junk is people looking for suckers to get a big payday. If you must have a 12v only fridge instead of a much more efficient 3-way (Propane, 12v, 120/240v), then shop the big box stores for a dorm fridge that is 12v and has a wall wart to plug in that converts 120v/240v to 12v, and make you a car cord for it if it doesn’t already come with one. They’re frequently on sale for under $100 and come with a freezer. I had a motor home that the previous owner had replaced the original fridge with one of these, and it worked great for the couple of years I had it. It cost him $69 at Builders Square, because he included the receipt and the manual when I bought the motor home.

All the junk the promoters push these days, solar panels & controllers, roof vents, fridges, batteries, inverters, heaters, etc. etc. are cheap chinese junk being sold for high prices so the promoters can make big paychecks. My total conversion cost under $300, and includes everything including being capable of very extreme hot and cold temperatures, unlimited power, a toilet & shower, kitchen, comfy bed & seating, work desk/table. Fully self contained WINDOW van, NOT a cargo van. With a passenger van, the interior is already finished, just remove the seats and move your new furniture in and secure it. Opening windows and a $20 fan work 10x better than a $200+ roof vent, and no normal person really wants to live in a windowless box and constantly need to hide out because they got suckered into a cargo van. Smart, comfy & reliable conversions can be done very cheap if you can just ignore all the promoters.

Dollar stores, thrift stores, yard sales, truck stops, and big box stores are your friends in this lifestyle, not some clown on the internet that is quick to spend YOUR money! Any HONEST full time van dweller will tell you that cheap but reliable and comfortable is the ONLY way to succeed in this lifestyle. Otherwise you’re just creating a money pit for yourself. You want everything to be cheap and easily replaceable almost anywhere. Almost everything these days is built to be disposable rather than repairable, and you don’t want to be waiting days, weeks, or even months for a replacement to arrive. Always buy cheap & LOCAL!

If you must have an actual fridge and can’t find a cheap 12v dorm fridge, there are directions online to tell you how to use a 120v/240v one with an inverter and a temperature probe to shut off the inverter when the fridge doesn’t need the power, so the inverter isn’t wasting any power. This is still actually more energy efficient than the 12v fridges the promoters want you to buy. For me, I’ll stick to my $40 ice chest and 99¢ a week big block of ice. Simple, efficient, and nothing to break.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller


FWIW, I choose the Ausranvik. $350 is not that much and all the reviews seem to lead to them having stellar customer service. My ride is a partial tear down of a 1983 dodge xplorer 228. It was finished, but the 40 year old shag carpeting had to go. I have the option of a 3 way as I already have propane on board. Propane scares the poo out of me though and I would rather avoid explosive gases if I can.

I do not though see your point in not adding solar panels though. As in, where are you getting your unlimited power from? I have to run a laptop for my day job and I don’t want my engine running 24/7 to charge my house battery so I can use it 8 hours a day.



I don’t like propane either, and choose kerosene instead for heating, cooking, and optional occasional lighting.

The newer 12v ice chest style fridges are all junk. 10 years ago, I went through 3 of them in 2 1/2 years. 30+ years ago. I had an Electrolux one that lasted 10+ years, and was still working when I upgraded to a motor home that had a built in fridge/freezer. These newer ones are also power hogs, 100ah+ per day in the summer, plus they add a lot of extra heat to your interior when you don’t want it. I’ve switched back to a cheap and reliable ice chest that requires no power at all.

99% of the time my unlimited power comes from charging my house battery via an isolator while driving. Having just solar didn’t work for me, 3 different set ups, all professionally installed, and I still spent most of my time without power. After the 3rd failure, I added an isolator, and that totally solved my power problems. Later, after my solar panels were stolen, I still had plenty of power WITHOUT the solar panels at all. Looking back, this was now the exact same system that all my other camper vans and motor homes had to charge the house batteries without solar power. Normally, all the power I ever needed, even though I do very little driving.

I am normally a city dweller, and only drive maybe 2-3 times a week and just around town, out to eat every few days, the grocery store every week or so, the laundromat, maybe to spend a day at a park etc. Each excursion might take 15-20 minutes each way. This gives me all the power I need, but I am also pretty power frugal. My laptop will run for 8-10 hours on a full charge, and it only takes about a half hour to fully charge while I’m using it. I usually charge everything including the house battery when I’m driving, and then charge my laptop daily when I’m not driving from my house battery.

My typical house battery is 100-120 amp hour deep cycle battery, which will last about a week between any charging, but unless I’m boondocking, it gets some charging every few days. If I’m not driving for over a week, then I can recharge my house battery using my $99 generator combined with a $29 battery charger. My generator will run for about 8 hours on a gallon of gas, and it rarely takes more than half an hour to fully charge my house battery.

Unlike with solar, when I was paying $350+ each for 2 house batteries that the solar killed in under a year, today I buy a single ~$20 house battery from a junk yard that’s almost new, and they will last 5-7 years because they are getting charged properly.

With the combination of charging while driving and an el cheapo generator, you will have unlimited power that isn’t dependent on unpredictable weather. I only need my generator very rarely, and it’s normal use is charging other people’s batteries who are relying on solar.

If you choose to go with a 12v compressor fridge, then you’ll need about 3x the battery capacity I have, and it will take probably 3x the time to charge them as well. Simply not worth it to most of us. None of my friends still use them, to expensive and too power hungry. My friends are using propane/kerosene fridges, dorm fridges, or plain old ice chests. During the summer I gift wrap my ice chest in a moving blanket, and a 99¢ block of ice will last at least a week. That’s only ~$50 a year for ice, and nothing to break. I keep my ice in a separate container, so my food never gets wet. A friend has a version that is both an ice chest and an air cooler, dual purpose, and very handy during the summer. I use a separate swamp cooler myself, which is also very energy efficient, and works every bit as well as any energy hog air conditioner.

If we do things right, we can have energy efficient, convenient, full featured, and reliable setups for a very low cost. Example: I use a $12 O2Cool 12v, 10" window fan from Walmart to provide much better ventilation than a $250+ roof vent with a fan, and don’t need to worry about leaks in the roof either.

Unlike the promoters who support themselves off from the purchases made by newbies relying on their bad advice, I have many years of experience, including many failures, and I support myself, so I can afford to tell people the truth. I share both my successes and my failures in an attempt to help others, and solar, roof vents, 12v compressor fridges, and expensive batteries are among the top failures of both myself and everybody I know.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller


Well… either way, I’m going to give the fridge a shot. Call me a glutton for punishment. What size alternator is on your rig. I have a 100amp alternator and that runs an isolator (solid state) then to my house battery and then to my starting battery, so I have that hooked in already.

What I’m worried about is my alternator ruining my house battery via overcharging,. I need to trace the lines back, but I think it goes directly from the isolator to the house battery with two 30 amp breakers in between. I’m an unsure as to how large a battery I need or if I could put in two 100ah batteries in there and charge them from the alternator.

I am going to purchase a generator, but I understand noise can be a complaint at campgrounds. I can hook that right into the 30amp hookup and that also would charge my batteries if need be. I will have to check with the junk yard near by. I did not think of that when looking for batteries, but it might save me some money. My laptop will drain itself in about 3 hours if i’m not careful. I use a lot of power intensive programs for work work so it really does not take long.

Let me know if you thing the alternator could charge two batteries or if I should but some other kind of device in between to protect the battery life.



we use the Whyntner dual zone and it works great for us



Not sure what size my alternator is, just whatever my van came with…

Your isolator should NOT be hooked up to your alternator, it should be hooked up between your starting battery and your house battery(s). Done that way it will never overcharge anything. It should charge a couple of batteries without a problem.

If you’re staying in a campground where a generator might bug others, get a campsite with power, run an extension cord in and connect it to a power strip. Then plug a regular $29 harbor freight or elsewhere automatic battery charger into the outlet strip. Then you can also use the shore power for everything else, while charging your house battery(s) at the same time.

When you’re in a place nobody cares and there is no shore power available, then you can run your generator.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller


The layout of the isolator came that way from the factory when it was built in the 80’s, and also the way the instructions that come with the isolater show to do it basically the same as this video at 54seconds almost certain this is the same isolator I have. Between my isolator and the house battery are two 30 amp type 1 breakers. The ones that reset themselves. ( not 100% sure of their purpose, possibly to prevent an overcharge from the alternator or the 110 charger? I do know my alternator runs a little high at around 15.0 volts before the car gets to running temp so it may fall down a bit. Although since switching to an AGM battery that 30 amp breaker seems to kick off or it’s seen better days. Going to get a new one to rule that out. They’re only about $4.

My charger for 110 actually charges the batter and also has some type of 12v inverter built into it so I if I completely disconnect my battery and am plugged into shore power I can still run everything on 12v.

With all this I might remove the solid state isolator in favor of a smart isolator and I may remove my 110 converter/charger as well in favor of something newer and just rewire everything. I think I could get it all done for a few couple hundred dollars and not have to worry about it anymore.

For the record this fridge is actually working out super well.




Interesting… I’ve had 2 different Dodge Xplorers, a 1982 with the lowered floor, and a 1986 with normal floor and the high top. I’ve also had many other camper vans and motor homes over the years, and not a single one of them ever had the isolator, relay, or solonoid hooked up to the alternator, and everybody I’ve known who has followed directions to hook them up directly to the alternator had nothing but problems.

That being said, I am mainly familiar with the stuff from the 70’s & 80’s. Even as old as they are, I never had an original one fail on me. Maybe some of the newer isolators are different, but I’ll stick to the original type and the original hook up procedures.

Here’s the diagram from a 1973 Dodge Travco Camper Van (Mine), and as far as I can remember it has been pretty much identical to all the rest I’ve had.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller



NEVER disconnect your house battery when plugged into shore power!!!


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller



I practically never used the onboard converter/chargers and opted for a simple, cheap, automatic battery charger instead.

I practically never have shore power, so the battery charger, along with my generator can charge either my house battery or my starting battery if needed. (Or other people’s batteries…)


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller


This is the ‘83 with the dropped floor and it fits us well so far. We’re both under 5’10’’. From that diagram it looks like a solenoid isolator and not a solid state. I’m not sure if the type of isolator makes a difference and I’m certainly no expert.

Just wondering though, what would be the issue with disconnecting the batter when connected to shore power? The 30 amp break on the side of the box basically does just that. At least it would disconnect the positive side, but negative would always lead to ground. I figured this out the other day when my battery wasn’t charging. That breaker kicked and did not reset itself as intended. Everything 12v was still working. I only realized that it was kicked when I shut off the main breaker for the shore power. At this point everything 12v went out. Switched the main breaker back on and everything 12v came up again.


Almost everything these days is built to be disposable rather than repairable, and you don’t want to be waiting days, weeks, or even months for a replacement to arrive.



In many systems, the battery is required to regulate the 12v output to give you clean steady power, and you can damage the converter/charger by not having a battery hooked up at all times. Converter/chargers very rarely go bad unless they’re hooked up without a battery. A very common and costly mistake.


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller