FAQs: Undercounter Ice Makers vs. Portable Ice Makers

If you find yourself buying bags of ice or filing up pesky ice trays on a daily basis, you may benefit greatly by purchasing an ice maker. They’re perfect for RVs, boats, entertaining guests, small offices, and for personal use in your home. When beginning your search for the one that suits your needs, the first step is deciding whether you need an undercounter or a portable ice maker.

Here we’ve compared what differentiates the two to make your choice as simple as possible.

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Portable Ice Maker

Portable Ice Makers

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Ice Production & Capacity

Portable Ice Makers:
Great for residential use and can typically produce around 22 lbs a day. To put this into perspective, they can make slightly more than two 10 pound bags you might pick up at your local grocery store or gas station. These generally have a storage capacity of between 1½-3 lbs.

However, keep in mind while well-insulated portable units are not freezers and will not keep ice frozen for long. To get the most out of what they’re producing you may consider placing the ice in your freezer once the basket is full.

Undercounter Ice Makers:
Produce considerably more ice than portables, as much as 86 lbs per day depending on the model. They will also keep the ice frozen for a longer period of time and some will even function as a freezer. Storage capacity is also far greater than portables, generally between 22-26 lbs.

Undercounter Ice Maker

Undercounter Ice Makers

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Usage & Size Comparison

Portable Ice Makers:
Portable units are compact and most commonly used in RVs, boats, and on countertops. With a height and depth typically around 13-14½” and width 9-12”, you won’t have a hard time finding a place to put one.

Undercounter Ice Makers:
Undercounter units also referred to as “built-in” ice makers are most commonly placed under countertops. A great benefit is the ability to blend them in with your existing cabinetry; many people use them to replace trash compactors or other unwanted appliances.

They are also versatile enough to be used in a freestanding application. Some are even made for use outdoors which is perfect for an outdoor kitchen, hosting parties, or use in your garage. Sizes are typically between 24-34” tall and most will be 15” wide.


Portable Ice Makers:
All portable units are completely self-contained and will not require access to a water line or drain. Just pour the water in and once the ice melts the water will be recycled to make more ice.

Undercounter Ice Makers:
All undercounter ice makers will require access to a water line and many will require a drain. Some will also act as a freezer and keep the ice frozen; these units will not require a drain. Professional installation is generally recommended. Another important thing to keep in mind when purchasing an undercounter unit is to also purchase an in-line filter along with it. Not only will it keep the ice tasting great, but will also extend the life of your ice maker by preventing minerals from building up inside the machine.

Read More: Why You Should Use a Filter in Your Ice Machine

Different Types of Ice

Portable Ice Makers:
Portable units currently make two types of ice: bullet and clear ice. Bullet ice is what the name implies, it is shaped like a bullet with a hole in the center and has a cloudy look to it. This type of ice is considered quite soft and is also the most common type of ice portable units make. Clear ice is thicker and typically shaped like a cube, much like the quality of ice you would get from a restaurant.

Undercounter Ice Makers:
Undercounter units make a much wider variety of ice such as crescent half-moon shaped ice, clear cube, gourmet, and nugget ice, the highly desirable and chewable Sonic style ice.

Read More: 6 Shapes & Types of Ice

Price Range

  • Portable units vary from $119 – $300.
  • Undercounter units vary from under $300 to over $3,000. This wide range is due to size, quality of ice, and indoor vs. outdoor rated.

A portable ice maker is right for you if you have limited space and no access for permanent installation. Due to their small size you can easily find a space on your countertop or store them and only take them out when needed for traveling, BBQs, or small events. Lastly, they’re very affordable so you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank by purchasing one.

If you have a higher demand for ice and desire to integrate an ice maker into your cabinets, then an undercounter ice maker is a better choice for you. With such high production and capacity, you will never have to worry about running out of ice.

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