Of all the unit’s people come into my store to replace, the most common – by far – is the Sub-Zero 532. This was the main Sub-Zero refrigeration workhorse of the 90’s. I even had one in my own home. These things were tanks, they held their temp and lasted forever. In fact, when we pulled ours out of our home in 2008 it had been running since 1991, and is still running in a friends garage today. Many of the units that are being replaced are around 20-24 years old, and times have changed quite a bit since then. Sub-Zero has had two model changes, both with improved feature sets and fit and finish – as well as dramatic changes in price.

The progression: 532 < 632 < BI48

The 532 was the flagship model from the 80’s all the way to the mid-90’s. It had the dual compressor, sealed system innovation of it’s time, and was one of the only built-in fridges on the market at the time. It’s price: around $3,000.

In came the 632, with an automatic defrosting system and improved interior storage. This unit was kept in production in around 2008, when the new BI nomenclature came into being. It’s price at the time: around $7,000.

The BI48 came to the market as an entirely different beast, with the addition of a whole new redesign of the interior of the unit, with an addition of sophisticated air purification technology and a much improved water filtration system. It’s price tag now hovers around $10,000.

The pricing heart-attack

Inevitably, the first thing a customer says when I quote them a price of a new BI-48 is “what??” With a three fold price in 20 years, you’re bound to shock the customer. Now, don’t get me wrong – this machine is a whole new beast in every way and in my opinion is worth every dollar – but for some, that is a big pill to swallow.

On the up-side, the new unit features even MORE storage space, and requires ZERO changes to existing cabinetry or electrical work. As far as exterior size goes, it is identical to the older units. And unfortunately, unless your doing a complete remodel, a different built-in unit from another manufacturer is likely to require some retrofitting.

For the faint of wallet – other possible options:

The sad fact is that replacing your old Sub-Zero with any other built-in brand is not going hurt much “less”. For example, going to a Kitchenaid or GE Monogram might net you $1,300 dollars – a good amount of savings, but then you’re getting a completely different product, and if you liked your old Sub-Zero, you’re going to probably view it as a step down.

One other option people tend to overlook is what I call the BO cheat. You can buy a BO48S/O (overlay refrigerator) and add a stainless steel panel kit and still come out around $1,000 ahead. The only downside to this method is that you give up is the bulky looking wrapped stainless doors that come on the BI-48S. One upside to this method is that should you ever redesign your kitchen and want to put custom wood panels on your refrigerator you can just switch the panels out.

If you have any questions regarding specific situations that I might be able to guide you on, feel free to contact me.

Anthony Rocco

About The Author

Founder and Editor of Appliance Buyer's Guide. With over 10 years experience selling appliances and designing kitchens, and having grown up in the business, I have a unique perspective on todays offerings in the Appliance world. Currently Managing Director at The Kitchenworks in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

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9 Responses

  1. Eveline

    Hi Anthony
    Our 18 year old 532 just went dead 2 month after moving in…What brand/model would you recommend for that space without us getting a heart attack?
    Thank you for advising!

    • aarocco

      Without getting a heart attack?.. Probably not. Prices on any built-in refrigerator these days, no matter the company, are very expensive. One of the cheapest brands out there for built-in options would probably be Leibherr, but you would still be looking at a price tag in the $7k range without SS panels. Many people are buying homes right now with Old Sub-Zero’s in them thinking they are getting a deal, but they don’t realize that replacing that unit is costly no matter which way you go.

  2. Andrew

    I have a similar subzero fridge that came with the house. I think it’s from when the house was built, which was 1993. I am thinking of replacing the white panels with stainless steel sheets, but even that could be pricey. I was wondering…if and when the fridge dies, can I replace just the pump or cooling system (the unit that’s above the fridge), instead of replacing the entire thing?

    • jbradfor

      Yes, although you’ll get a heart attack at the repair bill as well. The Subzeros have two compressors, one for the fridge, one for the freezer; replacing EACH one is about $1000 – $1500. Plus, there are other parts that can break as well.

  3. jbradfor

    GE Profile also sells built-in, can be $2000 cheaper than the Monogram line. Maybe be hard to find places that have them in a showroom, seems most stores want to sell the more expensive ones.

  4. Waffle Weave

    I have a Subzero 532 from 1987. We’ve had it since 2001 when we purchased the house. We remodeled our kitchen with the unit so it is part of the decor. We are now facing the need for a new compressor for the refrigerator. While I am inclined to go ahead with the repair, I am looking down the road at an eventual replacement. i would either consider a built in again or am interested in checking out traditional units and retrofitting the cabinetry. At what point do you think it is not in our best interest to keep sinking money into an old unit? And, what are good solid replacements for a 36″ space for less than $5K?

    • Appliance Buyer's Guide

      I have bad news for you, there is no 36″ Built-In that is less than 5k. The cheapest ones by the worst manufacturers are 6k+. A sub-zero replacement will run you right around 9k. In my personal opinion in a scenario like that your best option is to bite the bullet and replace it with another Sub-zero. You could save money, yes, by putting a Marvel or a GE Monogram, but they won’t last anywhere close to as long as your Sub, they won’t be built like your Sub, you will be disappointed and will have only saved yourself a grand or two. It’s just not worth it IMO.

  5. Debbie Tuck

    We’re in escrow on a foreclosure built in 1997. I assume we have a 632. On inspection it was cooling, but I’m planning on a service call and possibly stainless panels. Can you tell me how much that might cost – given nothing is seriously wrong? 🙂 thanks!

  6. Dr Kat

    Just bought a Subzero 632 from Restore. Was new and stored. However the entire water filtration unit missing. What is this called when I am looking for parts

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