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Remote Starter Buying Guide

Getting into a vehicle when it’s blistering hot or freezing cold isn’t pleasant. Either the seats burn the back of your legs and you immediately start a full-body sweat, or your teeth start to chatter and the seat cushions feel like fabric-covered bricks. A remote car starter can fire up the engine without the key present, allowing you to get the climate control going and the fluids circulating before you climb inside.

A remote starter uses a radio or cellular signal from a remote or phone to send a command for your vehicle to start. After a pre-determined time, typically 15 minutes, the engine shuts off. If you enter your vehicle before the remote start times out, all you need to do is put the key in the ignition to the ‘run’ position or press the ignition button, then put your car in drive and go.

Remote start is a factory option for many models, but if your vehicle wasn’t equipped with it originally, you can have an aftermarket remote car starter installed. It’s usually between $100 and $500 for the parts, and it can take a pro between an hour and three hours to install it.

If you’re shopping for a remote start system, this buying guide will help you figure out the type you want, which features are important, and what else you need to consider.

Types of Remote Starters

There are three types of systems available to start your car remotely: one-way, two-way, and smartphone-compatible starters.

  • A one-way starter communicates in one direction between the remote and the vehicle, and it’s by far the most common type. When you press the button or sequence to start your vehicle, it sends a signal to the vehicle. If the car is within range, it starts and flashes the lights marker lights to indicate it’s running. But no signal is sent back to the remote, so unless you have line of sight with your car, you don’t know that it’s running.
  • A two-way remote starter communicates with the vehicle via a remote also, but once the engine starts, a signal is sent back to the remote to indicate that it’s going. Two-way remotes either have an LED light or an LCD screen to indicate the vehicle’s status, so you don’t need to be able to see your vehicle to confirm that it’s running.
  • Smartphone starting functionality is essentially a different type of two-way remote starter that uses cellular rather than radio frequency to communicate. As long as your vehicle and your device have a cell signal, you can fire up the engine from wherever you are.

Features of Remote Starters

Of course, the main benefit or feature of a remote start system is the ability to pre-condition the interior temperature by starting the engine remotely, hence the name. But there are other features available.

Many, if not all, remote start systems are capable of integrating with your power door locks. If you didn’t previously have remote keyless entry but you have power locks, it’s a great option to enable that feature.

Some systems can act as a turbo timer also, letting you leave your vehicle running unattended without keys in it to let it cool down.

Also, some systems are compatible with an alarm, especially two-way systems. By wiring in a few extra circuits, a siren, and sensors, you can better protect your vehicle from theft or damage.

And for cellular-enabled systems, advanced controls can be put in place such as geo-fencing, speed limiters, ignition lockout, and vehicle location services.

Considerations when Purchasing a Remote Starter

When you’re shopping for a remote starter, the system you choose will be priced according to its capabilities and features, and there are several you should consider.

  • Range is a major factor. Some factory remote starters and entry-level systems are limited to around 50 feet or so. Good-quality aftermarket remote starters stretch that to 1,000 feet, while FM-frequency remote starters can go up to 2,500 feet – sometimes more. Cell-enabled smartphone remote car starters have an unlimited range, as long as there’s signal.
  • Ease of install is also a consideration. Some systems are complicated to wire in while others are designed almost as easy as plug and play. However, if your vehicle has an immobilizer or chipped key, it gets more complex and it’s probably best left for a pro.
  • Key fobs. If there’s more than one driver, you might want to add more fobs. However, some systems are limited to what comes in the kit while others can be expanded. Also, two-way fobs are costly to replace if they’re lost or damaged.
  • Compatibility. Although most remote start kits are ‘universal’, some may need additional parts to function with manual transmission vehicles or other model-specific functions.

If you’re looking to buy a remote start for a car, AutoZone can help you get the right one for your vehicle. Shop a wide selection of vehicle accessories to make your life easier from brands you trust, and get Trustworthy Advice from our associates.

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FAQ/People Also Ask

What is a remote starter?

A remote starter is a device that allows you to start your car from a distance without having to be inside it.

How does a remote starter work?

It uses a radio or cell signal to activate the ignition, allowing you to start the engine remotely using a handheld key fob or smartphone app.

What types of remote starters are available?

One-way remote starters, two-way starters, and smartphone-compatible starters are all available.

What are the features of remote starters?

Along with remotely starting your engine, many systems have options like a panic alarm, keyless entry, trunk release, perimeter alarm, and remote shutdown and location features.

What should I consider when purchasing a remote starter?

Consider the range you need to start your vehicle,the number of key fobs you require, compatibility with your vehicle, and who is going to install the system.

Can I use a remote starter with a manual transmission vehicle?

Yes, it’s possible. However, it needs to be installed properly to prevent an accident when the remote start button is pressed.

Can I use my smartphone to control a remote starter?

There are remote starters with smartphone compatibility, however, it’s not universal.

How far can I be from my car and still start it using a remote starter?

For systems operating on an AM frequency, the typical range is 1,000 feet or less. For FM frequencies, that range extends up to 2,500 feet. A cellular-enabled system has an unlimited range as long as the vehicle and device both have signal.

Are there any safety concerns with using a remote starter?

Yes. A remote starter should only be used where there’s plenty of ventilation.

Can I install a remote starter myself or should I have it professionally installed?

It depends on your vehicle. Some systems require professional programming whereas others are simple to wire in.

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