Three best garage door openers

Bob Beacham

A WiFi-enabled garage door opener can be controlled by smartphone or smart home systems, but check the specifications.

A good garage door opener isn't just one of life's convenient little luxuries. It gets you in and out of the house without getting soaked when it's pouring rain. It can light your garage automatically when you get home. It increases your home security. It can be part of a smart home system. And it can warn you via smartphone if someone enters your home without permission.

There are many garage door openers to choose from, and with prices starting at a little over $150 and seldom exceeding $350, there is a model to suit most budgets.

To help you choose the right one for your home, we've put together this garage door opener buying guide. It covers all the technical, security, and safety aspects you need to understand when making your decision.

Considerations when choosing garage door openers

Power: Garage door opener motors are either AC (cheap and reliable) or DC (quieter and maintenance-free). The terminology can be confusing: AC motors are rated by horsepower (hp), which most of us are comfortable with. DC motors can be either horsepower comparable (hpc) or horsepower similar (hps). Specifications are complicated but for our purposes not different enough to matter. Motor output ranges from 1/4 hp (not recommended) through 1/2 and 3/4 hp (adequate for most garage doors up to eight feet tall) to 1 hp (which will handle large and heavy doors (such as those made from solid wood).

Drive: There are three types of drive: chain, direct, and belt.

Chain drive is the most economical. It's strong but stretches, so it needs occasional maintenance. It can also be noisy. It's not recommended when there are bedrooms alongside or above the garage.

Direct drive uses a substantial threaded rod. It's reliable and requires minimal maintenance. It's also quieter than a chain drive but a little more expensive.

Belt drive is the premium option. The toothed belt is very durable, nearly silent, and maintenance-free.

Garage door opener features

Battery backup: The only problem with a powered garage door is when the power goes out! Some can be operated manually, but some lock down, which is good from a security standpoint but can be inconvenient. Top models have battery backup, so the remotes and keypads still function.

Codes: Security is, of course, a major consideration. All garage door openers operate with access codes, but it's possible they could be intercepted and cloned. The solution is called "rolling code," which changes every time the door is used. With billions of potential combinations, it's the safest option available. It also prevents other radio frequency devices from interfering with your door or opening it by accident.

Wireless control: HomeLink and other in-car systems are popular, but it's important to check compatibility. There may also be additional costs.

Smart systems: Smart home and smartphone systems offer an increasing number of options. These are often add-ons to existing garage door openers, and knowing which device or app does what can be confusing. It's vital to base your decision on what's available at the time of purchase. Apps may promise increased functionality "in the future," but promises aren't always delivered!

Time delay: Some garage openers have a time delay, so you don't need to remember to hit the Close button.

Height: A standard garage door is seven feet tall. If yours is taller, you might need to buy extension rails. Check when ordering.

Lights: Many garage door openers have lights built in, but, frustratingly, bulbs are often not included!


Q. Is it difficult to install a garage door opener?

A. Most manufacturers say it's a one-person job. We recommend two. Not only does it make things easier but there's also someone there to double-check what you're doing. If you're moderately confident with a standard toolkit, the mechanical procedure is straightforward. It's unlikely to take all day. Electrical connections are often non-polarized, making that aspect easier. However, if you're in any doubt, consult an expert.

Q. What's to stop the door closing on someone or something?

A. Since 1993, the law in the U.S. has ensured the safety of property, people, and pets by insisting that all garage door openers have an auto-reverse system. It's usually activated by an infrared beam. You might come across cheap garage door openers from some sources that don't have this feature. Don't be tempted. They aren't legal.

Garage door openers we recommend

Best of the best: Chamberlain B730 Garage Door Opener

Our take: Exceptional quality from the market leader. Feature-packed yet affordable.

What we like: High-performance motor. Quiet drive with battery backup. Long-range remotes. Rolling code security. Compatible with smartphone control (costs extra).

What we dislike: Not much. Instructions could be clearer (online videos help).

Best bang for your buck: Decko 24300 Heavy Duty Garage Door Opener

Our take: Durable model with good feature set for the budget-conscious family.

What we like: Low-cost opener with strong 3/4 hp motor. Simple installation. Flexible entry options. Can accommodate oversize doors (extension kit costs extra).

What we dislike: Noisier than other types.

Choice 3: Genie SilentMax 1200 Garage Door Opener 

Our take: The benefits of belt drive at a surprisingly low cost.

What we like: Quiet, powerful mechanism. Easy to install. Multiple access options. All the safety and security features you need.

What we dislike: Higher than average number of fault reports.

Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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