Three best remote car starters

Rich Gray

Some two-way remotes let you receive car information on the remote itself to monitor internal temperature, whether the car is running, and if it’ s locked.

If you've ever slid behind the frozen wheel of a car on a frigid winter morning or baked in your car on a midsummer commute, then you understand the appeal of a remote car starter. Being able to have your vehicle at a comfortable temperature before you climb in helps make sure that every trip, whether long or short, will be that much more enjoyable.

But where do you start? This guide takes you through some of the features and other issues you will want to consider before buying a remote car starter.

Considerations when choosing remote car starters

A basic remote car starter starts your vehicle at the push of a button, and that's all it does. But some starters go way beyond that.

Prepare your car

If your vehicle is already set up with features such as a trunk release, heated seats, or a rear window defroster, you can take advantage of these and trigger them remotely with some remote car starters.

Locate your car

If you easily lose your car in parking lots, some remotes have a button that triggers your horn. Some also let you remotely activate your dome light, which can help you find your car and also serves as an after-dark safety feature. Some remotes also incorporate a panic button.

Protect your car

Other safety features that are common in these remotes include an under-hood cutoff switch that activates when the hood is raised, making it impossible to remotely start the car. An anti-grind feature prevents grinding your starter if you try to turn the key when the car is already running. You can also find starters with two-way remotes, which you can use to receive information about your car via the remote.

Remote car starter features

Super-size starters: Some remote starters are paired with anti-theft systems and/or keyless entry systems, all of which can be run through the remote. If you were thinking of buying one of these systems at some point, it might be worth it to pay a little more and combine it with the remote starter.

Expand your range: Remote starters have different ranges, or transmitter power, and it's important that you know what range you need at home and away. Just because you can comfortably start your car while you're sitting in your living room doesn't mean that you'll be able to start it when you're at a restaurant or leaving the mall. Range can extend from several hundred feet up to a mile or more, but even then these numbers are best-case scenarios and don't take into account any obstacles or existing RF interference in the area. One rule of thumb here: it's worth it to pay a little more to improve the range.

Remote car starter prices: Low-end units start at around $50. You can expect to pay $200 or more for more full-featured remote starter kits. This may be only your initial cost, however. If you have it professionally installed, and depending on how complicated the installation is, expect that price to at least double.


Q. Can I use my smartphone with my remote car starter?

A. Some models now give you the ability to download an app to use with the remote starter. These often offer two-way capabilities in addition to serving as a fob to start your car.

Q. Should I have my remote car starter professionally installed?

A. You might be better off going with professional installation for several reasons. Cars today are complex, and these remote starters are tapping into a variety of different systems to control them. You should be really comfortable with what you're doing before attempting to install one of these yourself because you could end up damaging your vehicle. And if you install one yourself and do damage your vehicle, you could also void your vehicle warranty. Check the fine print on your warranty before wading into an installation.

Remote car starters we recommend

Best of the best: Viper 2-Way Car Security System

Our take: Works effectively up to one mile. The antenna could be a little sturdier.

What we like: Company is a leader in the field. Combines a remote starter and security system in one.

What we dislike: The antenna is not durable and breaks a little too easily.

Best bang for your buck: Avital Remote Start System

Our take: Bargain remote starter with a rich feature set.

What we like: Packed with features that you'd expect to pay more for. Easy to use.

What we dislike: Remotes are not that large, making them easy to misplace.

Choice 3: Compustar 1-Way Remote Start 

Our take: Highly popular with consumers, it impresses the majority of owners. Potential buyers who don't want to perform their own installation should anticipate extra costs.

What we like: It has an impressive 1,000-ft. range and is compatible with diesel vehicles, too.

What we dislike: Range may not be quite as large if there are obstructions. A bit of knowledge is needed to install.

Rich Gray 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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