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Remote Start Buying Guide

A comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need to find the best remote start system for your car.

Getting Started

Whether it's the dead of winter or the height of summer, getting into a car that's been out in the elements can be a rather unpleasant experience. But it doesn't have to be! Adding a remote start system to your car can help you skip the shivering or sweating by giving your car a headstart on climate control. Keep reading to learn about the differences between various models and how to pick the best remote start system for your car.

Controls

If you plan on starting your car from afar, you have three main options:

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Fob

While using your existing key fob can definitely seem like a convenient solution, doing so often limits functionality. The most striking limitation of using the manufacturer's key fob is its range, typically about 100 feet. While 100 ft may seem like enough, the advertised range is a best-case scenario with a clear line of sight and no RF (radio frequency) interference. The walls of your home or office will limit the range as will other wireless technologies, including your Wi-Fi. Using an OEM key fob also prevents you from taking advantage of some of the other useful features offered by remote starts that use aftermarket fobs or smartphone controls.

Aftermarket Fob

Most aftermarket remote start systems will use their own key fob. These fobs will almost always offer greater range than OEM fobs, often starting around 1,000 ft or ¼ mile and extending to a mile or more. Aftermarket fobs also can also do more than simply start your car. Virtually any electronic activity can be tied to the remote. From adjusting the windows to heating your seats, the additional buttons on an aftermarket fob make it easy to get your car ready to drive from afar.

Smartphone Controls

Smartphones have simplified countless aspects of our lives, so it only makes sense that they can be used for your car's remote start systems. Capable of starting your car from virtually anywhere, these systems communicate with your car via a cellular signal or, if you're close enough, Bluetooth. Starting your car with a smartphone does require a subscription as your car receives the signal via cellular networks. These subcriptions are generally reasonably priced and can include a number of perks including roadside assistance for flat tires, battery issues, lock-out assistance, and more. The app you use to start your car can also lock your doors, report your vehicle's location, and even decipher engine errors. You can also enjoy all of the auxiliary function support possible with aftermarket fobs, from popping the trunk to adjusting your heated seats.


What to Look for in a Remote Start System

Range

It goes without saying that the most important feature of a remote start system is the ability to start your car from afar. Think about where you'll be trying to start the car. Does your home have a driveway/garage or do you park on the street? At work, where do you park in relation to your desk? What about the gym, significant other's house, favorite restaurant/bar/local hangout? If your common haunts make it easy to park close, you probably don't need to be able to start your car from a mile or more away. However, don't forget that the advertised range is usually a best case scenario. Other wireless devices, including cell towers, Wi-Fi networks, and even microwave ovens, have the potential to limit the range of your remote start system. The range of our remotes are typically measured in ¼ mile or 1,000 ft. increments. If you're unsure what range you need, err on the side of safety. Stepping up to a higher range generally isn't that much more expensive, especially when you consider the cost of parts and installation. Plus, getting a remote start that doesn't work where you need it to defeats the whole purpose.

1-Way vs 2-Way

Remote start systems work by sending a signal from your key fob/smartphone to a module connected to your car's ignition switch. 2-Way systems also allow the car to send signals to the key fob. This communication from car to key fob might signal that the car started successfully or that the alarm was triggered. Finding your car covered in ice when you expected it to be a cozy oasis can be a tremendously unpleasant surprise. Unless you typically have a clear view of your parked car, springing for a 2-way system is probably worth it to save yourself from such frigid surprises.

Auxiliary Channels

Some remote start systems can do more than simply get your engine up and running. They can open/close windows or sliding doors, activate heated/cooled seats or steering wheels, activate the rear defrost, and more. Most mechanical features with electric controls can be set up for use with the auxiliary channels of your remote. Think about which functions would be useful to you and be sure to get a remote with an appropriate number of aux channels to tackle them all.

Security System

While starting your car remotely is a very safe process, some remote start systems double as security systems. Shock and proximity sensors can sound the alarm when needed, while an engine kill switch can prevent would be thieves from making off with your car. Some systems can report perceived threats to your key fob or smartphone app, giving you time to react to the situation. If you're interested in a security system and a remote start, getting both done together is a great way to save money.

Other Features

Engine RPM Sensing

A remote start system with RPM Sensing will confirm that the engine isn't already running when carrying out your request to fire it up. Trying to start a car that's already running can damage the vehicle, making RPM sensing a valuable feature.

Anti-Grind

Offering protection similar to RPM Sensing, Anti-Grind prevents you from grinding your starter by turning the key when your car is already running.

Vehicle Locator

While some devices can help you find your car by sounding the horn or flashing lights, others let you check their exact location via smartphone apps. If you have a habit of forgetting where you parked, choosing a remote start system with these capabilities could make your life a bit easier.

Keyless Entry

Like your existing key fob, remote start systems can lock and unlock your car from afar. However, an aftermarket fob will likely work at greater ranges than those of your original fob.

Misc

Enclosed Spaces

Never start your car in an enclosed space such as a garage. Cars expel carbon monoxide, a gas that can be deadly in high concentrations, while in use. Only use your remote start when your car is parked somewhere with proper ventilation.

Fuel Usage

Starting your car remotely and allowing it to heat up/cool down will use a small amount of gas. Between starting the car and letting it idle for 10 minutes, you'll likely use between 5% and 15% of one gallon, depending on your car's efficiency. At $3/gallon that's a mere $0.15 - $0.45 to save yourself from the hot/cold.

In Summary

When deciding on the best remote start system for your car, think about what kind of remote you'd like to use. In some cases, your existing key fob can be used, but doing so greatly limits your range. An aftermarket key fob will let you start your car from much farther away and their additional buttons can be programed to do things like turn on heated seats or open windows. For the longest range and most customization options you can also start your car via a smartphone application that allows you to start your car anywhere that has Wi-Fi or a cellular signal. Using this kind of smart system typically requires a modest subscription fee, but the subscription generally comes with a number of useful perks like roadside assistance. If you're interested in doing more than simply turning your car on with your remote start system, be sure to choose a remote with auxiliary channels which can be programed to perform almost any function. And if you're concerned about the safety of your car, opt for a model with a security system.
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