5 Mistakes People Make When Buying a Remote Car Starter

A remote car starter can be one of the best additions that you can make to your vehicle. It can also be a very confusing purchase. Our intent with this post is to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes that people make when buying a remote car starter.

Not Buying a Remote Car Starter With Enough Range

I use the word “range” even though I hate to. Manufactures have no choice but to put “500 foot range” or “3000 foot range” on their packaging. It is important to keep in mind that these are absolute perfect word numbers. No RF interference, no walls, no windows, and no buildings to go around… In other words, the middle of the desert!

At our shop, we talk about transmitter power. Our 500 foot model is the one that all others are based on. Our 1500 foot model is considered “3X” power (3 times the transmitter strength of our base model). Our 5000 foot model is considered “10X” power. We feel this gives our customers a better indication of what they are getting. Range is unimportant for most people. Not many of our customers need to start their vehicle from more than 1000 feet away. But almost all of them want to start it from inside a building. That is where transmitter power becomes important.

Don’t shortchange yourself with transmitter range (power). You are going to use your starter at more places than your home or work. You will want to use it at the mall, sporting events, parking garages, hospitals, etc. If in doubt, pay a little more to get a more powerful unit. You want your car to be running when you get to it!

Not Having Your Remote Car Starter Professionally Installed

Professional installation is key to a quality remote car starter experience. Do not trust your vehicle to the lowest bidder! Remote starters make for complicated installs in today’s vehicles. It is important that it is installed properly. One mistake can be thousands of dollars in damage not covered under your vehicle’s warranty. I don’t say that to scare you off. A trained professional can do the job correctly. They will avoid costly mistakes and help you maximize the enjoyability of your new remote car starter. And speaking of your vehicle’s warranty, a properly installed remote car starter will not void your vehicle’s warranty regardless what your dealer says!

DO NOT trust the install to your family mechanic. You wouldn’t bring your vehicle to the local mobile electronics installer for an engine overhaul or transmission repair. Don’t take your vehicle to the local mechanic for a remote starter install. Go to a specialist!

Above all, DO NOT trust your cousin, your friend, or your cousin’s friend to do the install! Unless they are a seasoned installer with real world experience, they are not qualified for today’s vehicles.

Obviously, there are likely some exceptions to my comments above but the exceptions are far and few between. Use your head!

Buying A Poor Quality Remote Car Starter

You can buy a remote car starter at the local auto parts store for $79.99. It comes with an instructional DVD that claims that you can install it yourself. Don’t believe it. You probably can’t!  These remote starters are usually of lower quality than the units that you would buy at a specialty retailer like Mobile Edge. In most cases, a quality manufacturer of remote car starters will require professional installation and frown upon over the counter sales.  They know that the odds of failure decrease exponentially when a professional is doing the work.

The problem is that most people do not know a quality brand from a low quality brand when it comes to remote car starters. A good rule of thumb is to search out the best shop in your market. It is a fair assumption that they will be selling and installing what they perceive as a high quality brand.  If you trust the shop then you should trust their choice in the products that they carry.  Think about it this way:  If they are a good shop, they probably sell and install tons of remote starters.  Do you think that they would choose an inferior product knowing that it will create all kinds of headaches for them?  Probably not.

Not Getting a Remote Car Starter With the Proper Feature Set

Remote car starters offer a lot of convenience options. Be sure to ask the right questions when buying your starter. Some models are simply what they sound like: A remote car starter. They start and stop the vehicle from a distance. That’s it and that might be good enough for you.   Others have multiple functions ranging from keyless entry and trunk release to heated seats and rear window defrost.

A common mistake when considering options includes assuming that certain things might “just work” with the starter. For example, the rear window defroster will not just come on if you left it on. It is on a latched output that resets when the power is shut off. This feature needs to be specifically added to almost all installs.

Another common mistake is not adding keyless entry on newer vehicles. On most newer vehicles, the factory keyless entry does not function when the vehicle is running. This means that, when your vehicle is remote started and you walk up to it, the factory keyless will not unlock the doors. You would have to use the key in the door (old school) or shut the car down with the remote starter, unlock it with the factory remote and then restart it with the key. Neither is a great choice. The solution to this is to choose a remote starter that incorporates keyless entry or add a device like Compustar’s EZGO product. A remote starter equipped with keyless entry will allow you to unlock the vehicle without having to shut the car down.

A quality shop can talk you through these options and make recommendations based on your needs. If you find a shop you trust, the rest is easy.

Buying A Remote Starter From One Place And Getting It Installed At Another

NEVER…. REPEAT NEVER do this. It is the biggest mistake that you will make. You always want to have your starter installed at the very same place that you bought it. Do not make the mistake of buying the eBay/Wal-Mart/Auto Parts Store deal. Most quality shops will not install a remote starter that was purchased elsewhere. You will be left with the second and third tier shops that might agree to do this. If the place you are considering buying a remote starter does not offer installation, DO NOT buy it from them.  I wrote a post a while back that goes into great detail about why you should always have your remote car starter installed at the same place that you buy it. Take the time to read it if you are tempted by the “deal of the day” online.

Conclusion

A remote starter is an awesome addition to any vehicle. Use the tips in this post and the vast amount of information on our site about remote car starters and you are sure to make smart decisions. Another helpful resource is our Remote Car Starter Buying Guide.  It’s not that difficult of a decision when you are armed with the right information. Good luck!

 

For much more detailed information on purchasing a remote car starter, please consider The Ultimate Remote Car Starter Buying Guide.  It is filled with over 25 pages of great advice to ensure that your buying experience is a great one!

Comments

  1. cwm says

    Some good advice. The cheaper ones definately have more issues. If you are handy with vehicles and wiring, understand electricity AND electronics (they are not the same) you can do your own install just fine. I did my first remote starter in my 88 pathfinder in about 94 and have done several since. I am not a mechanic, electrician, or anything remotely related to automobiles, just “electrically savy.” If it frightens you to do your own install, don’t do it. It is not quick or easy, but not bad. Someone will point out my pathfinder did not have security features, but I have done VATS and PATS bypasses also. Also can add thermostatic relays to automaticaly activate heat / defrost or A/C. Again not easy.

    • cwm says

      I forgot to mention, as did the op, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS install the hood safety switch. I leaned on my remote (again the pathfinder) while working under the hood. Luckily it chimed three times when the ignition came on before the starter engaged, which gave me time to get out of the way. If someone other than me were under the hood, they probably would not have even noticed the chime coming from inside the vehicle and I would have been in deep ****.

    • says

      David, Thanks for the kind words. Please be sure to mention my e-book, The Ultimate Remote Car Starter Buying Guide, to your sister in law. You can find it at http://www.remote-car-starters.com. I offer a money back guarantee if she does not feel that the information is worth the few dollars. Thanks again for posting a comment!

  2. Steve says

    Is it possible to purchase an LCD-Screen remote control for my GM Factory remote car starter? Without replacing what is in the engine. Just an lcd screen to tell me if the car is starter or not

  3. Chris says

    One of the best informative sites I’ve read yet. Single woman looking to
    find this on my can be difficult and mind boggling. Your info was right to the to point and easy to understand. I enjoyed the video also because it is easy for me to learn to see a hands on process. So glad I came across your site!!! Anyhow thanks!!!

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words Chris… We are planning a whole series of short and to the point videos this year to help people better understand remote car starters. Stay tuned!

  4. Stan says

    Salesperson hyperbole.

    I was hoping to get some actual useful information about which specs to look for, differences between AM and FM starters, installation tricks etc. All the information here is basically saying to buy an expensive model from you instead of a cheap one, and also pay you to get it installed. Pure marketing and of very little use.

    • says

      Stan,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. If you take the time to look around our website, you will see that we do not sell anything online. Our site is indeed a marketing tool for our store here in the Poconos of PA. No argument there. Most websites tied to a business are some form of marketing, wouldn’t you agree? But our site is much more than that. It is our hope that we can provide people with information needed to make a smart buying decision, whether from us or from any shop. We spend a LOT of time generating quality content that helps people all over the world…. from Phoenix AZ to Manitoba Canada. Based on the comments that our site has received over the years, I’d submit that we have succeeded. At the end of the day, there is one thing for certain: No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to make everyone happy. Good luck in your search to buy a remote car starter. I truly wish you the best. – Mitch

  5. Dave O'Neill says

    Hi Mitch, we have 2 reputable dealers / installers within a mile of where I work. One deals with Viper, one with Excalibur for their remote starters. Thoughts on both brands?

    • says

      We offer the Compustar brand and we are very happy with it. Ultimately, your goal should be to choose the very best installation facility that you can find and go with their recommendation on a starter. If they are a great shop that installs many remote starters, you can be sure that they will be installing a quality product. The trick is to find the right shop.

  6. Bobby says

    Thanks, Mitch.
    What is the brand/model highest transmitting power (range) in your experience. Basically, what is the best you can get without going GSM.

  7. Julie says

    Do not use best buy. They caused 9000 worth if damage to my vehicle. Threatened not to pay for it and treated us horribly while we tried to recover our vehicle,,,,

  8. vijay patel says

    Hi ther I live in canada and I work as welding machine operator , but I
    want to change carer as becoming car remote starter and alarm installer
    I been searching on line that is there a course i can take to become
    a profational remote and alarm installer I have very good should ring
    experience and install car audio as well but I want get in to this kind a
    work so could you a least guide me to right direction , am very interested
    in this industry but don’t know where to begin please and thank you

  9. Karen says

    Where do I start when looking for a reputable shop? Do I just call shops in the yellow pages and ask questions? I don’t know anyone who’s had this done to their car, so I don’t think “word of mouth” is a source for me.

  10. Cory says

    I’m trying to get my 2007 lincoln mkx fitted for a remote start. I see that Lincoln has a remote start for this vehicle, is it better to get the factory one, or would i be better off with a different brand? It appears the factory one would require a second fab, it doesn’t seem to have unlock/lock, only on/off..any thoughts?

  11. Roz says

    I understand now that it is not the range that is important, but the power. However, you mention 3X and 10x, I’m still not clear if the 3x will or won’t be started through a building?? Please advise. My car is parked in the back of my apartment building, through brick and I cannot see it. Thanks.

    • says

      There are way too many variables to advise on this. Structure, RF interference, etc… We use “X power” as a better indicator to our clients as to how strong the transmitter is. When in doubt, always buy more power than you think you will need.

  12. Robert Livingston says

    I had a remote starter professionally installed on my car.

    Realising that there is not advantage to starting your car more than 30 seconds on very cold winters, I removed the fuses and unplugged the remote starter to prevent additional power draw on my battery.

    • says

      Robert, that’s interesting… I’ve never heard that before. I would be interested in knowing more and where you got your information from. It is a shame that you are not going to be able to enjoy your remote car starter as thousands of other folks do every day.

  13. Carol says

    Thanks for your information, very helpful. I plan to get a remote starter for my new car, but too bad I’m not in your city. Still your article is very helpful. Thanks again.

  14. Melissa says

    Hello! I wish I would have done more research. I had a remote start installed on my 2011 Mazda 3. It starts and then dies. Doing this has caused me to need a jump 4 times. Took it back and of course it worked then. They said I wasn’t holding the button down long enough. Manual says 3 seconds but they guy told me to hold it down for 5. So after that I could get it to work maybe 1 out of 5 tries. Got a new battery installed this past Saturday, tried the remote start and voila! Started right away. Since then haven’t gotten it to work. What gives? Hubby is taking it back again today. I will be so mad if it works while he’s there.

  15. says

    I want to get a remote starter in my Chevy 2013 Cruze which does not have the manufacture’s installed in it.

    I was told by my nephew who is a body guy and also a dealership salesman said the did not work for them.

    I went to Audio Works of Cincinnati and got an estimate and assured me the put them in Chevy Cruzes all the time. Can you help me. Do you know the odds of these “Market” installations successes.
    Thanks.

  16. says

    I own a 2009 Toyota Camry. I had my car starter installed professionally 6 months ago (not by Toyota).
    I just started using it during the cold weather a month ago. In order to get it started I had to press the
    remote several times and in frustration just held the remote down until it finally started. I planned to bring
    it back to the installer. Sunday when I got into my car and started it manually I noticed the engine
    light flickering on and off so I planned to call Toyota the next day. When I got on the highway the car
    would not accelerate properly and the car started to shake. When I finally got to my destination I shut
    off the ignition and when I started the car and stepped on the gas pedal it wouldn’t move. I had the car towed to my Toyota dealer. They did all the tests and said they couldn’t find anything wrong. they
    took the car out and said it was running fine.I can only assume that all this has something to do with the wiring on the starter. I’m bringing it back to the installer. Have you ever experienced anything like this?

    • JR says

      Anita,
      I had a similar problem in my 98 Toyota Sienna. My remote starter had been installed for a number of years with trouble free service. The installer wrapped some of the wires with electrical tape instead of heat shrink. Over the years moisture seeped into the wiring harness, causing one of the wires to short to ground. My neighbourhood auto shop spent many hours trying to locate the problem. The whole affair cost me a small fortune in towing and fault-finding for an easy wiring repair. The company that installed my starter went out of business, but after the fix, my starter gave me many more years of trouble free service. Good luck.

      • says

        JR,

        I completely understand your situation and how that could have happened. However, I want to clarify a few things so as to not give readers the wrong impression.
        1. There are many kinds of electric tape. If the installer is using a quality tape such as 3M Super 33, and applies it properly (there is a right and wrong way) you should never have this issue. We have starters on the road for better part of 20 years and the harnesses look like they did when we installed them.

        2. I see a lot of discussions online that talk about how you need to use heat shrink. The use of a high quality heat shrink is great, but it is not always possible. Heat shrink needs to be slid over the wires. This is possible to do when you are connecting 2 wires end to end. When you are tapping into an existing wire, as is done on most remote starter installations, you are not connecting end to end and not able to use heat shrink. The alternative is to cut the existing wire, slide the shrink on and then re-establish the connection which is a BAD idea since you are shortening the wire and potentially causing strain on that wire. In those cases, a high quality electric tape is the way to go without question.

    • says

      This could be any number of things and may not be related to the remote starter. If it is remote starter related, the first place I would check would be the “tach” wire under the hood. We have seen tach wires not attached properly and shorting out on the manifold or other parts of the engine compartment. Good luck.

  17. Mike g says

    I’m looking to get a starter installed in a 2011 pathfinder silver edition. The car has the no key ignition I guess similar to the push button start in other cars and the doors have push button exterior locks so you don’t need the remote to unlock them the remote just has to be in proximity of the car …. I’m sure you know all this just from me mentioning the make and model… When I do get the starter installed do I need a new remote or can it be programmed off of the existing remote that came with the car

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