This is the best advice that I can possibly give anyone considering a remote car starter for their vehicle:
Have your starter installed at the very same place that you buy it.
I know, the local Walmart or auto parts store has a remote starter for $79….. AND it comes with a handy and instructional installation DVD. This DVD claims to be so easy a five year old can install a remote starter (not really but you get the idea).
Please do not believe this. Remote car starters are complicated devices and today’s vehicles make matters ever harder.
An average remote car starter installation has nearly 20 different connections (some have many more). Connect one wire to the wrong place and you could have thousands of dollars in damages.
I know… You are an expert mechanic and know engines like the back of your hand. While I have the utmost respect for mechanics and their abilities, unless you have specific training on the correct installation of remote car starters in new vehicles, please think twice before you take this project on yourself. I have been installing remote car starters since the early 1990’s but I am lost with anything beyond changing my own spark plugs when it comes to engines.
So maybe I have made a compelling argument for not doing it yourself. But why not just buy the $79 unit at Walmart and take it to your local specialty retailer to do the actual install? There are tons of reasons, but I will list the most important ones below:
- I do not know any reputable shop that will install remote car starters that they did not sell. The high end, quality shops pick one or 2 brands of remote starters to sell and install. They become experts on those brands. They attend trainings on those brands. They know their product inside and out. While remote car starters all follow the same basic principles, they all have their own wiring schemes and programming methods. It would simply take too long for a shop to learn how to install brand “Q” just to install one or two of them. If you do find a shop that is willing to install your Walmart/Ebay/AutoZone remote car starter, you really need to question why they have that much time available during their busiest season? Why aren’t they booked solid with their own work like the good shops?
- OK. You bought a remote car starter at the auto parts store and found someone to install it. 2 weeks later it stops working. Who’s fault is it? You go back to the auto parts store and they tell you “we just sell it…. You have to call the manufacturer.” So you do… The manufacturer tells you that it must be the installers fault. They say that you need to talk to the person that put it in…. So you do…. The installer says: “not my fault… I watched that video and did just what they said.” What is you next move? …………….. I don’t know either… You’re kind of out of luck. Had you bought it at a specialty retailer, the likelihood of a problem is much less. But if you do have a problem, you have one place to go and one place to hold accountable.
- The remote starters that are available at specialty retailers are typically of much higher quality. They are more sophisticated since these manufacturers know that they will be installed by professionals. In most cases, the store bought, over the counter, products are much more basic. They don’t have the safety features, the higher build quality or functionality that the better units have.
- And taking this a step further… Say you do find a shop that is willing to install it for you… Most shops charge between $50 and $100 per hour for labor. Taking an average of $75 per hour and an average of 3 hours to do a quality installation on a vehicle, the labor alone would be $225 (DON’T QUOTE ME ON THIS!!! IT IS AN EXAMPLE ONLY!) Add the $79 you paid for the unit and you now are over $300. You’ve spent over $300 and you still have a lower end unit and will likely face obstacles should you have a problem (as outline above). High end remote starters, at specialty shops can start out in the low $200 price range INSTALLED (depending on the vehicle and features). Is that Over the Counter unit really a good deal now?
I recommend that you spend some time researching your remote car starter purchase. When you do, evaluate the big picture. Shop experience, reputation, referrals, brand sold, etc… It is all important. Price is a small part of it. DO NOT automatically pick the lowest bidder. The cheapest install could end up costing you hundreds or thousands in damages and problems down the road.
Please evaluate the information above and use it as a guide for purchasing your remote starter. Everything above is based on years of experience and listening to the horror stories that customers have told us. I welcome your comments.
Hi, Mr. Schaffer,
I recently purchased a Chrysler town & Country mini van my question is I would like to have a remote starter installed. The dealer is expensive. Can I get the starter installed some where else that is certified and will this affect my warranty I have on my vehicle.
Mitchell Schaffer says
Absolutely. You should find a local, reputable aftermarket shop like Mobile Edge. I actually wrote a book on how to find a shop to install your remote starter. It’s not expensive and will save you a lot of time and energy. It’s a quick read also. You can find it here: http://www.remote-car-starters.com
just tell us the best places to go please
Mitchell Schaffer says
Each market is different. If you want to find the best place, you might find the book that I’ve written to be helpful.. http://www.remote-car-starters.com
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I’m a mechanic who found this article after installing a keyless entry / remote start system. I thought I’m a mechanic, I know this simple 89 Volvo 240 very well and I am super comfortable doing wiring.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I got it to work, pretty clean install too if i say so myself. The learning curve was MASSIVE. I spent a whole day researching the particulars of outputs. I can only imagine what installing this on a newer car with anti theft features would be like. This article speaks the truth. Mechanics are not alarm installers. It WILL be more complicated that you imagine.
I feel pretty lucky, came up with this idea on a whim while I was stoned. I bought this open box unit off ebay at a discount. Sat on it two years before installing (no hope of return now!) Managed to get it installed and operating without frying anything. Defiantly lucky, but if this thing stops working I will be like the author said, out of luck. 🙂