How to Shop for a Remote Car Starter

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A remote car starter allows you to step into a warm and toasty car on those cold winter days. This article will give you valuable information about the various types of remote car starters, where to get them done right, and what you should be paying.

Things You'll Need

  • The make/model/year of your vehicle
  • The key to your vehicle
  • Determine what type of transmitter will be best for you. A "transmitter" is the remote control that you will use to start your car. Most cars today come with a transmitter already that locks and unlocks the doors. Some people call this a "clicker" or a "remote". There are various types of transmitters you can use to start your car with:

    Using the transmitter that your vehicle came with:

    This can be done on Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, General Motors, and Nissan vehicles. Typically you can install a remote car starter into one of these vehicles that starts by pressing the "lock" button on your transmitter 3 times. Some others require that you press "lock, unlock, lock" consecutively.

    The advantage to this type of system is the convenience of it. Most people do not want to carry around an extra transmitter just to remote start their vehicle. The disadvantage to this type of system is the range. Most factory transmitters will work at a distance of 50 to 100 feet at best, and will weaken with obstacles in the way. Starting your car from a restaurant or supermarket is near impossible with a system like this, but can be useful for starting it from your front door.

    Single Button Remote Car Starters, and 3 button Remote Car Starters

    This will be best for you if you want a range of 1000 feet or greater, or if you do NOT have a vehicle listed in the previous paragraph. A single button remote car starter consists of a small transmitter with one button on it. Typically you would start your vehicle by pressing the button twice. A three button remote car starter has a button to start the car with, along with "lock" and "unlock" buttons. This is useful because it eliminates the need to carry around your factory keyless entry remote, while also offering the best range.

    Some good single button remote car starters are:
    Prestige Brand..................................................... APS901
    Automate Brand................................................... AM6.2

    Some good 3 Button Remote Car Starters are:
    Prestige Brand.......................................................APS57a
    Valet Brand............................................................562T

    All of these are similar in quality and range. All the manufacturers listed make many other remote car starters with various transmitter shapes and sizes, various ranges, and prices. There are many good brands sold at reputable shops around the country. (see step on finding reputable shop).

  • Determine whether your vehicle has a computer chip in the key:

    If you bought your car after 2000, you most likely have a computer chip in your key. These computer chips prevent people from being able to copy your key and steal your car, your ignition system checks for the computer chip every time your car is started to make sure the right key is being used. You car dealer can tell you if you have a computer chip in your key.

    If you DON'T have a computer chip in your key:

    Awesome! You can easily (and inexpensively) have a remote car starter installed in your vehicle.

    If you DO have a computer chip in your key:

    You are like most of the population, and will need to consider the following...
    Your car will not start unless the computer chip is present, end of story. This presents a problem when installing a remote car starter because the ignition does not "see" your chip when it attempts to start your car. A common way of addressing this is supplying the shop with one of your keys... that's right, give them one of your keys forever and never get it back. It will be used for the installation and sacrificed in order to make the remote car starter work. If you have 3 or more keys with your vehicle this may be a good option, but there is an alternative. Many shops now use a "data module" or "bypass module" to replicate the extra key. Often times there will be an extra charge for this, but considering the cost of replacing one of your factory keys can be as high as $100 - $300, another $45 to $75 for a data module is well worth it.

    If you have a "Push button start" or "keyless start" vehicle such as newer Nissan and Lexus vehicles, a Data module is mandatory.

  • Choose a good shop and get the right price:

    Local Shops:
    Ask around, check your phone book, make some phone calls, use your head. Does the remote car starter they are selling come with a warranty? How long? Does the warranty cover parts AND labor, or just parts? A good shop will warranty their workmanship for life, and typically the parts for 1 year or more. Viper brand products are warranted for life, but make sure you are going to an "Authorized Viper Dealer" or the warranty is VOID! Also check how long the shop has been in business, take a peek in the back and even speak with an installer if you can.

    Car Dealers:
    Having the car dealer do your remote start is the same as having a shop do it because ALL car dealers subcontract their aftermarket electronics out to local outfits. If you're friendly with one of the salespeople you can even ask what shop they use, hehe. Having your remote car starter done at the car dealer will cost you a lot more money for the EXACT same thing. Don't let them scare you about voiding your warranty; the "Magnuson Moss Warranties Improvement Act" protects consumers from this. If you are told that your warranty will be voided by a remote car starter you are being told a lie, or the person does not know any better.

    "Big Box" Stores:
    You know what I'm talking about... and it's a bad idea. Unless you have an older car or a particularly cheap car this is a bad idea. These stores will charge less than a local shop but you will end up paying for it twice. "Big Box" Stores are a training ground for new installers, and they operate on volume, not quality. You may save $50 or even $100, but we are talking about an automobile that costed you at LEAST $15,000.

Tips & Warnings

  • A good remote starter installed correctly will cost you anywhere from $175 to $300 unless it has some special features. a computer chip in your key will usually make the price about $50 higher than the base price, so "chipped" keys will make the price start at around $225 for a good one. "Push Button Start" and "Keyless Start" cars will usually run you $350 and up.
  • Make sure they are installing a hood pin switch! This switch does not allow the remote starter to work if the hood is up. The last thing you want is a mechanic bringing a lawsuit against you because they lost a finger when your engine started. This is the first thing they leave out to cut costs with the cheaper jobs.
  • Don't assume that because one shops price is higher than another's that they are trying to overcharge you. There is a reason for this and they will gladly explain it to you. Remember that these places want your business, and they want you to come back with another car in the future. Make sure you feel comfortable with the people who work there and that they are sincere. A warm, friendly, knowledgeable salesperson who explains the reasons for things usually means the installers share a common work ethic. Again.... go with the best shop you can find always! Even if it means paying another $25 or so.
  • Keep in mind many Japanese cars have keys that "go to sleep" while the car is running. To test this, start you car and then press the lock and unlock buttons on you factory transmitter while the car is still on. If your doorlocks do not operate from the transmitter while the vehicle is running, they will not operate when the car is remote started. In this case you may want to consider a 3 button system with lock buttons because these aftermarket transmitters WILL work with the car running. The single button car starters listed earlier also operate your doorlocks by holding the button down for a few seconds when approaching the vehicle. This is nice because you do not have to put your key in the door to unlock your car every time you remote start it.
  • Photo Credit audiovox.com
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