The 9 Best Remote Start Systems

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This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in April of 2016. People in snowy climates often dread walking to the driveway in the morning. When hot coffee and gloves aren't sufficient, turn to one of these remote car starters. In addition to heating up the vehicle before you get in, they can serve as alarm systems, and many also come with handy additional functions, like carjack protection, smartphone connectivity, and defroster control. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Viper 5906V

2. Audiovox APS997C

3. Viper 5706V

Editor's Notes

March 12, 2021:

Not a lot of advancement in this category, and the only recent change made was the removal of a hard-to-find model that's similar to other low-cost options. Meanwhile, one company remains squarely at the forefront of the field. The Viper 5906V has the longest range of anything out there, as well as the most advanced features, although many users will still appreciate the thorough design of the Viper 5706V. If you want reliability at a low cost, the Viper 4105v is a good choice, as well.

There are other brands worth considering, as well, such as the especially affordable Audiovox APS997C and Crimestopper RS4-G5, and the Avital 4103LX, which doesn't cost much but offers a helpful valet mode that few others do. Bear in mind, of course, that installing any of these will require a good deal of tech know-how, and some consumers will be best served by professional installation.

December 05, 2019:

Removed the Direct Electronics Python 5303P because of availability concerns. Added the Prestige APS997Z.

Along with having most of the features offered by the leading competitors, the Prestige has an integrated bypass module that you would otherwise have to spend more money on. The button lock is also handy in that it eliminates accidental starting or unlocking - this can be a problem on these long-range transponders.

Installation of aftermarket remote start kits should be left to the professionals to avoid damage to your car's electrical systems. Even with the instructions, it requires esoteric knowledge of the wiring schematics of different cars since the system needs to feed into several separate circuits including the ignition circuit, the lock systems, and others. Some European cars will have very complicated wiring that should not be altered unless you're absolutely sure that they are the right wire to splice to - cutting the wrong wire can have expensive consequences. The complexity is compounded when installing a remote start on a car with a manual transmission. For these reasons, this task should be left to professional alarm technicians.

4. Easyguard EC003

5. Avital 4103LX

6. Prestige APS997Z

7. Crimestopper RS4-G5

8. Viper 4105v

9. Crimestopper SP-402

How Remote Starters Work

The receiver box is connected to the car's starter wire, brake wire, power wire, ignition switch, ignition wire, tachometer, and ground wire.

Remote starters, also sometimes referred to as remote keyless ignition systems, are rather complex systems that allow a person to start their car without having to be physically inside of the vehicle. Most can work from some distance away. For example, a person may be able to start their car from inside of their home or office, depending on the system and the strength of the signal.

As when you start your car normally, starting a car with a remote keyless ignition system will also turn on all of the settings you left on when last exiting your car. If you left the stereo and air conditioner on, they will also turn on when you remotely start you car. The same can be said of the heater. Some newer models include options to control these systems remotely. This makes them ideal for locations that experience extreme temperatures.

Remote start systems work in much the same way as a keyless entry system, car alarm remote, or even a television remote. When a button on the remote control is depressed, it sends a signal to a receiver box installed inside of the vehicle. This signal frequency is generally encrypted to prevent tampering.

The receiver box is connected to the car's starter wire, brake wire, power wire, ignition switch, ignition wire, tachometer, and ground wire. All of these systems or wires are involved in some way in the ignition of a car. Some remote start systems may also be connected to a car's electronic door locks, as well. When the box inside of the vehicle receives the signal, it supplies power to the car's ignition system exactly replicating what happens when a driver turns the key.

Most keyless ignition systems are connected to the tachometer so they can monitor a car's RPM. This allows them to verify that a car has started, in which case they stop supplying power to the starter. This ensures they do not grind the starter once ignition has taken place. Some systems will provide visual confirmation of ignition, like blinking the lights, so that the vehicle owner knows the car has started successfully. Systems that are connected to a car's electronic locks will lock the doors as a theft prevention measure.

The History Of Remote Car Starters

The electronic ignition system for automobiles was invented in 1915 by Charles Kettering, but it would be much later that a remote ignition system was developed. In fact, the first mention of a remote starting system is from 1966. It was called the Model 100 and sold by a Winnipeg-based company named A.A. Auto Matic Products Limited. It was comprised of an under-hood module, a female receptacle, and a house-bound starter switch box that included 30 feet of cable. There were also a few other various components, such as a secondary vacuum control and electrical splice pieces. Unfortunately, the exact procedure of how it worked once the switch was flipped seems to have been lost to obscurity at some point in the past.

It lists Giuseppe Re Baratelli and Theodore J. Galvani as the creators.

The first patent for a remote automobile ignition system wasn't issued until 1971. It lists Giuseppe Re Baratelli and Theodore J. Galvani as the creators. Before they received their patent, however, it was featured in the November 1968 issue of Popular Science. It was touted as being able to start a car from 500 yards away. It was expensive at the time, and considerably more so today. It certainly wasn't cheap and was priced out of range for most home consumers.

In 1983, American Motors started manufacturing remote starters, which were included in the Renault Alliance. It is cited as being the first production car to have come with a remote starter option. In 1989, GM included remote starters in a number of their models like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Since that time, they have gained in popularity, and now there are even models available that can be controlled via smartphone.

What To Consider When Buying A Remote Ignition System

Most aftermarket remote car starters are universal. This means they are designed to work with practically any vehicle, but it is still smart to double check that the system you are considering is compatible with your vehicle model and year. For example, older, carbureted engines require models with fuel delivery controls, while newer vehicles often require a system that is compatible with their anti-theft module.

Some kits may be expandable so that you can add additional fobs at any time.

Other things to consider are the additional options that a system may or may not come with, as well as its various features. Remote car systems are available with varying ranges. Some may be able to work in ranges upwards of one mile, while lower-cost systems may only work in a 200-foot radius. If you generally park your vehicle far away from your home, it is wise to choose a model that accommodates the distance.

If you share your vehicle with anyone, there are systems available with two or more access control fobs. These allow each user to have a remote for the system. Some kits may be expandable so that you can add additional fobs at any time. This can be a smart choice if you have a child that will soon reach driving age and you plan on giving them their own set of keys at some point in the future. There are also systems convenient for those on a tight budget. They allow a vehicle owner to start with a relatively basic and low-cost system, and then add features over time as their budget allows.

Ideally, one should always choose a system that comes with a tachometer monitor. Not only will this prevent the possibility of damaging the starter system by continuing to grind it after the vehicle has started, but it will also notify the remote starting system that the engine has not started. When this happens, a system that includes a tachometer monitor will attempt to re-start the engine.

Other features that one can consider are defroster and seat heater activation, car alarm control, keyless entry, car locating features, smartphone activation, and a two-way LCD key fob.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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