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Best remote car starters

Remote car starters can be simple devices with a few features or complex devices that provide significant controls over your vehicle. We researched the best remote start kits, and the Compustar Prime 901 emerged as the best overall, with its long-range remote, two-way LCD display with climate monitoring and helpful text alerts if your car gets hit or someone tries to break in. 

Best Overall

Compustar Prime 901

Compustar Prime 901

One-mile range
Easy-to read LCD display
Rpm monitoring
Very expensive
Very complicated installation
Awkward fit on a keychain

The Compustar Prime 901 is one of the most popular high-end remote starter kits on the market, but it's also one of the most expensive. Much of this is due to the excellent two-way remote, which features a long range, an easy-to-read display and comprehensive control, although it doesn't have SmartStart compatibility.

The remote has a range of a mile, the longest range on the market. However, rather than viewing it as a long range, you should view it as a powerful remote, since it's unlikely that you'll ever need to start your car from a mile away. Instead, the specification means that it provides a more reliable and consistent signal in the short range, going through and around obstacles like walls, refrigerators and washing machines, etc.

Another reason this is our pick for the best remote is the easy-to-read LCD display, which provides more information and control over your car than other remote starter kits. It provides vibrating and audible alerts for various customized settings. You can control the windows, door locks, seat heaters, window defrost settings and more. It also tells you the rpm of the engine so that you can monitor performance. That said, this much control requires a complicated installation that should be performed by a certified installer.

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Best Value

Automate 4304A

Automate 4304A

Cabin temperature monitoring
SmartStart compatibility
Remote range not listed by manufacturer
Panic mode is too easy to activate
Remote is bulky

The Automate 4304A is our pick for the best value because it has high-end features, like an LCD display and cabin temperature monitoring, but it costs much less than high-end remote starters. It even comes with SmartStart compatibility.

However, the manufacturer doesn't list the range of the remote, so it's unlikely to have the mile range of high-end models.

As with more expensive remote starters, the remote is two-way, which means that both the remote and the installed kit emit and receive wireless signals. This lets you know the car is started and the doors unlocked. It also relays the internal cabin temperature, which is one of the best features for a remote starter system because it allows you to avoid unnecessary idling. In other words, you'll know when the internal temperature is comfortable without guessing.

This Automate starter also has several convenience features. It comes with keyless entry, trunk unlock and a valet mode, which manually turns off the remote start system so that mechanics and valets can drive the car without the remote. The remote can also be programmed for two vehicles, which is a useful addition for multiple-car homes. However, you must purchase a second car starter.

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Longest Range Remote

Python 4806p

Python 4806p

One-mile remote range
Two remotes
System includes an alarm
No display on the remote
Premium features cost extra
No visual alerts

The Python 4806p is the only remote start system with a remote range of one mile. By comparison, most remote start systems have a range topping out at around 1,500 feet.

The remote is two-way, and the system includes an alarm. So, in addition to starting your vehicle from a mile away, you receive alerts on the remote if someone tries breaking in. Of course, while a mile range is impressive, it's not a significant value. Very rarely do you need to start your car from a mile away. Still, with the car alarm you can still get alarm alerts when you're at the mall or a sporting event where you would be far from the parked vehicle.

The 4806p comes with two remotes. Unfortunately, unlike the best remote start systems, the remotes don't have an LCD screen. Instead, an LED light flashes to confirm commands and alerts. Without a display, you can't monitor the temperature of your car's interior or confirm the engine is started.

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Most Affordable

Avital 4103L

The Avital 4103L provides the same convenience as high-end remote starters, but costs less than $50, making it the most affordable remote start system we reviewed. It warms up your car on winter mornings just as well as a $200 remote starter.

The 4103L comes with two one-way remotes. They only have four buttons, making them very easy to program and master, but very limited in function. It has keyless entry and trunk release, but no additional auxiliary outputs or buttons for adding security systems or other conveniences. And with no display on the remotes, you can't monitor the temperature of your car's interior. You can only guess when the car's been running long enough to warm up or cool down the interior. This can result in burning fuel unnecessarily and adding to your city’s air pollution.

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Best for Cold Climates

VOXX Electronics

VOXX Electronics

It lets you program engine starts.
It doesn’t provide status reports.

The VOXX Electronics one-way remote start system is a great option if you live in a cold climate because you can program the system to start your car periodically to maintain temperature in the extreme cold.

It’s compatible with hybrid vehicles and uses spread-spectrum transmitters that continuously change the remote frequency to keep thieves from accessing your vehicle with a frequency grabber. The remote in this system doesn’t have an LCD screen and can’t receive status updates, but an LED blinks to confirm a command.

This remote car starter isn’t compatible with SmartStart remote starter apps, but there’s a hardware upgrade that allows you to start your car with a computer or phone. Without an upgrade, the VOXX system unlocks doors, opens the trunk and turns on lights, in addition to starting the engine. The remote triggers the functions from 2,500 feet away, and the periodic-start feature starts the car in either 2- or 4-hour increments for up to 48 hours.

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Why Trust Us? 

Top Ten Reviews has covered remote car starters since 2015. In addition, we review more than 16 auto tech categories each year, ranging from car alarms and car stereos to baby car seats and car battery chargers. We spend hundreds of hours each year researching, testing and evaluating the best in car technology.

I've been reviewing and testing automobile technology since 2013. I'm an expert on car audio, radar detectors, backup cameras, Bluetooth car kits and more. I have logged thousands of miles on road trips, developing a keen interest in cultivating the best-quality drive.

How Much Do Remote Car Starters Cost?

Often paired with car alarms, remote starters cost between $50 and $800. The most popular remote starters fall between $100 and $200. The difference in cost is in the quality of the remote and the expansion capabilities. The more expensive the remote starter, the better the remote and the more features you can add to it, such as car alarms and additional sensors. These remotes have LCD displays, allowing you to gauge the temperature and other aspects of your car. Some can even let you adjust the temperature from the remote. However, if you only need to warm up your car in the winter or cool it down in the summer, the cheapest remote car starters work just as well as the expensive ones.

What We Tested 

We didn't physically test the remote starter systems because of the complicated installation process that most kits require. We made our picks based on the following criteria:

Remote Design & Performance
When it comes to performance of a remote car starter system, you should start with the remote. Does it fit on a keychain without being awkwardly bulky? If it has a display, is it easy to read? Those are the basic questions pertaining to design.

We focused a great deal on the range specifications. Many people see a long range and ignore it because they think they'll never need to start their car from a mile away. And that's true. You're not going to care about the remote's range unless you're about to leave Disneyland and you're parked at the very edge of the massive parking lot. Instead, we looked at range in terms of wireless power. A long range means the signal is more reliable and consistent in shorter ranges. A powerful signal from a long-range remote is more capable of going through the walls of your home, around the trees and onto the street where your car is parked.

System Features & Potential
Some remote car starters are simple. They do little more than start your car, though even the most basic kits also provide keyless entry. However, the best car starters have multiple auxiliary channels, which can be used for additional controls, like a setting to activate the window defrost.

Cabin Temperature Monitoring
The main purpose of a car starter kit is to start your car so that the internal temperatures can adjust before you enter it. That is why they are popular in areas of extreme cold or extreme heat. Since temperature is the driving force for this technology, we looked at systems that relayed cabin temperatures on the remote. These are typically available only on high-end systems, but it's an important feature to consider. With cabin temperature monitoring, you don't have to guess when it's comfortable to enter the car. That saves time and also keeps your car from idling unnecessarily.

Remote Car Starters: What Else You Should Consider 

When considering the purchase of a remote start system, the choices are confusing and overwhelming, potentially leading you to opt for an unsuitable model. Using the factors below, you can make an informed decision and choose the remote start that best suits your needs.

Engine-Speed Sensing
Engine-speed sensing is a vital consideration. A remote car starter without engine-speed sensing cannot tell whether it has successfully started the engine. This can result in the remote car starter essentially not working, leaving your car freezing cold. Nor can it tell if the revs per minute are too high. This puts the engine at risk of flooding or burning out. With some sensors, the engine can be set to shut off in that scenario, saving your engine from potential damage.

Extra Features
There's an extensive range of additional features for remote car starters. You can opt for a keyless entry model that locks or unlocks your vehicle remotely. As an added safety feature, consider a hood safety switch that prevents the remote starter from activating the engine while the hood is up. Some two-way models come with a small LCD panel that provides status alerts; others can activate your rear windshield heaters. As an extra security feature, many models have alarm functions or alarm alerts.

Professional Installation
Remote car starters aren't simple installations. They involve adding components to your car's computer system, which means that mistakes can have huge implications. Most manufacturers recommend getting a professional installation.