Skip to main content

Buying a garage door opener: All you need to know

A grey garage door on a white garage
(Image credit: Future)

Buying a garage door opener is an important but often overlooked part of setting up your dream home. It’s not only a convenience feature, although it sure is nice to have the garage door open for you at the click of a button as you roll into your driveway, especially if it’s raining or snowing outside. 

There’s the comfort of security too; most new garage door openers come fitted with security features that make it harder for the unscrupulous to break into your garage, with encrypted communication between the remote and the door, as well as a lock mode for when you go on holiday, a smart garage door opener can give you peace of mind. 

But how much should you be spending on a garage door opener? And what do you need to consider when buying one? Let’s have a look.

Also read: 

The best garage door openers of 2019

How much do garage door openers cost?

You can expect to pay between $130 and $350 for a garage door opener, with most models costing an average of $200. The most expensive openers usually include extra accessories and smartphone controls, though most openers can work with a smartphone if you buy a Wi-Fi adapter such as MyQ. The types of garage door openers in increasing order of average cost are as follows: chain, belt, screw and direct drive.

Although you can replace your garage door opener on your own, it’s more difficult than most DIY projects, so following the installation instructions is a must. If you’re not confident you can replace the opener on your own, you should consider hiring a professional, which further increases your costs. You can also expect to pay more if you’re replacing a garage door in addition to the opener.

A black garage door opening

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing a garage door opener: what to consider

Some of the best garage door openers offer special features like a backup power source or a timer that automatically closes the door behind you at a predetermined time. While the door openers we reviewed vary in terms of power, noise and efficiency, they are all effective in the all-important task of letting you come and go with the simple push of a button. Here are the criteria we used to rank the top garage door openers:

Horsepower

If you’re replacing an existing garage door opener in your home, the simplest way to find a new one with the right horsepower is to check the rating of the unit in your garage – get something with equal or higher power. Most homes have single- and double-car sectional garage doors made of aluminum or steel, which is the most affordable type. These doors are relatively light, so a motor with a rating of 1/2 horsepower is more than sufficient. While 1/3 horsepower motors are available, they can wear out faster than those with 1/2 horsepower in such settings, so it’s a good idea to invest a little extra for a more capable garage door opener.

If you have an oversized door, one made of a heavier material such as wood or a one-piece door, you should consider getting something stronger. In these cases, look for a garage door opener motor rated between 3/4 horsepower and 2 horsepower. There’s nothing stopping you from using a 2-horsepower opener on a smaller door, which can make for smoother operation and a longer service life, but high-horsepower units cost more.

Lift systems

The lift system determines how smoothly and quietly an opener moves the garage door. Residential garage door openers usually use one of five lift systems: chain, belt, screw, direct drive or jackshaft. One is not necessarily better than the others, but they each have their strengths.

• Chain: A chain-driven lift system uses a durable steel chain, much like that of a bicycle. This type of system is very reliable but can be rather loud. It is the most common lift system for garage doors and generally the most affordable, costing around $167 on average.

• Belt: A belt-driven lift system uses a reinforced rubber belt, which reduces vibration. As such, it is much quieter than a typical chain-driven system. Belt lift systems are the second most common type and cost around $230 on average.

• Screw: Screw-driven lift systems attach a long screw to the motor to move the garage door. These systems are powerful, fast, relatively quiet and require less maintenance than typical chain- or belt-driven systems. Genie and Overhead Door are two popular brands that make screw-driven systems. Based on our research of Genie’s line, you can expect to pay $244 on average for a screw-driven garage door opener.

• Direct Drive: Unlike chain- and belt-driven systems, where the motor remains stationary while moving a chain, a direct drive motor moves while the chain stays in place. Because of this, the only moving part is the gear the motor uses to move while lifting the door. To our knowledge, only one company makes direct drive garage door openers: Sommer. The company claims the motors are more efficient and quieter than any other type of opener. However, this is one of the most expensive types of openers we’ve found, costing around $286 on average.

• Jackshaft: This is another type of direct drive lift system that mounts on the side of a torsion spring equipped garage door; it turns the spring unit directly instead of moving a trolley. This type of opener is very compact and frees up ceiling space. You can’t use jackshaft lift systems with extension spring garage doors, the most common type of garage door. The unique design makes jackshaft the most expensive type of garage door opener, costing around $400 on average. Both LiftMaster and Chamberlain make jackshaft-type garage door openers, but we didn’t include any in our group test.

Safety

Most garage door openers come with two primary safety features: automatic reverse and infrared beam sensors. These allow the garage door opener to detect if a person or object is blocking the door as it closes. Upon detection, the motor will reverse direction to prevent an accident. Likewise, these features prevent the door from moving until the obstruction has been removed from the door’s path. A third safety feature, motion sensor lighting, lights the garage automatically to help you move between your car and the house.

Security

Garage doors are primarily designed to prevent unauthorized access to your vehicle and home, so garage door openers have two standard security features: rolling codes and a lock mode. As the name implies, rolling codes do not stay the same, but change over time. This allows the remote in your car to communicate with the opener using a unique verification code each time, reducing the likelihood that someone could intercept the code and use it later to enter your home. This is also why your neighbor’s garage door opener doesn’t activate when you use your remote.

Lock mode, as the name implies, prevents the garage door opener from responding to remotes and keypads when active. You can activate this feature using the interior control panel in your garage for extra security at night, or while you’re on vacation.

Another helpful security feature uses a timer to close your garage door automatically after each use. You might have to activate this feature on a new garage door opener, but it can add another layer of security to your garage. Among the garage doors we reviewed, you can get a timer-to-close feature on models from Chamberlain, LiftMaster and Craftsman.

Remote controls

When you buy a door opener, look for one that comes with the controllers you need. Generally speaking, the remote clips onto the visor in your vehicle. If you have multiple vehicles, make sure you get a remote for each one that uses the garage. Among the openers we reviewed, all except the Liftmaster come with two remote controls. 

If your car has a built-in garage door control, such as HomeLink or Car2U, you usually don’t need a remote, only a compatible garage door opener. Most garage door opener brands support Car2U or HomeLink, though you may need to buy an adapter if your opener lacks built-in compatibility.

Keypads

Although each unit we’ve reviewed comes with a control panel for inside your garage, not all have keypads, which allow you to type in a code to control the door from outside. While this isn’t an essential feature, it can make it easier to open and close the door as you do chores around the house and yard.

Lighting

You can expect to find two lights in most garage door openers, with newer models often incorporating LED lights. While these lights are sufficient to help you get from your home to your car, they may not be bright enough for working in your garage. Most garage door openers automatically activate and shut off lights using motion detectors and a timer. The length of time the light stays on varies according to how it is programmed. In most instances, you don’t need more than a few minutes from the time you leave the car to when you enter your home.

If a light burns out, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the appropriate replacement light bulbs to use, because some LEDs can interfere with the connection between your remote and the garage door opener. You can also buy LED bulbs made specifically for garage door openers, which comply with the FCC rules regarding wireless interference.

Smartphone controls

A smartphone app can make it easier to use your garage door, but also lets you check if the door is still open when you’re away from home. If you want to control your garage door opener with a smartphone, there are two options: built-in Wi-Fi or a separate Wi-Fi adapter. Most companies, such as Chamberlain, LiftMaster, Craftsman, Genie, Mighty Mule, and SkyLink, sell models with built-in Wi-Fi, though these are more expensive than base models without Wi-Fi.

If you have an older garage door opener and simply want to add smartphone controls, you can buy a Wi-Fi adapter such as the Chamberlain MyQ, Gogogate2 or Nexx. These units are essentially universal remotes for garage door openers so you only need to program it to control your door to get Wi-Fi functionality.

Smart home compatibility

By integrating your garage door with your smart home system, you get another tool for managing your home. For example, you can set your smart locks, thermostat and lights to react to your garage door as you come and go from your home. Here are a few ways to make your garage door opener part of your smart home system:

Chamberlain MyQ is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Nest, Alarm.com, Honeywell, Tend, XFINITY and Wink. MyQ also works with Google Assistant, IFTTT and Clare Controls, but you need to pay $1 a month or $10 a year for each of these services. We’re not sure why the subscription fee only applies to certain services.

You can buy a Z-Wave garage door opener controller that's compatible with popular smart hubs such as Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Iris and Nexia. Many of these hubs are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Genie Aladdin Connect works with the Iris smart home hub but doesn’t currently support other smart home platforms.

Gogogate2 works with three of the most popular smart home platforms: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT.

Nexx Garage works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Warranty

You can expect each garage door opener to have three warranties that cover the motor, the lift system and other parts that don’t fall into the first two categories.

Motor Warranty: The motor is the most vital component in a garage door opener, so it should have longer warranty coverage than other parts. We found that the best garage door openers have lifetime motor warranties, though 10 years is acceptable in most cases since units last around 15 years on average.

Lift System Warranty: While some manufacturers, such as LiftMaster and Chamberlain, offer lifetime warranties on belts and chains, most companies cover them for between one and three years. These components are covered for less time because you can often replace them without buying an entirely new garage door opener.

Parts Warranty: The parts warranty applies to remotes, wall switches, keypads and other components in the garage door opener. The parts warranty should last one to five years, matching the warranty on the lift system in most cases.

Check the manual that comes with your garage door opener to see if there are any stipulations you must meet before you make a warranty claim.

Customer Support

Good customer service is important for any product, but it is especially important for the class of garage door openers we considered. We looked primarily at models designed to be installed by a homeowner, not a professional. Even if you consider yourself to be pretty handy, you are sure to have questions at some point along the way. As such, we looked for companies that respond to all inquiries as well as for resources, such as a downloadable manual, to help with installation.

A grey garage door on a white garage

(Image credit: Future)

How do I program my garage door opener?

It is important that you read the manual or watch tutorial videos before installation and before programming the installed unit. Each brand uses its own control layout across the models it sells, so you can expect to find the programming button in the same place on each model.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list below with links to each company’s video tutorials for programming and installation.

• Chamberlain & LiftMaster: You can find video tutorials for both Chamberlain and LiftMaster on the Chamberlain Group support website. There are dozens of videos, so it might be helpful to search using your model number.

• Craftsman: Craftsman doesn’t host tutorials and videos on its website, though you can find them on Sears PartsDirect.

• Genie: You can find video tutorials on Genie’s website. These videos cover a variety of topics such as installation, remote and keypad programming, HomeLink, and Aladdin Connect smartphone setup.

• Sommer: The Sommer website has a selection of video tutorials, but the most relevant to DIY installation and programming is the synoris installation video at the bottom of the page. There’s also a helpful tutorial for connecting a keypad to your opener.

Read more:

The best smart garage door openers of 2019

Also read: 

Best Car Battery Chargers
Best Roadside Assistant Services
Best Extended Car Warranty Services
Best Navigation GPS Units
Best Dash Cam
Best In-dash GPS Navigation Units
Best Car Speakers