The 4 Best Remote Car Starters of 2020

Morning commutes just got a whole lot better

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The Rundown

Whether for convenience, security, or a not insignificant cool factor, the best remote car starters can add useful features to your vehicle. Aside from, perhaps, a portable jump starter, a remote car starter is one of the best accessories you can buy for any vehicle. These handy devices are quickly becoming a common feature in new cars, and allow drivers to heat up their vehicle on cold mornings, or cool it down in the heat of summer before the door is even open. Some also give you security and monitoring capabilities. 

Some, like our top pick, the Viper 5906V on Amazon, can control your car from up to a mile away and feature an OLED display with which to access a wealth of powerful features. Others allow you to access numerous functions via a companion app on your smartphone. There are many proven aftermarket options available. Keep in mind that, though many are quite affordably priced for all the advantages they provide, you might also need to figure in the cost of installation depending on which model you decide to buy. We’ve taken a close look at a bunch of different options, and there’s a remote car starter here for everyone.

Best Overall: Viper 5906V 2-Way Remote Car Starter

What We Like
  • Color OLED touchscreen

  • Long-range

  • Advanced security features

What We Don't Like
  • Large, bulky remote 

  • Expensive

With up to a mile of range and a big, bright touchscreen OLED display, the Viper 5906V offers an attractive combination of quality and functionality. The system offers such basic features as locking and unlocking your car, as well as temperature and security sensors, and includes a secondary one-way transmission remote. The 5906V also features Viper’s SuperCode technology which allows you to control two cars with the same remote. 

The 5906V includes the ability to pair the system to your smartphone and control it through a companion app, though you will need to purchase the additional Smart Start module to enable this functionality. The batteries in the remote last a full six months on a single 60-minute charge. The only real caveat here is that the remotes are quite bulky, and the system is quite expensive, but if you can afford it this is the single best option on the market right now.

Best Smartphone Ready: Directed Electronics 4806P Remote Start

What We Like
  • Smartphone app integration

  • Simple remote

  • Good range

What We Don't Like
  • Particularly difficult install process

  • Requires extra module for smartphone connectivity

If you’re looking for a smartphone-focused solution, the Directed Electronics 4806P is a good option. Keep in mind that you will need to also purchase and install either the DSM 200 or DSM 250 SmartStart modules in order to connect your smartphone via the company’s app. The remote is still functional without being connected to a smartphone, but to fully take advantage of the system’s features you'll definitely want to spring for the necessary extra equipment.

With the full system, you not only get the basic features such as lock/unlock and remote start but also the ability to control automatic trunk release, a panic mode, and a car finder. With the mobile app, you can also share access with family members using different smartphones.

Be aware that customer reviews report the 4806P to be particularly difficult to install on your own. You will probably want to have a professional install this remote car starter and its necessary accessories.

Best Customization: Crimestopper RS4-G5 Remote Start

What We Like
  • Compatible with both manual and automatic transmissions

  • Good value for money

  • Great customization options

What We Don't Like
  • Less range than other remote starters

  • Lacks advanced security features

The Crimestopper RS4-G5 remote starter is designed for those who want to be able to customize their controls. The system includes the usual pre-set buttons on the two included remotes for opening the trunk, remote start, plus locking and unlocking. It also includes a 5th button that can be assigned to the function of your choice. Among the 31 programmable options are engine monitoring and tachometer features.

The RS4-G5 is compatible with both automatic and manual transmission vehicles and offers smartphone control if you also purchase the optional Mobile Start MS-3 module. On the downside, the system lacks more advanced security features and only has an operating range of up to 2,000 feet. However, it’s very attractively priced at only around $60, which makes it a tasty bargain.

Best Security: Python 5706P Remote Start

What We Like
  • Impressive security features

  • Long-range transmission

  • LED display

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to install

  • Expensive

For a whole new level of security for your vehicle, look no farther than the Python 5706P. This system includes two remotes, one with an LED panel, one without, and packs in a ton of advanced security features that can be accessed and controlled up to a mile away from your vehicle. The six-stage alarm system is super sensitive, and can even detect the difference between different types of impacts in order to produce different alarms. Additionally, the system has a starter-kill feature that prevents the engine from starting unless a key is inserted, thus thwarting hotwiring attempts.

The Python 5706P also features all the standard functions of a remote starter kit - a car finder mode, panic mode, trunk release, keyless entry, and of course remote start itself. Keep in mind that this remote starter is reportedly rather difficult to install, and its advanced features are reflected in its high cost.

Best for Diesel Engines: Compustar 920S

What We Like
  • Affordably priced

  • Works well with diesel engines

  • Simple controls

What We Don't Like
  • Only very basic features

  • Short-range

  • One way communication only

If you drive a diesel vehicle and are looking to save a few bucks, then the Compustar 920S was designed for you. This remote starter features a fairly basic set of controls, with dedicated buttons for locking, unlocking, starting the engine and popping the trunk. A variety of other controls can also be accessed via combination button presses. Though it works for gasoline-powered vehicles, this system is designed primarily with diesel engines in mind. It only has 1,000 feet of range and one-way communication but makes up for that with a very attractive price point.

Final Verdict

For a ton of easy to access features, the touchscreen-equipped Viper 5906V easily takes our top spot. Having so much information and functionality at your fingertips without the need for a connected mobile app or complex button combinations makes the system much more user friendly. However, it’s also one of the most expensive systems on the market. The Crimestopper RS4-G5 offers many of the same features found in the Viper 5906V for a fraction of the price, and is a great budget option if you can live with a shorter operating range and the functionality of the Viper’s excellent touchscreen.

About our trusted experts

With a driving passion for technology and the outdoors, Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. As an avid hiker and photographer, he is well aware of the importance of vehicle security at remote trailheads and knows that there’s nothing like returning to an air-conditioned vehicle after a long day of hiking in the hot sun.

What to look for

Two-Way connectivity: While some remote car starters use a simple one-way transmitter to send simple instructions to your vehicle, others implement a two-way system where information is also transmitted back to the remote. This allows for information such as temperature and alarms to be sent to you from your car.

Security features:
A remote car starter can add significant security features to prevent theft of or from your vehicle. Some devices can remotely disconnect the ignition system in your car and prevent the car from being hotwired. Some also feature alarms, or the ability to be connected to existing security systems in your vehicle.

Smartphone compatibility;
Often remote car starters will feature additional connectivity options that allow you to access various capabilities on your smartphone. This is particularly useful for viewing information gathered by the remote starter on a large screen. 

Ease of installation:
The kit you buy and the vehicle you install it in will dictate the difficulty of installing a remote car starter. Some older vehicles may require extra adaptors. If you aren’t confident in your ability to install a remote car starter, or your particular installation scenario is overly complicated, it may be best to have a professional install it.