Choosing the Best Remote Start Kit

Some remote start kits include alarm functionality and other useful features. Image courtesy of Imencar, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons 3.0)

Choosing the best remote start kit is more complicated than just looking at a list of the five or ten best remote start kits, because there is no one size fits all solution. Unlike remote car starters that come installed from the factory, remote start kits are available in a staggering amount of different configurations, so determining which one is best can be a somewhat difficult process that demands a little bit of research and time.

In order to figure out which remote start kit is best, there are a handful of important factors that you need to consider, including:

  • Which features are included out of the box?
  • What additional options are available from the kit?
  • Is it compatible with OEM antitheft systems?
  • Are there any fuel delivery controls?

The first two items in the above list are essential in helping to determine which remote start kit is going to work out for you in the long run, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the second two items.

Antitheft compatibility affects whether a remote starter kit will work with the antitheft module in your vehicle. This is safe to ignore if your car doesn't have an antitheft module, but if it does, you absolutely must pay attention to this feature. Similarly, additional fuel delivery controls are vital if your engine is carbureted instead of fuel injected.

Remote Start Kit Features and Options: Narrowing the Field

Before you start looking at remote start kits, it’s important to be aware of the various features and options. If you examine the available features and options, you should be able to make a list of the ones you want, which will help you rule out kits that lack the type of functionality that you’re looking for. Some of the most important features to look for in a remote starting kit include:

  • An adequate operating range
    • Don’t buy a remote starter that has an operating range of 100’ if your car is typically parked more than 100’ from your house. It's also important to note that the advertised range assumes absolutely no obstructions between you and the car. So if you don't have a clear line of sight, any walls or other obstructions will drastically reduce the range.
  • Enough remote key fobs
    • Some remote start kits only come with one remote, which is fine for some. But if you need two remotes, either verify that the kit is expandable or choose one that comes with two remotes to begin with.
  • An engine speed sensing feature
    • Kits that include a speed-sensing feature monitor the engine RPMs and can determine if the engine fails to start or dies, in which case it can attempt to re-start the engine.
  • A manual cutoff switch
    • Kits that include a manual cutoff switch provide an additional layer of safety since they allow you to shut off the remote starter manually.
  • Smartphone compatibility
    • If you want to use your smartphone to start your car, lock and unlock the doors, or control other systems, make sure to buy a kit that includes this feature.

In addition to basic features, there are a lot of additional options to look for. Some remote start kits come with keyless entry functionality, built-in car alarms, and other options. Other remote start kits are modular in nature, which means you can add additional features whenever you feel like you need them. These modular kits are also great if you’re working on a budget.

Some of the remote start kit options you may be interested in include:

  • Keyless entry (including remote trunk popping functionality)
  • Car alarm systems
  • Panic button and/or car locating features
  • Defroster and heated seat activation
  • Anti-grinding functionality to protect the starter
  • Two-way LCD key fobs

Some of these features, like heated seat activation, are purely convenience items. Others, like car alarms, provide an added level of security, and features like anti-grinding can protect your car against accidental damage.

One great convenience item is a two-way LCD key fob. These fobs are often capable of displaying the interior temperature of your vehicle, so you can be absolutely certain that it’s the right temperature before venturing outside.

Antitheft Issues

Most newer vehicles won’t work with a remote start kit unless it includes the correct antitheft pass through module. If a kit doesn’t come with one, it may be possible to purchase a compatible pass through at an additional cost, but it’s better to just buy the right kit to begin with.

Fuel Injected vs. Carbureted Remote Start Kits

Most remote start kits are designed to work with fuel injected vehicles. This is due to the fact that the idle speed, air/fuel ratio, and other factors are all computer controlled in fuel injected vehicles, which means that the car will essentially take care of itself after the remote starter turns the engine over. Some kits include an RPM-monitoring function that will shut the engine off if it starts racing or restart it if it dies, but most kits rely on the ECU to keep things running smoothly.

If your vehicle is carbureted, then matters are typically more complicated. This is due to the fact that carbureted engines often require a great deal of attention until they are fully warmed up, and you typically have to manually kick them down off high idle at some point. That means that most remote start kits won’t work with carbureted vehicles. However, there are some kits that include additional components that allow them to control the carburetor. If your vehicle has a carburetor, you will need one of these kits.

The Best Remote Start Kit

Although there is no single “best” remote start kit, there definitely is one out there that’s the best fit for your vehicle and situation. If you pay close attention to the basic features, like range, and zero in on the most important optional features, then it shouldn’t be too hard to find the ideal kit.

Of course, you’ll also save yourself a huge headache down the road if you verify that the kit you’re looking at will work right out of the box with any OEM antitheft measures on your vehicle. Beyond that, it’s essentially just a matter of balancing the features and options outlined above with your budget and selecting the best remote start kit you can afford.