The brief annual autumn warm-up has now come and gone, so it’s time to accept that the summer is officially over and, for us midwesterners, that chill in the air will only get worse. We’ll soon be in the midst of full-scale winter weather, with months of miserable mornings dealing with a cold, snow-covered car. The good news is that there’s still time to plan your defenses. Along with a good pair of boots and a trusty windshield brush, one must-have for any winter commuter is the remote car starter.
Trudging through the snow on a cold morning is infinitely better when you can sit down in warm car with a defrosted windshield. An automatic car starter is an investment that will quickly pay for itself in minimized morning misery, not to mention time saved scraping a windshield or waiting for your ride to warm up.
And while it might seem high-tech, a remote start kit doesn’t have to be an exorbitant investment. It certainly can be—today’s top-of-the-line systems offer impressive technology that can do a whole lot more than just start your car—but it doesn’t need to be. In the end, the best remote car starter is going to be the one that gets the job done and fits in your budget. We’re going to take a look at four different remote start options, each at a different spot in the price spectrum.
The most entry system is this Viper Basic 1-way remote car starter. It has one button, and does one job: it starts your car from afar. In normal conditions, you can expect it to work from up to 1/4 mile away. Installation fees will vary depending on your car, but the remote itself is under a hundred bucks.
Pro Tip: In a 1-way system, communication between the car and your remote moves in just one direction—from your key fob to the car. When you press the button, a radio signal is sent to the car and (hopefully) the car receives it and starts up. The remote talks to the car, but the car doesn’t talk back. These are great systems if you typically have line-of-sight of your car from your starting position—say, out the window of your home—so you can look outside to check whether or not the car started.
Moving up from the basic remote car starter gets you a Viper Value 1-way remote starter, which brings some added functions and a slightly longer range. The five-button remote lets you remotely start your car, and also unlock your doors or pop your trunk from a distance. It’s still a 1-way remote, so you won’t get confirmation of your car starting, but this remote is good from up to 2,000 feet away.
Pro Tip: In a 2-way system, communication moves, you guessed it, in both directions. When you press the button on your fob, a signal is sent to your car to start it. Once the car is started, it sends a signal back to your fob to let you know that the car did indeed start. So you can confirm successful ignition even if don’t have a view of your vehicle—great for office dwellers who aren’t near a window.
You can get this added benefit by moving up to this Viper 2-Way 5-Button remote car starter system. This remote lets you start your car, unlock your doors, or pop your trunk, plus it includes nifty features like Viper’s TempCheck, so you can monitor your vehicle’s temperature remotely. Another perk is that this 2-Way remote starter has a range of up to 1 mile.
For the ultimate remote car starter, you can add the Viper SmartStart GPS Module to most existing Viper remote systems (it’s compatible with all current systems except the most basic remote, which was first in our list). This module lets you activate your car remote start with your smartphone, which means you can start your car from literally almost anywhere in the world. This is the perfect option for those who work in a building where a typical remote’s radio signal has trouble escaping, or public transit commuters who want to get their car started from the train ride back to the station. Viper’s SmartStart GPS Module also adds a wealth of location-based benefits, like your car’s location, so you’ll never have to wander around a mall parking lot again.