Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Car Alarms and Remote Starts - What's the Best? Where Should I go?

There is a sea of aftermarket Alarms and Remote Start systems available out there.  Auto parts stores, Electronics Retailers (i.e. Best Buy), and Vehicle Audio/Video Retailers all carry specific brands and varieties.  So what is the best out there?  How do you choose the best system that fits your needs?

Plain and simple - shop around.  However, the cheapest is definitely not the best.  You get what you pay for.  Let's discuss alarms first.

A cheapo $30 alarm isn't going to cut it.  You may find it at a parts store.  It may even carry a familiar brand name.  We get a huge influx of people wanting these installed immediately after the Christmas season.  However, you may find them disappointing.

1) The antenna's reception is significantly shorter.  We installed such an alarm for a client.  After installation, we found that she had to be approximately 8-10 feet from her vehicle in order to arm, disarm, or remote start her vehicle.  Imagine her excitement.

2) Although electronics costs have and is rapidly dropping, capacitors, resistors, and circuit boards all play a role in the alarm module.  Cheaper materials means early failure rates.

Variety of Alarms. These days, each brand carries a variety of options.  Since I am familiar with the brand we carry, I am using it as my example.

1) Keyless Entry / Alarm. - This is the alarm system that comes to mind when you say "car alarm".

2) Keyless Entry / Alarm 2 way system - This is the next step upgrade.  The easiest way to define this is to break it down to it's literal term.  The signal can be sent 2 ways.  Basically your alarm box receives signals from your remote, and your remote receives signals from your alarm.  Basically, any alerts will signal the remote.

3) Keyless Entry / Alarm - 2 way system - 1 mile system.  This system is the same as the last with an extended range.  The easiest analogy would be this system would reach your car if you were at the back of Walmart.  The previous models would reach your car if you were at the cashier's or at the doors.

Remote Starts

These are a little more difficult to decipher, but the same rule applies: Cheaper is not Better.  Internals and components all follow the same rules.

So which system is best?  The alarm varies mentioned above also follow the same varieties, just add "remote start" to the listing.  However, most vehicles since 2005 have an electronic vehicle theft deterrent system of some type.  A bypass module is required for these systems to work.  Basically, the bypass module retains your factory theft deterrent system, but when the remote start is activated, the bypass module mimics the coding on your keys allowing the vehicle to start.  There are two main companies that make these modules for every brand available, and they are either sold under their own name or re-branded.

If you're considering a remote start, they are great to have.  Most people think of them in the winter time for thawing vehicles from under a sheet of ice or snow.  And the summer?  Well, when you're vehicle is scorching hot, it's definitely a feature of comfort to cool your interior down before you get back in.

There are many reputable brands on today's market.  It's important to use the brands familiar to the company you choose to install your system.  Different alarms have different color coded wires and connectors.  Bringing an unfamiliar brand to a company usually takes more time.  You may find that if a company is willing to accept the installation of the alarm you bring, the billed labor hours will match or exceed that of purchasing the company's brand.

- Bryan Lin | CEO, The Motorsports Authority, Inc. |