Once an aftermarket option, remote car starters have become standard equipment on many luxury automobile models. The remote control allows you to start your car from up to 1,500 feet away, warming the car up on cold days or cooling the interior on summer days. The unit and its installation carry separate price tags, as does the amount of gas consumed during the warm-up.
Remote starters allow users start their car without having to walk outside. The car starts with the push of one or two buttons on the remote, giving the owner time to cool or heat the interior before driving. According to CarAudioHelp, remote starters are connected to the ignition system and start the engine when triggered. Even though the car's engine is running, the automobile doesn't drive until the key is inserted.
Although most car starters are basic models that start the engine and mimic the car's keyless entry features, a number of remote systems include extra security measures. Barry Hunefeld, owner of Grand Rapids, Michigan automotive accessory installer AutoMac's, writes that high-power models add extra security measures such as shock sensors, door triggers, starter interrupt, sirens, parking light triggers and a flashing red light for the dashboard.
Remote car starters trigger the engine and ventilation system, and both require gas to operate. A Consumer Reports article on fuel economy advises against letting cars idle to warm up. "Think of it this way: When you're idling, your car is getting zero miles per gallon." The magazine allowed a Buick Lucerne warm-up for 10 minutes--the maximum time remote starters idle before shutting off. The test showed the Lucerne used one-eighth of a gallon of gas. Based on the national average gas price in August 2010 as reported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Lucerne's 10 minutes of idling would cost 35 cents.
Consumer Reports experts write that engines and car interiors heat faster when moving, rendering the warm-up unnecessary. The cost of warming up a car by remote start extends to the environment. Make a LEaP, an advocacy group devoted to lowering car emissions by reducing vehicle idling, reports that every gallon of gas consumed creates 19 lbs. carbon dioxide. Allowing a car to warm up for 10 minutes creates nearly 2 1/2 lbs. of the gas, which has been linked to ozone layer damage and climate change. Starting the car during the summer and allowing it to run for 10 minutes with the air conditioning on increases emissions by 13 percent.