Drive system and horsepower are the most important factors

Your garage door opener controls what may be the largest, heaviest moving object in your home (a garage door can weigh up to 600 pounds), so safety is crucial. Federal law requires all garage door openers made since 1993 include sensors to prevent the door from striking anybody who may be in its path. Automatic reverse, which stops the door and lifts off any obstruction, is another common safety feature.

Here's what to keep in mind when you buy a garage door opener:

  • Noise: If you're very sensitive to sound or have living space directly above or adjacent to a garage, a belt-driven or direct-driven model is your best choice.
  • The motor: If your garage door is particularly heavy -- as is the case for insulated models or those with extra layers of metal, wood or reinforcement -- a 3/4-horsepower or even a 1-horsepower motor will be better able to lift the heavy door. Know your garage door's height before you shop. Every garage door opener in this report can handle a 7-foot-high garage door without modification, but most require extension kits for taller doors. Expect to pay about $50 extra for most extension kits, although in some cases you may have to choose between multiple extension kits based on your garage door's height.
  • Professional installation: If you're not prepared to spend a minimum of four hours removing the previous garage door opener and installing a new one, get a professional.
  • Remote-control reliability: If you live in a densely populated area, the signals from all of your neighbors' garage door openers may interfere with your own opener. Look for a dual-frequency garage door opener, which automatically switches between two frequencies to reduce interference.
Other features you're likely to encounter when you're shopping for a garage door opener (and why they matter) include:
  • Rolling-code security technology selects a new, nonrepeating access code from billions of possibilities every time you use the remote control. This keeps would-be burglars guessing at your opener's code, and it also keeps your neighbor's remote control from accidentally opening your garage door.
  • A keypad or touchpad for remote entry. If this feature doesn't come standard with the unit you chose, it can generally be added as an option.
  • Battery backup allows you to keep using your garage door opener during power outages. This feature is rare; it only shows up on a few higher-end models.
  • Overhead lights are standard equipment on all the garage door openers we evaluated. Look for lights that you can control independently of the door's opening or closing; some models also come with a motion sensor to automatically activate the lights when you're in the garage, and some can accommodate extra-bright 100W bulbs (instead of the usual 60W).

Back to top