There are four types of garage door openers, differentiated by the mechanical drive used to raise the door. Chain-drive garage door openers are the most common and least expensive type. These models use a chain looped around a rail to raise or lower the door. Belt-drive garage door openers use a metal-reinforced rubber belt instead of a chain; they are typically quieter and more expensive than chain-driven models.
You'll also see some models described as direct-drive garage door openers, but this is a vague term, since it can refer to any garage door opener that doesn't use a traditional chain, screw or belt drive. Among direct-drive models, the Sommer Synoris Garage Door Opener (*Est. $230) stands out. Instead of a stationary motor moving the chain to lift the door, the Synoris' motor glides along a stationary, spring-tensioned chain. Reviewers praise the Synoris' quiet operation, and they trumpet its reliability, thanks to its high-quality construction and one moving part.
Screw-drive garage door openers were once popular but now don't make a blip on our radar. The screw-drive's relatively simple mechanism, which moves up and down a threaded steel rod, makes for a powerful, low-maintenance garage door opener; but reviewers say screw-drive models are both noisy and slow. Given the lack of current reviews for these models, we have opted not to include them in our report.