Cheap Garage Door Openers
- Published on
- By Gina Briles
The best products often come with a hefty price tag, but when it comes to garage door openers, thrifty consumers get a well-deserved break: Cheap garage door openers, selling for less than $175, are typically the longest-lasting and most reliable.
Cheap Garage Door Openers Buying Guide
Our research shows that available garage door openers are generally dependable. Deciding which cheap garage door opener is best for your needs really comes down to the details. There are four types of garage door openers: chain drive, screw drive, belt drive, and torsion drive. Chain-drive units, which have been around the longest, require the least amount of maintenance and tend to be the cheapest. Screw-drive systems, said to be somewhat quieter, cost slightly more. Ultra-quiet belt drive models surpass the cheap garage door opener price point altogether. Torsion-drive openers are the most expensive, and are offered solely under the Wayne-Dalton brand.
Garage door openers are sold under multiple brand names, although there are only three primary manufacturers. Chamberlain makes the Sears Craftsman line, the Chamberlain retail line, and the LiftMaster professional line, which is sold only through distributors. Overhead Door Corp. manufactures both Genie retail models and a line of distributor-only cheap garage door openers under the Overhead Door name; the company acquired the Wayne-Dalton brand in 2009. Linear LLC acquired Allstar Corporation in 2007 and continues to offer the Allstar line of residential garage door openers under the Linear name. Other product lines previously distributed under the Allstar label include Allister, Challenger, MVP, and Pulsar.
Limited retail options exist for the frugal do-it-yourselfer. Local hardware and big-box stores carry a handful of brands, usually Chamberlain, Craftsman, Genie, and Wayne-Dalton. Of these, Craftsman is exclusive to Sears. A company called Linear also offers cheap garage door openers through home improvement chains on a private-label basis, although we weren't able to locate any vendors. Brands such as LiftMaster and Overhead Door, as well as professional versions of retail brands, can be purchased through authorized installers. While the units themselves aren't necessarily more expensive than what you find on the shelves, you're on the hook for the additional expense of professional installation -- usually around $100 per garage door.
Due to the small number of manufacturers, cheap garage door openers vary only slightly from model to model. It may be difficult for the typical buyer to figure out what the differences are, or why they should matter. Why is the Chamberlain HD200D recommended above the Chamberlain HD400D, when they're the same but for different accessories? Only because the HD200D -- Home Depot's version of the Chamberlain PD210D -- represents the better dollar value. The bottom line is that all the cheap garage door openers on our list rank high in user satisfaction, and their similarity frees you up to make a decision based solely on the little things -- like, which comes with a keypad or happens to be on sale.
Garage Door Opener Reviews
Cheap Garage Door Opener Types.When selecting a cheap garage door opener, there are four styles to consider. The first and least expensive option is a chain-drive opener. The Craftsman 53920 (starting at $140), Chamberlain PD210D (starting at $138), and Chamberlain HD400D (starting at $169) are all chain-drive units. Chain-drive openers can be purchased for as little as $138 or as much as $180. Cheap chain-drive garage door openers need virtually no maintenance and often last well beyond the 10-year life expectancy considered standard for garage door openers. Chain-drive openers are generally considered the noisiest, but newer versions are considerably quieter than older models, according to user reviews of the Chamberlain HD200D. Still, this may not be the best option for light sleepers or in houses where the nursery is near the garage.
Screw-drive openers start at about $160 and top out at around $230. Experts recommend screw-drive openers for consumers who want a quieter system than a chain drive but don't want the added expense of belt or torsion drive. Professional installers recommend that you periodically lubricate screw-drive openers with low temperature grease to maintain their integrity and relatively quiet operation.
Belt-drive openers are the quietest and also the most expensive garage door openers. Prices start at around $195 and climb up to $400 or so. But one downside of this design, as a Lowe's shopper discovered about the Chamberlain G248754 Whisper Drive Plus (starting at $248), is that the rubber belts may become too slack in hot climates.
Like the belt drive garage door openers, torsion-drive models are quiet and expensive ($250-300), and are produced exclusively by Wayne-Dalton. Torsion-drive systems are a good solution for a garage with limited overhead clearance because they can be wall-mounted. However, disgruntled users complain on Epinions and Amazon that the product is unreliable in cold climates. Other consumers gripe that these systems are hard to install, difficult to adjust, and the remotes frequently need reprogramming.
Cheap Garage Door Openers Motor.The horsepower (hp) of a value garage door opener's motor directly affects the weight it can lift and the speed at which it does so. Most cheap garage door openers intended for home use have either 1/2 hp or 3/4 hp motors. A 1/2 hp motor, like that of the Craftsman 53920, Chamberlain PD210D, Chamberlain HD400D, and Genie Powerlift H4000-07 (starting at $174), is adequate for most single or double garage doors. If you have particularly heavy doors, you may prefer a cheap garage door opener with a 3/4 hp engine, like the Chamberlain 248735 Power Drive (starting at $158). Don't know the weight of your garage door or how fast you want it to open? Err on the side of power and invest in a 3/4 hp unit.
Cheap Garage Door Openers Safety.All newer model garage door openers have several safety features in common. First are "external entrapment protection devices," like infrared safety sensors, that detect obstacles in the path of a closing garage door and stop it from closing when something is in the way. All garage door openers manufactured after 1992 are required by law to have these sensing systems.
In addition to motion detection sensors, rolling security coding was introduced around 1996 as another line of defense against burglary and home invasion. Before the existence of rolling coding, thieves could theoretically use code grabbing devices to "steal" your code if they were nearby when you activated the garage remote. Although this practice was uncommon, HomeSecuritySource.com notes that consumers liked the extra safety measure, and rolling coding soon became a standard feature in all garage door openers.
Because of the change in coding technology in the mid-1990s, remotes that work with older garage door openers don't mesh with newer systems. Another explanation offered by a consumer on the Sears site concerns a change in the underlying radio frequency supposedly ordered by the federal government. Regardless of the reason, the fact that old remotes won't work with today's cheap garage door openers is a sore point for some consumers.
Cheap Garage Door Openers Noise.When deciding which type of cheap garage door opener to buy, you'll need to weigh the cost against your sensitivity to noise and the location of the bedrooms in your home. If the sleeping area is located above or near the garage, it may be worth paying an extra $30 to $50 for a quieter product. But if you have teenagers in the habit of sneaking out, you may prefer something that makes a little noise.
As a general rule, cheap chain-drive garage door openers are the noisiest; cheap screw-drive openers are a bit quieter, and belt-drive and torsion-drive openers make the least noise. That said, some professional installers say there isn't much difference between chain- and screw-drive models. They warn that screws may scrape against their metal tracks over time, especially if you don't keep them lubricated, and note that the vibration of the motor and track against the garage ceiling are the causes for much of the noise. Here's a tip: Vibration noise can be minimized with rubber dampening materials.
Low-priced Garage Door Openers Accessories.As you shop, pay close attention to the accessories included with cheap garage door openers. For instance, the Craftsman 53920, Chamberlain PD210D, Chamberlain HD200D, and Chamberlain G248730 each come with only one single-button remote and do not include an outdoor keypad. For approximately $30 more, you can buy the Chamberlain HD400D -- the exact same garage door opener as the Chamberlain HD200D -- but in a package that includes two one-button remotes and a keyless entry pad. Buying an additional remote can cost as much as this minimal upgrade.
The Genie Powerlift H4000-07, like the Chamberlain HD400D, comes with two one-button remotes, but does not include an outdoor keypad. The Chamberlain 248735 Power Drive comes with two three-button remotes and no keypad, while the Craftsman 53985 (starting at $160) has a keyless entry pad as well as two three-button remotes.
The advantage to three-button remotes versus one-button remotes is that they can be programmed so that each button operates a different garage door. Buttons can even be configured to turn a house light on and off. Drivers with two or more garage doors to contend with may prefer a three-button remote to the hassle of carrying multiple devices. If so, investing up front in a model that includes this option can be more cost-effective than buying the cheapest model and purchasing additional accessories.
Wireless key entry pads, like those included with the Chamberlain HD400D and the Craftsman 53985, are a welcome feature for drivers who don't always carry their remotes around, or prefer not to give house keys to the children.
Cheap, no-frills garage door openers are a convenient option for singles or one-car households, but spending a little more for a model with additional accessories may prove a smarter choice for larger families.
Best Garage Door Openers
Garage Door Opener Commonalities.With less than a handful of garage door manufacturers to contend with, the variations from model to model are so negligible that the average consumer is left wondering, "Will this make any difference to me?" Take, for example, the Craftsman 53920 and the Chamberlain PD210D, both made by Chamberlain. While the body shape of the two openers varies slightly, and the Craftsman has three safety wire terminals to the Chamberlain's four, even the Chamberlain customer service department couldn't suggest why consumers should choose one over the other. The biggest difference between these models is that the Chamberlain PD210D comes with a three-button wall control and the Craftsman 53920 has only a doorbell-style wall opener. However, big-box versions of the Chamberlin PD210D -- Home Depot's HD200D and the G248730 from Lowe's -- come with only the doorbell-style opener, eliminating even that minor distinguishing factor.
Just remember that similarity in features translates to similarity in function. All the models on our list earn consistently good reviews across the board for durability and performance from experts and users alike. ConsumerSearch.com a site that aggregates expert garage door openers reviews, notes that the Chamberlain PD210D is simple to install and impressively well-made, given its reasonable price. In garage door openers reviews by consumers, one owner of the Craftsman 53920 posting on Sears, an owner of the Chamberlain G248730 posting on Lowe's, and an owner of the Chamberlain HD400D posting on Home Depot, all express similar satisfaction with their purchases. Each of these users bought their garage door opener to replace earlier models that had lasted years before reaching the end of their lifespan.
Garage Door Opener Functionality.An advantage to basic chain-drive garage door openers is that they are simple to operate. Users who try their hand at garage door opener installation typically discover that the remotes and keyless entry pad are easy to program and work without a hitch. That was the experience of Chamberlain HD400D owners, according to garage door openers review on Home Depot, ditto with the Chamberlain HD200D, say reviewers posting garage door openers review on the same site.
In the quieter screw-drive category of garage door openers, the Genie Powerlift H4000-07 is by far the star when it comes to performance for the buck. Consumers commenting in garage door openers reviews on Home Depot describe a straightforward installation and a product that needed no adjustments to work properly.
On the flip side, the Craftsman 53985 is plagued by a problem that also poses a potential security risk. Unhappy users posting garage door openers reviews on Sears report incidents of the door randomly opening and closing by itself.
Ease of Installation.How do you plan to install your low-price garage door opener? Professional installation can easily double your cost, so picking up a DIY model from the local big-box or hardware store can help you pinch your home improvement pennies. Even inexperienced do-it-yourselfers usually discover they're up to the challenge of installing cheap screw- or chain-drive systems, as one purchaser of the Craftsman 53920 notes in his garage door openers review on the Sears website. If you follow the instructions closely and are willing to invest four to six hours of your time, you'll have a fully-functioning cheap garage door opener to show off to friends and family. Top-dollar torsion-drive garage door openers, on the other hand, are typically another story. A garage door openers review on Amazon reports that mounting a Wayne-Dalton iDrive Torquemaster Garage Door Opener (starting at $299) was best left to a professional.
But heads up: If you're shopping for a cheap garage door opener at a local store, read the instructions carefully before walking out. As one consumer notes in a garage door openers review on Home Depot, you may discover that parts needed for mounting the new garage door opener were not included in the package. And remember to measure the height of your garage door(s) before shopping. Seven-foot doors are the industry standard, and a garage door higher than that means you'll have to shell out for an extension kit; one buyer of the Craftsman 53990 (starting at $180) found this out the hard way, according to a garage door openers review on Buzzillions. Depending on the brand you've chosen and the height of your garage doors, plan on spending anywhere from $20 to $60 per extension kit (one for each garage door).
Garage Door Opener Maintenance.The average life span of a garage door opener is 10 years, according to experts on the how-to website Oldhouseweb.com. Many cheap garage door openers, especially chain-drive units, hang in two to three times longer than that. Keeping your inexpensive garage door opener running a decade or more is usually just a matter of proper maintenance.
Maintaining a garage door opener is fairly straightforward. Both chain-drive and screw-drive models entail easy upkeep. As experts at the Natural Handyman blog point out, the chains on chain-drive openers may loosen over time due to wear and tear on the rollers, pins, and gears. You'll need to tighten the chains on a new installation once they've had time to settle. This is a simple process and probably won't need repeating for several years. Screw-drive units demand more attention and should be lubricated once or twice a year, depending on usage, to prevent screws from "catching" on the track. Professional installers advise that you use low temperature grease, not spray lubrication like WD-40.
Belt-drive garage door openers, while outside the Cheapism price range, also boast no-fuss maintenance. The rubber belt never needs to be lubricated but may wear out over time and need to be replaced; one handy article about garage door openers assures consumers this is a relatively simple procedure. Torsion-drives require much more tweaking than cheap garage door openers, according to garage door openers reviews on Ace Hardware.
Experts at Garagedooropenerguides.com stress the importance of one critical task: performing occasional safety reversing tests. This can be done by placing a 2'x4' under your open garage door, then activating the opener. Your garage door should reverse once it makes contact with the obstacle. If it doesn't, you must either repair the malfunction yourself or call a professional for servicing. Not doing so puts pets and children at serious risk.