Garage Door Opener Buying Guide – How to Choose A Garage Door Opener

This page is all about garage openers, the various types and what special features they might offer such as lighting, WiFi, camera, auto-reverse, etc.  Garage door opener prices for various types of garage door openers are listed. There’s guidance to assist you in finding which garage door opener is right for you and your garage.

Garage door openers range in price from around $100 to over $1000.  There are many different types to choose from and brands that manufacture garage door openers.  This guide will tell everything you need to know about garage door openers.

Garage Door Opener

What Are the Main Opener Types?

Most garage door openers have similar design, but they get the job done in slightly different ways with unique equipment.  A motor powers a trolley or carriage along a track of some sort.  The main difference in the various types of garage door openers is how the carriage or trolley is moved along the track.

Your garage door opener options are:

Chain Drive Garage Door Opener
Chain Drive Garage Door Opener

Chain Driven – Chain driven garage door openers are the most economical choice. A motor-driven metal chain raises and lowers the door.  Besides being the most cost effective type of opener, chain driven openers are readily available at most big box stores.  This type of opener does tend to be noisier and cause more vibrations.  If your garage is detached this wouldn’t be an issue.  However, if you have living space adjoining or above your garage the noise and vibrations may be a nuisance when someone is arriving home late at night or leaving early in the morning.

Belt Drive Garage Door Opener
Belt Drive Garage Door Opener

Belt Driven – Belt driven garage door openers, aka belt-driven, are very similar to chain driven openers.  The difference is that instead of a metal chain the trolley is moved along by a belt constructed of steel-reinforced rubber, polyurethane, or fiberglass.  When belt drive are compared to chain drive, belt-driven garage door openers are much quieter than chain driven openers, and they also do not have nearly as much vibration as a chain driven garage door opener.  Since this type of garage door opener has less moving parts, it has less upkeep and usually can last longer than a chain driven opener. With less noise and vibration comes a cost of about $50-$100 more per garage door opener. If reducing noise is a major selling point for you, spending the extra for a belt-driven vs chain-driven garage door opener will pay off in peace and quiet.

Direct Drive Garage Door Opener
Direct Drive Garage Door Opener

Direct Drive – Direct drive garage door openers are very different from chain and belt drive openers.  Instead of having a stationary motor and the chain or belt moving the garage door up and down, a direct drive opener has a motor that travels along a stationary chain. The motor is attached to the door and pulls it up or lowers it as it goes. This type of opener is very quiet and reliable since it only has a motor as a moving part. Direct drive openers are not as common in the United States and are not as readily available as belt or chain driven openers.

Screwdrive Garage Door Opener
Screw Drive Garage Door Opener

Screw Drive – A screw drive garage door opener is similar to both a belt drive and a chain drive openers, but instead of having either a chain or belt, it has a threaded steel rod (screw) to raise or lower the garage door.  With few moving parts there is less maintenance required, and they tend to be more dependable than chain or belt drive openers.  Another positive aspect about screw drive openers is that they are fast.  They can open your garage door twice as fast as a chain-drive opener. As with all garage door openers, there are some drawbacks to having a screw drive garage door opener.  The first problem is that screw drive openers have difficulty opening heavy doors.  Another issue is that the screw threads wear down with use, and eventually the screw must be replace. You can combat wear by regularly lubricating the screw mechanism.

Jackshaft garage door opener
Jackshaft Garage Door Opener

Jackshaft – Jackshaft garage door openers function in a unique way. The major difference is that a jackshaft opener is mounted on the wall, not the garage ceiling.  Jackshaft garage door openers are a great option for those who want or require a more secure garage door.  There is a deadbolt that automatically engages when the door closes.  Since jackshaft garage door openers mount on the wall, they are beneficial if you want to use the overhead space for storage.  A final added advantage of a jackshaft garage door opener is that they are the most advanced available, in terms of automation and smart technology.  Unfortunately, with all the new technology there comes a price.  Jackshaft garage door openers are more expensive than others, as you’ll see below and in our Garage Door Opener Price Guide.

See our Garage Door Opener Types page for complete details.

How Much Horsepower is Enough?

Most garage door opener series have motors starting at ½ horsepower to raise and lower the garage door.  However, garage door openers can go up to 1.5 horsepower, which is used on large, heavy, wooden doors or steel garage doorsGarage doors can vary greatly on how heavy they are.  Some can be less than 100 pounds and others can weigh over 750 pounds. It is imperative that your garage door opener has enough power to lift and lower your garage door efficiently.  Too much horsepower is not necessary and is energy inefficient. Below is a list of horsepower available in garage door openers and how much they are rated to lift:

How Much Horse Power Does Your Opener Need?
Horsepower                          Weight Rating
⅓ or ¼ horsepower up to 150 pounds
½ horsepower up to 350 pounds
¾ horsepower up to 650 pounds
1 horsepower up to 750 pound
1 ¼ horsepower over 750 pounds
Garage Opener Estimates from Local Pro’s

Special Features

Like any appliance, garage door openers offer you a range of performance, convenience and security features to fit your needs. The most popular include:

  • Automatic Reverse –  Sensors placed along the vertical part of the garage door track can detect if something or someone is in the line of the garage door closing.  If so, the sensor sense a signal to the motor that automatically stops descending and goes completely back up.  This is a great safety feature for those with children or pets.  It also ensures that you don’t close your garage door accidentally on a vehicle or any other object. Many systems also auto-reverse if the closing door bumps into anything on its way down.
  • Rolling Code Technology – Rolling code technology was brought out in 1995 by the Genie company.  The main purpose of rolling code or Intellicode technology is added security.  The way that rolling code works is that every time you push the button on your remote to open the garage door a code is sent to your garage door opener to tell it to raise or lower.  Rolling code ensures that that code changes every time a signal is sent from the remote to the garage door opener.  It makes your garage much more secure due to the fact that other cannot hack or use their personal codes to gain access or entry to your garage. This doesn’t mean you have to learn a new code every time. You use the same code, but the system changes its internal code. Thieves often have a backpack full of garage door openers they carry around and try on garage doors to see if they’ll open. Rolling codes makes this criminal activity far less successful.
  • Battery Backup – A battery back-up gives you peace of mind know that if the power goes out, you can still use your garage door opener.  All major brands carry garage door openers with a battery back-up.  Keep in mind that you will have to replace the batteries every 2-3 years, depending on  how much it is used.  If your current garage door opener does not have a battery backup, you can add one for around $80.
  • Garage Door Manual Release – In the event that your home loses power and you do not have a battery back-up, having and knowing how to use a manual release is essential.  A garage door manual release is a cord, usually red, that you can pull to disengage the opener from the track or the motor. In order to work, the door must be in the down position.  Once the door is released from the track you can raise and lower your garage door manually. Most opener systems have manual release to enable you to get your vehicle in and out of the garage when the power is off. Pro tip: Practice using the manual release, so you’ll be comfortable employing it – or know you’ll need help – in the event of a power outtage.
  • Wireless Keypad – This feature is common to most garage door openers.  It allows you or your family/friends to open or close your garage door using a keypad that is usually located near either a garage door or an entry door.  The wireless keypad can be programmed to accept your personal 4 to 6 digit code.
  • Security Lighting – Garage door openers come with security lights that work in a couple different ways.  First of all, whenever you open or close your garage door, the light on your opener will turn on.  There are also openers that have a motion detector, so as soon as you walk into your garage the light will switch on and after a few minutes of no movement in the garage the light will turn itself off. Having light while getting from your home to the vehicle in an otherwise dark garage is a great safety and convenience feature.
  • Smart Technology, Google/Alexa Voice Command – This useful technology is showing up everywhere, and why should it be different with garage door openers? You can control your smart garage door opener with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, as long as you have WiFi and a compatible garage door opener.  All the major garage door opener brands currently offer models that can be accessed and controlled remotely via your smartphone and app, a few of the best smart garage door openers are listed here.  The prices for such features are around $200-$400 for a standard chain driven “smart” garage door opener.  You can also buy a unit to connect to your current garage door opener and to make it compatible with your smartphone.  Such units are around $50-$100 to purchase and are relatively easy to connect.

Power Source – AC or DC

When choosing a garage door opener you will have the option to purchase one that will be powered by either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).  Both types of power plug into standard outlets.  The reason why DC power is more popular or desired is due to the fact that DC motors convert the alternating current to direct current power.  This allows you to use less energy to power your garage door opener.  Direct current motors are also smaller, quieter and function more smoothly.


Who makes the best garage door openers? A few of the top garage door opener brands are:

  • Genie –  Genie might be the most popular brands out there.  The Genie company was the first garage door brand to use rolling code technology.  Genie carries all types of garage door openers(chain drive, belt drive, screw drive, etc.) and also has all the options available, such as intellicode (rolling code), battery back-up, auto reverse, security lighting, WiFi/smart technology, etc.
  • Chamberlain – Chamberlain garage door openers are listed as the top overall garage door opener in many publications.  It features all the bells and whistles that one might require in a garage door opener. Chamberlain carries garage door openers that are chain drive, belt drive, and direct drive.  Chamberlain garage door openers also feature auto-reverse, automatic deadbolt, and WiFi/smart technology. Chamberlain openers offer a 1-5 year warranty depending on the model.
  • LiftMaster – LiftMaster garage door openers offer the same special features that Genie and Chamberlain have. In general, LiftMaster openers are outfitted with powerful motors and are usually used with heavy residential garage doors or in commercial settings.  They are more costly than both Genie and Chamberlain. Chamberlain and LiftMaster are different brands, but The Chamberlain Group is the parent company of both. LiftMaster garage door openers use a one-piece solid track.  This makes the unit much more sturdy.  The LiftMaster garage door opener usually has a 1-3 year warranty.
  • Skylink – The ATOMS garage door opener made by Skylink is a very quiet and powerful unit that is much smaller and sleeker than the other brands listed above.  Skylink garage door openers offer all the possible features that are often needed by homeowners.  Skylink openers specialize in “quiet drive technology”, which is a chain drive motor that is extremely quiet.
  • Raynor This garage door brand manufactures more than a dozen models in various operational styles and some with WiFi, battery backup and other useful performance features.

Choosing a Garage Door Opener

When purchasing a garage door opener there are many factors to consider and choices out there.  Using the information that is provided above should be able guide you to help find what you are looking for in a garage door opener.  Be sure to look for the various features that you desire, as well as finding an opener to meet your budget needs. Another thing to consider when purchasing a garage door opener is how easy will it be to assemble and hook up in your garage.

Some units are more difficult than others. If you decide to hire out the installation process you can generally find the going installation rate to be between $100 and $200, depending on where you reside.

See the Garage Door Openers tab at the top of the page where much more information can be found on pricing, types and more.

Garage Opener Estimates from Local Pro’s

Learn More In Our Garage Door Opener Sections

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