Garage door opener purchasing advice: how to choose the right product

  • What You Need to Know
  • Thanks to a garage door opener, you can open the garage door at the touch of a button.
  • Unlike swing and roller doors, an operator for up-and-over and sectional doors can usually be retrofitted.
  • The connection between the motor and the door is made either by a chain or a toothed belt.
  • The higher the tractive force of the drive, the larger and heavier the garage door may be.
garage door opener comparison

Open sesame

Manually opened garage doors are a rarity these days. As long as the space and the possibility exist, a garage door opener is usually available. By allowing you to operate the door at the touch of a button, it takes the work off your hands.

A garage door opener is therefore not a superfluous convenience device. Especially for those who park their car in the garage and use it daily, it saves not only effort but also time. Getting out of the car every time to open the door becomes annoying over time. If the weather is bad or traffic is running directly in front of the door, it can even become inconvenient and stressful to have to get out of the car.

A garage door opener therefore particularly benefits people who regularly suffer from time pressure and use the garage several times a day. In addition, there are users such as children, people with disabilities, senior citizens or pregnant women who may not have the necessary strength or mobility to open a garage door manually. For such groups of people, an operator is a necessity.

How a garage door opener works

A garage door that is opened manually can usually also be coupled to a garage door opener, provided the type of door allows this. The operator simply does the work by pulling the door mechanically. A garage door opener does not therefore necessarily have to be installed when the garage is built; it can also be purchased and installed later, as long as the model matches the garage door.

The connection between the door and the garage door opener motor is made either by a chain or a toothed belt. The motor pulls the chain or toothed belt along a guide rail that is installed on the ceiling or on a framework. When closed, the door is automatically locked. Whether you should use a drive with chain or toothed belt depends on the situation. The permissible noise level and the weight of the door, for example, are factors that go into the purchase decision.

Chain drive: loud and powerful

A chain drive is not suitable for people with noise-sensitive neighbours. However, it is durable and reliable. The probability of the chain becoming defective is very low. In addition, a chain drive usually has more power, so it is capable of opening larger and heavier gates. Although it does not require much maintenance, the chain may need to be tightened and greased from time to time.

Pro points

  • Robust
  • Long-lasting
  • Powerful


  • Loud
  • Needs maintenance

Toothed belt drive: for the small city garage

A toothed belt drive cannot carry as much weight as a chain drive. On the other hand, it is very quiet and requires little maintenance, as it does not need to be lubricated or tightened. It is therefore ideal for people with many neighbours and small garages. Its biggest shortcoming, however, is its susceptibility to damage. The toothed belt wears out faster than chains.

Pro points

  • Quiet
  • Low maintenance


  • Less powerful than chain drive
  • Susceptibility to damage

The type of door matters

Before you start looking for garage door openers, make sure that the model you want is compatible with your garage door. After all, not all garage doors with openers work. Most garage door openers are designed to operate sectional and overhead doors.

Up-and-over garage door

Up-and-over garage door

Up-and-over doors – also called overhead doors – are the garage classics. When opened, the door is moved upwards; meanwhile it changes its position in relation to the ceiling from vertical to parallel. This causes the lower part of the door to swing out slightly. If you intend to park, you should therefore keep a certain distance from the door. With overhead doors, it is usually possible to retrofit a garage door opener.

Sectional door

Sectional door

The particularly space-saving sectional doors are becoming increasingly popular. Because they are divided into sections, the doors do not have to extend outwards when they are raised, they are simply pulled up. During the opening process, they therefore form a 90-degree angle. When open, they are parallel to the ceiling, just like up-and-over doors. Here, too, the retrofitting of a garage door opener is usually possible.

Roller door

Roller door

In principle, roller doors function like large roller shutters. They are simply pulled upwards and roll in as they do so. So from the outside they are very similar to sectional doors. When open, however, they look completely different. Roller doors are particularly space-saving. However, they have their own motor that opens and closes the door. Installing an operator is therefore rarely necessary or not even possible.

Wing gate

Wing gate

Swing gates consist of two parts that open sideways to the outside. They require a lot of space for this. In addition, they often do not open in heavy snow, at least not before it is cleared. Even strong wind can be a problem in this respect. For this reason, many people consider such doors to be outdated and impractical. Common garage door openers can hardly be used with swing gates. Instead, spindle or swing gate openers are usually used.

Other purchase criteria

Before buying, you must first make sure that the operator is compatible with your garage door and the way it works. In addition, its power must be high enough to open the door. Last but not least, the speed at which the operator opens the garage door and the method of operation also play a role.

Tractive force

The pulling force of a garage door opener is measured in Newtons. It determines how large and heavy the door it operates may be. For a small garage door, 500 Newtons is usually sufficient. Most garage door openers have a pulling force of between 500 and 1,000 Newtons.

To calculate the maximum permissible weight in kilograms from the Newton figure, you can simply divide the Newton figure by ten. This formula is not always accurate, but it can help you to estimate the value. As a rule, however, you do not have to calculate the value yourself, as it is given by the manufacturer.

The maximum door area is given in square metres. It is equally important to look closely at the maximum height and width. After all, even if a garage door’s area is less than the operator manufacturer specifies, it may still be too long or wide. It is possible that the chain, toothed belt or guide rail will be too short if the garage door is too high. If the door is too wide, it may open unevenly. In such a case, two drives are necessary.

Running speed

The running speed of a garage door opener refers to how fast the opener opens the door. It is expressed in centimetres per second. The stronger the motor power of the drive, the faster the opening and closing of the door. Most garage door openers have a running speed of between 10 and 20 centimetres per second. If you operate the garage door several times a day, you should choose a fast drive to save time.

Type of operation

Garage door openers are most often operated with a hand-held transmitter or remote control. The device works by radio. Usually, two or three transmitters are included with the drive. These can be attached to the key fob, for example. Their operation is simple and intuitive, even the adjustment after installation rarely causes difficulties. However, the number of people who can operate the gate is limited to the number of transmitters present. Last but not least, radio interference sometimes occurs. For example, the signal can interfere with this of the neighbour’s garage or even a radio bell.

man opens garage door from the car

Another possibility is a code button, i.e. an operating element on which a security code is entered. The advantage is that anyone who knows the code can open the gate. This means that you do not have to rely on two or three people. However, depending on where the control element is mounted, you may have to get out of the car to operate it.

Some models now even work via app. They can be connected to the smartphone via Bluetooth or WLAN. All you have to do is install the app and you can open or close the gate via smartphone. The biggest advantage is that you don’t need another device, but can use the smartphone that you probably have with you most of the time anyway.

Power consumption

The power consumption is rather secondary for garage door openers. The reason for this is that the device is usually in idle mode and is only operated for a few seconds – minutes at most – per day. In idle mode, most models consume no more than two watts.

Power is usually supplied via a mains connection. However, there are also models with a rechargeable battery that is charged by a solar panel. In the latter case, you are not dependent on mains power. This simplifies installation and saves money in the long run.

Obstacle detection

With the help of a light barrier, garage door openers are able to detect whether or not something is in the way of their closing. If the former is the case, the operator stops automatically. With some models, the door is raised again. The door reverses at the latest when it touches the object that is in the way.

Emergency release

The emergency release allows you to operate the garage door if the power fails or the operator is defective. The purpose of the emergency release is to disconnect the door from the operator to allow manual operation. Emergency releases are accessible either from outside the garage by lock or inside the garage by pull cord. If your garage has a second entrance, an emergency release inside the garage is sufficient. If the garage door is your only access to the garage, the emergency release must be activatable outside the garage.

Automatic closing

Some operators ensure that the garage door closes by itself. This function is particularly practical for forgetful users, as they no longer have to worry about the door closing when it is extended. Closing can be set with a timer. Set the timer so that you have enough time for both parking in and parking out.

LED lighting

Garage door openers are often equipped with LED lighting. This feature is especially handy for those who do not have another light source in their garage. The lighting comes on automatically when the unit is in operation and switches itself off again after a while.

Installation tips

For experienced do-it-yourselfers, self-assembly of a garage door opener is perfectly possible. However, it requires some tools, such as a cordless drill or screwdriver. You will also need another person to install the guide rail. Users who have little or no experience in installing more complex devices are advised to leave the installation to professionals. Before you decide to install an electric garage door opener, you should check whether there is enough space between the ceiling and the door of an overhead or sectional door for the guide rail.