Our Top Pick for 2016: Liftmaster 8500 Wall Mount Garage Door Opener
Read our full review.
One of the most important appliances in your home is the trusty garage door opener. Without it, you cannot possibly lift the door on your own. Today’s garage doors are usually roll-up styles that typically weigh up to 200 pounds each. You want a reliable opener for your home because it makes garage access easy with the touch of a button while keeping your family safe from possible harm. Before you pick out the next opener for your home, consider some of the best products on the market today. Some of today’s features may amaze even the most tech-savvy consumer.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Powerful 3/4 HPS DC Belt Drive
Virtually No Vibrations
Jackshaft Side Mount Opener
Must Have Front Mount Torsion Springs
MyQ Technology Enabled
Includes Rail For 7 Ft. Or 8 Ft. Door Height
Power Lock, 888LM Wall Control, Safety Beams, Remote Light
Includes Two X 2-button Transmitters
Includes Two 3-button Remote Controls
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Liftmaster 8500 Wall Mount Garage Door Opener
View it on Amazon for $315.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
The top garage-door opener pick among consumers today is the LiftMaster 8500. This brand has been around for many years, and it continues to offer premium products for reasonable prices. The opener comes with four, main sections, including the wall mount, remote control, remote panel and gearbox. Although every opener performs the same basic duties, this top pick stands out because of its inherent features.
If you’ve ever experienced the garage door banging closed, you have an older opener model. As the seasons change and temperatures fluctuate, the door and frame assembly shift too. The 8500 system has a self-monitoring feature that controls the force with which the door moves up and down. If the frame is even slightly off from its original position, the auto-force feature slows the door’s movement in order for every component to slide without damage. Over time, this feature will reduce wear on the opener and door. In fact, you might have minimal maintenance needs over the years because of the intelligent movement through intricate electronics and gears.
This opener system comes with a standard overhead light embedded in the gearbox. However, LiftMaster’s mechanical movements are so smooth that you won’t experience light problems. In other opener models, light bulbs are constantly jostled and eventually driven right out of their sockets. As a result, you drive into a dark garage with some flickering light. The overhead box is designed with smooth operation in mind so that the bulb remains perfectly in place and illuminated. Additionally, you’ll also have control over the remote light with the included delay mechanism. For safety purposes, you always want a light on when you’re entering or exiting the garage.
Don’t be the only person on the block without a battery backup system. The 8500 model comes standard with an internal battery. If your electricity ever goes out, the opener won’t operate without the battery power. In fact, your car might be trapped in the garage until power is restored. The battery is meant to be a safety tool in order for you to move your car out of the home as an emergency occurs. This battery is rechargeable, and the system does supply the power during normal operations. However, you’ll need to replace the battery on a periodic basis. Every battery has a specific lifespan of one year or more. Ask your maintenance professional to test the battery during routine service calls. When a power emergency occurs, you’ll be ready with a fresh battery.
Your LiftMaster system also comes with a 3-button remote control. Your installation professional will program the remote to work with your system alone. The opener comes with rolling-code technology which reduces the chances of criminals entering your home with a cloned device. Each time you press the button, a new code activates the door. It’s nearly impossible to duplicate the code because it’s entirely random with each motion. The other two buttons can be programmed for other garage-door openers. You might have a home with three separate garages, for instance. Only one remote is necessary to control all of these openers from the comfort of your car.
Technology has definitely influenced this garage-door opener with the included My-Q component. Download the My-Q app onto your smartphone, and immediately access your opener’s operations. You can program it to message you about each opening sequence. If you’re on vacation and the home is empty, knowing that the door is actively opening may alert you to a crime in progress. It’s also possible to set specific time ranges for opening and closing. When you’re ready for bedtime, program the opener to not open for any remotes until morning. This added security feature is priceless for any family.
One concern among consumers regarding their opener is mechanical stress. Regardless of the opener’s technology, there are always gears, motors and belts involved with moving a garage door. The 8500 opener has an ingenious design to protect these mechanical parts. It has continuous lubrication of its gears. When the opener is being used, the gears and lube work as a team. The lubrication is actually being laid back onto the gears as they move throughout the gearbox. When operation ceases, the gears have a fresh lube layer that reduces friction on the metal parts.
Safety is a top concern for LiftMaster so they have a sophisticated light-beam feature that monitors the doorway. When the garage door is open, invisible light beams crisscross the doorway. As the opener closes the door, these beams remain in place in order to alert the system to any obstacles. The door immediately rises if the light beams are broken. With children running around the home, this garage-door feature is crucial for everyone’s safety. Ideally, it should be tested each month with a piece of lumber so that you know that the beams are properly working.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): SOMMER Direct Drive 1042V001 3/4 HP Garage Door Opener
View it on Amazon for $252.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
If you’re used to a garage-door opener that has a visible chain with inherent noise levels, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the direct-drive model by SOMMER. With a 3/4-HP motor, this opener can easily move a door more than 500 pounds in weight. You’ll also experience the advanced technology that is direct drive, which causes the opener to be whisper quiet.
When you open the box that comes with the SOMMER system, you’ll have almost everything that you need. The opener comes with the main gearbox, two car remotes, two door sensors and all of the nuts and bolts necessary for a complete installation. In fact, it’s possible to install this opener by yourself. Other opener models are more complex in nature, which makes a professional’s help almost mandatory. Simply follow the instructions, and you can install this opener with safety as a top priority. Only basic hand tools are necessary for this DIY job.
SOMMER makes their system simple to install because of the included rail. This rail fits up to an 8-foot door height as it spans the space between the frame and gearbox at the garage’s center point. This rail isn’t your typical chain-and-frame assembly, however. You’ll notice that the attached motor is the moving mechanism instead of the chain itself. As the opener activates, the motor moves along the rail for a smooth, overall action. This design perk is the definition of a direct-drive system. Because the motor is permanently attached to the included rail system, this feature makes the opener even easier to install and maintain.
Most garage-door openers have a fixed motor that’s centralized at the middle of the room. When you press the remote buttons, the motor forces the chain to pull on the door and lift it. This leverage strategy isn’t the most ideal design, however. SOMMER decided to put the motor at the door’s edge as a leverage solution. The motor isn’t struggling to pull the door from a far distance anymore. It’s working at the closest point to the door, which reduces strain. As a result, your opener should last for many years with little maintenance because of this ingenious design strategy.
There have been concerns among consumers about these openers and the rail kit’s length. Some garages might have doors that are larger than 7 or 8 feet. In these cases, the included rail won’t fit with the system. SOMMER also offers an extension kit for their direct-drive system. Ideally, you should measure your garage door before purchasing the opener. If you have a door that’s 10-feet in dimension, for example, purchase the opener and extension in one transaction. When you have all of these pieces at your home, you can quickly alter the system to work with your garage’s architecture.
Almost everyone has had that experience of wondering if the garage door is open or closed as they head off to work or school. You never have to wonder or turn back around again with HomeLink technology. SOMMER offers this feature in their direct-drive system because it works with nearly any vehicle make. Program your new opener with the HomeLink in your car, and you can press a button for automatic operation and information. Use the included smartphone app to know if and when the door has been opened or closed. By linking your opener to your home or car, you have the power to keep the entire family safe from any unauthorized garage access. In many cases, the garage is the largest and most vulnerable opening into your home if the door is allowed to remain open and unsupervised.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Chamberlain WD962KEV Whisper Drive Garage Door Opener with MyQ Technology
View it on Amazon for $189.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Chamberlain remains one of the most trusted names in the garage-door opener business. With that in mind, this manufacturer offers consumers a simple yet feature-enhanced system for a reasonable investment. The Whisper Drive opener by Chamberlain comes with the standard gearbox, two remotes, two sensors and two controllers that are wired and wireless. From Internet connectivity to timer perks, this opener is a solid winner among consumers.
Stumbling through a dark garage is a dangerous process so Chamberlain makes lighting an automatic feature in their system. The control panel is usually located beside an access door between the garage and home interior. As you walk into the dark garage, the control panel activates the overhead light in seconds. This activation is thanks to an embedded motion detector within the panel itself. You don’t have to wave your hand in front of it either because the system is sensitive enough to notice anyone moving into the room. Because of the integrated technology, the motion detection components can also be adjusted for sensitivity and time parameters. You don’t have to waste electricity with an opener light that continually cycles on and off.
Consider the design of your entire home. Many homes are relatively compact with a room residing just above the garage. If the door opens or closes late at night, the occupants within that room will usually be awakened by the opener’s vibrations and loud noise. Take a closer look at this Chamberlain opener, and you’ll notice that it’s almost entirely silent as it moves your heavy door. The quiet operation is generated by the belt drive. Instead of a metal chain connecting into gear crevices and causing excessive noise, a strong belt pulls the door open and close. The belt practically sticks to the opener’s components, which contributes to reliable and quiet operation with each press of the remote button. If you live in a condominium or apartment complex, this opener is a smart purchase for overall household comfort.
That quiet operation isn’t the best feature when you’re concerned about your family’s safety. Each Chamberlain system comes with two sensors that install on either side of the door’s opening. These sensors work with the invisible light beams that illuminate the doorway when it’s opened. The sensors should be properly aligned in order for them to indicate if the light beams have been broken. If anyone or anything breaks the light beams’ pathways, the sensors immediately note this fact and raise the door. As a result, no one can be hurt by the heavy, garage door.
Families have busy lives, and many of those days are spent pulling items in and out of the garage. When you don’t want to worry about the garage door being manually opened or closed, use the timer feature on the system. It can be set for three separate times, including one-, five- and 10-minute lengths. If you’re pulling several bicycles out of the garage for a leisurely ride around the neighborhood, set the timer to 10 minutes. Everyone can be on their way as the door closes safely behind them.
Connect your opener, home and smartphone together with MyQ technology that’s inherent to this Chamberlain system. Access your door’s opening and closing schedule by using the MyQ app on your smartphone. Connect even further with your home by turning on the interior and exterior lights as you arrive home. The garage and entire house will be illuminated as you enter the premises. You enhance the safety of your entire family when lights provide a visual of open walkways without any obstacles to worry about.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Chamberlain PD612EV 1/2 HP MyQ Enabled Chain Drive Garage Door Opener
View it on Amazon for $131.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
When you’re on a limited budget, it’s still possible to buy a reliable garage-door opener by Chamberlain. The PD612EV opener comes with the basic system features that you need for easy garage access. It comes with a 200-watt light fixture, two remotes with three buttons and safety door sensors. With one of the lowest price tags in the industry, the Chamberlain model PD612EV can get your garage open in no time.
Your garage door is heavy even when it’s designed for one car. You can still have a top, name brand opener without breaking the bank with Chamberlain’s budget system, however. The standard motor is 1/2HP, which is ample enough for small- to medium-door sizes. Some consumers may be concerned about the system’s overall opening and closing speed being too slow, but most buyers are pleased with the reliable operation. Ideally, you want an opener that can safely raise and lower the door without damaging it or the structure itself. A few extra seconds of pull time is usually overlooked when budget-conscious consumers are looking for a quality opener.
Chamberlain knows that you still want some premium features with your opener so they’ve included Internet connectivity. Use MyQ or HomeLink technology with this system. Both of these Internet-based technologies allow you to access the opener’s data with the touch of your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Although you’ll normally require some accessories to run these features, many consumers are investing in the components for overall household connectivity. If you don’t want to use MyQ or HomeLink at this point, the opener will still operate with no problems. You can always upgrade your home or car whenever you feel ready.
Because this system is a traditional chain-pull mechanism, some consumers have noticed that the parts are interchangeable with their old openers. Chains, wires and other components might be used on an older system if necessary. If you have multiple garage-door openers, part compatibility makes this system a real deal for your checking account. Add the new system to one garage, and order extra parts for an older system on another garage. You’ll always have spare parts that work for several systems. Over time, you’ll save money on system upkeep while protecting your home from possible intruders.
The outside gearbox housing is plastic, but that fact doesn’t mean that the rest of the opener is flexible and possibly weak. Chamberlain still designs their budget-friendly systems with solid metal construction. In fact, you’ll find steel making up the chassis and rail. There are no hollow sections or plastic inserts. The metal is meant to withstand many years of pulling heavy, garage doors. Take a close look at the included chain too. With metal connectors throughout the chain’s construction, this mechanism won’t break under pressure. It’s designed to withstand many years of use without any stretching or cracking. When it comes to garage door safety, you want metal to be the main component in any opener. It can withstand yearly temperature fluctuations within uninsulated and insulated garages.
When you consider all of the features included with your new garage-door opener, the sound it makes is a top concern. The cheapest opener might be attractive in price, but the daily noise generated by the budget motor may not be worth the hassle. Ideally, listen to several openers before purchasing one. You might visit several friends’ homes who all have different opener models, for example. Make your own decision about the noise level when they activate their system.
You might be tempted to visit a home-improvement store as you contemplate a new opener model. Although you’ll certainly see the openers in person, you won’t truly see them in action. The motors need to have a garage-door load placed on them in order for you to truly hear the noise level. Running the opener without an attached door might deceive you when it comes to sound levels.
In most cases, a belt-driven system tends to be quieter than a traditional, chain model. The belt is durable rubber, and it will last for many years without any problems. Although you may need to replace the belt more often than a chain, the trade-off is a quiet system for a small home, apartment or condominium. In fact, some complexes require quiet openers in order to reduce noise levels for every neighbor. Weigh this feature carefully before making any final decisions. In most cases, you’ll have the opener for 10 years or longer when you’re a homeowner.
It’s natural for consumers to overlook many opener features and simply concentrate on product pricing. However, price shouldn’t be the top concern as you research various opener models. Most openers have a horsepower value that’s included in the model’s title. This power description is critically important to your purchase plans. If you use your garage door two or three times a day, a 1/2HP opener is ample for your needs. The door is only being accessed when you want to leave home or arrive back from your daily outings. This 1/2HP motor can support a standard, two-car garage door with ease.
Some families use the garage as a front door, however. Kids might pull their bikes in and out of the home, or an adult may run a business out of this space. When the door is almost constantly in motion, it’s time to consider a higher horsepower opener.
Select a 3/4 or 1-1/4HP opener for these busy spaces. The added power means that the opener won’t experience excessive strain through the years. Every nut, bolt, chain and other mechanism experiences strain as the door is forced open and closed. As a result, you’ll have an opener that stands the test of time with a powerful motor. Your maintenance costs will be lower even when the door opens and closes a dozen times a day. Although the additional power means a higher price tag, you’ll recoup the costs with many more years of use with few parts failures.
From social media to streaming TV shows, the Internet seems to be interwoven into almost every aspect of life. When you shop for a garage-door opener, many models come with some Internet connectivity built into the electronics. Don’t be intimidated by this feature. It’s not mandatory to connect your opener system, but you might want to try it after familiarizing yourself with the purchase.
The connectivity simply makes your life easier with remote access at any time. You might be at work, and a delivery person is knocking at your home’s front door. It’s possible to open the garage door from your smartphone in order to give the delivery person a safe place to stash the package. Close the door behind the person, and you have a safe delivery without being present at the property.
Technology goes even further to keep everyone safe at home. An intruder might be lurking inside your darkened home when you arrive in the driveway. By using your opener’s Internet connectivity, you can lift the garage door and turn on any of the lights in the home. You won’t walk into a dark home that can hide an intruder in some cases.
As time goes on, new connectivity features are often added to garage-door openers. Most manufacturers try to make their systems flexible enough for easy upgrades. You may be able to add even more connectivity as technology advances even further.
For many homeowners, working on their property gives them a sense of accomplishment while easing costs on labor. When you shop for that perfect garage-door opener, pay careful attention to the installation details listed with the overall product features. Some products are advertised as DIY types, whereas others require some professional expertise for long-term operation.
If you have a roll-up garage door with a large, tension spring, a professional installation is usually warranted. These springs are under considerable tension, and you might injure yourself if any malfunctions occur. The opener must be installed in harmony with the tension spring. Once it’s installed, you can perform some minor DIY repairs in the future to save on professional visits.
Some openers have simple installation instructions, such as the direct-drive designs. If you have a garage door with simple springs along the edges, adding a direct-drive opener to your home is typically a DIY project. Every opener should come with a manual, but you can also access more detailed information by downloading a corresponding PDF file from a reputable online source. The manufacturer will usually have a helpline to guide your installation if you run into a challenging step. Keep their phone number handy, and avoid moving forward with the installation if you’re unsure of the next step.
Many garage-door professionals are happy to install a system that you’ve purchased online or with another retailer. You will be charged some labor, but the time you save during the installation process might be worth the price. The system’s warranty may be longer or more detailed when you have a professional install the components too. Saving money and keeping your family safe are two reasons why a professional installation might be the better choice.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
In the end, you must weigh several factors at once before selecting that next opener. From budget constraints to personal-car connectivity, consumers have dozens of decisions to make that are based on their unique situation. Working with professionals is a logical way to make an educated decision on that new opener. Garage-door professionals can narrow down the purchasing field to a handful of options. In many cases, it’s not just the cheapest opener that will be your perfect match. Selecting a mid-range price on an opener is often the best purchasing strategy. Ultimately, you want a safe, dependable and feature-filled opener that will keep your home secure for many years.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- ConsumerSearch, How to Buy a Garage Door Opener, ConsumerSearch, March 2016
- Chamberlain, Installation requirements for the LiftMaster Residential Jackshaft Opener (RJO) Model 3800 & 8500, Chamberlain, February 23, 2015
- Garage Resource, Review: Chamberlain PD612EV 1/2 HP MyQ Enabled Chain Drive Garage Door Opener, Off White, Garage Resource, April 2016
- Drew Vass, Advanced Access: Top-Rated Garage-Door Openers, Consumer’s Digest, January 2015