Is Remotely Starting Your Car Illegal in Your State?

If you live in an area where it snows in the winter, then you probably cherish being able to remotely start your car. There’s nothing better than being able to get into a warm car when it’s cold out – or a cool car when it’s hot – without having to wait for the seats to get warm and the cabin to get comfortable. But did you know that remote starting your car and letting it idle is actually illegal in some states?

Remote starting can cause pollution

Exhaust flows out of the tailpipe of a vehicle at "Mufflers 4 Less."
Exhaust flows out of the tailpipe of a vehicle at “Mufflers 4 Less.” | (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

RELATED: Are Remote Starters Bad For Your Car’s Engine?

No, the act of remotely starting your car isn’t illegal, but the fact that it’s left idling is. According to Reader’s Digest, anti-idling laws exist in many states in an effort to prevent air pollution. The consequences for letting your car idle (without a driver in it) can range from fines to written warnings. And according to the EPA, there are more than two dozen states that limit the amount of time you can let your car idle.  

Here are the state with anti-idling laws:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
Chevrolet Volt electric car parked on the driveway of a suburban home.
Chevrolet Volt electric car parked on the driveway of a suburban home. |(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

RELATED: The 2021 Ford Police SUV Is Great for ‘Idling on the Job’

How long can you let a car idle?

Taking a closer look at the EPA’s anti-idling list of laws, we noticed that there’s a time limit in most states as to how you can leave the car idling. For example, in California, you can leave your car idling alone for up to five consecutive minutes. But in some counties in Colorado, the time limit is 10 minutes.

How would an officer know how long your car has been idling? We’re not sure. However, it’s always best to follow the law and not get caught. Unless you don’t mind spending $250 for the fine like you would according to Arizona’s anti-idling laws.

What can you do instead of letting your car idle?

  A vehicle with a car-top carrier parked in a driveway is covered with snow and ice after a late autumn storm in New Mexico.
A vehicle with a car-top carrier parked in a driveway is covered with snow and ice after a late autumn storm in New Mexico. | (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

While it’s easy to start your car remotely while getting ready for work or to take the kids to school, it’s easier to lose track of time in the process. In the case that you don’t want to get caught illegally idling your car for an excessive amount of time, Square State Insurance recommends that you remain next to the car after starting it up.

By remaining in or near the car, you’re technically in compliance with the law. So if you live in a snow state and need to scrape your car, start it first, then get scraping. When you’re ready to enter the car, it should be much more comfortable.

On the other hand, if it’s really hot outside, then you can always start the car and hang out in a shady area near it while the interior cools down. Just note that you technically shouldn’t let your car idle in order to warm up the engine, as doing so can cause premature wear and tear. Your car really only needs around 30 seconds to warm up while idling and it will warm up faster if you drive it slowly to get it up to normal operating temperatures.