What’s the Best and Most Affordable Home Security System in 2016?
Every year since 2008, ASecureLife.com has conducted independent research on home security and alarm systems, working together with industry experts and security professionals, and regularly polling customers to get their feedback. Here are our top three picks for 2016, along with our review criteria and things you should look for when considering an alarm system for your home.
Updated August 29th, 2016.
Top 10 Best Security Systems:
- Frontpoint – 1st
- Link Interactive – 2nd
- Protect America – 3rd
- Scout – 4th
- SimpliSafe – 5th
- LiveWatch – 6th
- Vivint – 7th
- Monitronics – 8th
- ADT – 9th
- AT&T Digital Life – 10th
what’s new this year?
This year we’ve included even more in-depth research to improve our rankings. We’ve read through stacks of legalese, hand-tested security equipment, and called each company directly to better understand the full experience our readers get with each home security provider. There were also a few notable changes in the industry:
- LifeShield became part of AT&T Digital Life when DIRECTV was purchased by AT&T in July 2015
- Scout will require a monitoring plan with purchase of equipment as of 1/1/2016
- Protect America reduced their number of online packages offerings from 16 to 4, making it easier to understand
- Vivint released a new doorbell video camera that has received glowing reviews from customers
Awards will continue to be given each year, with quarterly re-evaluations so you can be sure you’re getting current reviews on the most up-to-date home security systems available.
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If you’re looking for no-stress, no-hassle, straightforward home security from a company with a long history of superior customer service (think Nordstrom levels of service), then go with Frontpoint. They’ve been our #1 pick for nine years running, and we’re confident that you’ll love them.
- Excellent customer service
- Low-pressure sales approach
- Quick and easy installation
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Crash & smash protection
- Home automation using Z-Wave technology
- Great value for the money
- No landline or broadband options if you're in a rural area
- 3-year equipment warranty vs. lifetime from a top competitor
How Did Frontpoint Lock Up The Top Spot?
- Strong Customer Service: We are constantly blown away by the level of customer service that we experience with Frontpoint. If an alarm is triggered or there’s a technical issue with your security system, Frontpoint’s customer service agents are calm, patient, and knowledgeable, which makes a big difference when something goes wrong. Customer service is really what sets Frontpoint apart from the other companies on our list, and it’s the main reason they’ve been rated #1 for the ninth year in a row.
- No High-Pressure Sales Pitch: When we called to ask questions about their home security system, we got a representative that was ready and willing to answer our questions, not one that tried whatever he or she could to land their commission—sadly, that appears to be the norm in the security world, as we encountered with a range of phone calls to other providers. Seriously, put their sales team to the test and let us know how it goes with your comments below.
- 100% Cellular Service: Frontpoint Security is one of the only providers that actively offers and promotes a dedicated cellular connection between both your sensors and control panel, as well as dedicated cellular communication between your panel and monitoring station (many providers offer only the former). 100% cellular monitoring ensures that when a sensor is triggered in a crucial time of need, burglars will not be able to cut a wire or halt the signal to the emergency responders in any way. This means the police (or fire) department will get the signal in time to respond and hopefully stop any further damages.
- Crash and Smash Protection: The Frontpoint system via Alarm.com (at the Interactive level and higher) offers patented crash and smash protection. This means an intruder can’t just bust into your house and trash your alarm panel, thereby disarming your entire system. Once an active sensor is tripped, a signal is sent to the monitoring station and your alarm is placed in a special status to see what happens next. If the monitoring station does not receive a disarm notice, it will know that something has gone wrong and perhaps the intruder has tried to damage or disable the system. Frontpoint treats this as an intrusion and takes the appropriate action by alerting you and dispatching law enforcement if necessary.
- Transparent Pricing: You pay for what you get, and you get what you pay for. There are no hidden fees and their pricing is clearly outlined on their website. We’ve taken this pricing (which we keep updated on a regular basis) and placed it side-by-side to competing providers in our home alarm comparison table. They also offer a no questions asked 30-day money back guarantee, with no restocking or hidden fees. Most alarm companies have fees or reduced trial periods attached to their “money back guarantees.” You can also save up to $300 if you qualify and sign up for a 3-year agreement, so be sure to ask about this deal.
These reasons combined helped Frontpoint win our best alarm system award for the ninth year in a row. For more, read our Frontpoint Security reviews article.
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Link Interactive gives you small-town service with the equipment, selection, and monitoring of the big guys. Link Interactive has been on the market for over four years. It’s a DIY product released by Mountain Alarm, a regional security company with over 60 years of experience. We love them for their transparent (and competitive) pricing, solid customer service, and customization options.
- No activation or installation fees
- Great customer service reviews
- 30-day risk-free trial period
- All equipment comes with a 2 yr warranty
- Awesome installation walk-through videos
- Harsh cancellation policy (remainder of contract)
- Limited customer service hours
How did Link Interactive Earn 2nd Place?
- Transparent Pricing: Want to know exactly how much that extra sensor will cost without having to listen to a sales pitch? Link Interactive lists prices for equipment on their website. They also have an online feature that helps you customize a security system with the equipment you that’s right for you and your home.
- Competitive Prices: Link Interactive’s equipment has always been very competitively priced, especially in comparison to big players like ADT and Vivint. But recently, they really impressed us by bringing down the monthly cost of several packages to make home security more affordable.
- Excellent Customer Service: Link Interactive blends “small town” customer service with world class monitoring and a larger selection of equipment than most companies on our list.
- Risk-Free Trial: If you’re still not sure after playing around with the demo, you can still feel confident with your purchase knowing they offer a 30-day risk-free trial.
- Interactive Demo: Want to experience the system before you buy? Check out Link Interactive’s security system demo to use their app and control panel the same way you would in your home.
Check out our Link Interactive reviews article for more details.
- Lifetime warranty on equipment
- Locked-in rates for life
- No activation or installation fees
- Great value for the money
- High amount of negative reviews from customers
- No risk-free trial (although you can return within 14 days for a restocking fee)
- Mobile apps have received mixed reviews
Why We Like Protect America:
- Transparent Pricing: There are no installation fees, activation fees, or other hidden fees with Protect America. Additionally, they’ve made changes over the last year that simplify their packages and pricing based on customer feedback. We really appreciate the no-nonsense approach Protect America has taken to pricing and fees.
- Low Entry Price Point*: Protect America’s monthly monitoring starts at $19.99 for landline monitoring and start-up equipment is free, making it easy for you to slip into a security system. They also offer a price-lock guarantee, ensuring that your monthly monitoring bill stays the same.
- Lifetime Equipment Warranty: Protect America is the only security company in our top 5 to offer a lifetime equipment warranty on their products. They also offer free equipment for your installation with their standard contracts. But be sure to read your contract carefully and fulfill the requirements for eligibility, which may include monthly testing and more. Carefully follow all the warranty instructions starting the day you install the system since you will likely not need to use the warranty for a few years.
*In our experience, cellular monitoring is a must-have, but Protect America doesn’t actively market it or offer it for the entry-level $19.99 price. Be sure you specifically ask about cellular monitoring to ensure the most reliable security communication in times of emergency.
Check out our in-depth Protect America reviews article for more information.
Scout doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but if you currently have a Nest thermostat on your wall, or a Nest Cam on your desk, chances are good that you’ll love this new modern take on home security.
- Lowest monthly pricing
- Well designed
- No activation and installation fees
- No contract
- Requires upfront purchase of equipment
- Doesn't offer thermostats or cameras (but does integrate with Nest and Nest Cam)
- Limited equipment selection
- New to the market
Why we like Scout
- Low Entry Price Point: Scout offers the lowest monthly monitoring price point we’ve seen for cellular monitoring at $9.99 a month!
- No Fees or Contract: You won’t find any installation fees, activation fees, or contracts with Scout. You can, however, get a 10% discount when you pay for a year of monitoring in advance.
- Modern Design: Scout has the most modern looking and feeling equipment among our providers. The door sensor is a little larger than you’d expect, but it has a siren built right in to alarm any intruders as soon as the door opens.
Check out our Scout reviews article for more details.
Endorsed by Dave Ramsey for it’s no-contract approach, SimpliSafe is a crowd favorite among renters, DIYers, and families on a budget. There are no cameras or home automation features at this time, but it’s a solid home security choice.
- No contract
- Low monthly monitoring cost
- Easy to install
- Highly rated by users
- Requires upfront purchase of equipment
- Doesn't offer cameras or home automation
- Equipment looks outdated
Why we like SimpliSafe
- No Contract: SimpliSafe doesn’t require the long term contracts that are common in the home security industry, and never have. Originally geared towards renters, SimpliSafe has always been easy to relocate.
- Affordable Monthly Cost: Half the price of most home security companies, SimpliSafe offers low cost cellular monitoring at about $15 a month.
Check out our SimpiSafe reviews article for more details.
The home security industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with dozens of competitors in the market for your business.
Here’s a list of all the companies we considered in our annual home alarm systems reviews:
- Link Interactive
- Protect America
- LiveWatch (formerly SafeMart)
- AT&T Digital Life
Below are the companies that didn’t make the list, or were not rated because of lack of sampling data, incongruous product offering, or insufficient reader feedback. Note that regional companies are not included in our national rankings.
- Alarm Grid
- First Alert
- Pinnacle Security
- Protection 1
- Various telecom companies: Cox, Time Warner, Comcast, and Verizon
How are our reviews put together? What kind of industry data or analysis do we gather and where do we get our information?
We take great pride in providing you with reviews you can trust. Unlike many of the reviews you’ll find on the Internet, our reviews are conducted independent of any monetary affiliation or relationships with any of the merchants listed on this page. Some links are affiliate links (which are only added after the review is complete). This means that we’ll receive a commission if you click on them and buy (product pricing and service quality will be exactly the same for you). We appreciate your respect and understanding that this is how we can afford to do such comprehensive quarterly research that provides the highest quality, most up-to-date information to help you make the best decision.
For more details on our integrity policies, how we complete our reviews, and how we are able to stay in business, read our review process.
Behind the scenes we look at over 1,000 data points to determine the top security companies. We include everything from contracts and cancellation fees to tech specs in our research in an effort to provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information to make a decision on. Over the years we’ve realized that these data points generally fall into one of four categories: customer service, price, equipment, and technology. We’ve highlighted a few of our metrics to help you really dig in and compare top home security companies.
There are only one or two companies that do everything themselves. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that several of the companies in our top five don’t manufacture their own equipment or do their own monitoring. We’ve learned that although that sounds concerning at first, it ultimately allows them to focus on what they do best: customer service.
Home security doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Use this table to quickly see what type of investment you’re looking at by brand.
View our in-depth Cost Comparison table
Use our in-depth comparison table to identify the best security system at each price tier. If you’re looking at a lower-priced security system, we encourage you to take some time to dig into equipment, features, and more to make sure it’s the right fit for your family. Naturally, you will experience increased security levels, added features (home automation, video cameras, etc.), and enhanced customer service along with increases in price. (We’ve found that you generally get what you pay for with home security.) These comparisons include features, warranty, movability, and more.
If you know what type of equipment you’re looking for, use this table to compare equipment offered from different security providers. Although several of our top 5 companies use Alarm.com equipment, not all of them carry the same things.
Have other Z-Wave devices in your home? How about a Nest Thermostat and an IFTTT account? Technology can make a big difference if you’re looking to up your smart-home game.
What makes a security system wireless? Well, that depends on whether you’re talking about wireless connection to sensors around your house, or wireless connection to a monitoring center. Unfortunately, the word wireless is used interchangeably in most home security companies marketing efforts. The correct terminology for wireless communication with sensors is wireless. The correct terminology for wireless communication with a monitoring center is cellular.
Cellular Vs. Landline Security monitoring
Most security systems communicate with monitoring centers through one of three methods: landline, broadband Internet, or cellular communication. Broadband Internet is usually provided with a cellular backup, so for our purposes we’ll focus on landline and cellular.
Cellular: A security system with a cellular communicator uses 2G or 3G technology to send alarm signals to the monitoring center, similar to how your phone uses the same networks. Once installed, your system will be more reliable than a cell phone. Because the system remains in the same location, there are no “dropped calls” or going in and out of service areas. By using a cellular communicator you don’t have to worry about cut wires, loss of Internet connection, or power outages.
Landline: Communication through approved landlines used to be the only option for home security, just as it was the only option for talking on the phone. The only advantage of continuing to use a landline these days is price. Most security companies offer a lower-priced landline-only package as a way to get people in the door. We consider them to be similar to the TV antenna, a cheap option where you get what you pay for. If a burglar cuts your phone line before entering your home, the police will never come.
Cellular communication is always what we recommend for monitoring because it’s harder for burglars to interfere with.
Wireless Vs. Hardwired Security Systems
It’s incredibly rare to find a system that uses wires to connect to the sensors throughout your house. Hardwired security systems are most commonly used for commercial properties, but in rare circumstances they can be installed in a residential location. All security companies on our list are wireless.
DIY vs. Professional Security Installation
Installation can have a huge impact on the both the cost of your home security system, as well as the experience you have. There are pros and cons to each type of installation, but generally we recommend DIY installation these days because you can peel and stick wireless sensors, and your security provider should be pre-programming the sensors to correspond with the areas of your home before they arrive. That being said, DIY might not be right for everyone. Below are some of the main ways the installation types differ.
- Provides an opportunity to ask questions
- Allows you to feel confident in the placement and signal strength of equipment
- Provides an opportunity to receive consultative advice
- Often comes with an installation or activation fee, most starting at $99
- Requires an appointment window
- Is often used as an opportunity to upsell you
- Generally requires drilling of holes and running of cables
- Allows a stranger into your house during a vulnerable time
- Can take up to four hours or longer depending on the install
- Charges no installation fees
- Doesn’t require appointment
- Helps you become more familiar with your system and how it works
- Is easier to move to another home
- Usually takes about an hour or two
- Requires little to no drilling, cable running, or mounting
- Provides low-pressure environment — no sales pitch
- Lets you stay in your pajamas
- May be challenging for less able individuals
- May require small amounts of troubleshooting over the phone
- Leaves a chance that installation is done incorrectly
Local vs. National Security Companies
When it comes to coffee, clothing, or other goods, we’re all for shopping local. When it comes to home security, we highly recommend choosing a national company that focuses exclusively on home security and has been around for a while. We’ve seen too many local, regional, or new-to-market companies close doors to feel comfortable with recommending them.
If you’re thinking of going with a local company, make sure you ask important questions before signing any paperwork, like:
- Do you offer cellular monitoring?
- Who provides monitoring for your equipment, and are their monitoring centers redundant?
- What type of equipment warranty or service plan do you offer?
- If I move to another state, can I take my system with me?
When you start adding up all the upfront and monthly fees, it’s normal to wonder if you’re really going to get what you pay for with home security. We try to break this down into two questions: “Is an alarm system worth the cost?” and “Is monthly monitoring worth the cost?” With more and more options coming on to the market, it’s tempting to go with a local alarm system with no monitoring because it has a smaller price tag, but we really feel you get what you pay for when it comes to home security. Let’s tackle each question individually to provide a better understanding of what you’re really getting when you pay for a security system or monitoring.
Is security monitoring worth the cost?
Monthly costs for professional monitoring range from $9.99 to $69.99 and the features and technologies you get can differ just as drastically. The core service is the same though; you’re paying for someone to respond in the case of an emergency. The value you get from a security system comes primarily from the monitoring service, since it’s when you’re asleep, at the movies, or otherwise unavailable that you really need someone watching out for you. Other benefits include the following:
- Duress Signals: Enter a code into your system to indicate that you need immediate help and are unable to be contacted (in case of an armed burglar).
- Medical Alert Monitoring: Pendants signal a monitoring agent to dispatch an ambulance.
- Guidance: Self-monitored systems can only notify you if a sensor is triggered; they can’t offer guidance in emergency situations like a monitoring agent is trained to do.
- Emergency Response Plans: Most professional monitoring services allow you to tailor your own emergency response plan, whether that’s immediately calling authorities or calling Mom, Dad, and Aunt Sue first.
Although having a non-monitored system is better than having nothing, we’d never recommend a system that wasn’t professionally monitored to our family our friends.
Is a security system worth the cost?
Whether you’re going with a professionally monitored, a self-monitored, or a local alarm system, data suggests that a home security system is worth the investment above and beyond the peace of mind factor. Security yard signs deter burglars, sirens reduce the amount of time a burglar spends at your home, and the chances of identifying the perpetrator increase significantly when you have cameras. Check out the stats:
- A burglary occurs about once every 15 seconds.
- The average loss per burglary in the United States is $2,230.
- Homes without a security system are about 300% more likely to be burglarized.
- It’s estimated that only 72.4% of burglaries are reported to the police.
To see all our stats and facts, helpful infographics, and our sources, check out our security stats & facts page.
What’s YOur Experience With Alarm Companies?
Have you had an experience with a home alarm company or home security system installation? Did you hate or love it? Who’s the best (r worst) in your opinion?
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