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2019’s Best Home Security Systems

#1. Best Home Automation
Vivint Logo
  • App access with every plan
  • No-contract option

Vivint

4.5

Starting at $29.99/mo.

#2. Best Easy DIY Installation
Frontpoint Logo
  • No tools required to install
  • Smart home add-ons

Frontpoint

4.0

Starting at $34.99/mo.

#3. Best Reputation
ADT Logo
  • 6-month money-back guarantee
  • Industry recognition

ADT

3.9

Starting at $27.99/mo.

#4. Most Flexible Contracts
SimpliSafe logo
  • Inexpensive month-to-month plans
  • No contracts required

SimpliSafe

3.67

Starting at $14.99/mo.

#5. Great No-Contract Option
Cove Security Logo
  • Simple, easy-to-use equipment
  • Optional contracts

Cove

3.67

Starting at $14.99/mo.

Home security systems that match your needs

In over a decade of researching and writing about home security systems, we’ve learned the perfect security system for one person could be completely wrong for someone else.

That’s why our home security reviews dig into what each company is best at. With that info you can find a system that’s tailored to your needs, whether you want cheap monthly monitored security, the latest home automation gear, or a system with no contract.

Keep reading for help finding a home security system that’s right for you.

Here are 2019’s best home security systems

Home security system brand comparison

Brinks LogoAbode Logo
Security systemVivintFrontpointADTSimpliSafeCoveLink InteractiveProtect AmericaBrinksNest SecureScoutAbode
Star rating4.5 stars4.0 stars3.9 stars3.67 stars3.67 stars3.67 stars3.58 stars3.58 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3.3 stars
Lowest monitoring cost$29.99/mo.$34.99/mo.$27.99/mo.$14.99/mo.$14.99/mo.$30.99/mo.$19.99/mo.$29.99/mo.$19.00/mo.$19.99/mo.$8 for 3 days
Installation & activation fees$99.00None$99.00 and upNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Contract lengthNo contract or 42, 60 mo.36 mo.36 mo.No contractNo contract or 36 mo.No contract or 12–36 mo.36 mo.No contract or 36 mo.No contractNo contractNo contract
Home automationCutting-edgeStandardStandardMinimalMinimalStandardStandardStandardCutting-edgeStandardStandard
Learn moreView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView Plans
Security system
Star rating
Lowest monitoring cost
Installation & activation fees
Contract length
Home automation
Learn more
Brinks LogoAbode Logo
VivintFrontpointADTSimpliSafeCoveLink InteractiveProtect AmericaBrinksNest SecureScoutAbode
4.5 stars4.0 stars3.9 stars3.67 stars3.67 stars3.67 stars3.58 stars3.58 stars3.5 stars3.5 stars3.3 stars
$29.99/mo.$34.99/mo.$27.99/mo.$14.99/mo.$14.99/mo.$30.99/mo.$19.99/mo.$29.99/mo.$19.00/mo.$19.99/mo.$8 for 3 days
$99.00None$99.00 and upNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
No contract or 42, 60 mo.36 mo.36 mo.No contractNo contract or 36 mo.No contract or 12–36 mo.36 mo.No contract or 36 mo.No contractNo contractNo contract
Cutting-edgeStandardStandardMinimalMinimalStandardStandardStandardCutting-edgeStandardStandard
View PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView PlansView Plans

Compare alarm monitoring costs

Not all monitored security is created equally. We like companies to have multiple monitoring centers or keep monitoring in house. All five of our top recommendations have multiple monitoring centers, so if one gets hit by bad weather another will be there when you need it. Vivint stands out as the only company on our list that monitors its own systems. The company told us it did this in a move to maintain quality control over customers’ monitoring experience.

All our top recommendations offer cellular monitoring, which we recommend over landline. But if you live in a place with spotty cell reception—maybe in a mountainous area or a rural spot by the ocean—you may need landline monitoring. In that case, ADT or Protect America has a basic package for you.

Most of the lowest monitoring costs above don’t include things like mobile access, home automation, or camera monitoring. Usually you’ll have to pay more for those features. Vivint stands out here—the company gives you mobile monitoring with every plan level. With other companies, we think mobile access is worth paying more for because you can check in to make sure everything is good at home at any time and control your system from anywhere.

Compare installation fees

Vivint and ADT both send professionals to install your system. On one hand, this lets you know your system is installed correctly and gives you the chance to ask questions about your system. On the downside, you have to pay for it. ADT’s installation fee starts at $99 and increases depending on the plan you choose. DIY installed systems like Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, and Cove send you the equipment to set up and save some greenbacks.

Compare contract length

The standard contract lengths of Vivint, Frontpoint, and ADT are long. Fortunately, Vivint and Link Interactive offer some flexibility on monitoring contract length if you’re able to pay for equipment up front. SimpliSafe and Cove are the most flexible of our top five for the contract-averse.

Compare home automation

You don’t need Black Panther-level tech to get useful home automation. Instead, invest in a few select devices that can do lots of things for you and keep your family safe.

With standard smart home devices like automatic door locks, you can stay in bed and check your app when you can’t remember whether you locked your doors. And a video doorbell lets you watch out for would-be package thieves or talk to visitors who stop by.

Vivint, Frontpoint, and ADT all offer a smart lock, video doorbell, thermostats, and other home automation devices that you can control from your smartphone. With SimpliSafe and Cove, you get flexibility and low prices instead of all the bells and whistles. SimpliSafe does have a video doorbell, but you can’t add a ton of other smart home tech to the system. Cove works with some third-party smart home gear.

If home automation is important to you, look for a system that will give you lots of options to build out your safe, smart, and secure home. Vivint is our top choice for its unique smart home equipment.

How we choose the best home security systems

There’s a lot to consider when evaluating home security systems, but it boils down to price, customer service, and equipment/features. This is what we look for:

  • Price: We look for companies that offer reasonably priced plans with practical features, and we put more weight on monthly costs, because that adds up. We also compare installation fees, activation fees, and equipment costs.
  • Customer service: We consider hours of availability and customer reviews, but we also appreciate companies that give customers multiple contact methods. We also consider equipment warranties, cancellation policies, and contract requirements when evaluating a company’s customer service.
  • Equipment and features: A home security system should include dependable, user-friendly equipment. We also put a lot of weight on home automation integration and easy mobile access to systems. Cumbersome systems that rely on control panels to arm and disarm may not get used as consistently as smart ones that do the work for you. Equipment appearance isn’t a priority, but stylish equipment is certainly a bonus.

Best home security systems of 2019

1. Vivint: Best Home Automation

Best Home Automation & Equipment

Why we recommend Vivint home security systems

Vivint is our top pick because you get easy home automation integration, unique high-end equipment, and flexible payment options. And surprisingly enough, Vivint now offers cheaper monitoring than many competitors.

We love that Vivint prioritizes home automation. Security is crucial in a crisis, but smart home equipment comes in handy and helps keep you safe every single day. Vivint’s midlevel plan supports smart home devices like thermostats, garage door controllers, and automatic door locks.

You can make sure your house stays cooler while you’re gone, let friends into your home while you’re out of town, or check from the office that your garage door is closed. And its geofencing feature makes it so you don’t even have to think about arming and disarming the system—you can set it to do it automatically when you leave.

We’re also fans of Vivint’s efforts to adapt and improve. While other companies have settled for the status quo, Vivint has stayed up to date with smart home tech, added lower-priced, pared down plans for customers who need fewer features, and introduced contract-free options for customers who buy equipment up front.

How did Vivint earn our top spot?

  • Vivint offers industry-leading equipment and home automation integration.
  • It introduced flexible payment options so you can get security without a contract.
  • It offers a lower-tier plan that’s more affordable than competitors’ cheapest plans.
  • Vivint’s least expensive plan gives customers mobile access to systems—a feature usually reserved for higher-tier packages.
  • Vivint customers are happier than they’ve been in the past. We’ve noticed a significant increase in positive online reviews.

Vivint pros and cons

Pros

  • Industry-leading home automation equipment
  • No-contract option available
  • Mobile access with all plans
  • Inexpensive base plan
  • Medical pendant support

Cons

  • Large up-front cost with contract-free option
  • Longer contracts than competitors
Pricing

Vivint isn’t known for low prices—and the equipment is still on the pricey end—but Vivint recently added a base plan that’s cheaper than those of most competitors. In fact, at $29.99 a month, Vivint’s base plan is one of the cheapest ways to get monitored security with mobile access.

If you’re contract-averse and can afford to spend more up front, Vivint lets you purchase all your equipment first thing and get monitoring without signing a long-term contract that includes equipment financing. That means you’ll be able to cancel your monitoring without paying big cancellation fees—something we wish more brands would do.

Customer service

Vivint’s customer service team is available 24/7, and you can contact them over the phone or through online chat. We’ve also noticed that current Vivint customers are leaving more positive reviews than they have in the past. While Vivint’s customer service hasn’t always been stellar, it seems like the company has made strides to improve its reputation and your experience.

Vivint Equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

When it comes to equipment, Vivint is ahead of everyone else. Most security companies use third-party equipment, but Vivint designs and manufactures some of its own equipment. Depending on your plan, you can get a unique Vivint doorbell camera, smart thermostat, a data storage drive, or security cameras. Vivint even offers recessed door sensors that work where normal door sensors wouldn’t. Plus, if you sign up for premium service, you get a lifetime equipment warranty on all that cool gear.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: If you’re paying for a Vivint security system, it makes sense to get the smart home tech. Spring for the midlevel plan and get the automated door lock and smart thermostat for the price of equipment and $10 extra a month. If you can’t afford the extra equipment, we still like Vivint’s basic package because it includes mobile access to your system (something most companies make you pay extra for).

>>Learn more: Read our full Vivint review

2. Frontpoint: Best Easy DIY Installation

Best Easy DIY Installation

Why we recommend Frontpoint home security systems

Frontpoint’s biggest selling point is its remarkably easy DIY installation. Instead of blocking out a whole day to wait for a professional installer, you can set up your system on your own schedule. Your equipment comes preprogrammed and you can install most of it by peeling and sticking, which means you’ll only have to spend about 20 minutes setting it up. And if you do run into questions, customer support is always ready to take your call and walk you through any issues.

Another perk of choosing Frontpoint is the lower up-front costs. Frontpoint provides a discount on equipment when you sign up, so you can often get everything you need for a Frontpoint home security system at a lower price than a comparable system from Vivint.

Plus, Vivint customers who don’t pay for all the equipment up front have to sign a lengthy 42- or 60-month contract. Frontpoint contracts are only 36 months. This is about average, and Frontpoint will let you relocate your equipment and monitoring without restarting the contract if you have to move.

Frontpoint pros and cons

Pros

  • High-quality equipment
  • Smart home integration
  • Superb customer service reputation
  • No activation fees after moving
  • Shorter contracts than Vivint
  • Camera-only plans

Cons

  • No mobile access available with base plan
Pricing

Frontpoint’s prices are right in line with the rest of the industry. Monthly monitoring starts at $34.99 and goes up to $49.99—not particularly pricey, but not the most affordable option.

Customer service

Customer service is Frontpoint’s forte. While the company doesn’t offer quite as many hours of customer support, it has a fantastic reputation with lots of vocal, happy customers. In fact, many customers stay with Frontpoint after their three-year contracts end.

Frontpoint Equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

Frontpoint recently added a sleek security hub that learns your day-to-day patterns and adjusts accordingly. Most other security systems come with hubs, but a learning security hub is unique.

And since your equipment comes preprogrammed, you can pair it with the hub and control it through one app. It’s also easy to add third-party smart home devices. Most of those can still be controlled through your Frontpoint app so you don’t have to open five or six different apps to use your cool smart home tech with your security system.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: Go with the Interactive plan. It’s about $10 more a month than the basic Frontpoint plan, but you can control your system on your smartphone from the Frontpoint app and you can add a smart thermostat. It’s like home automation lite for your security system.

>>Learn more: Read our full Frontpoint review

3. ADT: Best Reputation

Best Reputation

Why we recommend ADT home security systems

ADT offers decades of industry experience, high-quality equipment, dependable monitoring, and accessible customer service.

Plus, ADT may be the most well-known security company in the industry—and that has its advantages. Since ADT is so widely recognized and respected, a visible ADT system sign in your yard can go a long way toward discouraging theft and vandalism.

It’s also one of the only companies we recommend so highly that offers cellular and landline monitoring. If you live in a spot with lousy cell service, a landline-connected system means you won’t have to worry about losing your connection in a crisis.

ADT has a couple of perks that feel small until you need them, like its six-month money-back guarantee. It stands out among a field of competitors that offer 30-day money-back guarantees. If you live with the system for a few months and decide it’s not for you, ADT will refund what you paid for installation and monitoring.* ADT also covers $500 of your insurance deductible if someone breaks into your home while you have an ADT system.

*Restrictions apply.

ADT pros and cons

Pros

  • Same-day/next-day installation in most areas
  • Customized security recommendations during installation
  • More history and experience in the security industry than competitors
  • More lenient cancellation policy than Vivint or Frontpoint
  • Medical pendant support
  • Home automation integration through one app
  • Six monitoring centers—more than competitors

Cons

  • More expensive cellular monitoring than competitors
  • Fewer camera options than competitors
Pricing

Steep prices are ADT’s major drawback. If you’re looking for features like mobile access, smart home integration, and video monitoring, you’ll pay more for them with ADT than you would with Vivint or Frontpoint.

One important exception: ADT has a landline monitoring plan that’s only $27.99 per month, which could be an affordable option for customers in rural areas. We recommend cellular systems because they’re much more secure than landline systems, but there are some places where cellular monitoring isn’t available. If you live somewhere without access to cellular monitoring, a landline system is still much better than no security at all.

Customer service

ADT has backup monitoring stations and a 24/7 customer service team you can contact through email, chat, or phone, which is more support than you get from most other security companies. ADT also has a more lenient cancellation policy than Vivint or Frontpoint.

ADT equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

ADT uses regional installers to provide hands-on support throughout the country. We recommended Protect Your Home, an installer that can often provide same-day or next-day equipment installation. During the installation, you’ll get customized security recommendations so you can be sure you get exactly what you need for your home.

One thing to note: equipment availability varies from one installer to the next, so the plans offered by Protect Your Home might be slightly different than national plans.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: Go with the basic landline package if your area doesn’t have reliable cell coverage. You’ll save some money and be happier with the reliability of your system. Otherwise, opt for the ADT Pulse + Video to get mobile access, live video view, and an equipment warranty.

>>Learn more: Read our full ADT review

4. SimpliSafe: Most Flexible Contracts

Most Flexible Contracts

Why we recommend SimpliSafe home security systems

You can get a SimpliSafe home security system without a contract—making SimpliSafe the best option if you need the flexibility to pause your monitoring for a month here and there.

SimpliSafe is a solid choice if you’re on a tight budget. You get lower-cost monitoring and less-expensive equipment than you would from most competitors.

A few other companies like Nest and Abode have introduced no-contract systems, but SimpliSafe has lower prices and more industry experience, so it’s still our favorite contract-free home security system.

SimpliSafe pros and cons

Pros

  • No contracts required
  • Low monitoring fees
  • Lower equipment costs than competitors

Cons

  • Limited home automation support
  • No self-monitoring without higher-tier plan
Pricing

You’ll have to buy your equipment up front. But because SimpliSafe’s highest-tier monitoring plan is cheaper than the lowest-tier plans from all the companies listed above, it’s one of the most affordable security options out there.

>>Explore our complete breakdown of SimpliSafe costs

Customer service

SimpliSafe’s customer service hours are a bit limited compared to competitors, but SimpliSafe makes up for it with a bunch of other benefits. For example, as a SimpliSafe customer, you get contract-free security systems with no cancellation fees. Plus, you get the option to turn monitoring off and on from one month to the next, which is helpful if you’re on a budget or heading out of town.

SimpliSafe Equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

Equipment is where SimpliSafe falls short of the competition. SimpliSafe’s gear looks decent, works fine, and is easy to install, but it’s behind when it comes to home automation. Other systems work with Z-Wave devices, but SimpliSafe systems work only with Alexa, the August door lock, and the Nest thermostat.

If you want cameras to complement your system, SimpliSafe has its video doorbell and an indoor camera. For outdoor cameras, you’ll have to find something that works with Alexa.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: Get mobile access with the Interactive plan. It’s still cheaper than similar plans on the market, and it makes your SimpliSafe system compatible with more smart home devices.

>>Learn more: Read our full SimpliSafe review

5. Cove: Great No-Contract Option

Great No-Contract Option

Why we recommend Cove home security systems

Cove competes with SimpliSafe’s prices and DIY approach to home security—you get almost the exact same features with Cove’s monthly monitoring tiers as you do with SimpliSafe’s.

This newcomer convinced us it deserves a top spot with inexpensive and reliable monitoring, optional long-term contracts, economical equipment, smash and grab protection with every plan, and thoughtful inclusions like Cove InstaText.

Cove pros and cons

Pros

  • Optional contracts
  • Easy-to-use equipment
  • Inexpensive monitoring

Cons

  • Limited integrations for smart home tech
  • Limited camera support
Pricing

Cove is super inexpensive. You can purchase a system up front and pay for a year of the most expensive monitoring for about $600.* If you don’t buy your equipment up front, you’ll spend an extra $10 a month on monitoring. Still, with some of the higher-end brands, that’s what you’d pay just for a control panel or a few pieces of equipment.

Cove doesn’t do preset equipment packages. Instead, you build your security system and add things like carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, flood/freeze sensors, or medical pendants as you need them.

If you purchase your equipment up front, you can escape a long-term contract. That’s great for renters or military personnel who aren’t sure how long they’ll be in one spot.

*Based on Vivint-equivalent starter package. Includes Cove control panel, two key remotes, three door sensors, and one motion detector. Data effective 06/18/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

Customer service

For a newcomer, Cove’s customer support has solid customer reviews. Cove gives you lots of ways to contact support; you can call, text, chat, email, or reach out to them on social media. If you’re struggling to set up equipment or if your system goes haywire, you can text Cove a photo of your setup to troubleshoot. Unfortunately, Cove’s hours of phone support are limited to business hours unless you call its emergency number.

Cove has no contracts if you pay for equipment up front or three-year contracts if you don’t. If you finance your equipment through Cove, the company will add $10 a month to your monitoring plan to pay for equipment.

Cove Equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

Cove offers simple equipment with limited features for a good price. You get to decide what security equipment you buy, so you can monitor every door, window, and cabinet, or you can just get the basics to start with and add on to your system as your budget allows.

Cove includes InstaText with every package tier. If something triggers your alarm, Cove’s InstaText will text you and your emergency contacts so someone can let the monitoring center know if it was a false alarm. It’s not mobile app monitoring, but it does let you respond without having to take a phone call in the middle of a meeting.

You’ll also get Crash and Smash protection with every monitoring package. It ensures communication between your system and the monitoring center even if someone damages the panel. Some other brands charge more for this feature, so it’s nice to see it included in a base package.

Cove has an indoor camera, but outdoor cameras are available only upon request.

If you’re looking to integrate your home security system with smart home tech, Cove has a ways to go. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but that’s it. The company did tell us that it anticipates more integration down the road.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: Cove is a no-frills security system that can protect your home on the cheap and without contracts. We suggest buying your equipment up front, if you can swing it, getting out of a contract—especially if you’re not ready to commit to a security system for three years.

>>Learn more: Read our full Cove security review.

Best for Customization

Why we recommend Link Interactive home security systems

Like the other companies on our list, Link Interactive gives you reliable equipment and 24/7 professional monitoring. In fact, Link Interactive alarm systems use some of the same equipment as Frontpoint.

But while Link has a lot in common with other companies, a few things stand out—particularly the shorter contracts. Most alarm companies make you sign a three-year contract, but Link offers contracts as short as one year.

Link Interactive also lets you build your own equipment packages, which means you get exactly what you need without paying for gear you won’t use.

Link Interactive pros and cons

Pros

  • Shorter contract options than competitors
  • Customizable equipment packages
  • No activation or installation fees
  • Transparent prices

Cons

  • Fewer customer service hours than competitors
  • Customer complaints around difficult installation
Pricing

Link Interactive’s base level prices are fairly standard, but if mobile control or video monitoring are priorities, Link is one of the cheapest options. You can get video monitoring from Link Interactive for $40.99 a month—most competitors charge around $50 for plans that include video.

Link Interactive also lets you build your own equipment packages, which means you get exactly what you need without paying for gear you won’t use.

Customer service

With its cheaper video monitoring and shorter contracts, you might wonder why Link Interactive isn’t higher on our list. Customer service is one of the main reasons—Link has a solid reputation, but less availability than Vivint, Frontpoint, or ADT.

Link Interactive Equipment

Photo source: ASecureLife team

Equipment and features

Like Frontpoint, Link Interactive uses easy-to-install Alarm.com equipment that’s compatible with Z-Wave smart home devices.

ASecureLife’s recommendation: Link Interactive’s Gold security package gives you mobile alarm monitoring at a competitive price. At this level, you can control your smart thermostat and door locks from your phone and get mobile notifications when there’s suspicious activity.

>>Learn more: Read our full Link Interactive review

More home security systems to consider

7. Protect America | Best Landline Option

protect-america-logoCellular monitoring is the most reliable form of monitoring, but it isn’t always an option in rural areas. Protect America still offers cellular monitoring, but it also offers landline and broadband monitoring so if you can’t get a cellular system you can still protect your home. You can learn more about Protect America’s home security system in our full review.

>>View Protect America plans

8. Brinks | Best Value

Brinks logo

Brinks plans aren’t the cheapest, but the base plan is loaded with features like mobile access and home automation support—features other companies usually reserve for higher-tier packages. Brinks also sells and monitors Nest Secure equipment. If you love the look of Nest or already have Nest equipment you want monitored, Brinks has options for you. Find out more about Brinks security plans in our full review.

>>View Brinks plans

9. Nest Secure | Best DIY Smart Security

nest logoNest Secure is a great home security system if you want a fully DIY security and smart home system—especially if you’ve already sunk money into other Nest gear like the thermostat or cameras. Instead of getting a separate security system, you can get one that syncs with your current equipment and uses the same app you’re already using to control your thermostat. Nest’s equipment and packages are thoughtfully designed too; it includes two key fobs with every security equipment package—that’s normally an add-on. To learn more, read our Nest Secure review.

>>View Nest Secure plans

10. Scout | Best Aesthetics

Scout SecurityScout offers contract-free systems and low monthly monitoring prices. Scout doesn’t offer as much equipment as other companies, which is why it isn’t higher on the list, but the equipment it does offer is some of the coolest-looking security equipment we’ve seen. If you have more questions about Scout’s home security system, check out our full Scout review.

>>View Scout plans

11. Abode | Best Self-Monitored Option

abode-home-security-logoOur favorite thing about Abode is that you can self-monitor your system for free from a mobile device. Most companies make you pay for a monthly plan before giving you remote access to your system. Visit our Abode review to learn more about these security plans.

>>View Abode plans

Comparing home security options

Alarm monitoring costs

Lots of companies can get you monitored security on the cheap if you’re willing to sacrifice some of the bells and whistles.

Protect America offers a landline monitoring package starting at $19.99 a month. If you live in a remote area, landline is your most reliable option. We don’t recommend it if you can get consistent cellular reception though.

Nest Secure, Scout, and Abode all have optional professional monitoring with their security systems. We like that you can call in the pros when you want and cancel professional monitoring when you want to tighten your budget. Abode even offers a plan that lets you hand monitoring over to professionals for three days at a time—it’s the perfect amount of time for a long weekend trip when you can’t easily respond to alerts yourself.

Installation fees

Since you install all of these systems yourself, there are no installation fees. And, unlike other brands with DIY installation, these systems don’t charge you a fee to activate your system.

Contract length

These brands might be lighter on features than our top picks, but most of them have flexible contract options or no long-term contracts at all. Even Protect America goes month to month after your initial 36-month contract.

Home automation

All these companies offer standard or limited equipment options. Even our choice for DIY smart security, Nest, has a limited range of options. That said, you should be able to put together some kind of smart system through the companies or compatible device makers.

What to consider when buying a home alarm system

Professional or DIY monitoring

We strongly recommend professional monitoring. If an alarm goes off and no one responds to it, your security equipment isn’t doing you much good. Monitored systems rely on professionals to watch for triggered alarms, contact system owners, and dispatch emergency services.

Unmonitored security systems aren’t connected to a monitoring center—you watch your system for suspicious activity through an app on your phone. You can consider a security system that allows self-monitoring if you want to do it yourself and save money here and there.

Professional or DIY installation

Some companies offer professional installation while others send you equipment to install yourself. Both options are fine—it really comes down to personal preference. You might like the control of installing your system on your timeframe. But you may also want the reassurance that a professional did it correctly and optimally. Plus, installers can often identify security vulnerabilities like a bush that could give cover to a would-be burglar during a break-in.

Most companies that offer professional installation don’t charge huge installation fees, and some companies that have you install equipment yourself still charge activation fees.

Wireless or landline monitoring

Wireless (or cellular) systems are more secure because there are no cables for burglars to cut. But if you live in an area where cellular coverage isn’t available, a landline system is still a big improvement over no security at all.

Home automation

We recommend getting a system that works well with smart home devices because a security system is only good if doors are locked, your system is armed, and garage doors are closed—all things you can control from your phone if you upgrade to smart devices.

Home automation integration takes a home security system that would normally be useful just in an emergency and turns it into something that can secure your home and keep your family safe. You can lock unlocked doors, turn off forgotten curling irons, and do lots more with smart devices. And features like voice commands let you turn on the lights as soon as you step in the door even if you’ve got hands full of sports equipment or groceries.

Mobile app access and control

We suggest choosing a package that lets you access your system on your phone or mobile device so you can check on your home whether you’re at work or out of town. Some systems, like Vivint, let you use the app and control panel for two-way communication, turning it into an intercom system. You can use it to check in with the house sitter while you’re on vacation or remind the kids to walk the dog when you’re stuck at the office.

Motion sensors and door/window sensors

Most home security systems include motion sensors and door or window sensors. We suggest getting motion sensors for areas in your home that could be dangerous for children or pets (the garage, the sewing room, the laundry room, etc.). It’s also smart to get enough window sensors and door sensors to cover every possible entrance to your home, so you have peace of mind that you’ll be alerted if someone tries to get in.

Home security systems FAQ

How much do home security systems cost?

Costs vary depending on what you want from your home security system. If you’re looking for a camera that you can watch on your own, you could spend less than $150 for a cheap camera and call it good. Or you could monitor your security equipment and be on your way for less than $500 (more on that below).

For the pros to install and monitor your alarm system, you’ll spend significantly more up front, and you’ll have monthly costs to consider. Some systems let you control your security equipment and smart devices from your phone, but they come at a cost—between $40 and $60 a month for monitoring and about $1,000* (or more, if your house is larger) for equipment. That can still be significantly less than a break-in, which can cost thousands of dollars in property damage.

*Cost calculated based on Vivint pricing of control panel, two key fobs, three entry sensors, and one motion detector, plus the cost of professional installation. Data effective 06/18/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

What kinds of home security systems are there?

We break security systems down into three main categories:

  • DIY installation with self-monitoring
  • DIY installation with professional monitoring
  • Professional installation with professional monitoring

DIY installation with self-monitoring: some brands we recommend, like Nest, Scout, and Abode, have optional professional monitoring but will let you monitor your equipment on your own after you install it.

DIY installation with professional monitoring: Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, Cove, Link Interactive, Protect America, and Brinks all monitor your systems, but you install the equipment on your own.

Professional installation with professional monitoring: Brands like Vivint and ADT professionally install and monitor your system—you don’t have to lift a finger or babysit alerts.

How much are home security systems without monitoring?

You can save some significant dough if you’re willing to monitor your system yourself because you’ll cut out the monthly monitoring costs. If you’re strapped for cash, fully DIY systems like Nest and Abode let you monitor your system for free. You just buy the equipment—Abode has a base package for around $280 while Nest starts at about $400—and you’re off. From there you can add cameras for another $110–$300 so you can see what’s happening at home before calling the police or fire responders.

A few caveats. First, we recommend professional monitoring because you can’t always be on the job when you’ve got things like a real job or sleep to attend to. Self-monitoring is better than nothing, but be realistic about the amount of attention you can give it.

Second, you’ll need a way to verify that something is happening at your house since you’re liable in some states if you call 911 with a false alarm. That’s why we recommend a camera of some kind with your DIY security system.

Third, watch out for added fees like video cloud storage. Cost of storage varies by brand, so make sure to look into that before purchasing.

What are monitored and unmonitored security systems?

Monitored systems rely on professionals to watch for triggered alarms, contact system owners, and dispatch emergency services. Unmonitored security systems aren’t connected to a monitoring center and usually connect with an app that the system owner watches for suspicious activity.

We almost always recommend you bring in the pros to monitor your system because you can’t always watch it yourself. They’re professionally trained to dispatch emergency services and work with people during moments of crisis.

Learn more in our article about the differences between monitored and unmonitored security systems.

What home security systems are there for renters?

There are lots of good home security system options out there for renters. You’ll want equipment that you can install without drilling holes through the walls. Wireless systems are ideal for renters because you don’t have to run phone lines to them and you can put a control panel wherever is most convenient for your space.

You’ll also want a system that you can take with you whenever you move. If you’re renting because you move often, you’ll appreciate being able to bring your system wherever you land next without having to start over your contract.

We like Frontpoint for renters, but if you want more options, check out our best home security systems for renters article.

What is the best home security camera system?

With our number-one recommendation, Vivint, you can get indoor, outdoor, and video doorbell security cameras. Other companies, like Frontpoint, ADT, Link Interactive, and SimpliSafe, also offer some type of camera. We like that several of these brands will professionally monitor your cameras for you so you don’t have to be glued to your phone looking at the live feed whenever your camera detects motion at home. Instead, the pros will check it out for you and let you know if there’s a problem.

When you add a security camera to your home security system, it gives you a peek into what’s going on at home. If something triggers your alarm, you can check your cameras to see what set it off. Day to day, cameras let you pop in to say hi to the kids after school or make sure your packages are safe and sound on the porch until you can make it home.

If you’re looking to build a video surveillance system without a home security system, we’ve got lots of recommendations in our best home security camera systems post.

What do I do if my house is broken into?

Security systems can deter break-ins, but they can still happen. If you’ve experienced a break-in, you should file a police report, create records of what was damaged or lost, contact your insurance, and fix the damage. Find out more in our article about what to do if your house is broken into.

Ready to choose a home security system?

Now that you’ve explored your options, it’s time to pick your home security system. Here’s a quick recap of what stands out about each of our top five security companies.

The state of property crime in the US

Property Crime Map

We recommend home security because it can prevent or limit the impact of property crimes. Property crime has a huge financial impact on people affected. In fact, burglary cost Americans about $3.4 billion in property loss in 2017 alone.1

In our research, we also found that some states are hit harder than others.

These five states lost the most to burglary when you consider the average amount lost per 100,000 residents:2

  • Texas
  • Nevada
  • Georgia
  • California
  • Ohio

Download Full Report

More to know about property crime in the US

  • Aside from vehicles, currency is the highest-value item stolen in 31 states.2
  • Close to 64% of burglaries happen during the day when people are more likely to be away from home. 2
  • Burglaries and robberies are much more common in December than any other month of the year. 2

Methodology

ASecureLife analyzed data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program spanning from 2011 to 2017 (the most current data available) to determine trends in burglary and robbery over time.

Sources

  1. FBI, “2017 Crime in the United States: Burglary
  2. National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, “Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data: Property Stolen and Recovered, United States, 2016

Recommended resources

Contributing author: Celeste Tholen

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