Home alarm systems protect your home and family from burglary, fire, water damage, package theft, and more. But with so many alarm companies to choose from, how do you decide which one is right for you?
We’ve done the research so you can spend your time on things that matter more—whether that’s teaching your kid how to ride their bike, earning that promotion at work, or rewatching every episode of The Simpsons.
Below we highlight the most important things to know about the top alarm companies. Compare your options to find the best security solution for your family, your budget, and your home.
Vivint pros and cons
- Contract-free option
- Flexible payment options
- Low-cost entry-level package
- Convenient mobile access with all plans
- Top-tier equipment
- Easy smart home integration
- Long contracts
- High-priced equipment
Frontpoint pros and cons
- Fantastic reputation
- Fast and easy DIY installation
- More lenient cancellation policy than Vivint
- Simple smart home integration with app
- Mandatory contracts
- No flexible payment options
- No mobile access with base plan
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ADT pros and cons
- Next-day installation usually available
- Decades of home alarm system experience
- One app to control system and third-party smart devices
- More expensive monitoring than competitors
- Varying equipment availability by dealer
SimpliSafe pros and cons
- No required contracts
- Fast and easy setup
- Optional professional alarm monitoring
- Inexpensive equipment
- Limited smart home sync options
- Mobile access in high-end plan only
Link Interactive pros and cons
- One-year contracts available
- Fewer fees than competitors
- Custom equipment packages
- Limited customer service hours
- Customer complaints of complicated installation
How to choose a home alarm system
An alarm system is a big investment, so we understand that choosing the right company can be a tough decision. We recommend looking at the following when picking an alarm company:
- Cost: Most alarm systems require monthly monitoring payments. Make sure to choose a plan that works with your budget.
- Contracts: Some alarm companies require multiyear contracts, while others let you pay month-to-month with no long-term commitment. Contracts aren’t always bad—sometimes you get deals on equipment or extra warranties—but be sure you know what you’re signing up for before you commit.
- Equipment: Some companies have a huge selection of equipment while others offer the bare bones. Decide what you want for your home and make sure the alarm system you pick offers what you need whether it is an outdoor camera, a smoke alarm, or an automatic door lock.
- Mobile access: The best alarm systems make it easy to check on your system wherever you are, so you can see that your home is safe whether you’re in your bed or in another country.
- Smart home support: A home alarm system is more useful when you can sync it with smart devices like locks and lights. We suggest choosing one that’s compatible with a wide selection of third-party devices.
Before we get in too deep, you’ll want to have these questions in-hand to make the most informed buying decision for your home. What security system components do you really need? How much should you expect to pay for an alarm system? What does installation involve and how complicated is it? I’m sure these are some of the questions running through your head – they were for me.
Here’s a rundown of the questions you should ask the company before you buy.
- What Are My Options?
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Is There Installation/Setup Involved?
- Are There Contracts?
- Do I Need a Phone Line?
- I’ve Heard a Lot about ADT. What’s All the Hype?
- What Happens if I’m Broken Into?
What’s the difference between home alarm and home security? As far as the industry’s concerned, not much. Technically speaking, a burglar alarm consists of just the skeleton sensors necessary to detect an intrusion (door, window, and motion) and notify the homeowner with an audible noise. An alarm system extends this to also include fire and smoke detectors. Taking it a bit further, a home security system also can include monitoring by a central station, home security cameras, remote control via your smartphone, and home automation options such as automated lighting and door locks. With all the tech options today, you probably want to choose this more comprehensive security system to best meet your needs.
A self-monitored home alarm system includes an extensive set of sensors including carbon monoxide, freeze and water sensors. For example, SimpliSafe offers a popular self-monitored home alarm for around $190. A full-fledged home security system is monitored by a central station and can be upgraded with all the bells and whistles, including home security cameras. It typically requires a 3-year contract and starts at $20 per month plus installation fees of $100 and up (but if you ask nicely, they might just offer free equipment and installation).
For most home alarm options, yes. Some burglar alarms are “do it yourself”, or self-installed. It sounds scarier than it is. In fact, it can be very easy since this usually involves simply attaching sensors to your doors and windows using sticky peel-and-stick adhesive tape (which is also provided). Most of the national security system companies have professional install options available if you prefer, but they can add to the cost and could involve drilling holes in your walls. So with wireless technology, more companies (including Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, and Link Interactive) are relying on a “Do It Yourself” model. DIY allows you to save money on installation and moving costs down the road. It’s also more convenient since you can do it on your own time instead of taking time off work to meet the installer.
Only home security systems that include monthly monitoring packages have contracts, and some newcomers to the security space even offer monthly monitoring packages without a contract. Contracts vary based on your needs, but longer contracts generally mean better prices, so be sure to ask about discounts on longer-term contracts. Make sure to read your contract carefully before you sign to double-check that you’re not getting hit with any extra costs or hidden fees.
Not anymore. Older alarm systems that relied on phone lines were vulnerable to cord cutting by thieves, especially on older homes where the phone lines are exposed. In fact, most companies don’t offer landline monitoring these days. Modern systems, including those you can buy and install yourself, offer broadband (internet) or cellular options which are much more secure.
ADT has been around for years, and is one of the largest home security system providers nationwide. They use an authorized dealer program to sell their product in local markets which means they’re available almost everywhere in the United States. The downside is that their customer service record varies greatly depending on location. This makes it difficult for us to review them as a national provider so be sure to check with your neighbors and also your reviews on your local Better Business Bureau, Yelp! and Angie’s List.
It depends on the type of home alarm system you have installed. With a self-monitored security system, if someone breaks into your house, you’ll receive a notification through your smartphone, text message, or email. With a professionally monitored home security system, (like the ones we reccomend above) a representative from the central monitoring station will contact you. If the alarm company can’t reach you, they will quickly dispatch local law enforcement to your home to prevent further damage.
Vivint is the best home alarm system for most people because you get high-end equipment, easy home automation, and reliable monitoring. Plus, you can pay for equipment up front to get out of a contract or choose to sign a contract and pay for equipment over time. This kind of flexibility makes Vivint an option for more people at different stages of life.
Still deciding? You can learn more about our favorite home alarm companies in the reviews where we compare two companies head to head.