Recent Update:Home security system Black Friday deals abound this month of November. From free installation to discounts up to 60-percent, be sure not to miss out on all the home security deals and discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Picking the right security system to protect your home and your family is a big decision to make, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful one. We’ve tested the most popular security systems on the market. We know their strengths and weaknesses, how much they cost, and whether or not they’re worth your time and money.
Then, we hand-picked the best of the best to help you make an informed choice. No matter what type of buyer you are, you’ll find the right security system for you somewhere on this list. Before we give you the full scoop, though, here’s a quick look at our testing process.
Number of systems tested
Length of testing
Systems with DIY installation
Systems with cellular backup
The home security landscape has become more diverse than ever before. It’s teeming with a dizzying array of options — there are DIY security systems and professionally installed systems, self-monitored and professionally monitored systems, and there’s a wide selection of technologies from smart home automation to voice control available.
Additionally, security systems today can protect anything from studio-type apartments to mansions. You can add as many security system peripherals as needed, with some systems capable of handling hundreds of sensors. Not to mention, security systems today offer a wide variety of devices, from security sensors to smart home and IoT products.
As a team with decades of combined experience with security systems, we tested and compared home security systems first-hand, and we selected the 10 that ranked highest. We determined our favorites based on each system’s reliability, flexibility, smart home integrations, and affordability.
Our top picks consist of products from well-established alarm companies like ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint, but we didn’t skip the young disruptors that have been making waves recently. If you’re into DIY systems and flexible contracts, SimpliSafe, Cove, and abode are just some of the options you’ll see on our list. Without further ado, we present you the best security systems of the year.
The Best Security Systems In The News: The Latest Deals & Discounts
Before we begin with our detailed assessment of each system, take a look at this week’s news, deals, and discounts from these top home security systems.
ADT: New customers will get a Google Nest Doorbell and Nest Cam Battery installed for free if they sign a 36-month contract. Plus, get the option to pay $0 upfront with ADT’s flexible payments.
SimpliSafe: Enjoy 20-percent off on SimpliSafe packages and receive a free SimpliCam indoor camera (a $99 value) if you add Interactive Monitoring ($27.99 with a 30-day free trial) at checkout. You can cancel anytime without fees.
Cove: Cove is running one of its biggest promotions this year — enjoy up to 60-percent off on new equipment, plus get a free HD indoor camera if you shop on Cove’s website.
Frontpoint: Get up to 75-percent off if you purchase a security system from Frontpoint. Prices start at $99 for the most basic kit.
abode: abode is having a flash sale that can save you up to 50-percent on your security system purchase.
A Detailed List of the Best Home Alarm Systems
1. ADT - Most Trusted Home Security Brand
The biggest name in home security known for professional installation and monitoring you can trust.
ADT revolutionized telegraphed security alerts over a year ago, and even today, the company continues to innovate home security systems. Beyond home security, ADT systems offer home automation features through a platform called ADT Control, which enables voice commands via Alexa and Google Assistant.
Beyond voice control, we also conveniently controlled ADT through our smartphones. In fact, the ADT Control app served as our mobile control panel, giving us complete access to the system at home and outside. The system guarded against burglaries, gave environmental alerts, and automated our home, all from the smartphone app.
Lastly, in case you or someone you live with needs close medical attention, ADT has medical alert systems that are monitored alongside their security systems.
It’s also commendable how ADT has special offers almost all year round. We got a $100 Visa gift card when we signed up, but right now, new users can get free Google Nest video doorbell and outdoor camera installation. We’ll likely see more deals from ADT pop up around Black Friday, so bookmark our ADT Black Friday deals page to stay updated.
What We Like
145+ years of security innovation
Reliable monitoring with multiple centers
What We Don’t Like
Professional monitoring is more expensive than others
Customer service is hit-or-miss
Requires long-term contracts
Installation Technician must visit your home
Although some may prefer DIY installation, professional installation — particularly when done by technicians as well-trained as ADT’s — has lots of advantages. For one, with the pros on the job, you can be certain that it’ll be done flawlessly. If not, ADT has a pretty generous money-back guarantee that covers your system six months after installation. Professional installation also takes the stress out of installing so many components.
For us, the best part about ADT or ADT Control installation was that it was essentially free. We learned from the salesperson that we’d only have to pay between $99 and $199, depending on our home layout, and ADT offered us a $100 VISA Reward Card as a rebate. We’ve also seen ADT offer same-day installation if you order by 2 p.m., which is great if you’re in a hurry to get started.
Impressively, we also learned that our ADT system was valued at $850, but we didn’t have to pay anything upfront. Instead, charges for the equipment came with our monthly monitoring bills, which is a lot easier on the wallet. You can dive deeper into pricing in our ADT costs guide.
Hardwired, Wireless & Hybrid Security
A lot of new security systems focus on wireless systems that use cellular signals or Wi-Fi to communicate, which is better than landline systems in most cases. However, in certain situations, a wired, landline system is better than wireless. For instance, for those living in rural areas where cellular and internet connectivity are sparse, a landline system is more reliable. ADT doesn’t discriminate in that regard. It’s one of the few remaining alarm companies that offer landline, wireless, and hybrid (wireless and wired at the same time) systems. No wonder it’s a popular choice in remote regions that lack cellular coverage.
We also discovered that ADT monitored medical alerts. Our options included a variety of bracelets and neck pendants capable of sending emergency signals. Three plans were available:
$29.99/month – Home-based medical alert
$34.99/month – Home-based medical alert, plus fall detection
$39.99/month – Fall detection included, Medical alert wearables had GPS tracking for emergency medical support at home or away
While we felt pricing for ADT medical alerts was clear, we recognized that costs for ADT home security were more complex and varied from home to home.
2. SimpliSafe - Best Home Security and Automation
A popular choice for no-contract, easy DIY setup, and refreshingly affordable home security. (Right now you can get 50-percent off a new system plus a free indoor security camera.)
SimpliSafe made home security easier. In general, the cost of SimpliSafe systems is lower than more traditional companies like ADT. The full price of the cheapest SimpliSafe system is only about $250 and monthly monitoring starts at just $17.99. Professional monitoring is optional, so it’s totally possible to use SimpliSafe without monthly fees.
But it’s not just the cost that’s made SimpliSafe so popular. It’s the overall user-friendliness, from the simple installation process that often takes less than an hour to the functional app and keypad that comes with the system, almost everything about SimpliSafe is simple. (Not perfect, but simple.)
Read on for our reasons why SimpliSafe was best for no-contract home security.
What We Like
No long-term contracts to sign
Easiest installation of any system
Incredibly affordable monitoring plans
Award-winning professional monitoring
What We Don’t Like
Pricey up-front equipment costs
Limited home automation capabilities
No outdoor security camera options
May be too simple for some homes
Low Prices for Equipment & Monitoring
SimpliSafe has always been one of the cheaper home security solutions. You can buy a starter kit for about $250, and once the system is in place, you won’t have to pay a monthly fee. That is, if you’re okay with monitoring the system yourself. Otherwise, professional monitoring will cost you $17.99 to $27.99 monthly, which is still well below the average cost of security monitoring.
We’ve seen SimpliSafe discounts fluctuate between 20- and 60-percent off in the past few months, and the discounts usually peak starting November (Black Friday) until January (New Year). SimpliSafe Black Friday deals are actually here, and you can save 50- to 60-percent on new security systems and get a free indoor camera if you take advantage.
Although SimpliSafe security systems were inexpensive, they weren’t shoddy. Our equipment was low-priced mainly because SimpliSafe manufactured it themselves. Meanwhile, their competitors included middlemen who passed along big markups.
One example of SimpliSafe’s high quality was their SmashSafe backup against tampering: If someone tried to disable our system, the monitoring service alerted police. Another example was the Heartbeat feature, which continuously checked that the security system was working as intended.
In terms of SimpliSafe’s cameras, the brand just added a wire-free outdoor camera to their lineup. The SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera is $169, the same price as SimpliSafe’s video doorbell and about $70 more than the original SimpliCam. It’s IP65-rated for weather protection and records in up to 1080p, the industry standard for security camera video quality. Though the camera has its limitations – it only works when it’s paired with a SimpliSafe system, for one – we’re glad to see SimpliSafe finally offer an outdoor camera.
FYI: Due to a global computer chip shortage, the SimpliSafe Outdoor Camera is in limited supply. For now, you can buy it with a SimpliSafe system, but not individually.
Simple to Install and Move
Setting up our SimpliSafe system was easy. From our understanding, most customers set up the equipment on their own and only about three percent order help. We installed our system in about 20 minutes and estimated it would take someone inexperienced about 30 minutes to manage. All equipment was freestanding or attached to surfaces with removable adhesive. We could easily move a SimpliSafe security system to a different home. The portability combined with no contracts helped make SimpliSafe a favorite for both renters and homeowners.
That said, if you prefer professional installation, that’s also an option. SimpliSafe partnered up with OnTech to provide installation services. The price starts at $79, and considering how easy it is to install a SimpliSafe system, that might be all you have to pay unless you purchase a really big system.
3. Vivint - Best Pro Installation
An intelligent approach to home security with an impressive lineup of home automation features.
Vivint gave us professional installation at no cost. In addition to basic security, we also got environmental protection. What really made this company stand out for us, though was its home automation with voice commands.
Vivint worked with some of the major smart home assistants such as Google Home and Alexa to develop a fully autonomous home. In our research, we found that most Vivint customers were homeowners with long-term security contracts and the majority gave Vivint excellent reviews.
Vivint partnered with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Nest’s Google Assistant to offer voice control of home systems. Some of the possible commands were:
Arm the security system “away”
Close our garage door
Dim our lights
Turn on our lights
Turn the heat up three degrees
When we started feeling old-fashioned, we controlled our Vivint security with a key chain remote, a mobile app, or the main control panel.
Home Security with AI
Vivint systems are built around a control panel, called the Vivint Smart Hub, and boy is it really smart. Automations make life easier for Vivint users, as the hub can perform certain actions based on a number of inputs. For example, it can arm on its own at night, making sure you don’t leave your home unattended when you go to dreamland.
Other examples of automations we had set up were:
If our security system detected that nobody was home, it could set our thermostat to conserve energy.
If it learned that we usually returned home at a certain time, it would reset the temperature in time for our arrival.
Vivint reported that intelligent energy management saved customers about 10 to 15% on home heating and cooling.
We could control Vivint Sky’s adaptation. Under our direction, our security system gradually transitioned along a three-point continuum:
Only taking orders
Making suggestions based on our previous interactions
Taking actions on its own
Vivint made cutting-edge security cameras for our indoor and outdoor use. We could record video anytime with cloud storage and remotely adjust each camera’s settings.
We were most impressed by the newest Vivint security camera, the Outdoor Camera Pro with night vision. It provided 24/7 “lurker detection,” thanks to artificial intelligence.
Vivint’s security lineup also includes the Ping indoor camera and the Doorbell Camera Pro which features a 180-degree by 180-degree field of view.
4. Frontpoint - Best No Contract Home Security System
DIY home security systems offering cutting-edge technology, outstanding service, and total home automation.
Frontpoint sold home security systems with do-it-yourself setup and professional monitoring that we found very impressive. We liked that each DIY system supported burglary prevention, environmental protection, and/or home automation.
We could order online or by phone, and the Frontpoint sales agents were refreshingly low pressure. They told us the cheapest security system was priced at just $129, but if you have plans to purchase right now, be sure to check out Frontpoint Black Friday 2022 deals. You can save as much as 40-percent on security systems and components.
What We Like
Full home security and automation solution
Easy DIY installation takes only minutes
Impressive smart home features and capabilities
What We Don’t Like
Requires a long-contract
Can be prone to false alarms
Requires a credit check if you finance your system
No other monitoring option besides the $49.99 a month plan
Rapid Response Emergency Monitoring
Frontpoint is a DIY system, so we installed the equipment ourselves. However, we did leave the monitoring of the system to the pros by enrolling in a professional emergency monitoring service. With this service, we can rest assured that someone will be there to help us or call for help on our behalf during alarm incidents.
Additionally, for the $49.99 monthly fee, we’d get professional monitoring, access to the app, home automation, and video monitoring — basically every feature in Frontpoint’s arsenal. It’s the only subscription plan they offer, so we’re glad it has everything.
A Frontpoint rep explained that Frontpoint won’t be monitoring our system themselves, but rather a third-party partner takes care of 24/7 monitoring. The company is called Rapid Response Monitoring Services.
We checked out the company and found pretty interesting things about them. They have a great reputation and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. What impressed us the most, however, was the robust backup measures they have in place in case of power outages and national crises.
The company has two monitoring facilities, each at different locations. The two are redundant, which means they have exactly the same resources and setup. If one goes down, the other can easily take over. This ensures that the monitoring centers never go offline. That’s a setup we’d gladly put our trust in, and we did.
Rich In Features
Frontpoint is one of the leading security systems thanks in part to its feature-rich security systems. As stated, the Ultimate plan includes everything from home security to home automation and video monitoring. To complement it, Frontpoint offers basic and advanced systems that are not only scalable, but also offer a wide range of features.
Just look at the mid-range equipment package from Frontpoint and what it includes. It has the usual home security components such as motion sensors and entry sensors, but you can also get an indoor security camera and a video doorbell for monitoring your entryway. Mid-range packages also include a heat and smoke sensor to protect your home from fire.
Even if you buy a pre-set bundle, you can still add components to your system. Your options include glass break sensors, indoor and outdoor cameras, garage door sensors, CO and flood sensors, and a whole lot of home automation devices. And remember, you can use all of these devices without having to pay any more than the $49.99 monthly fee.
5. Alder Security - Best Security System for Response Times
With response times 10 times faster than the rest, the professional monitoring from Alder was top-notch.
Every second counts during a security breach, and with Alder, we had peace of mind that help would come ASAP if we were ever in a dire situation. Alder boasts a response time that is 10 times faster than the average alarm company, and we saw what it can do during our numerous test alarm calls to the company.
Alder’s reputation for being one of the companies with the fastest response times started in 2017 when the company notched a 3.7-second average response time. Since then, Alder never looked back and kept up its excellent alarm response performance.
Read on for more Alder features that made us consider it an elite security system.
What We Like
30-day trial period
User-friendly mobile app
What We Don’t Like
Not many equipment options
Pricing isn’t listed on website
Expensive monthly fees
When we signed up for Alder, we were shocked to find out that our only option was to agree to a three-year period. Since we’re single and living in New York City, three years could feel like a lifetime. We had no idea what city we’d be living in by then? Fortunately, our Alder salesperson told us we could try our system out for 30 days. Of course, we only returned our systems once we were done testing them thoroughly over about a year, so we couldn’t make this 30 day time period. However, if we had returned our system within 30 days of purchasing it, we would’ve gotten a complete refund, except for return shipping, which seemed pretty fair.
We were deep into the Amazon smart home ecosystem, so we had fun controlling our Alder system with Alexa, arming it, checking its status, and with the GC2 touchscreen control panel, controlling our smart thermostats.
Note: Alder’s newer control panel didn’t work with smart thermostats that connected over Z-Wave, unlike the older systems with GC2 panels.
It literally took us less than 15 minutes to install our Alder security system. All we had to do was plug in the control panel and set it up on the screen, stick the sensors on our walls, doors, and windows, and download the Alder Security app to our iPhones and Androids. Alder also offered us professional installation on the house!
6. Cove - Best for Installation and Convenience
Cove is a newer security company that's disrupting the market by providing self-installed home security with professional monitoring and equipment. If you want a quick and easy setup, it's one of the best security systems around.
Cove is another DIY option that rivals SimpliSafe in terms of simplicity and budget-friendliness. Cove’s monitoring plans start at $17.99 per month, and you can get started on a system for under $200.
Our favorite thing about Cove is the installation process. When we ordered a system, Cove sent us pre-programmed equipment that was ready to work out of the box. We simply plugged in the control panel and pulled out the battery tabs out of the sensors and they paired right away. To activate the system, we just called Cove’s customer support. All in all, including the customer support call, we spent less than 30 minutes installing Cove.
What We Like
Integrations with Google Assistant and Alexa
No long-term contracts
Can choose to pay nothing upfront
What We Don’t Like
Professional monitoring required
Monthly fees required
Relatively new company
Doesn’t sell home automation equipment
24/7 Professional Monitoring
Being a newer company, we were surprised that all of Cove’s systems require 24/7 professional monitoring for either $17.99 or $27.99 a month, but since we prefer professional monitoring over self-monitoring anyway, it wasn’t a big deal. That extra $10 a month got us remote control, Alexa and Google Assistant integrations, a lifetime lock on our monthly rate, plus a $5 monthly credit if we wanted to buy extra equipment. We think that’s worth it for the remote control and smart home integrations alone!
Text Communications with Cove Plus
It might seem counterintuitive, but we found Cove’s text communications to be quite useful. Whenever the system gets tripped, Cove sends a link to a text-based communication system, where everyone in your family circle can communicate. Unlike traditional alarm systems that only call one member of the family to verify alerts, Cove’s InstaText system allows for a more efficient and faster emergency response. That’s one of the reasons that Cove’s response rate is three to four times faster than its competitors.
The InstaText system also reduces false alarms, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars in false alarm fees. If the alert turns out to be a false alarm, you and your family circle can easily waive it off through InstaText. In a traditional system, if you miss the call, the cops might be called to respond, which could lead to false alarm fees from your city or local police department. In a way, Cove is also helping the government reduce unnecessary spending due to false alarms.
7. Brinks Home Security - Best DIY Home Security System
Easy to install home security system that works with Google Assistant and Alexa.
Not only do we love DIY installation because it’s free, but with Brinks, we got help over the phone anyway, without having to pay. Plus, if we had signed up for the Smart Security Ultimate Package, we could’ve gotten professional installation for free! But we digress.
When we set up our Brinks security system, we talked on the phone with an installation expert who helped us every step of the way. After we set the system up, we did a test medical alarm call (with the guidance of the support agent we were on the phone with) and talked more about how the system worked. The entire process took us 35 minutes and was actually, dare we say, pleasant, as far as home security installation goes.
What We Like
DIY installation with free phone support
Google Assistant and Alexa integrations
Affordable professional monitoring
Easy-to-use Alarm.com app
What We Don’t Like
No proprietary Google Assistant action
Pricey professional monitoring
No proprietary app
Smart Home Integrations
We controlled our Brinks system using Alexa and Google Assistant, because who doesn’t love a good voice command? After figuring out that Brinks only works with the Alarm.com Google Assistant action, we used Google to:
Arm our system
Control IoT devices
Ask if our system was armed
Alexa had one more capability, disarming the system as well. We had fun telling our voice assistants to play our live footage on the big screen, as Brinks works well with Echo Shows, Fire TV Sticks, Nest Hubs, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc. In fact, Brinks systems can act as a hub for up to 119 smart home devices.
Brinks doesn’t allow customers to self-monitor, but that’s not a turn-off considering Brinks’ relatively affordable pricing. We say “relatively” because it’s more expensive than monitoring from the likes of Cove and SimpliSafe, but Brinks is on the cheaper end compared to brands like Vivint and Frontpoint. And unlike Frontpoint, Brinks lets its customers decide the level of protection and amount of features they want with its three-tiered monitoring plan pricing.
Cost per month
Smart Security Essential
Basic home security with smartphone access
Smart Security Complete
Home security plus home automation features
Smart Security Ultimate
Home security, home automation, and video monitoring
While these aren’t the lowest prices for monitoring we’ve ever seen, they’re also not the most expensive, and for 24/7 protection, we felt that the monitoring plans are worthwhile. Plus, the plans include cellular backup, which kept us connected to the monitoring center even during a neighborhood blackout.
8. abode - Best No Monthly Fee Home Security System
Get home security and smart home automation without all the contracts and monthly fees.
Abode was one of the best security companies that allowed us to monitor activity for free; we loved that we could access all features of their mobile app without paid service. We had the options for long-term and very short-term contracts, too. If we were away for a long weekend, for example, we could order three days of professional monitoring.
Pro Tip: It’s always rewarding to shop abode systems around special days, like Black Friday, Christmas, and New Years. Abode offers huge discounts around the holidays, sometimes up to 50-percent.
We bought our equipment through the Abode website, the only place it was available. We built a high-quality Abode system for security alerts, environmental monitoring, and home automation. Additionally, we used the option for voice commands with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit. Read on for details about why Abode security was one of our favorites.
What We Like
No contracts, with flexible monitoring options
All-in-one CUE smart home automation platform
Compatible with both Zigbee and Z-Wave
Extensive equipment and device offerings
What We Don’t Like
Requires up-front equipment purchase
Add-ons and equipment upgrades get pricey
No outdoor security camera options
Limited support with base security plan
DIY Monitoring and Control
For DIY monitoring our Abode security system connected to a mobile app. Without paid service, we could arm our system, watch live video surveillance, adjust lighting and temperature, and use all other app features.
For three days, the Abode app stored our system activity for free. Longer storage was available to us with paid contracts.
We could select professional monitoring by Abode, which added emergency dispatch service and kept a 90-day log of our system’s activity.
We could easily switch from one monitoring plan to another within the billing section of our app. The best Abode monitoring deal we found required one year of prepaid service.
Abode’s high-quality sensors detected movement and environmental threats in and around our home. For the ultimate simplicity, we could have chosen an all-in-one security tower with a video camera. We chose the following components as part of our Abode set:
Motion sensors that take pictures
Glass vibration sensors
Acoustic glass break sensors
Wide-angle video cameras
In addition, we were able to add an Abode Cam 2 indoor/outdoor camera for just $27.00. We splurged and bought a couple of the company’s smart light bulbs as well.
One of our favorite aspects about Abode, was the Abode home security app also integrated automation devices from third parties. Hue lights, Kwikset locks, and Nest thermostats were some of the options we had.
We could use voice control integrations with both Amazon and Google through Abode. These let us get hands-free help around the home. All we had to do to adjust our home’s lighting, blinds, temperature, and more, was talk.
9. Deep Sentinel - Best Security System for Artificial Intelligence
Deep Sentinel’s cameras can distinguish suspicious behaviors from non-suspicious behaviors, the only AI of this type in the home security industry.
While other security cameras can simply distinguish people, pets, vehicles and packages from other moving objects, Deep Sentinel is designed to detect suspicious behaviors. That includes attempted robberies, vandalism, car theft and burglary, making your notifications matter more.
What We Like
24/7 professional monitoring
What We Don’t Like
Expensive professional monitoring
No self-monitoring only option
No smart platform integrations
After we watched the instructional video, setting up our Deep Sentinel system took about half an hour. All we had to do was plug the cameras in and sync them with our mobile app and the hub. Of course, we had to mount the cameras as well, but we loved the fact that Deep Sentinel gave us a screwdriver plus step-by-step instructions in the app.
Fast Response Times
In 30 seconds, we would have gotten alerted of any robbery attempts, break-ins involving our doors or windows, violent behavior, package theft attempts and more. Within 60 seconds, we would’ve gotten confirmations of packages deliveries, notifications that someone was standing at our front door or that police were on our property. Leveraging advanced AI capabilities with 24/7 professional monitoring, Deep Sentinel has some of the fastest response times in the business, next to Alder of course.
Deep Sentinel offers some of the best equipment in the business, packed with all sorts of AI technology. The system hub can process more than fifty images a second and label each one with a security classification. In addition, Deep Sentinel offers both wireless and PoE options. With Power over Ethernet, you don’t have to connect your cameras to an outlet. Just plug in the ethernet cord, and you’re all set.
10. Ring Alarm Security Kit - Best Alexa Home Security System
The Amazon-owned Ring Alarm plays well with Alexa and offers 24/7 monitoring for just $10/mo.
We were obsessed with our Alexa, so we were thrilled to test out Ring, which is owned by Amazon and was compatible with Alexa. When we did our shopping, we found out Ring also sold high-decibel alarm systems compatible with video cameras, environmental monitoring, home automation, and voice control.
This system allowed us to self-monitor or pay for an affordable month-to-month monitoring service. Note that Ring now has the Ring Alarm Pro system available, which is a security system with a built-in router with extra features built for digital safety.
What We Like
Highly-affordable professional monitoring at $20 per month
Advanced home automation features and Alexa integrations
No contract required on Ring Alarm systems
Simple DIY setup takes only minutes to install
What We Don’t Like
Requires up-front equipment purchase
Premium cameras are expensive
Ring Alarm is a relatively new product offering
System is not as comprehensive as professional offerings
Low-Cost & Free Features
Our most affordable option was Ring’s simplest home security package, which cost $199.99 retail. Optional monitoring started at just $20, and we could cancel anytime without penalty. Another option is to self-monitor for free, but if you have Ring cameras as well, we recommend paying for cloud storage, at least, which starts at $3 a month for one camera or $10 for unlimited cameras. Exclusive Ring security discounts were available to teachers, military members, and first responders.
We were able to self-monitor our home with Ring’s free mobile app. Ring also developed a free Crimewatch app, Neighbors App that we could choose to join or not join. In our area, it added community power to home security with safety alerts from neighbors, police, and Ring.
Video Security with Low Bandwidth Demand
Our Ring video security cameras were high definition, but they were set to record only when motion was detected. This put less demand on our home Wi-Fi service compared with popular competitors systems which recorded constantly. This would have mattered a lot to us if we didn’t have an unlimited Wi-Fi data plan or were concerned our home security would slow down our other online activity.
Ring was so easy for us to use because its security hub was compatible with devices from so many brands. Some examples included:
First Alert smoke/carbon monoxide detector
GE light dimmers
Schlage smart deadbolts
Chamberlain garage door openers
However, not all our third-party gadgets could be monitored by emergency dispatchers. To save us time, we found a list of certified products that were available on the Ring security website.
How We Determined Which Security System is The Best
Buying a home security system required us to consider a ton of factors, from the costs of equipment to the quality of the devices. How did we decide which security system was right for our home? Below, we included info about how to choose a fitting security system and a methodology section, where we detailed how we tested and reviewed our systems.
Why Buy a Home Security System?
The first question we asked ourselves was whether or not we actually needed a home security system at all.
We wanted to know exactly how common home burglaries were and if home security systems could really decrease the likelihood that we’d be robbed? To answer these questions, we turned to the hard statistics on burglaries in the United States; here’s what we found.
Burglary Facts and Figures
A news station asked 86 convicted burglars (inmates at a prison in Oregon) exactly how they committed robberies1. They determined that the majority of burglars entered homes through unlocked doors or windows. Most of the intruders said that if an alarm went off, they would have left immediately.
In the same study, most of the inmates said they would first knock on the door of a home before invading it. If someone answered, they would leave. Some inmates said even just having visible cameras would deter them from choosing that home as a target.
Knowing that most security systems offered contact sensors for doors and windows as well as motion and glass break sensors, we thought having these simple sensors may have stopped these convict’s robberies before they started. Video doorbells, a part of some smart security systems, allowed homeowners and renters to see and speak to whoever was at their front door from a mobile application. We realized if the victims had these, they would have always been able to respond to the door, whether or not they were at home. We liked the idea that at our home we could seem like we were there when we were away.
Another report from Arizona State University’s Center for Problem-Oriented Policing2 found that burglary was the second most common crime in the United States and was responsible for up 18% of all serious crimes. Unfortunately, a whopping 65% of burglaries had no evidence or useful information for the police to investigate.
We believed security cameras could have made a big difference in the amount of evidence available from these robberies. Besides material losses, burglaries caused psychological harm to victims. In sum, we concluded that every family, including our own, could benefit from a home security system’s ability to help prevent crime or stop one midway.
Top Three Advantages of Home Security Systems
After testing out dozens of systems, we firmly understood and agreed with their advantages:
Increased safety: It was no secret that simply having a security system could reduce our chances of being burgled, from visible cameras to video doorbells that let us answer our door wherever. Even if a burglar managed to enter our home through a door or window, we’d be notified immediately via our phones. Plus, video evidence made catching and convicting anyone who entered our home much more likely.
Protection from material and emotional damages: Having a security system prevented the loss of our physical items as well as the negative feelings that follow a home burglary. According to Colonial Behavioral Health in Williamsburg, Virginia3, property crime had a huge effect on victims. They felt violated and unsafe. We imagined we would likely have felt the same way. Having a security system in place gave our family the peace of mind that we probably would never have to go through that kind of trauma.
Home insurance discounts: Our homeowner’s insurance policy, and many others we looked at, gave us a discount of up to about 15% for installing a security system in our home.
Tip: To save up to 15% on your homeowner’s insurance, get a security system to protect your home from burglaries.
Home Security System Buyer’s Guide
We recommended considering the following factors before buying a security system:
Homeowner vs. renter: We felt all right about drilling or hardwiring a security system into our home because we owned it. However, we wouldn’t have had the same perspective if we were renters with a security deposit in jeopardy. For renters, we recommended looking for a wireless home security system, as most components were peel and stick and did not require any holes. Our other recommendation for renters was to look for systems with monthly contracting and easy portability, which was the case for most DIY systems.
Apartment vs. house: Since we lived in a single-family home, we also invested in an outdoor system to protect our front and backyard. We recommended that our friends who lived in an apartment choose a video doorbell that fit their peephole, like the Ring Peephole Cam.
Size of home: Of course, the size of our home determined what equipment we selected. We knew that the larger a home or family, the more sensors, cameras, and video doorbells we might need. However, we also considered that many families that live in smaller homes, like us, may be able to get away with just a few sensors, like the motion and contact sensor from the $20 Wyze Sense Starter Kit. Learn more about the best security systems for large homes.
City, suburbs, or rural areas: For surveillance of outdoor spaces, we remembered that different areas have different laws on recording footage, so we recommended anyone who planned to set up outdoor recording check out local regulations first, especially if it covered property other than their own. Another area-related consideration we mentioned was traffic, both foot and car-related. For example, because we were in the city, we wanted cameras that ignored motion from cars and only alerted us if people were on our property. We also looked for cameras with activity or motion zones, meaning we could tell them what areas to focus on and what areas to ignore, like the street and sidewalk in front of our brownstone. For those who lived on busy streets, like us, we stressed person detection and activity zones were a must. However, we recognized that someone in rural areas may not have shared our need for any AI features, as motion events might be more rare, resulting in fewer notifications.
Outdoor space: We learned that securing outdoor space was more challenging than indoor space. For example, power was a huge factor; we didn’t have any well-placed outdoor outlets, so we had to look for outdoor, wireless cameras. There was also the issue of connectivity; we were solid with cellular backup or Wi-Fi but recommended that those who weren’t found a camera that didn’t require Wi-Fi like the Reolink GO.
Garage: We faced similar issues with our garage and our outdoor spaces. For this issue, we looked into companies that sold entry sensors for garage doors specifically, like Vivint.
Small businesses: We suggested our neighbor’s, who owned a nearby small business, invest in security cameras with 24/7 continuous recording, like the Nest Cams under the Nest Aware subscription. We thought these cameras might both deter criminals and come in handy for more everyday tasks, like keeping an eye on employees or customers in the store.
Vacation homes: Our family’s vacation home was unoccupied most of the year, so, naturally, we wanted a way to monitor it. Ultimately, we decided to invest in a plug-in system or one with long battery life, like the Blink cameras. We also recommended that others looking for a vacation home system consider 24/7 professional monitoring, which really took the work out of monitoring our second home.
Taking these five steps before we decided on a security system made an enormous difference for us, and we recommended others do the same.
Before we selected our system, we:
Assessed our security needs: Every home has different security needs, so the crucial first step before buying a security system is assessing what you need. To help you do that, we developed a Security Score tool that can tell you how secure you are based on a number of factors, and then recommend steps on how you can improve your security score. We suggest using the tool to determine which areas you’ll need to improve security-wise.
Checked for homeowner’s insurance discount: We were awarded a 15-percent discount on our homeowner’s insurance because we used one of their choice security systems. We even learned some other homeowner’s insurance companies offered savings of up to $156 for adding a security system.
Made a list of the equipment we wanted: We went in knowing exactly what components we wanted, and it saved us from being swayed by aggressive salespeople or sleek websites pushing more and more add-ons for products we didn’t really need.
Set a pre-determined budget: Finally, we laid down a budget for everything, from equipment to any additional costs, like activation fees, installation fees, monitoring fees, and storage fees. Then we agreed to stick to that budget as we shopped for a system.
There were dozens of factors we considered when reviewing home security systems, from how well they worked in our testing to costs. While this list was by no means comprehensive, it provided us with a general overview of what to consider when deciding which home security system was right for us.
First, we looked at the equipment that was available on a company’s website, which usually included some combination of the items on this list:
Glass break sensors
Garage door sensors
Key fob remote
We preferred companies that offered a wide range of devices, so we could create a kit customized to our home. Of course, we also cared a lot about the quality and features of the devices, such as:
Wired vs. wireless: With wireless components, we cared about battery life. We also appreciated solar-powered devices, like the Ring Stick Up Solar. Ideally, if cameras were wireless, their batteries were rechargeable with an easy-to-change magnetic charger.
Camera features: We discussed camera features much more in-depth in our security camera necessary features guide. For cameras, in particular, we looked for features like 1080p HD video, infrared night vision, two-way audio, cloud, and local storage, smart platform integrations, and person detection.
Durability: We only chose outdoor components that had large temperature ranges and IP ratings of 65 and up, meaning they were dust-tight and protected from water jets.
We also liked companies that offered packages, discounts, and scalability, meaning we could add more components as we went along. Flexibility was key.
Both DIY and professionally-installed security systems had their advantages and disadvantages. Overall, we recommended DIY installation for those that wanted to save some money and didn’t mind spending a bit of time setting up a system. For those willing to spend a buck for convenience, we recommended professional installation.
What We Like
Typically didn’t require any drilling or special tools
Easily moved during a change of residence
What We Don’t Like
Some systems were easier to install than others
Less reliable than professionally installed systems
What We Like
No work from the user required
What We Don’t Like
Costs ran as high as up $150, although some companies offer free professional installation
Sometimes needed to schedule the installation way in advance, which delayed home security
Most systems had two options for monitoring: self-monitoring, meaning we looked after our own system via live streaming, notifications, and remote control, or 24/7 professional monitoring. With the latter, not only did we have access to our system, we also had a team of people available at all hours to respond to any alarm going off. If we weren’t able to respond for whatever reason, be it work or a vacation, the monitoring team was able to verify the emergency and call the police for us, if needed. We always recommended getting professional monitoring, although it usually required a monthly fee.
We also preferred companies that offered month-to-month contracting as opposed to long-term contracting. While long-term contracts often meant a locked-in rate, we were more worried about avoiding cancellation fees. Fortunately, we witnessed monthly contracting become more of a norm with smart security systems.
Smart Home Integrations
Whether it was our Alexa and Google voice assistants or other IoT devices like smart lights, smart locks, or smart thermostats, we liked security systems that allowed for voice commands and home automation.
Here, we broke down the costs we suggested anyone buying a security system consider:
Activation cost: In our research, we determined most companies don’t make customers pay any activation fees to get started; this was more common in the early 2000s and was largely phased out. However, we also found that some companies still required activation fees.
Equipment costs: Depending on the home size of our amount of security requested, we discovered we could expect to pay anywhere from $20 to more than $900 on our home security system. The good thing was that most companies offered scalable systems. Typically, users, like us, chose a package but also had the opportunity to add on more components down the line, if needed. Many companies also said we could customize our systems, which made it easier to keep our budget in check.
Installation cost: Most companies we researched did not charge a required installation fee. In fact, the majority of systems offered DIY installation that didn’t require drilling or hardwiring. However, some companies like Vivint and ADT required professional installation, which ranged from around $80 all the way up to $150. Our recommendation was that those on a budget opt for a DIY system with self-installation.
Monthly costs: While some systems didn’t come attached to any monthly fees whatsoever, other companies we spoke to offered or required paid subscriptions for 24/7 professional monitoring, cellular backup, and/or storage. Typically, we found monthly or yearly contracts included monthly fees that ranged anywhere from $10 with Ring Alarm all the way up to $60 with more traditional companies like ADT. We liked that storage was often included in that fee and were usually less impressed when it was separate. We suggested anyone not looking to pay any costs aside from equipment either self-monitor their system through its mobile application or use a local alarm system only, like with SimpliSafe. Different companies we researched allowed different actions, like livestreaming footage and receiving motion-activated notifications, based on whether we paid a monthly fee or not. That’s definitely something we encouraged potential buyers to keep in mind.
Alternatives to home security systems: If we felt the costs of a home security system were just too high, we identified a few alternatives that still allowed us to feel protected in our home. We used a simple indoor security camera, outdoor security camera, and video doorbell to notify us when it detected either movement or people, depending on its artificial intelligence capabilities. While we thought additional sensors and panic buttons certainly had their value in home security, we were grateful for other options those of us on a budget could turn to. We even learned that something as low-maintenance as a security sign could help!
During our testing, smart security required a connection between all of the system’s components, its base station or hub, and its mobile application. Typically, this came in the form of Wi-Fi, but some companies we explored also offered cellular or landline backup in case our power went out. Also some devices we tried needed to connect over ZigBee or Z-Wave protocols, which sometimes required an additional hub. We looked for systems with cellular backup, ideally included for free, although it was usually part of the monitoring cost.
We asked that question everyone wanted to: Could our home security system be hacked? Unfortunately, the answer was yes. All smart security systems could potentially be hacked. But the truth, which we thought was quite eye-opening, was that anything that used the Internet was potentially hackable. As a result of this information, we committed to adhering to the best digital security practices. That was why we looked for companies that offered two and multi-factor authentication for us to sign in to our security accounts. We also investigated each company’s history of security breaches, as we wanted to keep our private footage private.
When it came to a security system’s mobile application, we wanted something that let us easily livestream footage, control our system remotely, and get notified whenever alarms went off. One step we took to find this was we made sure the app had a high rating on either the Apple or Google Play store.
We also looked for companies with free trial periods, flexible cancellation policies, flexible return policies, and extended warranties.
Company Background and Customer Reviews
Finally, we took into consideration how long the business had been around and what other customers thought of their systems on Amazon and Google. However, our reviews were completely our own and based on our own testing experiences.
Our Security Experts
Security.org’s Chief Editor Gabe Turner and Senior Staff Writer Aliza Vigderman did all of the research and testing necessary to make the most comprehensive security reviews online. Here’s a little bit of background information on each of them.
Gabe Turner is a home security and digital security expert based in Brooklyn, New York. A former attorney, Gabe spent years testing out everything from home security systems and cameras to digital security products like VPNs and identity monitoring services. Watch him test products on Security.org’s Youtube channel with 30,000 subscribers.
Aliza Vigderman is a technology journalist also based in Brooklyn. Previously, she wrote for outlets like the Huffington Post, Degreed.com, and SquareFoot. She was also a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism in Waltham, Massachusetts. At Security.org and its predecessor Security Baron, Aliza wrote about home security, digital security, and smart home technology exclusively for about two years.
The title of the best and most affordable security system goes to SimpliSafe. We were able to build a home security system for under $200 (after factoring in the discounts), and monitoring cost us $17.99 to $27.99. Even though it’s affordable, SimpliSafe offers solid home security coverage with professional monitoring, security cameras, and smart home integrations.
The best smart home security system was Vivint. Vivint worked with Alexa and Google Assistant as well as IoT devices from other companies researched. That included everything from Kwikset smart locks and Nest thermostats to smart lamps and bulbs from Philips Hue. We created automated triggers and controlled everything from the Vivint Smart Home app.
These devices aren’t necessary, per se. But installing outdoor security cameras and a doorbell camera can help you to monitor the exterior of your home and ward off package thieves. So in some ways, they are necessary, especially if you’re looking for complete home protection.
Almost all of our top pick security systems really work with Alexa. As smart home enthusiasts, Alexa (and Google Assistant) integrations is important to us, which is why we picked the best systems that work with smart home platforms.
If you sign up for professional monitoring, you can expect to pay between $30 to $40 per month on average. That said, some companies offer monitoring for $10-$20 per month, and others range upwards of $50-$60 for monthly monitoring. But if you choose a self-monitored security system, you won’t pay a dime for professional monitoring.