As we began this review, we were all aware of how many security companies required long-term contracts. Once we signed a contract, we were responsible for payments for at least 12 to 16 months. These service agreements were convenient for some customers – but if we preferred security without monthly fees, a self-monitored system was going to be our best bet. Read on to find out which five “no monthly fee” home security systems we selected as 2020s best.
Best Self Monitored Home Security Systems of 2020 with No Monthly Fees
- SimpliSafe – Best Security for DIY Install
- Abode – Best System with No Contracts
- Ring – Best Doorbell Camera Options
- Arlo – Best Outdoor Security Cameras
- Nest – Best Indoor Security Cameras
With all of these choices, we got access to a free mobile app for DIY monitoring. In addition, we could add professional monitoring at any time, as we explained below.
A Detailed List of the Best No Fee Home Security Systems
1. SimpliSafe - Best DIY Install
SimpliSafe was a leader in do-it-yourself home security systems. As the name suggested, they made it simple for us to keep safe. They were among the first companies to sell affordable wire-free systems that customers, like us, could self monitor. More than a decade since establishing their roots, easy installation and low prices kept SimpliSafe at the top of their field.
Basic SimpliSafe equipment guarded against intruders with options for indoor video surveillance and environmental safety. For example, we used SimpliSafe’s equipment to connect to motion-activated cameras and smoke detectors. We received text alerts if our devices were triggered. We also set our cameras to record continuously and start recording remotely.
Around the time of our review, the company added limited home automation options. For example, SimpliSafe was compatible with Nest thermostats, August smart door locks, and Google Home products. Google Home let us control functions at our house using voice commands.
It took us less than 30 minutes to install an affordable SimpliSafe security system, which sent us free text alerts if it was breached. Brand-new basic systems cost about $200, and we had the option to buy ours cheaper by shopping refurbished sets that were also under warranty.
Professional SimpliSafe monitoring was optional at $14.99 or $24.99 per month. Their top-tier plan added support for our Google Home automation with voice commands. We liked that we could add this on later if we wanted.
What We Like
- Affordable security equipment
- DIY installation
- Free text alerts
- Indoor video camera
- Optional monthly contract
What We Don’t Like
- No outdoor cameras
- Proprietary equipment
Each SimpliSafe system had a keychain remote. Built into the device is a USB drive with the SimpliSafe Easy Setup Wizard. When we plugged the USB into a computer, we set up our equipment and change settings. We also downloaded the SimpliSafe mobile app.
The USB program didn’t require adding software to our computer. It prompted us through system setup with simple words and pictures.
We could easily move the equipment if we relocated since it was it all portable:
- The SimpliSafe hub plugs into a wall.
- Adhesive tape (included) let us attach sensors to the walls.
- The SimpliSafe camera is freestanding.
SimpliSafe didn’t charge to reactivate protection when we changed addresses either.
With paid service at $24.99 per month, we could have skipped the USB and accessed our system at SimpliSafe.com or with the mobile app. But again, SimpliSafe was a favorite among people seeking no monthly fee home security.
Each SimpliSafe system had a keychain remote. Built into the device was a USB drive with the SimpliSafe Easy Setup Wizard. When we plugged the USB into a computer, we could set up our equipment or change settings. We also needed to download a mobile app and use our home Wi-Fi.
The USB program didn’t add software to our computer. It prompted us through system setup with simple words and pictures.
It was have been easy to move our equipment during a relocation, too, as it was all portable.
- Our SimpliSafe hub plugged into a wall.
- Adhesive tape (included) let us attach the system’s sensors to our walls.
- The SimpliSafe camera was freestanding.
SimpliSafe didn’t charge to reactivate protection if we changed addresses.
With paid service at $24.99 per month, we skipped the USB and accessed our system through SimpliSafe.com or via SimpliSafe’s mobile app. SimpliSafe was definitely a favorite among people seeking no monthly fee home security.
2. Abode - Best No Contract Home Security System
Abode was another top choice for no-contract home security and offered lots of advanced options. We started with a simple security set for about $200, and built onto it with add-ons to support environmental monitoring, home automation, and voice commands. Compared with SimpliSafe, we had significantly more options.
Setting up our Abode security system was easy. We chose the quickest setup with an all-in-one unit, which combined a siren, motion detector, and camera.
We heard other Abode systems required roughly 30 minutes of work. Our basic installation steps included plugging in the hub, connecting it to our Internet router, downloading the Abode security mobile app, and placing sensors around our home.
After we installed our system, we were given several options for monitoring:
What We Like
- DIY setup
- Worked with Apple HomeKit
- Professional or DIY monitoring
- Supports home automation
- Compatible with many brands
What We Don’t Like
- Paid for equipment first
Abode was a great choice for DIY/no contract security. We found it worked especially well when we only needed an occasional short-term backup. In fact, it was the only security site we reviewed that let us get pro monitoring for just a three-day weekend! We were also offered longer terms to choose from. Adding service was quick and easy with the Abode’s mobile app.
- Abode on-demand monitoring prices were $8 for three days and $15 for a week. If we choose a monthly or yearly plan, we got better prices per day, professional monitoring, and extra video storage.
- Twelve-month agreements started at $80 or about $6.67 per month.
3. Ring Alarm - Best Doorbell Cameras
Ring launched with an exclusive focus on doorbell security cameras. The company, now owned by Amazon, made five versions of doorbell cameras along with full security systems: control panels, standard security cameras, smart lights and more. While we deduced to choose a curated kit, we could have purchased Ring’s doorbell camera on its own. Others decided to build a system from scratch.
Ring control panels were compatible with many third-party devices (e.g., Schlage smart locks) and Amazon Alexa… so with Ring we could do it all:
- Guard against intruders
- Monitor the environment
- Automate our home
For no monthly fee, we self-monitored our system with the Ring mobile app. Ring also offered the free Neighborhood app. It connected neighbors, police, and Ring operators for community crime prevention and reporting.
Paid monitoring starts at just $10 per month or $100 per year.
What We Like
- Low-priced starter equipment
- No contract needed
- Third-party integration
- Neighborhood app
- Sent alerts to desktop and phone
What We Don’t Like
- Some doorbells required advanced installation skills
What made Ring doorbell cameras best? First, Ring makes video doorbells to fit most budgets. Features of each doorbell include:
- Motion detection
- Text notifications
- HD video with night vision
- Two-way talk
Next, we got a choice of power options and plate colors. For instance:
- The cheapest video doorbell, Ring Video Doorbell, costed $99. It was battery-powered (not hardwired). We had a choice of two colors at checkout.
- The most advanced model, Ring Video Doorbell Elite, sold for $499. It was powered over Ethernet with hardwiring. This model shipped with cover plates in four colors.
- Other Ring doorbells gave us a choice of battery-only or battery plus hardwiring. Hardwiring was relatively easy for us since our our home already had wiring for an old-fashioned doorbell.
All Ring doorbell cameras were compatible with Amazon Alexa, Android, iOS, and Mac devices.
Finally, as mentioned, Ring doorbells were part of no monthly fee home security systems. We had to rely on our siren and text notifications for self-monitoring, or add paid monitoring on a monthly or yearly basis.
As noted above, we found Ring doorbells were easier to install than others. The simplest Ring models were powered with just a rechargeable battery. No advanced DIY skills were needed. After putting the battery inside our doorbell, we used the Ring mobile app to connect the unit to our Wi-Fi network. We learned that, typically, a battery worked for a year without recharging. Advanced Ring doorbells required hardwiring. Installation was known to be easy, even for people without wiring experience, provided that wires for an existing doorbell were in good condition. Our main task was to wrap two wires around screws. We heard that, in some cases, a power drill can be needed to finish the work.
4. Arlo - Best Outdoor Security Cameras
With a diverse lineup of high-quality video baby monitors, indoor cameras, and weatherproof cameras, it was no surprise we saw Arlo as a top choice for home security cameras. We liked that the company didn’t require contracts and that DIY monitoring started as low as $2.99 per month per camera. At the time of this review, Arlo owners, like us, could access Arlo video using a desktop computer, smart TV, or mobile device. This included pre-recorded clips and live streams.
What We Like
- Simple installation
- Remote video access
- Low-cost doorbell camera
- Low-cost DIY monitoring
What We Don’t Like
- Some equipment was expensive
Arlo outdoor cameras were designed for wire-free setup. If our Arlo cameras caught a prowler or intruder, their night vision and HD video made it simple to help law enforcement. Some of our Arlo cameras even had facial recognition for the residents and trusted visitors. We took a deeper look at three popular camera choices.
Our robust outdoor security camera had night vision, high-def resolution, and two-way voice. It was wire-free and cordless, and powered by a long-lasting rechargeable battery. Recordings were triggered by sound and/or motion.
Arlo Go functioned anywhere we wanted in the United States with LTE (4G wireless coverage). We saved our data to the cloud, plus there was a data card for local storage in case of an Internet outage.
Ultra was Arlo’s best outdoor security camera. It enhanced night vision to picked up colors, plus it had an integrated motion-activated spotlight. Other Arlo Ultra perks we enjoyed were a 180-degree view (no fisheye effect) and noise cancellation for ultra-clear audio.
5. Nest Secure - Best Indoor Security Cameras
What impressed us most about Nest was the brand’s compatibly with countless other home security brands. In recent years, they expanded to offer stand-alone security packages with Nest Secure. In any case, Nest indoor cameras were a top consumer choice for no monthly fee home security. The brand was so widespread, we learned we could monitor Nest from select car dashboards and pedometers as well as industry-standard mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Our paid monitoring from Nest Secure was contracted with Brinks, an award-winning emergency call center. Nest system owners chose month-to-month service for $29 per month or annual service for $19 per month.
What We Like
- Easy DIY installation
- Free mobile app
- No monthly fee
What We Don’t Like
- Some cameras were expensive
Our favorite indoor security camera by Nest, called Nest IQ, had cutting-edge features. Cheaper competitors boasted about night vision and motion detection, but Nest went a step beyond with:
- Built-in Google Assistant
- Motion detection up to 50 feet away
- Automatic zoom-in on activity
- Two-way audio communication
- Facial recognition
- An extra-powerful speaker
- Noise cancellation
The camera texted us intelligent alerts. For example, facial recognition made it possible to say if and when our hired dog-walker arrived.
Our unit plugged in and had backup battery power. A single indoor Nest IQ cam a few outdoor Nest models we liked at just slightly higher prices.
More About Self Monitored Home Security
We, like many others, were interested in no monthly fee home security systems for a variety of reasons. For one, we simply hated the paperwork contracted systems required. Others we knew lived in remote areas, so connecting with 911 wasn’t always reliable. We elaborated on some additional reasons below.
To Avoid a Credit Check
When we made a request for a home security contract, generally the monitoring company checked our credit. While it was usually considered a soft inquiry, one unlikely to damage a credit score, we knew people who had privacy concerns or were just stressed out by all things credit.
Embarrassment about no credit or poor credit was also something we found deterred home security users from applying for of selecting a contract-based system.
Choosing from the five security companies above guaranteed we wouldn’t be subject to any monthly fees for home security.
Choosing from the five security companies above lets you get no monthly fee home security, so a credit check isn’t included.
To Control Our Budget
Each company above let us purchase our home security system without promising to pay a monthly monitoring fee. This also helped us avoid a pro installation fee. In the end, our only expense was equipment.
There were two main trade-offs related to going contract-free:
- We became 100 percent responsible for our monitoring alerts, obviously. If we weren’t in earshot of a siren or we missed a free text alert, then it was possible we might experience an emergency without anyone calling 911.
- Package deals were cheaper. If we’d used pro monitoring for the majority of a certain timeframe, contract monitoring may have been costed us less than on-demand monitoring.
We Were On the Move
No-contract home security was most popular among people who often relocate, such as college students and military families. Each security company in this article had friendly features for people on the go:
- We could install/uninstall equipment yourself.
- There was no re-activation charge.
- We could install outs.
- Self-monitoring a system in under 30 minutes.
These reasons to choose no monthly fee home security made good sense. Still, the companies featured here were open to commitments.
We wanted to invest in our home’s security with the option of not paying a monthly fee for 24/7 professional monitoring. Of course, we also needed a highly capable system in order to do this. Given the time and a user-friendly app, self-monitoring proved itself as a great way to save money while still staying safe (say that five times fast).
In this review, we hand-picked our five favorite security systems that allowed for self-monitoring based on their components, installation processes, subscription options, customer support, and apps. Keep reading to see the detailed results of our selection process.
Each SimpliSafe system had a keychain remote. Built into the device is a USB drive with the SimpliSafe Easy Setup Wizard. When we plugged the USB into a computer, we Â set up our equipment and change settings. We also downloaded the SimpliSafe mobile app.
Methodology: How We Made Our Selections
We used a variety of factors to determine the best no monthly fee security systems, from ease of installation to video quality and how well each worked with their respective mobile apps. The following list details the areas of evaluation we considered essential knowledge when choosing a home security system without monthly fees.
We were interested in each brand’s equipment from several different angles such as quality features, customization and durability. First, we asked ourselves if they offered the minimum components of a solid security system. These included some combination of a hub or base station, indoor and outdoor cameras, and door and window sensors. A wider range of devices offered usually meant the more possibilities a company had for customization or additions later on. For self-monitored systems, we specifically recommended a video doorbell and well-rated mobile application.
Camera Features: We searched for camera features that met or exceeded industry standards specifically: 1080p HD video, infrared night vision, two-way audio, cloud and local storage, smart platform integrations, and artificial intelligence.
Durability: We preferred systems with outdoor components that were capable of functioning in more extreme temperatures such as above 100 or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We also looked for IP ratings of 65 or higher, which meant they were dust-tight and waterproof to the point of water jets.
Wireless v Wired: While both types of system have their pros and cons, we looked for different features in each. For wireless components, we considered battery life of the utmost importance. Rechargeable batteries or alternative charging methods such as solar powered devices also gained points with us.
We also appreciated brands that offered discounts and bundles, especially those that worked for a range of different home sizes.
Most systems that were free of monthly fees only offered DIY installation, which we recommended for saving money. However, a few provided professional installation for a fee.
While most no monthly fees systems were self monitoring, we looked for systems the allowed for the option to upgrade to 27/4 professional monitoring should we want to.
Additionally, some self monitoring systems didn’t come with the same perks that with professionally monitored systems. We searched for systems without monthly fees that still provided tools such as mobile notifications, remote control, short-term storage and more for self monitoring only systems.
Smart Home Integrations
We tried to select security systems that included smart components that allowed for voice commands via assistants such as Alexa or Google Voice and home automation like smart lights, locks, or thermostats. Remote control via a mobile app was also very valuable to us.
In order for a smart security system to work, there needed to be a strong connection between all the systems components. This was usually Wi-Fi, but sometimes cellular and landlines were used as backup, a safety measure we sought in our system selection.
Costs we determined were most important to consider when selecting a security system without monthly fees included installation, activation, and equipment.
Installation: Although users of most brand’s offering systems with no monthly fees tended to prefer DIY installation, professional installation was available for a fee with a few of them. SimpliSafe, for example, charged $79 to have an expert set up our system. A couple others we looked at charged upwards of $150.
Activation: These days, most security companies didn’t charge an activation fees. Abode, however, costed new users, like us, $25 to get our system started.
Equipment: With such a wide array or tools, companies, and customization, security systems could range between $20 and nearly $1,000. During our search, we made sure to remember that while a system free of monthly fees was our goal, many individuals looking to cut costs may not be eager to spend hundreds on equipment
Mobile applications that were easy to use, free of frequent bugs, and reliable were ideal in our eyes. Mobile apps with capability to control the system remotely, provided two-way talk and maintained high ratings in the Apple and Google Play stores were also desirable.
Company Policies and Reputation
We chose companies that had long or extended warranties, free trials, flexible return and cancellation policies. We also liked when companies had high customer ratings and favorable reviews on all buying or impartial review sites. Of course, our own reviews were written in response to our own evaluations only.
That’s all, folks! To explore even more great options, check out the overall best home security systems.
FAQs About No Monthly Fee Security Systems
- What are the best DIY home security systems?
Our selection for the best DIY home security systems are Nest Secure, Ring Alarm, Frontpoint, ADT, Protect America, SimpliSafe, and Link Interactive.
- Can we use SimpliSafe without monitoring?
Yes! SimpliSafe works without professional monitoring. However, without professional monitoring, access to our, SimpliSafe app ceases, essentially creating a local alarm system.
- What is the best home security system without a monthly fee?
Based on our research, the best home security systems without monthly fees are abode, Ring Alarm, Vivint, Nest Secure, and Scout.