Best Home Security Systems of 2019

We researched the top home security systems. Compare packages to find the best systems for you.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

By Brad Berman, Contributor?May 31, 2019
By Brad Berman, Contributor?May 31, 2019, at 12:30 p.m.

Best Home Security Systems

Frontpoint

Best: Overall system
Price: $99 and up
View Prices ?

Vivint Smart Home

Best: Full-service solution
Price: $599
View Plans ?

Abode

Best: DIY without monthly fees
Price: $189 and up
See Options on Amazon ?

The Best Home Security Companies of 2019

  • Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components
  • Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution
  • Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees
  • SimpliSafe: Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras
  • Link Interactive: Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract
  • ADT Security: Best for experience, dealer network and selection of equipment and services
  • Brinks Home Security: Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option
  • Protect America: Best for inexpensive landline monitoring
  • Xfinity Home: Best for integration with home internet and cable TV
  • Ring Alarm: Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan
  • Scout Alarm: Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation
  • Nest Secure: Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability

The goal of a home security system is to provide peace of mind. Achieving that goal is easier than ever, thanks to new wireless technologies and smartphones. As a result, you have an unprecedented number of options for alarm and home automation. As we embarked upon our months-long research into the available systems, we encountered the same questions that you might face: How do these alarm systems work? Which features are most important? What are the relative pros and cons of different types of components and systems? What’s a good price?

U.S. News & World Report applied our unique 360 Review methodology to answer these questions. Learn more: How we evaluated home security systems using the U.S. News 360 Review methodology.

To identify the best alarm systems, our research revealed one overarching theme: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to home security. Every system has its chief advantages and its trade-offs regarding design, cost and level of service. Yet, there are key differences between one security system and another – and those distinctions guide our recommendations for a system that could best meet your needs and budget.

Your first decision is to choose between the traditional alarm companies offering professional installation and the new breed of DIY security solutions. You might also base your decision on how security cameras, including wireless cameras and the new doorbell cameras, integrate into the home security system.

Best Home Security Systems by Category

For years, consumers had a single option for home security: hire a dedicated alarm company to run wires through your home and install a keypad-based control panel near the door. Traditional home security companies, which have mostly shifted to wireless systems, continue to offer expertise and technical capabilities to consumers who want a full-service solution. These companies have also expanded to offer a wide range of home-automation products, like smart locks and app-controlled lighting and thermostats. If you prefer to work with an experienced installer – and are willing to commit to a multiyear contract for monitoring – then take a look at our guide to the Best Professionally Installed Home Security Systems.

Top Pro Installed systems

Best full-service home security and automation solution Highlights
Starts at $39.99 and goes to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and services Highlights
Starts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connection Price
View Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for integration with home internet and cable TV Highlights
Starts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording service Price
View Plans ?

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best full-service home security and automation solutionStarts at $39.99 and goes to $49.99 with video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and servicesStarts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connectionView Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for integration with home internet and cable TVStarts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording serviceView Plans ?

Vivint Smart Home

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$599
Monthly Fees
$39.99 and up
Plan Lock
42- to 60-month financing contract
more details

Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution

Why You Might Want to Choose Vivint: Vivint is a complete solution. The company has an extensive list of equipment, plus it helps you outfit an entire smart home by offering devices like cameras, locks, and thermostats that are integrated and managed via the control panel or your smartphone app. Vivint also offers a free, in-home consultation to help design your security system.

Base Price: You’ll pay $599 for the Vivint Starter Kit that includes a touch-screen Vivint Smart Hub, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, one water sensor and $100 toward additional sensors.

Monthly Fees: Vivint charges $39.99 per month for its Smart Home plan, which provides 24/7 professional monitoring of home security components. That’s essentially identical to what its main competitors charge. However, the cost of its control panel, sensors and other equipment are slightly higher. The $49.99 monthly Smart Home Video plan adds live video feeds and 14-day storage of video clips for up to two cameras.

Plan Lock-in: Vivint uniquely separates and itemizes the cost of the gear from the monitoring service. If you pay for the equipment upfront, you can become a month-to-month customer. Otherwise, you have to agree to either a 42- or 60-month contract that includes monitoring and optional zero-percent equipment financing. After you pay off the financing for the equipment, you can go to a month-to-month service subscription. Although Vivint’s monthly fees might be higher than some other companies’, it could be worth it. “The difference between $15 and $50 a month is not going to make a difference in the average person's life,” says Jeffrey Zwirn, president of IDS Research and Development, which has conducted security surveys of thousands of residential, commercial and industrial properties. “What's going to make a difference is if, for example, the fire alarm gets you up in time.”

Equipment: Vivint offers a good selection of cameras, including doorbell cameras, indoor cameras, and cameras that are built into motion detectors. The company’s Smart Home Video plan includes a live feed viewable in the control panel and app, as well as 30 days of continuous video recording for up to four cameras. All Vivint equipment is fully warranted for the first 120 days after installation. After 120 days, there is a charge for service calls, after which the equipment is warranted for 30 days.

Return Policy: You can return the system for a full refund within three days. Individual product components can be returned within 30 days after installation.

ADT Security

360 Overall Rating

3.8 out of 5

Base Price
Cost bundled with contract
Monthly Fees
$28.99 and up
Plan Lock
36-month contract
more details

ADT Security: Best for experience, dealer network and selection of equipment and services

Why You Might Want to Choose ADT: ADT has a long history of providing home alarm systems and has a large nationwide network of authorized dealers, as well as the nation’s largest network of monitoring centers. ADT’s scale is helpful for consumers because the company has local representatives who can visit your home to help you determine the setup that’s best for your security needs.

But remember that bigger isn’t always better. “A bigger alarm company doesn't necessarily make for better monitoring services, better equipment, or better customer service,” says Jordan Frankel, founder of Global Security Experts, which conducts home security inspections and invents products to prevent home invasions. However, if you feel more confident about getting security from the company with the most customers and a larger network of redundant monitoring centers, then consider ADT.

Base price: No upfront cost for equipment. Most dealers charge a $99 installation fee, although it could be higher if you choose a system with numerous sensors and cameras. ADT, like Vivint, will send an advisor to your home to help create a security plan with the appropriate number of sensors and cameras. They both offer state-of-the-art equipment and comparably priced monitoring plans.

It’s important to understand the difference between working directly with ADT at the corporate level versus having one of its local authorized dealers manage the installation. Home security experts we interviewed believe that some ADT dealers don’t necessarily provide value or follow the company’s guidelines while adding to the cost. If you contact ADT via its website to initiate the sales process, you will be working with the corporate entity.

Monthly fees: Approximately between $30 and $60 a month, depending on the equipment package, which is customized for every home. Prices could vary based on purchases made through ADT Corporate versus authorized dealers.

Plan Lock-in: 36-month contract.

Equipment Warranty: Like many aspects of ADT pricing, the company’s warranty policy is not entirely clear, and is based on terms established at the time of installation. Many dealers cover repairs (including service visits) for about 90 days. After that period, service visits usually carry a cost. ADT offers an Extended Limited Warranty/Quality Service Plan (QSP) for $7 a month. The plan covers “repair or replacement due to ordinary wear and tear or malfunction, excluding batteries.”

Return Policy: You can cancel in the first six months and receive a refund for installation and monitoring fees. Returning the system does not necessarily reimburse all your costs.

Brinks Home Security

360 Overall Rating

3.7 out of 5

Base Price
$399 and up
Monthly Fees
$29 and up
Plan Lock
36-month contract
more details

Brinks Home Security: Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option

Why You Might Want to Choose Brinks: With Brinks, you’ll get equipment that costs less than that offered by some other companies, along with a reputable home security firm that has a well-established network of monitoring centers.

A major distinction between Brinks and the other companies is that Brinks doesn’t necessarily send an advisor to your home. This can be arranged via a local authorized dealer, but most likely the company will have a phone consultation with you to determine which equipment you need and whether you can install it yourself. According to Zwirn, this isn’t the best approach. “The most important thing is making sure the system is adequate in the context of the environment,” he says. “Trying to do that on the phone is inferior to somebody that comes out and surveys the site. They ask the customers what they want rather than telling them based on a security survey and a methodology. The customer then makes a decision that is blind.”

But if you feel comfortable with doing the research and planning on your own, and then having a technician arrive at your home for the first time to install the equipment, then Brinks could be the right choice for you.

Base Price: When you sign up for the $29 a month Brinks Home Complete plan, you’ll pay $399 for a starter kit that includes one control panel, three door/window sensors and one motion detector. If you choose the $499 Brinks Home Complete With Video plan for $39 a month, Brinks adds an indoor camera and a video doorbell. Both plans include professional monitoring. Brinks says that its authorized dealers might charge different prices for other packages.

Brinks uses equipment from Alarm.com, a major supplier to several companies, rather than its own proprietary equipment. However, some security experts say there are only minor distinctions between custom gear such as that manufactured by Vivint and the third-party equipment that Brinks uses. “Alarm equipment is alarm equipment,” says Lee Walters, a former FBI security specialist. “It’s not like [Brinks’] equipment is any better or worse.”

Monthly Fees: Brinks Home Complete costs $29 a month. It includes smartphone control, LiveVoice Assist (two-way communications with the monitoring center), home automation features, and protection against an intruder entering your home and quickly destroying or disabling the control panel. With the Brinks Home Complete With Video plan, for $39 per month, you add an indoor camera and storage of up to 1,000 clips per month from multiple cameras.

Plan Lock-in: Three years.

Equipment Warranty: Two years.

Return Policy: 30 days.

More than a decade ago, technology-minded entrepreneurs started to disrupt the home security market. They were inspired by the capabilities of wireless sensors and mobile apps – and motivated by a desire to free consumers from onerous and expensive multiyear security contracts. Many of us these days are familiar with setting up a broadband router and connecting computers, phones and other devices to our home Wi-Fi network. It’s an easy task for tech-savvy consumers to take it one step further by adding entry sensors, motion detectors and webcams to your home.

Do-it-yourself alarm companies make the process quick and easy by providing clear instructions, online tutorials and phone-based customer support. Our guide to the Best DIY Home Security Systems describes the products that enable you to install high-quality, remote-monitored alarm protection on your own, but at a lower cost than the pro-installed systems and without an expensive long-term contract.

Top DIY Home Security Systems

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components Highlights
Starts at $34.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Prices ?
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees Highlights
Starts at $10/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $30/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
See Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras Highlights
Starts at $15/mo for optional standard cellular monitoring and goes up to $24.99/mo for interactive monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon ?
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract Highlights
Starts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for inexpensive landline monitoring Highlights
Starts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverage Price
View Plans ?
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan Highlights
Starts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
View Prices ?
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation Highlights
Starts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability Highlights
Starts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks. Price
View Prices ?

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality componentsStarts at $34.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoringView Prices ?
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly feesStarts at $10/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $30/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring.See Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extrasStarts at $15/mo for optional standard cellular monitoring and goes up to $24.99/mo for interactive monitoringSee Options on Amazon ?
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contractStarts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for inexpensive landline monitoringStarts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverageView Plans ?
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security planStarts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring.View Prices ?
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installationStarts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoringSee Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capabilityStarts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks.View Prices ?

Frontpoint

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$99 and up
Monthly Fees
$34.99 and up
Plan Lock
Month-to-month to 3 years
more details

Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components

Why You Might Want to Choose Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers high-quality security equipment that’s quick and easy to install by yourself. Its base Safe Home Starter package is competitively priced at $99 (with a three-year contract), considering that it includes one hub and keypad, three door/window sensors, two motion sensors, one yard sign, a set of five window decals and one door sticker. Frontpoint offers five different packages with prices as high as $832.84 (also with a three-year contract) for a large set of components, including an outdoor camera and doorbell camera. Without a contract, package prices range from $528.93-$1,332.84.

Frontpoint’s strength is in its vast selection of devices, like a garage door sensor and app-controlled dimmable light bulb. Those items are available because Frontpoint relies on Alarm.com equipment, the same gear that’s available to independent security providers and used by Brinks Home Security.

Do you want access to the same equipment that pro installers use but with the ability to install it yourself? That’s what Frontpoint provides with a monthly fee that’s similar to the fee professionally installed systems charge. In that sense, Frontpoint is more similar to ADT and Brinks Home Security than DIY solutions like Abode, Nest, Ring and Scout. Frontpoint is strictly a DIY solution, whereas Brinks offers a choice of DIY or professional installation.

Base price: $99 for one hub and keypad, three door/window sensors, two motion sensors, one yard sign, a set of five window decals and one door sticker.

Monthly fees: Unlike other DIY-installed home security systems, Frontpoint locks customers into an inflexible three-year monitoring plan. You’ll pay $34.99 a month for the basic Protection plan. For remote access features, the Interactive plan costs $44.99 per month. Or step up to Frontline’s Ultimate plan to add video for $49.99 a month.

Plan lock-in: Yes, for three years.

Equipment warranty: Three years.

Return policy: 30 days for a full refund.

Abode

360 Overall Rating

4 out of 5

Base Price
$189 and up
Monthly Fees
$10 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees

Why You Might Want to Choose Adobe: Abode checks all the boxes for what experts say is essential in a DIY home alarm system. It offers the vital security components, and the system is easy to install. The company also offers one of the best no-cost, full-featured security systems that can be self-monitored, giving you the option of avoiding any recurring monthly fee.

Base price: The Essentials Starter Kit - Basic sells for $189 when bundled with the free Basic plan. The kit includes one Gateway hub device, one Mini door/window sensor, one motion sensor and one key fob.

Abode designed its system as an open platform for home automation. As such, it supports a long list of third-party integrated devices, such as locks, thermostats and lights, via its “Works with Abode” program. (The company does not yet offer a compatible video doorbell.) Abode’s alarm and notification features are highly configurable so you can customize them to suit your needs.

Monthly fees: You’ll pay $20 a month for Abode’s Secure Plan, which includes professional monitoring, cellular backup and 90 days of media storage. (It’s $200 if you pay upfront for a year.) Abode also offers a Connect plan with self-monitoring, cellular backup, 14 days of timeline and media storage and phone and email support for $8 a month or $80 a year. You can avoid fees by self-monitoring without cellular backup with Abode’s free Basic plan.

Plan lock-in: No.

Equipment warranty: One year.

Return policy: Full refund if you return the equipment within 30 days.

SimpliSafe

360 Overall Rating

3.9 out of 5

Base Price
$229.96 and up
Monthly Fees
$15 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

SimpliSafe: Best for no-contract monitoring with unique extras

Why You Might Want to Choose SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe’s list of branded sensors and security cameras is more extensive than what most of its competitors offer. Its pricing is also competitive. One important distinction with SimpliSafe is that it uses a “walled garden” approach; the company makes all its own equipment to ensure that the devices work as a seamless, integrated system.

The drawback to that approach is that SimpliSafe is not compatible with Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols, the low-power radio communications that create a local network to connect various home automation devices. With SimpliSafe, you don’t have access to third-party components like smart door locks from Yale and Kwikset, controllable light bulbs from GE and Hue, or a garage door opener from Linear. SimpliSafe is compatible with a few devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and August Smart Lock. In short, the company’s focus is on security rather than home automation.

Base price: The $229 package called The Foundation includes one base station, one wireless keypad, one entry sensor and one motion sensor. The company offers at least seven different packages ranging from the Foundation package to a $489 package called The Haven, which includes one base station, one keypad, one key fob, four entry sensors, two motion sensors, one siren, one panic button, one freeze sensor, one water sensor and one smoke detector. Packages can also be customized.

Monthly fees: If you’re looking to self-monitor to avoid paying a monthly fee, SimpliSafe is not the best choice. You’ll pay $14.99 for the Standard plan, which includes 24/7 professional alarm and environmental monitoring, a cellular connection and live feeds for up to 10 cameras, but no remote features. Otherwise, it’s $24.99 a month for SimpliSafe’s Interactive plan that includes 24/7 professional alarm and environmental monitoring, a cellular connection, remote arming and disarming through the mobile app, app alerts, secret alerts, video alarm verification, recordings from up to 10 cameras and smart home integrations.

Plan lock-in: No, but a plan is required, and the system can’t be easily switched to other monitoring companies.

Equipment warranty: Three years.

Return policy: 60 days for a full refund of equipment but not necessarily the service fees.

Cameras are becoming an increasingly important part of home security. In our August 2018 survey of more than 600 American consumers, we asked which features were most important to them if they were purchasing a home security system. The top answer was an outdoor camera, with 58.3% of respondents wanting a way to visually monitor their outdoor property from a distance.

Executives from alarm companies told us that they commonly include multiple cameras when they install an alarm system. Many camera units are multifaceted, including such components as motion-triggered lights, two-way audio, sirens and even the capability to detect human faces. Given these capabilities and the strong demand for cameras, including video doorbells, we created a guide to the Best Home Security Systems with Cameras.

Top Home Security Systems with Cameras

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components Highlights
Starts at $34.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Prices ?
Best full-service home security and automation solution Highlights
Starts at $39.99 and goes to $49.99 with video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees Highlights
Starts at $10/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $30/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
See Options on Amazon ?
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contract Highlights
Starts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and services Highlights
Starts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connection Price
View Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY option Highlights
Starts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoring Price
View Plans ?
Best for inexpensive landline monitoring Highlights
Starts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverage Price
View Plans ?
Best for integration with home internet and cable TV Highlights
Starts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording service Price
View Plans ?
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security plan Highlights
Starts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring. Price
View Prices ?
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installation Highlights
Starts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoring Price
See Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capability Highlights
Starts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks. Price
View Prices ?

System

Highlights

Price

Learn more

Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality componentsStarts at $34.99/mo protection plan with professional monitoring and goes up to $49.99 with video monitoringView Prices ?
Best full-service home security and automation solutionStarts at $39.99 and goes to $49.99 with video monitoringView Plans ?
Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly feesStarts at $10/mo for cellular backup services, and goes up to $30/mo for professional monitoring. No cost for self-monitoring.See Options on Amazon ?
Best for flexible, Z-Wave-based home automation and no required upfront costs or contractStarts at $30.99 with professional monitoring and goes to $40.99/mo with HD video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for experience, dealer network, and selection of equipment and servicesStarts at $28.99/mo with the basic landline plan and goes to $59.99/mo with video monitoring and smart home connectionView Plans ?
Best for a large selection of sensors with home automation, along with a DIY optionStarts at $29/mo and goes to $39/mo with video monitoringView Plans ?
Best for inexpensive landline monitoringStarts at $19.99/mo with landline monitoring and goes up to $41.99/mo with broadband and cellular coverageView Plans ?
Best for integration with home internet and cable TVStarts at $39.95 with professional monitoring and goes to $49.95/mo with 24/7 video recording serviceView Plans ?
Best for a low-cost, video-oriented security planStarts at $3/mo with access to video recordings for up to 60 days and goes up to $10/mo with professional monitoring and video recording. No cost for self-monitoring.View Prices ?
Best mobile app-based system with easy DIY installationStarts at $9.99/mo and goes to $19.99/mo with professional monitoringSee Options on Amazon ?
Best for no-contract monitoring with full home automation capabilityStarts at $5/mo and goes to $30/mo for longer video history with subscription to Nest Aware. Or $29/mo for monitoring services by Brinks.View Prices ?

Frontpoint

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$99 and up
Monthly Fees
$34.99 and up
Plan Lock
Month-to-month to 3 years
more details

Frontpoint: Best overall system, balancing DIY installation with professional-quality components

Frontpoint has a large selection of competitively priced, high-quality equipment, including cameras, as well as a camera-only plan that none of the other companies we researched offers.

Frontpoint sells four cameras, including two indoor, one outdoor and a doorbell camera. The $99.99 basic indoor camera features night vision up to 20 feet and two-way audio. The $199.99 premium indoor camera adds a Bluetooth speaker, an echo-cancelling microphone, advanced pan and tilt features, and the ability to initiate an audio call via the mobile app. Frontpoint's $199.99 outdoor camera has double the night vision range of the indoor cameras at up to 40 feet. Finally, the $189.99 doorbell camera provides a live feed day and night, as well as the option to hear and speak to visitors with two-way audio. It also sends alerts if there is activity around the door, even if no one presses the doorbell. All four cameras are Wi-Fi-enabled and motion- and alarm-activated. The indoor and outdoor cameras are sourced from Alarm.com, and SkyBell provides the doorbell camera.

Up to 1,000 video clips of 15 seconds each can be stored for an unlimited amount of time, unlike many other home security companies that only let you store video for 15 or 30 days regardless of whether you've hit your storage limit. All cameras automatically record clips simultaneously when an alarm is triggered.

Cameras are only available with Frontpoint's Ultimate Plan at $49.99/month, which includes live video streaming to a mobile app with a Wi-Fi connection, customizable notifications and video and image history. In addition, Frontpoint offers a unique camera-only plan at $14.99/month for those who just want self-monitored cameras and aren't looking for a complete security solution. This plan allows you to install an unlimited number of cameras at multiple locations – four example, your primary residence and your vacation home – all for the same monthly rate.

Vivint Smart Home

360 Overall Rating

4.1 out of 5

Base Price
$599
Monthly Fees
$39.99 and up
Plan Lock
42- to 60-month financing contract
more details

Vivint Smart Home: Best full-service home security and automation solution

Whether or not you add cameras to your alarm system, Vivint is a highly rated security solution, based on our analysis. The company offers an extensive list of equipment, as well as free, in-home consultation to help you design your system, including the selection of cameras and their ideal placement. Vivint is generally more expensive than most competitors but comes with professional installation, which is useful considering that outdoor and doorbell cameras often require wiring.

Vivint offers three different cameras. The company’s $249 doorbell camera has features like visitor detection, which responds to people but not passing cars. You can see who’s at the door via the control panel or mobile app and conduct a two-way conversation. The company’s indoor HD Ping Camera, for $199, supports event-triggered recording and can initiate two-way communication using a call button. That feature could be used by kids wanting to contact their parents. The $299 Vivint outdoor camera looks like a traditional surveillance camera. It has motion detection and roughly 40-foot night-vision range.

With a monitoring plan and Wi-Fi connection, you can view live feeds via the control panel or mobile app. The standalone cameras have motion detectors that trigger the recording of clips. The doorbell has a wide range of customized settings for recording a clip based on motion, when somebody rings the doorbell, or when the door is opened, as well as an on-demand setting.

With Vivint’s $49.99 Smart Home With Video plan, you get live video feeds and 14-day storage of 30-second video clips for up to two cameras. Each additional camera is $5 a month. You can buy a $249 one-terabyte digital video recorder for safe local storage. The playback function creates an event marker whenever motion is detected, a door is unlocked, a window is opened, or another activity occurs.

Abode

360 Overall Rating

4 out of 5

Base Price
$189 and up
Monthly Fees
$10 and up
Plan Lock
No
more details

Abode: Best DIY solution that doesn’t require monthly fees

Adobe offers a complete home security system that you can easily install by yourself. Its monthly monitoring plans are affordable – and, because a contract is not required, it can be canceled at any time without penalty. The appeal of an Abode system extends to its use of cameras, albeit with some compromises.

Abode’s indoor cameras provide live streaming video via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. The Abode Cam offers two-way audio via the mobile app. However, the video feed is not continuously recorded. Instead, it grabs still shots when an event occurs, such as when the system is disarmed or a door is opened. A clip is recorded only when there’s an alarm event or upon request via the app or online dashboard. Those clips can be immediately transmitted to the Abode web portal or shared with the monitoring agent if you subscribe to professional remote monitoring. Abode also sells a Wide Angle Motion Camera, which takes three low-resolution photos and sends them to your phone when your system is in Home or Away mode and the device detects motion.

To see what’s going on outside your home, you can install an outdoor Wi-Fi camera offered by Nest, the only third-party provider of cameras indicated by Abode. (An Abode-branded outdoor camera is not available.) Abode does not currently offer a video doorbell.

Without paying a monthly fee, a timeline of events with still shots can be accessed for the previous three days. To add cellular backup of communications, which is highly recommended, you can subscribe to the $8 a month (or $80 paid upfront for a year) Connect plan, which also adds 14 days of timeline records, as well as phone and email support. Upgrade to the Secure plan for $20 a month (or $200 paid upfront for a year) to add professional monitoring, and increase the timeline with media storage to 90 days for up to six cameras. Images are also stored to a tabletop hub device called the Gateway, which has a built-in 4 gigabyte micro SD card and supports up to six cameras.

How do I find the best home security company and the right package for my home? The first decision is whether to work with a company that professionally installs security systems or to take the DIY route. The answer comes down to your level of comfort. “The DIY customer is the type of person that does DIY for everything in life, not just an alarm system,” says Lee Walters, a former FBI security specialist. “On the other hand, people who have no background and experience in DIY, those people are best served by a professional company.”

A look at demographics also sheds light on this question. Dan Roberts, chief executive and co-founder of Scout Alarm, a leading provider of DIY alarm systems, says, “Who buys a traditional system? It’s typically somebody with higher disposable income. They view their time as more important than the extra cost. They don't want the cognitive load of figuring out what to buy. They don't want to take the time to install it.”

In-Home Consultation. If you decide to have your system professionally installed, then the next step is to evaluate if you want a representative from the security company to visit your home for a consultation and to prepare a proposal. Vivint, ADT and Xfinity Home provide this service for free, while Brinks (and the DIY companies) strictly consult over the phone. Nest offers professional installers after you make a purchase but not help with developing a plan for the appropriate number of sensors or their effective location.

The advantages of an in-home consultation are to assess your specific security concerns and address any technology constraints (e.g., spotty Wi-Fi service in your home). The risk with a home visit is that most security advisors also serve as commission-based sales representatives, who might push a system that is larger than necessary.

Regardless, it’s strongly recommended that you get two to three custom quotes that clearly indicate all the expenses and terms of a contract. You should request nearly identical systems from the competing companies so you can make a fair comparison. The contract’s terms (including the fine print) and the professionalism of the company during the home visit and bidding process should inform your final decision.

A DIY Home Security Buyer’s Shopping List

For the DIY buyer who wants to save money by taking a hands-on approach, the specific home security system selection requires some planning. You should do a walk-through of your home to assess the security risks. “You have to put yourself the mindset of trying to break into your house,” says Roberts from Scout Alarm. “What are the possible entry points? Certainly the first floor and any living floor. And to the extent that there's a basement below-ground floor that has doors that are accessible, you want to cover those as well.”

How many door/window sensors, motion detectors, and indoor and outdoor cameras do you need? What about add-in devices like an external siren, smoke alarms or glass-break sensors? With answers to these questions, you can order components a la carte instead of buying a prepackaged kit that might not meet your needs.

With your list of desired components in hand, you can get an exact quote for the specific equipment package you have in mind, and then compare different systems on an apples-to-apples basis. You will also learn if a specific company doesn’t offer all of your desired devices. Many of the best alarm company websites offer live web chat to help you get answers and specific prices.

How Much Does a Home Security System Cost?

One of the biggest challenges with providing guidance about buying a home security system is cost. Nearly every company publishes a price for a base set of equipment. But the number of components included in that starter package is well below what most consumers install, so the published base price is a lowball figure.

“There are so many permutations of what you can get that it would be impossible to publish all that information,” says Jefferson Lyman, chief technology officer for Vivint Smart Home. Lyman says the base price is an attempt to provide “a sense of the ballpark figure.” He says the average cart size of a Vivint package is about $1,500, compared to the company’s base equipment price, which is listed at $540 for a touch-screen panel, two door/window sensors and a motion detector. You can expect a similar discrepancy for other pro-installed systems. The difference between the published starter price will be smaller if your house or apartment is small and, obviously, bigger for a larger home with an arsenal of sensors and cameras.

Regarding the monthly monitoring fee, $40 is a typical figure based on our interviews with security company executives and our consumer surveys. Professional monitoring, cellular backup and a multicamera timeline can start as low as $10 a month with Ring Alarm, the Amazon-owned creator of the popular video doorbell, and climb to nearly $100 a month with a large pro-installed system that’s bundled with a financing plan for the equipment.

Again, for multiyear contracts, it’s critical to read the fine print before signing because some companies give you the choice of paying for equipment upfront or financing it over the contract period. Other companies, such as ADT, Brinks and Frontpoint, bundle the cost of the starter package either with an installation fee or with the monthly payments while asking you to pay upfront only for add-on sensors and cameras. The price for a security system from Xfinity Home is often based on temporary special deals for adding alarm equipment to your Xfinity television, internet and phone services. Remember that most of the terms of these contracts are negotiable except perhaps for the three-year duration of the first term of service.

The cost for DIY systems is less complicated. Prices for individual components and monthly fees are clearly listed on DIY system websites. The monthly fees commonly range from about $10 to $30 a month. If you’re dissatisfied after a few months, you can cancel at will.

Is a security system worth the money?

In a word: yes. Our August 2018 survey revealed that more than 60% of current owners of security systems believe that the monthly fee they pay is either “OK” or “a great value.” Only 12.2% stated that it’s “overpriced.”

Jeffrey Zwirn, president of security consultancy IDS Research and Development, and author of “The Alarm Science Manual,” warns against trying to self-monitor a system, which is impossible when you’re sleeping. “I understand that people think they can do it, but I think it’s very dangerous.” He says that a home alarm system is “worth every penny if it can prevent a burglary or save one life.”

Jordan Frankel, founder of Global Security Experts, which conducts home security inspections and invents products to prevent home invasions, agrees. “I am an advocate for having monitoring because it works not only for security but also for health and safety,” he says. “Most of these systems have a wireless panic button, and God forbid if you're having a heart attack or some type of illness that requires immediate attention, you can press a button and it will dial the proper authorities.”

Walters, the former FBI security specialist, says that professional monitoring becomes even more valuable if you are frequently away from home during the day.

On another note, a home security system is only worth it if it’s used on a daily basis. Experts repeatedly told us that the vast majority of home security system customers use their systems on a sporadic basis. “We know that 90 to 95% of people don't use their alarm system every day,” says Chris McGoey, who has developed effective security plans for homes and business properties for nearly five decades. “We also know that it's up in the 90th percentile for those who invest in a system and after a while just stop using it altogether.”

Think of this as the same thing that happens when you join a gym in January. You have the best intentions to use the membership all the time, only to revert to occasional use by March. If you’re not fully committed to using a home security system every single day, then it’s best not to invest in the equipment or, at the least, not to sign a multiyear contract.

The purpose of 360 Reviews by U.S. News & World Report is to evaluate products and services from multiple, diverse vantage points. We make recommendations based on an assessment of what matters to consumers, experts, and the community of professional reviewers. We convey what’s most important about a home security system based on an unbiased evaluation of products commonly in the consideration set. Our overarching goal is to empower consumers with the information and tools needed to make their own informed decisions.

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing home security systems to provide guidance to prospective buyers.

1. We asked consumers themselves.

U.S. News ran two nationwide surveys through Google Surveys in August 2018 to understand consumer sentiment and expectations about home security systems:

  • Home Security Owners survey: We sought the opinions of consumers who currently have a home security system installed in their home.
  • Home Security Prospective Customer survey: We sought the opinions of consumers who do not currently own a home security system but indicated they might buy one in the future.

Each survey reached hundreds of respondents, and each yielded at least 100 respondents who met the survey qualifications. The survey results are published as part of the U.S. News home security online guides.

The survey results show what matters most to home security shoppers and owners today. Our research – including interviews with independent experts and home security companies – was guided in part by what we learned from consumers through these surveys.

2. We asked independent experts.

Home security systems are unlike other consumer tech products in one important regard: Lives and property depend on these systems. As a result, we interviewed independent security experts who have seen first-hand how a property’s vulnerabilities can be catastrophic. The professionals we interviewed don’t sell the systems that we profile in our guides. Their work is to consult with corporate and private clients who want the highest level of security. These experts have backgrounds that include lecturing on security topics, writing books on the subject and serving as expert forensic witnesses in legal cases.

Jordan Frankel is a nationally recognized spokesperson about residential security, as well as the personal and financial consequences associated with home invasions. He founded Global Security Experts in 1996 as a producer of anti-burglary glass protection and then created different types of blocks and barricades to help businesses and homeowners prevent break-ins.

Chris McGoey has been a security consultant and expert witness for 48 years. He provides education and training services. Throughout his career, McGoey developed effective security plans for business properties of all sizes and types. He is recognized as an expert on the subjects of retail loss prevention and violence waged against businesses.

Lee Walters, a retired FBI agent, worked for more than a dozen years. He was trained on the use of alarms, cameras, hidden microphones and tracking devices. In the last five years of his FBI service, he worked in tactical operations, traveling across the United States making court-ordered entries into residences and businesses. Walters worked specifically on the team in charge of overriding and disarming alarm systems.

Jeffrey D. Zwirn is the president of IDS Research and Development and the author of “The Alarm Science Manual.” Zwirn has conducted such services as security surveys, needs analyses, system recommendations, design, installation, and programming of more than 3,000 thousand security and life safety systems for residential, commercial, industrial and governmental applications.

3. We created objective 360 Overall Ratings based on analysis of third-party reviews.

U.S. News created the 360 Overall Ratings for home security systems based on an unbiased scoring methodology based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests or experiences of U.S. News.

Here is how the ratings are calculated:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party reviews and ratings.:

· Professional Ratings and Reviews. Many independent third-party reviewers have published their professional assessments of home security systems on the web. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contrast with one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are taken together and analyzed with an objective, consensus-based methodology.

· Consumer Ratings and Reviews. U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of home security systems. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer reviews ratings were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Some sources were therefore excluded from our model, and we would urge caution to consumers when relying on individual sources of ratings and recommendations on the Iinternet.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The data we collected from each of the third-party review sources came in a variety of forms including ratings, recommendations and accolades. Before including each third-party data point into our scoring equation, we had to standardize it so that it could be compared on an apples-to-apples basis with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5.0 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each security system that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

  • Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point's relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it's above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it's equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a home security system, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all home security systems evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the system’s rating from the mean and divided it by the standard deviation to product the Z-Score.
  • Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.
  • Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5.0 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted-average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each security system, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

4. We interviewed the home security companies to fact-check.

The ultimate burden of producing, distributing and maintaining reliable and effective home security products rests with the companies selling systems to consumers. As a result, we reached out to all the companies profiled in our recommendations. Our interviews with these executives enabled us to gain a deeper understanding of their specific products, –- and to confirm the features available with their systems.

  • Chris Carney, Co-Founder and CEO at Abode Systems
  • Brent Franks, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Abode Systems
  • Mike Harris, President of Ring Solutions
  • Chad Laurens, Co-Founder and CEO at SimpliSafe
  • Jefferson Lyman, Chief Product Officer at Vivint
  • Dennis Mathews, Head of Xfinity Home
  • Dan Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO at Scout Alarm
  • Al Yarbrough, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Hardware Security at Abode Systems

At this time, we have not spoken with representatives from Brinks and Frontpoint. ADT spoke with us for background purposes only. Nest, which is owned by Google, provided short answers to our questions via email.

Sales of home security systems in the U.S. is expected to grow from about $41 billion in 2017 to nearly $75 billion by 2023, according to Markets and Markets, a global research firm. The growth is mostly attributed to the emergence of the app-enabled home devices and wireless technologies, as well as the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology in home security systems.

Today’s providers are primarily comprised of traditional alarm companies, such as ADT and Brinks, and startup DIY players like Abode and Scout. However, you can expect other companies that already have a footprint in your home to begin offering security solutions. Xfinity and AT&T already provide home security products.

Also, electronics manufacturers such as Honeywell (with its “Honeywell Home” brand) and Samsung (with its “SmartThings” brand) are creating direct-to-consumer products. It’s part of the smart home trend. Software startups, like Wink Labs, are also joining the fray.

Insurance companies are beginning to offer products that have a single function: to monitor your home. For example, Travelers offers its puck-sized sensor to California customers as a means to mitigate threats such as water leaks, fire damage and thefts. Abode, one of the DIY companies that we profiled, will soon launch Iota – which combines a base station, video camera, motion detector and two-way audio into a single device that’s well-suited to seniors aging in place.

Some of these connected, app-controlled devices could be viewed as toys by some. “Gadgets are fun but not as your core security plan,” says McGoey. But the lines will likely blur between high-tech wireless gizmos for your home and robust security products.

Basic contact sensors and motion detectors that make up the core security products will grow into an entire ecosphere of home automation and alarm products that can protect your home – in addition to being able to control everything from ceiling fans and window blinds to sound systems and lawn irrigation.

Many of these devices will be voice controlled by personal assistants produced by tech companies such as Amazon, Apple and Google. In addition to products such as Amazon Echo, Apple Home Pod and Google Home, these tech companies are acquiring firms that make home security products, such as Ring (owned by Amazon) and Nest (owned by Google).

An increasing number of sensors, cameras and locks will become more affordable to millions of consumers who previously could not afford a home alarm system. Now the challenge becomes one of education – how to understand what you need and which of the growing number of home security products can best fulfill that need.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.

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