The Best Home Security Systems

We tested eight of the biggest home security systems for eight months to experience the process of ordering, installing, and using them in our own homes. Each security company offers the same basic security features, but our top picks rose above the rest with their cutting-edge technology, user-friendly equipment, and helpful customer service.

How We Chose the Best Home Security Systems

Standard level of protection

We started with the eight most popular home security systems with professional monitoring: ADT, Vivint, Frontpoint, GetSafe, SimpliSafe, Link Interactive, Protect America, and LiveWatch. All offer four fundamental levels of protection:

  • Intrusion: door, window, and glass-break sensors
  • Environmental: carbon monoxide, fire, and flood sensors
  • Surveillance: indoor, outdoor, and doorbell cameras
  • Safety: life alert and panic buttons

Cutting-edge technology

During our tests, we strongly considered home automation options, which allow you to remotely control features of your home such as lights and door locks. Vivint really impressed us with its seamless automation integration. Our tester loved being able to see who was at the front door directly from his app. The more barebones SimpliSafe doesn’t offer home automation at all. But we wanted to figure out what these differences meant on a day-to-day basis: Which features were necessary for improved peace of mind? Which would be easiest to integrate into our daily routines?

User-friendly equipment

If you’ve signed a years-long contract with a provider, you need to know that the equipment will integrate easily into your daily life. To see if our testers had any regrets after prolonged use of their systems, we checked back in with them at the eight-month mark.

Most had positive things to say, reporting that their systems improved their overall peace of mind. If you’re prone to fretting late at night or while away on vacation, home security systems deliver on their promise of reassurance. That’s not to say there weren’t annoyances — which can become major sore points if you’re interacting with your system every time you leave the house. LiveWatch’s piercing, impossible-to-mute beeps drew complaints from one tester, as did Link Interactive’s inaccurate digital display. Others, like Vivint and ADT, were easier to incorporate unobtrusively into our daily routines.

Customer service

The majority of home security companies recommend or require you to call when ordering your service. We recommend this too, as you can often get a lower price by discussing your quote with a salesperson. Sometimes home security systems require an installation fee, equipment fees, or an activation fee. It’s quite common that special deals can waive or lower those. In fact, sales reps from all eight providers offered us a discount over the phone — we didn’t even have to ask.

Often, those sales reps can provide valuable information about customizing your system. Most of our testers were pleasantly surprised. The phone calls felt informative but casual — more of a conversation than a sales pitch. Our Vivint tester even went so far as to describe the sales rep he spoke to as “a friend looking out for my needs”.

The Best Home Security Systems

Vivint Smart Home Security System

Best for Home Automation
Vivint
Vivint
Best-in-class technology
Starting at $39.99/month
Pros
Advanced home automation features
Full-featured mobile app
Customer service
Cons
Upfront equipment costs for no-contract option
Short trial, long contract

Why we chose it

Advanced home automation features

Vivint has been around since 1999 and is known for its cutting-edge technology. We like the company’s automation features in particular. All the systems we considered offer some basic features, but Vivint’s were the easiest to use. With the SkyControl panel, Glance display, or mobile app, you can change the temperature on your thermostat, turn your lights on or off, and even have two-way conversations through your security cameras.

Vivint has also recently partnered with Google to offer Google Assistant voice control to customers with smart tech. Vivint smart homes can now use voice control to do things like alter the smart thermostat, lock doors, and arm the system.

And if you’re really committed to building the ultimate smart home or upping your eco-friendliness — you might be interested in Vivint Solar. If you’re building a full smart home, solar panels can help offset that energy usage in an eco-friendly way. Vivint will handle outfitting and installing your roof, and you can monitor the panels with the Vivint app.

Full-featured mobile app

Vivint’s mobile app allows you to arm and disarm your system, view and record camera footage, and everything in between. Our tester praised Vivint’s mobile alerts, noting that they come in handy for anyone prone to absent-mindedness: “The notifications for the door sensors are nice in case I open my basement sliding door and leave it open. It continues to check-in and provide a notification that the 'sliding door is still open.’”

When pairing your security system with smart features, the app enables a whole host of home control. You can alter home temperatures when the smart thermostat is too many stairs away or if you’re on vacation and want to monitor energy consumption. With smart locks, you can automate your doors to lock on a schedule and sync your alarm with your door’s entry pad (so when you enter the unlock pin, your alarm system will disarm too).

Vivint Screenshots for Home Security

Customer service

Vivint outranked every other home security system in J.D. Power’s customer satisfaction evaluation; it was the only company to earn five out of five Power Circles. According to the report, “Vivint Smart Home performs well in high-importance attributes: effectiveness of securing my home; ease of using the system; timeliness of resolving problem, question or request; and clarity of information provided for customer service.”

The rating rang true when we became Vivint customers ourselves. Our tester felt like the installation technician was a guest in his home — he even came prepared with protective shoe covers and asked to borrow the vacuum to clean up the drill debris. The Vivint tech was also upfront after he noticed our tester had ordered more equipment than he needed. As our tester explained, “I originally asked for an outdoor surveillance camera, but after reviewing the house, the tech felt the doorbell camera was sufficient. Turns out, he was right.” That ended up lowering our tester’s expected price too.

Points to consider

Upfront equipment costs for no-contract option

Vivint offers a month-to-month contract, but you’ll need to purchase all your equipment upfront to open up that option. Like most home security providers, Vivint’s equipment can be costly, and paying $300 to $600 upfront might not fit into your budget. If you can swing it, however, month-to-month service is more flexible than a long-term contract — and helps you avoid potential termination fees.

Home Secruity

Short trial, long contract

If you don’t buy the equipment outright, Vivint requires either a four- or five-year contract — a long time to commit, especially given that you only have three days from the date of install to cancel. Afterwards, you’ll have to pay out the remainder of your contract. If you may be moving in the near future, it’ll cost you $99 to take the system with you. You could alternatively renew your contract, but then you’d be locked in for even longer.

Vivint will waive any cancellation fees for extenuating circumstances like death, military circumstances, bankruptcy, or a move to assisted living. Still, it’s best to be intentional if you decide on Vivint. If you’re not sure about hosting a security system, or are frequently on the move, consider Frontpoint, which offers three- and one- year contracts, or GetSafe, which doesn’t require a contract at all.

Frontpoint Home Security System

Best Customer Support
Frontpoint
Frontpoint
Personal service from start to finish
Starting at $34.99/month
Pros
Customer service
Easy DIY installation
Upfront pricing and online ordering
Cons
Faulty Equipment
Only one package comes with video

Why we chose it

Customer service

Frontpoint’s commitment to customer satisfaction was clear at every stage, starting with our initial phone call. We were impressed with the sales rep’s attention to detail. She asked our tester to describe the layout of each room in her home, listened to her safety concerns and answered questions about all kinds of package options. When our tester told her she needed more time to shop around, the rep was understanding and didn’t press the issue.

We’re not the only fans of Frontpoint’s service, either. The company currently boasts an “A+” rating from the Better Business Bureau, with 84% positive reviews from 187 customers.

Easy DIY installation

Frontpoint’s DIY installation process was surprisingly user-friendly. A personalized mobile website walks you through how to get the control panel connected and online, how and where to place your door sensors, and what to do if you get stuck.

If you stop halfway through installation and come back to it later, the site remembers where you left off. If you’re stalled at a particular stage for longer than you should be, a help window pops up on your device with a phone number to call. When you’re ready to activate the system, you call the customer service line, and a rep confirms that your system is online and fully functional. The entire process takes about 30 minutes.

Frontpoint box for Home Security

Upfront pricing and online ordering

The home security business can be notorious for masking prices prices and pushing sales calls. Typically, you’d have to call a sales agent for a quote, even if you’re just comparing systems and aren’t ready to purchase.

The Frontpoint website clearly lists its monitoring and equipment pricing, as well as add-on options and contract lengths. If those prices work for your budget, you can simply purchase your system online. While this method lacks the advantage of a knowledgeable expert to help build your system, those adverse to sales calls can conveniently click their way to a security system.

Points to consider

Faulty equipment

A few minutes into the DIY installation, our tester got stuck getting her control panel up and online — it just wouldn’t connect. A help window popped up with a number to call, and a Frontpoint rep helped her troubleshoot the connection. After about 10 minutes, he could tell there was an issue with the circuit board. Certainly not ideal — but the rep apologized and shipped her replacement control panel overnight.

Because you won’t have an onsite professional to install the system, any faulty equipment could turn into a frustrating delay. We’re confident Frontpoint will resolve any issues swiftly, but anyone who is particularly prone to technical difficulty may want to choose an alarm company with a professional installation (like ADT or Vivint).

Home Secruity

Only one package comes with video

Frontpoint offers three plans: Protection, Interactive, and Ultimate. Our tester opted for the Interactive plan but ended up dissatisfied with its lack of video surveillance. When she received an alarm notification while on vacation, she had no way of gauging whether her home had been broken into or if her cat had managed to trip the sensor. It turned out to be a false alarm — one she paid the local authorities $150 for.

To unlock video surveillance and advanced smart tech features, you’ll need its $50-per-month Ultimate plan. That’s a high price for home automation when compared to competitors like Vivint, which offers those features at every tier (starting at $35 per month). If you opt for a package that doesn’t include video surveillance, consider purchasing a standalone security camera. There are some great DIY home security options on the market for about $200.

ADT Home Security System

Most Popular Provider
ADT
ADT
The face of home security
Starting at $36.99/month
Pros
Trusted by millions
Range of equipment options
Customizable home automation packages
Cons
Customer service
Unexpected fees

Why we chose it

Trusted by millions

Founded in 1874, ADT has been around for decades longer than any other security company. It has over six million subscribers and is synonymous with home security — even its logo is a clear warning to would-be burglars.

When it comes to deterring potential break-ins, brand recognition has significant value. In fact, a study from The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology found that a security sign was more of a deterrent to burglars than outdoor lighting and a neighborhood watch. An ADT sign in your front yard is a good bet if you want to know you’re protected (and you want other people to know it too).

Range of equipment options

We were impressed by ADT’s range of equipment options. For your system’s hub, you can choose a tablet-like touchscreen control panel or a classic keypad command center. ADT also offers sophisticated video tech, from cameras that begin recording as soon as a door is opened to live feeds that can be viewed remotely from your phone at any time.

If your alarm goes off, these features can help you can assess the situation remotely before deciding whether or not to cancel the alarm. When we checked back in with our testers, most of them stressed the importance of this feature.

Home Secruity

With its considerable brand recognition, even ADT's iconic sign might be an effective theft deterrent.

Customizable home automation packages

Many of ADT’s higher-end home automation offerings are customizable (although you should expect this to affect your final price). There’s a vacation mode that will arm the system, keep a steady temperature, and turn lights on and off to suggest that someone’s home. You can also set up situational operations. For example, if the sensor detects a fire, you can automate doors to unlock and the A/C to shut off, slowing the circulation of smoke.

Home Secruity

Points to consider

Customer service

ADT doesn’t have the strongest customer service reputation among the companies we considered, racking up more than 3,000 complaints on its Better Business Bureau page. While we chalked most of this up to the fact that ADT has several million more customers than its competitors, our tester began his call with low expectations. But he was pleasantly surprised. “My needs drove the conversation. And once I finally had the quote, he explained the purpose behind each device I was receiving and what the installation might entail. He took extra time to help me weigh whether I needed home automation or not — and I’m almost positive it wasn’t scripted.”

Unexpected fees

Our experience with professional installation was mixed. Our tester said the technician provided solid customer service: “He dropped a few unnecessary window sensors from my bill after deciding that the motion detector was sufficient for the entire front half of my home.” However, there were some issues with connecting the command hub to our tester’s network.

The technician explained that ADT’s broadband systems have trouble connecting to Suddenlink routers, which our tester had, so he tried a different kind of command hub. After he left, our tester noticed he was charged $190 more than his original quote. The new equipment was significantly more expensive because it worked on cellular signals instead of Wi-Fi. We wish we had known about that extra charge upfront.

SimpliSafe Home Security System

Best Basic System
SimpliSafe
Simplisafe
Basic equipment for an impressive price
Starting at $15/month
Pros
Budget-friendly plan options
Wireless equipment
Cons
No home automation
Limited security camera options
Upfront cost for equipment

Why we chose it

Budget-friendly plan options

SimpliSafe features the lowest professional monitoring prices on our list. For $15 each month, your SimpliSafe system will come with 24/7 live alarm and environmental monitoring — that’s half the price of other companies' monitoring fees.

What’s more, Simplisafe recently released sleeker, more advanced equipment — and gives you the option to purchase its original monitoring system at a 15 percent discount or a refurbished system for 25 to 30 percent less than the newer model. If you’re interested in DIY monitoring, SimpliSafe lets you do so for free; all you need to do is purchase the equipment.

Wireless equipment

Unlike some systems which require a hookup to a landline phone, SimpliSafe is mostly wireless. All you need to do is plug in the base. Additional equipment, like the keypad and sensors, are completely wireless and mounted with sticky pads, making them easy to install with no drilling required. Another perk: SimpliSafe’s base is backed by a 24-hour battery, so if the power goes out, you’re still secure.

Home Secruity

Points to consider

No home automation

Our testers unanimously agreed that home automation was the best part of their respective security systems. At this time, SimpliSafe equipment does not pair with or offer electronic door locks, garage door operations, outdoor cameras, or temperature-control features. There’s also no voice control option, which makes it impossible to access your system through a smart assistant. Even though you can monitor your home and arm/disarm your system from SimpliSafe’s mobile app, this doesn’t quite measure up to the true automation features other providers offer.

Limited security camera options

While most providers give you the option to add both indoor and outdoor cameras to your security package, SimpliSafe’s selection is limited to one indoor surveillance camera. The camera includes features like free streamable HD video and audio, 30-day storage, and night vision, but it doesn’t take snapshots of activity and can’t pan or move — basic features found on most surveillance cameras.

Upfront cost for equipment

Regardless of if you choose a month-to-month professional monitoring plan or opt to self-monitor your home, SimpliSafe requires you to purchase its equipment upfront. Though it’s less expensive than our other picks, packages start at a couple hundred dollars and go up from there. On the plus side, purchasing your equipment upfront does give you the flexibility to move or cancel your system at any time.

GetSafe Home Security System

Best No-Contract Option
GetSafe
GetSafe
Protection without the long-term commitment
Starting at $35/month
Pros
No contract
Customer support
AT&T cellular backup
Cons
Difficulty syncing with smart home products
Upfront cost for starter kit

Why we chose it

No contract

GetSafe’s no-contract option offers all of the security with none of the commitment at the same monitoring price as its contract plans. Going with its month-to-month option instead of its one- or three-year contracts doesn’t mean skimping on service, either. You still get helpful features like push and email notifications, system updates, and a homeowners insurance discount. (Note: If you choose a no-contract plan, you’ll have to buy your equipment outright. GetSafe’s one- and three-year plans come with a starter kit and a hardware credit for additional equipment.)

Customer support

GetSafe offers excellent customer support both during and after the purchasing process. Customer reviews note that customer service reps are helpful when explaining products and packages, as well as quick to troubleshoot equipment issues. Along with great service, SimpliSafe also includes regular software updates and enhancements, so you can rest easy knowing your equipment is up to date.

AT&T cellular backup

Most security systems have a backup method to contact the dispatch center in case your main connection is comprised. All GetSafe systems include an AT&T cellular 3G SIM card. If your control panel loses its Wi-Fi connection or if its wires are cut, your system will still be able to call for help.

GetSafe Screenshot for Home Security

Points to consider

Difficulty syncing with smart home products

Though GetSafe security systems integrate with home automation products like smart light bulbs, thermostats, and garage door openers, some customer reviews indicate it can be difficult pairing GetSafe with these products. Syncing tech is always a challenge. Fortunately, GetSafe includes a library of video tutorials to walk you through pairing your products.

Upfront cost for starter kit

One of the drawbacks of opting for GetSafe’s month-to-month contract is that you have to pay for equipment upfront. GetSafe’s one- and three-year contracts include the starter kit for free, and its three-year contract also includes a bonus hardware credit of $250. The starter kit costs $249 and, even though it’s less expensive than other providers’ equipment packages, could be too pricey if you’re on a tight budget.

Guide to Home Security Systems

How to find the right home security system for you

Research plans before you call

We recommend you get a good idea of what features and packages you want before calling to purchase, but be open to the advice from the sales rep. Our Frontpoint tester called on two separate occasions. The first time, she had a good idea of what she wanted system-wise but said she was still shopping around for a provider. The second time, she pretended to be an easy sell who just wanted a system but hadn’t done any research.

Her initial call was much more informative and detailed. The sales rep walked her through each room in her house, asking her to describe where the windows and doors were in each room, recommending the right pieces of equipment for each space — likely because they knew she had done her research and was hungry for details.

Consider DIY vs. professional installation

A few of our favorite providers allow you to DIY your alarm system installation, while others send a professional to do the task. Professional installation allows for a home security expert to evaluate your home’s security needs and educate you on how to best utilize your system. The drawback is that professional installation often involves an additional fee. When you opt to DIY, the process is typically quicker and you can avoid any appointment-scheduling acrobatics.

Check contract length

The average contract length for a home security provider is around 36 months. Some providers, like GetSafe, Vivint, and SimpliSafe, offer no-contract options. However, Vivint offers this with the stipulation that you must purchase equipment upfront (the alternative is a five-year contract). Breaking a contract typically means you’ll have to pay out the remainder — a cost far higher than most equipment packages. Weigh your budget and check with a sales rep before purchasing if you’re worried about a lengthy contract.

Consider security cameras

The best location for your cameras depends on the exact layout of your home, but we spoke with four industry professionals — a former FBI agent with experience testing home security systems, a criminal defense attorney, an ADT spokesman, and the president of a home security company — about video camera placement, and they offered a few general tips:

First priority: Entryways
All our experts agreed that having cameras record the space in front of your house or leading to your door is a smart option. Joe Liu, president of Home8alarm, advised having a camera that can cover the entire approach to your home and told us “you want two cameras to cover a long driveway.”

Back doors are another common target. After all, the less attention an intruder draws, the better. Having a camera film any back entrances (or side doors and windows if you lack a backdoor) will help to verify whether someone has broken in. As for placement, somewhere up high where wires can’t be clipped — or by the doorbell, where burglars won’t want to do anything suspicious — is our experts’ advice.

Second priority: Master bedroom
Glenn Kurtzrock, a criminal defense attorney and former homicide prosecutor, told us that based on his experience, most burglars “go for the master bedroom, and won’t waste time in rooms like a kid’s room.” He explained that “burglars don’t like to spend a lot of time in a house regardless of whether there’s a security system” so will prioritize the rooms most likely to have cash, jewelry, or small electronics. Having a video camera that films the entrance to your master bedroom can help provide video evidence for the police should a crime occur.

Third priority: Other high-traffic areas
After that, the best areas for placement are any high-traffic rooms, such as a living area or main hallway, that a burglar is likely to pass through multiple times on their way in or out. This helps you track where the intruder has been and increases your likelihood of capturing images that can be used as evidence for the authorities.

Home Security System FAQs

What is home automation?

Home automation allows you to remotely control features of your home such as lights and door locks. Most providers even include a mobile app which lets you adjust on the go. With your app or control panel, you can open and close garage doors, control thermostats, turn on lights and more.

What’s the difference between a wired and wireless home security system?

If you have a wired home security system, your control panel is hardwired into your home and connected to a landline. If a burglar cuts the telephone line, your system may not be able to connect to the monitoring station. Wireless systems are generally considered safer, since they can’t be physically cut by potential burglars. Wireless connections aren’t always foolproof, but many systems have algorithms built in to alert you and the monitoring center of any wireless signal interference.

How long does it take for a security system to notify police?

There are two elements at play in an alarm response: the monitoring center’s response time and your local police department’s. The monitoring center associated with your home security system should be notified within seconds of an alarm (and contact you soon after to verify the cause).

Before they contact the authorities, the monitoring company has to make contact with you. If you don’t answer, they call a backup contact first and will contact the authorities if that person doesn’t answer. If you do answer, it’ll be up to you to determine if you want the police sent to your home (and if its a false alarm). Police response time may vary, depending on how busy the police department is.

How do I prevent false alarms?

Estimates for home security false alarm rates range from 98 percent to 99.8 percent. Liu suggests adding video cameras to your system if you’re serious about preventing false alarms: “With [cameras], you can verify every alarm and reduce false alarm rates to zero. You also get more priority with first responders if you have video evidence.”

What is DIY home security monitoring?

DIY monitoring or self-monitoring means that when a sensor is tripped, it’s your responsibility to gauge the alert’s importance and contact the authorities. This could be potentially dangerous if you sleep through an alert that turns out to be a serious threat, but it’s generally less expensive than professional monitoring. Some home security companies like SimpliSafe offer both professional and DIY monitoring plans. If you’re interested in DIY home security, check out our favorite DIY home security systems.

What is professional home security monitoring?

With professional monitoring, a monitoring service keeps an eye on the status of your alarm system and will contact you within minutes of an alarm to confirm if it’s a true emergency. If so, they’ll dispatch the police or other services for you. If you don’t pick up, most companies will call whoever you’ve designated as your emergency contact. If there’s still no response, they’ll typically dispatch the police.

The Best Home Security Systems: Summed Up

Vivint
Frontpoint
ADT
SimpliSafe
GetSafe
Best for
Home automation
Customer service
Popularity
Basic system
No-contract option
Pricing
Starting at $39.99/month
Starting at $34.99/month
Starting at $36.99/month
Starting at $15/month
Starting at $35/month
Professional installation
No-contract option
Home automation
Available warranty
Customer support options
Phone, resource center, live chat
Phone, resource center, video tutorials
Phone, help center, manuals
Phone, manuals, help center
Phone, video tutorials, guides
View plans
View plans
View plans
View plans
View plans

Local home security reviews

We reviewed home security providers in various cities and states around the country to see how they stack up against our nationwide picks.

Our other home security reviews

We’ve reviewed the entire home security market, we’ve looked at the popular security companies in local markets, and we also took a dive into even more reviews.

Check out our other reviews here if you’re interested in digging deeper into home security: