Lots of sites will tell you which home security system is best, but the criteria are usually highly subjective. Listing vague pros and cons allows comparison sites to ultimately sort by their affiliate profit margin. It should set off your mental alarms if a comparison site is not clearly explaining why a provider is quantitatively and objectively better. We’ll forgo the subjective opinions and give you the data so that you can decide if you disagree with our ordering.
Note that this comparison is for monitored home security systems only. Self-monitored home security will be covered in a separate post. For a description of what each field means see the methodology notes below.
Top Home Security Companies
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|Company||Avg. Price / Mo.||Avg. Price w/Camera||Minimum Contract||App Rating||Pricing Transparency||Link|
|1. Frontpoint||$38.63||$58.27||12 months||4.2||Good||Visit site|
|2. SimpliSafe||$23.46||$33.68||No contract||3.4 (-.1)||Excellent||Visit site|
|3. Scout||$28.71||$34.23^||No contract||3.9 (+.1)||Excellent||Visit site|
|4. Link Interactive||$34.77||$48.49||36 months||4.4 (Third party)||Good||Visit site|
|5. Monitronics||$39.09||$48.82||36 months||4.4 (Third party)||Good||Visit site|
|6. LiveWatch||$40.67||$55.67||12 months||4.4 (Third party)||Good||Visit site|
|7. AlarmForce||$39.99||$60.51||36 months||3.4 (-.1)||Good||Visit site|
|8. Protection 1||~$45||~$55||36 months||3.1 ?||Mediocre||Visit site|
|9. ADT||Must call||Must call (Est. $67)||36 months||3.2||Poor||Visit site|
|10. Protect America||Must call||Must call||36 months||3.1||Poor||Visit site|
^Scout now integrates with Nest. Price does not include optional Nest Aware (Nest’s cloud storage) because most providers charge extra for cloud storage. App integration is free, but storing the video securely costs $10 for the first camera and $5 for each additional camera.
Last updated 1/13/2017
Best Fully-Featured Home Security Company
Frontpoint is our top pick for the following reasons:
- Prices are highly-competitive for basic monitoring.
- Equipment prices are fair and transparent.
- Frontpoint offers a wide variety of sensors and home automation features for buyers who want an all-in-one home security and automation provider.
Our main complaint is that video services require a hefty package upgrade. It’s not cheap, even if you choose to sign a 36-month agreement. Note that all advertised prices include a 36-month contract. 12-month contracts are available, but prices and incentives will be less attractive.
Honorable mention: Link Interactive and Monitronics are excellent low-cost home security provider if you want video but aren’t interested in all the bells and whistles that Frontpoint offers.
Best Value Provider
Simplisafe edged out previous tie-holder Scout (and everyone else) for the best value provider this year. The new camera is lacking in features and some of the equipment could stand to be redesigned and slimmed down, but for the money there’s no one better. Monitoring is only $15 per month, and equipment is sometimes half as expensive as competitors when you factor in the 36-month cost.
You also have to appreciate SimpliSafe’s straightforward no-BS approach to sales and marketing. The company tells you exactly what you’re going to pay. This is especially refreshing in an industry known for hidden fees and must-have features sold as “additions.”
Users should be aware, however, that SimpliSafe is missing some of the features that other providers offer at extra costs. For example, there’s currently no way to store video in the cloud. Instead the camera tries to alert you to motion or important events. That said, there are an impressive number of sensors to help take care of your home.
Scout does get an honorable mention as a value provider, especially if you already have a Nest camera. The app integration works well, but Nest has never been the cheapest camera, nor is cloud storage cheap. Still, it’s a better product than SimpliSafe’s camera with higher resolution and more options. For that matter there aren’t many cameras on the market better than Nest. If equipment aesthetics and app simplicity matters to you, it may still be worth considering Scout.
Best for Home Automation & Integration
If you’re looking for a home security provider with home automation features and tie-ins, Scout is your best bet. Scout has integrated with what’s becoming the most popular smart home hub: SmartThings. They’ve also added integration for Nest products. Rather than fragmenting your home devices across 5 different apps, you can use them all together on Scout. This is your best bet for future smart compatibility since both Scout and SmartThings have shown they’re dedicated to broader integration rather than Apple-style “walled gardens”.
Do keep in mind that Scout and SmartThings cannot use the same sensors, meaning if you want one sensor to turn the lights on when the door opens and another to ring if the door is triggered while armed, you’ll need two sensors. Scout has some automation features and SmartThings has some security features, but it’s best to think of them as two separate systems that can share some data and interface. (Editors note: even as a SmartThings enthusiast, I’d strongly discourage you from trying to use SmartThings as a security system. It’s just not built for it.)
Scout may be the only major home security company that can described as modern. The company has done a lot to keep its finger on the pulse of tech-savvy customers. There seems to be a strong internal commitment not to go the way of ADT. ADT could have been a leader in home automation, but instead lagged
Average 36-month price: One of the hardest things about comparing home alarm systems is real-world price. Some packages include equipment. Some pieces of equipment (e.g. cameras) increase the monthly monitoring price. Some prices go up after 12 months. To keep this comparison fair, we’re using a 36-month price that includes the following:
- 3 door sensors
- 1 standard console/base
- 2 motion sensors
- No extra features or smart home inclusions
- Cell service
- 1 camera with live monitoring and capture (separate column)
Unless that fits what you’re looking for your cost will vary, but this should give the best baseline possible. We take the initial purchase price, 3 years of monitoring, and average it over 36 months. Comparing prices on a 36-month average prevents tricks like low “get started” rates that end up costing far more in the long-run.
Plans that included video monitoring and capture were, without exception, the most expensive plans offered by home security companies. That’s unfortunate as this is now becoming a mainstream feature. Comparing column 2 and 3 you can see the huge monthly price difference it makes to do nothing but add one camera. On average one camera plus the plan upgrade required to run it cost an average of over $15. While convenient to have a camera and home security in one app, the average price is likely to lead to even further app fragmentation.
Minimum Contract: The minimum amount of time you can find a contract given the equipment and services listed above. Note that your cost may increase if you choose a 12-month plan. The costs calculated above use money-saving long-term contracts. For example, the prices in the table for Frontpoint assume a 36-month contract, but there are 12-month options available.
App Rating: While it might not seem like a big deal to most, you are going to be using the app every day. Ratings are taken from the Google Play store for Android, only because Apple does not reveal more than a half-star rating that makes it harder to compare. Generally the Apple app aligns with the Android app rating. Link Interactive, Monitronics, and LiveWatch are using the Alarm.com app, which is currently rated at 4.4 out of 5.
Pricing Transparency: This is simply a measure of how easy it is to find pricing. It is not used as heavily in our rankings vs. price, but choosing your specific equipment and packages can be frustrating with a non-transparent company.
2017 Home Security Updates
App improvements (or lack thereof): No app ratings changed more than .1 up or down, aside from Protection 1’s app plummeting. Most probably don’t realize app access needs to be enabled via the Protection 1 website.
New products: Scout has finally relented in its previous (and mostly nonsensical) position against home security cameras. Sort of. While the company doesn’t have its own home security camera, it now works with Nest. Nest integration is pretty good once setup, but it’s far from seamless. For example, if you want video recorded to the cloud you still need to call Nest and set “Nest Aware” up separately.
Simplisafe finally got to releasing that camera they promised back in Christmas of 2015. At $99 it’s pretty affordable, but the 720p resolution and lack of cloud recording make it a little underwhelming. Still, it’s consistent with SimpliSafe’s approach to affordability and straightforward pricing.
Continued Anti-Customer Marketing: ADT spends more on marketing than any other home security company. Unfortunately they continue to hide and obscure pricing. It’s impossible to even find plan pricing on the official site. Third-party vendor sites have some plan pricing info, but equipment is not listed and therefor cannot be compared to other providers. Reps will usually not even release pricing info without a name, number, and address. You can do give out your info, but expect follow-up phone calls and endless mailers for months to follow. Time will tell whether ADT will continue to land sales based on its brand awareness, or slowly lose market share to customers who research their options.
We disqualified the following companies for lacking features, manipulative business practices, and/or lack of transparency. Hiding pricing allows companies to discriminate in their pricing policies and take advantage of customers who are in a much weaker negotiating position.
- AT&T Digital Life (purchased LifeShield): Not available in most areas.
- Vivint Home Security: Manipulative sales practices, hidden pricing. Vivint sales reps are well known for high-pressure sales tactics and hiding actual prices. (One recent example)
- Elite Security, Vision Security, APT, and many others: Deceptive sales practices
Customers expect their home security monitoring company to act with integrity. When customers trust you with their safety you have an obligation to be honest. We encourage the providers above (and others who follow these practices) to reform policies and sales tactics to put the customer ahead of hard sales and profit. We regularly re-examine ratings based on updates the companies make to packages, pricing, and policies, and hope you will meet our minimum ranking criteria next time.
FCC Note: Lack of transparency in pricing was observed on providers’ official websites on 9/16/2016 with little change by January 2017.
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