Best home safes 2019: keep your documents safe and secure

Best Home Safes 2019 - Reviews of Gun, Wall and Fireproof Safes

The best home safes will protect your assets from fire, flood and theft - while keeping guns locked away safe and secure. It is a hard job knowing what kind of safe you need to keep your treasures safe. If you are wondering if a discreet wall model or a secure safe that mounts to the is the best, our buying guide can talk you through all the features. 

For five years we've spent over 150 hours researching and evaluating home safes from the most popular brands on the market. Ultimately, selecting a home safe comes down to personal preference, needs and use. That said, we feel that the Barska AX1162 is a good place to start if you only need a small, easily concealable safe.

Best Small Mountable Safe

Barska AX11620

Barska AX11620

Discrete and small
Fingerprint locking mechanism
Lightweight
Not fire-resistant
Not water-resistant
Too small for some uses

This durable safe has two strong steel bolts that secure the door using a motorized locking mechanism, and the body is composed of high-integrity steel. The safe can be unlocked using the built in fingerprint, which is able to store 30 fingerprint patterns, in case anyone needs to access it for you during an emergency. The scanner is a nice way to unlock the safe because you don't need to remember a combination code or use a key. However, the safe comes with backup keys in case the fingerprint scanner's battery dies or stops working.

This safe is small and lightweight, weighing only 12 pounds. The interior dimensions aren't very large but it is ideal for small items such as handguns, passports and jewelry. Bear in mind that this safe is neither fire-resistant nor waterproof, so it won't protect valuables from flooding or fire.

Read the full review

Best Fire-Resistant Safe

First Alert 2087F-BD

First Alert 2087F-BD

Fire-resistant
Waterproof
Dial combination lock
Weighs 82 pounds
No hanging file rack
Too small for some uses

It's a fire-resistant safe that can withstand temperatures up to 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit for up to an hour. During this time, the interior stays under 350 degrees Fahrenheit so important papers don't burn. This home safe is also waterproof.

The safe is made of resin and uses four steel bolts to secure the door with hidden, pry-resistant hinges. You can unlock the door with a dial-type combination lock. These features help this home safe to protect all your important documents.

The First Alert 2087F-BD weighs 82 pounds, making it difficult for one person to move. You have the option to bolt it down to further discourage burglary. The mounting bolts come with the safe and won't affect its waterproofing.

The First Alert 2087F-BD is a medium-size safe that is nearly twice as large as the Barska. The inside has an adjustable shelf, a key rack and a door pocket. While the safe is large enough to accommodate many valuables, it's too small to host a hanging file rack to organize your documents. This safe has a five-year warranty.

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Best For Handguns

Stealth Tactical Original Handgun Safe

Stealth Tactical Original Handgun Safe

Heavy-duty construction
Foam padding keeps gun in one place
Push-button combination lock
Not designed to store items other than handguns
Not fire- or water-resistant
Expensive compared to safes of a similar size

The Stealth Tactical Original Handgun Safe is made of heavy-duty 10-gauge black steel and weighs around 24 pounds, making it a heavy safe for its size, though you can carry it easily using the built-in handle. The door is secured with a Simplex Lock that's surrounded by a steel casing and does not use batteries.

Since there is no risk of dead batteries, you always have access to your weapon in an emergency. The pistons and hinges are hidden inside the safe, making it resistant to forced entry. You can bolt the safe to a shelf for extra security. At around $230 – almost $100 more than the Barska AX11620 Compact Biometric Safe – it offers 50 percent more space with an estimated capacity of 0.16 cubic feet.

To prevent your handgun from shifting inside the safe, it comes with dense foam padding that conforms to the shape of your weapon and magazine. However, because the padding takes up the space around your gun, you can’t easily store other items in the safe. It doesn’t protect your weapon from fires or flooding and only has a one-year warranty.

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SentrySafe

SentrySafe

It is affordable.
It is not fire-resistant or waterproof.

SentrySafe is a great budget safe that features a carpeted interior and a digital keypad. It has an interior of 0.58-cubic-feet, perfect for storing jewelry, money and small collectibles.

The digital locking mechanism is controlled by a keypad, and two spare keys are included in case you forget your combination.

Even though it’s a budget home safe, the SentrySafe is made of strong steel and can be bolted down with the included hardware. Because it is so small, it is not a good option for documents, hanging folders or hooks. While it is neither fire-resistant or waterproof, this safe is certified by the California DOJ for firearm storage.

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Paragon 7775

Paragon 7775

It has a 10-year warranty.
The safe is not waterproof or fire-resistant.

The Paragon 7775 is constructed of thick 11-gauge solid steel to resist hand and mechanical tool attacks. For extra safety, you can bolt it down with the included hardware to make it even more difficult for would-be burglars.

The hinges are tamper-proof and on the inside of the door. The interior floor has carpet padding to reduce the chance of scratching your jewelry or other valuables and a small shelf helps you make better use of the 1.8 cubic foot of storage space. We are impressed with the 10-year warranty from Paragon, much longer than the average home safe warranty. The digital keypad is battery powered and you can change your password an infinite number of times. Fortunately, spare keys are included in case you forget your pass code.

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Why trust us about safes

We've tested a variety of products in-house at Top Ten Reviews, such as smartphones, DIY home security systems and other equipment. However, practicality prevents us from testing some products, such as home safes, firsthand. As such, we rely on our experience, research and interviews with industry experts to advise you in choosing the home safe that fits your needs while highlighting notable products from popular brands.

We studied information about burglary and fire-resistance classifications for safes as defined by Underwriters Laboratories. Additionally, we found extremely helpful guides from American Security Products on both burglary and fire ratings that are worth checking out. We also contacted Tarsila Wey, the director of marketing at First Alert, and asked about homeowners’ reasons to buy safes and some tips for choosing a good safe.

How we tested home safes

We aren't able to conduct home safe testing in our lab because we lack the facilities to adequately and safely assess each product's resistance to physical attacks, fire and water damage. While these destructive testing methods may be useful in gauging each product's effectiveness, we don't think it would reveal much more than UL classifications and manufacturer specifications.

While we consider UL-listed safes to be superior to unlisted models, we also recognize that most of the popular models you can buy online fall into the latter group as they are more affordable. As such, the safes we chose to evaluate only have the most basic level of security, which is better than none at all.

Because of this, we don't score the safes in our review, though we still conducted thorough research to help you decide which brand or type of safe is best for your needs. Our recommendations stick to affordable models that work for most homeowners but may not be large enough or offer the best features of an all-in-one safe. For more secure, full-featured models, we suggest speaking with a seller in your area specializing in safes.

How much do home safes cost?

Generally, the more money you spend, the better the quality and workmanship you can expect from a safe, particularly if it is burglar- or fire-resistant. A small budget safe can be purchased for around $50 to $70, while a large gun safe can cost over $1,000. Other factors can contribute to the high price tag, such as advanced digital locking features like keypads and fingerprint-recognition locking devices. Home safes can be found at every budget level, and small safes usually cost less than large ones. We recommend deciding on a home safe based on what you want to store. Storing valuables, firearms, currency, important documents and photos each have different internal space requirements.

Getting the best safe for your home

Burglary resistant safe

If you are serious about protecting your valuables against burglary, you should consider a safe that is UL-listed for that purpose. Underwriters Laboratories ratings reflect the construction quality of a safe and are based on how long it would take a burglar to force it open. The minimum level of protection and lowest rating, Residential Security Container, is not really considered a safe as it means the container only resists weak attacks for five minutes and is relatively easy to break into. However, UL's other ratings, UL TL-15 and UL TL-30, mean the safe can withstand strong attacks, including power tools, for 15 and 30 minutes respectively.

Most safes you can buy online or in retail stores don't provide much resistance against burglars, though Tarsila Wey from First Alert suggests safes with programmable digital locks and concealed pry-resistant hinges offer more security than those that don’t. Storing your valuables in a home safe does at least discourage impulse and opportunity thefts. For the security of major assets, however, we recommend visiting a locksmith or a store that specializes in safes, or getting a lockbox at your bank.

Fire resistant safe

If protecting key documents from fire is your main concern, get a model that has been UL classified for fire resistance. In order to earn a UL classification, a safe must keep an internal temperature below 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, even if the outside temperature reaches 1,700 degrees. Safes that last two hours at 1,850 degrees earn a higher rating. Many cheap fire chests are UL classified for 30 minutes at 1,550 degrees. Of the safes we evaluated, only the First Alert 2087F-BD is UL listed for fire resistance.

“Many of today’s safes are capable of providing both fire resistance and effective burglary protection,” Tarsila Wey told us in our interview. Of course, if you want a safe that is both fire- and burglar-resistant, you should expect to spend more.

Locking mechanism of the safe

Some safes have one basic locking device, while others are equipped with as many as four, such as basic key entry, combination dial entry, digital combination pad entry and fingerprint recognition entry. While it's important to choose a lock style that best fits your needs and preferences, each lock type has weaknesses. For example, digital locks have trouble if the batteries die, and burglars can force the lock using the slot for the backup key. Likewise, manual locks can be susceptible to lock picking. Remember, if a safe has a UL listing for burglary resistance, its lock will reflect that.

Size and weight of the home safe

A UL-listed steel safe might be impenetrable, but it could be too bulky and heavy for what you need. It also might not be a good fit in second-story rooms (imagine carrying a 700-pound safe upstairs) or if you relocate often and want to take the safe to your new home.

Ultimately, the size you choose comes down to what you want to put inside. Small safes, such as the Barska AX11620, SentrySafe X055 and Stack-On PDS-500, are ideal for securing documents and small jewelry. Likewise, medium-size safes such as the Paragon 7775 and First Alert 2087F-BD are better if you need more room. However, if you need to store rifles and other large firearms, safes like those from Steelwater and similar manufacturers are good options.

Regardless of the size, it's a good idea to get a safe that bolts to your floor or a shelf in order to prevent thieves from taking it elsewhere to open.

Safes without moisture buildup

Moisture can sometimes build up and harm papers, guns, jewelry and other items. It might be a good idea to put some small packets of moisture-absorbing desiccant materials in your safe. You can buy these online. If you live in a particularly humid climate, using a dehumidifier is another way to help maintain your safe both inside and out.

Alternatives to home safes

If you don't have room in your home or want to keep your valuables in a more secure location, you can rent a safe deposit box at a local bank for a small monthly fee. However, not all banks offer this service, and you can only access the box during business hours.

If mail theft and identity theft are concerns in your neighborhood, a product such as the Mail Boss 7506 Mail Manager Locking Security Mailbox could help. It's approved by the U.S. Postal Service and lets your mail carrier deposit letters and small parcels into a secure safe.

A UL-rated fire safe is the best option to protect physical data storage devices such as CDs, flash drives and hard drives. However, it may also be a good idea to back up your data to a cloud storage service. For more information, check out these cloud storage reviews from our colleagues at TechRadar.

Another option for protecting your valuables is a home security system with 24/7 professional monitoring, which can help deter thieves from breaking in. You can even use a security system in tandem with a safe by putting a door sensor on the safe to alert you to any time it is opened.

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