Best Home Security Systems of 2018

John Carlsen ·
Smart Home & HVAC Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

Over the last two years, we spent more than 650 hours researching and reviewing 23 home security providers. We focused on the 11 security system companies that meet stringent transparency requirements. As we evaluated each system, we looked at costs, contract terms and customer service. Based on our analysis, Brinks Home Security, formerly LiveWatch and MONI, is the best home security system you can find. It sets a high standard by giving you multiple options for installing your equipment, and the system is compatible with many smart home devices from Amazon, Google, Nest and more.

For a self-monitored, self-installed, no-contract system, check out our DIY home security review.

Best Overall
Brinks Home Security
Brinks Home Security has more install options than other home security companies and is compatible with tons of smart home devices, though its starting costs are above average.
View on Brinks
Best Value
Link Interactive
You can buy Link Interactive's expansive selection of equipment in an online shop without a sales call, making it one of the easiest ways to plan a security system for your budget.
View on Link Interactive
Best Return Policy
ADT
ADT's contract is relatively fair, particularly a six-month return policy that is the best in the industry. The company can help pick the best equipment for your home, though its pricing isn't very transparent.
View on ADT
Check Price@ADT
Best Return Policy
ADT
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Pricing & Services
Installation & Support
Security Devices Included
Basic Three-Year Cost of Ownership
Basic Monthly Monitoring Fee
Basic Starting Costs
Contract Length
Early-Termination Policy
Coverage Area
Installation Type
Equipment Warranty
Customer Support Hours
Support Channels
Smart Home Compatibility
Control Panel
Door & Window Sensors
Motion Sensors
Key Fobs
Check Price
8.9 8.5 9.8 9.2
$1,294
$29.00
$249.50
3 Years
Pay 80% Balance
National
Self, Pro, DIY
Lifetime*
24/7
Social, Text, Phone, Email, Chat
Alexa, Google, Lutron, Nest, Rachio, SkyBell, Z-Wave
3
1
Custom
ADT
Check Price
8.8 8.5 9.6 8.4
$1,069*
$28.99*
$25.00
3 Years
Pay 75% Balance
National
Pro, DIY
Lifetime*
24/7
Social, Phone, Email, Chat
Alexa, Nest, Ring, SmartThings, Z-Wave
Custom
Custom
Custom
Check Price
8.5 8.6 8.2 8.4
$1,296
$35.99
$0.00
3 Years
Pay 75% Balance
National
Self
3 Years
8 am - 11 pm Mon-Fri; 10 am - 7 pm Sat
Social, Phone, Email, Chat
Alexa, Google, Lutron, Rachio, SkyBell, Z-Wave
Custom
Custom
Custom
Check Price
8.4 7.7 9.6 9.4
$1,967
$49.14
$198.00
5 Years
Pay 100% Balance
National
Pro
Lifetime*
24/7
Social, Phone, Email, Chat
Alexa, Google, Hue, Nest, Z-Wave
2
1
1
Check Price
8.4 8.4 8.1 9.2
$1,159
$24.99
$259.95
None
No Fees
National
Self
3 Years
9 am - 12 am Mon-Sun
Social, Phone, Email
Alexa, August, Nest
3
1
Custom
Check Price
8.4 8.2 8.3 9.6
$1,720
$44.99
$99.95
3 Years
Pay 80% Balance
National
Self
3 Years
8 am - 11 pm Mon-Fri; 10 am - 7 pm Sat-Sun
Social, Phone, Email
Alexa, Google, Lutron, Rachio, SkyBell, Z-Wave
4
Custom
Custom
Check Price
8.3 8.1 8.6 9.2
$1,512
$41.99
$0.00
3 Years
Pay 100% Balance
National
Self
Lifetime
8 am - 12 am Mon-Fri; 10 am - 8 pm Sat-Sun
Social, Phone, Email, Chat
Alexa, August, Z-Wave
3
1
Custom
Check Price
8.3 7.7 9.4 9.2
$1,537
$39.95
$99.00
2 Years
Pay 75% Balance
Regional
Pro
Lifetime*
24/7
Social, Phone, Chat
August, ecobee, Hue, LIFX, Lutron, Nest, Sengled
3
1
Custom
Check Price
8 8.4 6.7 9.4
$976
$20.99
$219.99
None
No Fees
National
Self
1 Year
8 am - 9 pm Mon-Fri; 9 am - 6 pm Sat-Sun
Social, Phone, Email, Chat
-
2
1
1
Check Price
7.8 6.7 9.4 9.8
$1,790
$39.99
$349.99
2 Years
Pay 75% Balance
Regional
Pro
Lifetime
24/7
Social, Phone, Chat
Z-Wave
6
1
Custom
Check Price
7.8 7.4 8 9.2
$1,684
$43.99
$99.99
2 Years
Prorated
Regional
Pro
90 Days
24/7
Social, Phone, Chat
-
2
1
Custom
Best Overall
Brinks Home Security is the result of a merger and rebranding of LiveWatch and MONI, which were our top-rated security systems in past comparisons.
Brinks has an excellent return policy that's second only to ADT among alarm systems. It also works with a wider variety of smart home devices than most other security systems. When you sign up for this company's 24/7 monitoring services, you get two options for installation: professional or self. If you choose to self-install your system, Brinks sends instructions and pre-programmed equipment to your home. Although professional installation costs extra, a technician does all the work for you and shows you how the system works. Professional installation includes a lifetime warranty, but self-installers can pay $49 for the same benefit. Uniquely, Brinks also sells optional monitoring services for Nest Secure, a DIY system, making it the only provider we reviewed with three system options: self, professional and DIY. As is typical of most security systems, the contract lasts three years. However, the early-termination policy is higher than average, requiring 80 percent payoff of your account balance. If you want to cancel without fees, you have 30 days after your contract begins to return equipment. The most basic of the company's two monitoring plans, Brinks Home Complete, costs $29 a month, which is lower than the industry average of $37. This plan’s basic equipment costs $249.50 upfront, which is more expensive than average.
Pros
  • Professional, self-install and DIY system options
  • Lifetime warranty available
  • 30-day return policy
Cons
  • Requires 3-year contract
  • Pay 80% balance when canceling early
  • Lifetime warranty costs extra
Check PriceBrinks
Read the full review
Best Value
Link Interactive has the best equipment selection among home security providers. Best of all, you can choose your equipment a la carte in an online shop without a sales call.
We were also impressed by the transparency of Link Interactive's equipment and monitoring prices. The monthly monitoring fees of $35.99 are lower than the industry average of $37, making Link Interactive an affordable security system. If you start a three-year contract with this company, you get a free basic control panel. You pay upfront for other equipment, which can make starting costs higher than those of competitors. Although Link Interactive offers shorter one- and two-year contracts, it defaults to three years unless you ask; three years is average for the home security industry. If you cancel before your contract ends, you must pay 75 percent of the remaining balance. This is the lowest early-cancellation fee in our comparison (apart from no fees). You have 30 days to return the equipment without paying early-cancellation fees. All equipment comes pre-programmed for self-installation, but if you need help you can look at tutorials on Link Interactive's website. Customer support is available through social media, email, phone and live chat, though the customer support hours are limited compared to 24/7 offerings from competitors like ADT. Link Interactive's three-year warranty pairs well with the contract length and is average for a home security system.
Pros
  • Largest equipment selection
  • Affordable monitoring
  • No starting costs
Cons
  • Charges for most equipment upfront
  • Limited customer support hours
  • Default contract length is three years
Check PriceLink Interactive
Read the full review
Best Return Policy
ADT's monitoring plans start at $28.99, but the company doesn't have the same price transparency as many of its competitors.
Starting costs are advertised at $25, though this probably increases when you get certain equipment. All ADT equipment has a lifetime warranty. There are almost no references to prices on the ADT website, making it difficult to comparison shop. The company prefers that customers work with a salesperson, so we called for more information. The representative emphasized personalized quotes rather than discussing the base pricing for the three service plans listed online. Although pricing details are scarce, we found that ADT makes its full contract available online for anyone who wants to take a look. The contract lasts three years and subsequently renews on a month-to-month basis. If you want to cancel early, you have six months to return your equipment without any fees, the best return policy we've seen; any later and you must pay 75 percent of the balance remaining in your contract to cancel. This company requires professional installation for its security systems unless you buy the ADT Home Security Starter Kit, a DIY option sold by SmartThings. You can contact ADT 24/7 via social media, phone, email or live chat; only Brinks Home Security offers the same level of customer service excellence. ADT's Pulse system is compatible with a variety of third-party smart home devices.
Pros
  • 6-month return policy
  • Professional and DIY system options
  • Lifetime warranty available with professional install
Cons
  • Requires 3-year contract
  • Pay 75% balance when canceling early
  • Limited pricing transparency
Check PriceADT
Read the full review
Best Premium System
Vivint is the best premium system because it makes most of its equipment rather than relying on a third-party supplier like Alarm.com or Honeywell.
The Vivint SkyControl Panel has an attractive color touchscreen that you can use to view security camera footage in your home. The company also has its own smart doorbell, Vivint Doorbell Camera, which is one of the most attractive options on the market, even if you need a monitoring plan to have one. You can also connect your Vivint system to a variety of smart home devices such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, Nest Learning Thermostat and Philips Hue. Vivint equipment has a lifetime warranty, though you need to pay an additional fee if you don't want to pay for every service call. Vivint's basic plan costs $39.99 a month, with options to pay for equipment monthly or upfront. Either way, you'll pay the same price in the long run. In our comparison, we chose to spread the costs out, which means the monthly fee is around $49.14. The company requires professional installation, which starts at $198. You can expect your Vivint contract to last five years, longer than any other home security system we looked at. The termination fee is similarly steep, requiring 100 percent payoff of your account balance if you cancel early.
Pros
  • Designs its own equipment
Cons
  • Most expensive security system
Check PriceVivint
Read the full review
Best No-Contract System
SimpliSafe doesn't require a contract or the early-termination fees that normally come with contracts. It also has some of the most affordable monitoring plans we've seen.
Because there's no contract, this is a great system for renters, whereas many traditional providers only offer service to homeowners. The system has two affordable plans that cost $14.99 and $24.99 a month respectively. The cheaper plan only offers monitoring while the other plan adds remote access via a mobile app and an online dashboard. SimpliSafe has higher starting costs than most home security providers because you pay for everything upfront instead of paying off equipment throughout a long contract. The starter kit we reviewed, The Essentials, costs about $260. Even with the higher starting costs, the affordable, no-contract monitoring helps even out the costs and makes this one of the least expensive systems available. If you pay for the required equipment, SimpliSafe is great for most basic home security functions, such as intruder detection through motion sensors, entry sensors, a security camera and other sensors. You can also get sensors that detect hazards such as flooding, smoke and carbon monoxide. You install the equipment yourself, which also cuts down on costs. The equipment has a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, SimpliSafe only supports a handful a smart home devices such as Amazon Echo, Nest Learning Thermostat and August Smart Lock. This limited level of smart home integration ultimately keeps SimpliSafe for claiming our pick for best value in a home security system.
Pros
  • No early-termination fees
Cons
  • Limited smart home compatibility
Check PriceSimpliSafe
Read the full review

Latest News & Updates (October 2018)

*In June 2018, LiveWatch and MONI Smart Security merged and rebranded under the name Brinks Home Security. We have reviewed the changes to contracts, service and pricing and found that Brinks Home Security is the best home security monitoring service overall. Nest Secure still works with Brinks monitoring as it did previously with MONI.

*Brinks recently lowered the price of its two monthly monitoring plans by $10 a month. This means the Home Complete plan now costs $29 a month, down from $39, though you pay higher starting costs ($249.50) for basic equipment. Likewise, the Home Complete with Video plan now costs $39 a month with $299.50 in starting costs. Brinks also informed us that any equipment you choose to add to the starter kit will receive a 50-percent discount. The company also reduced its return policy from 90 days to 30 days. We'll reflect on this new information and update our scores and rankings soon.

*We haven’t added newer providers to our comparison in a while. Consequently, we are currently researching the following security providers, each with a creative pricing strategy, to see if they are viable candidates.

  • GetSafe - This home security provider’s three monitoring plans all cost $35 a month but allow you to choose different starting costs and the length of the contract. The no-contract plan requires payment of $249 for the starter equipment, the one-year plan includes starter equipment for free and the three-year plan includes an additional $250 worth of free equipment beyond the starter kit.
  • Cove - This contract-free home security provider offers two monitoring plans. The cheaper plan, Basic, costs $24.99 a month while the more expensive plan, Value, costs $34.99 a month. If you stay with the company for three years, your equipment is free, or you can pay for equipment upfront, which reduces your monthly monitoring fee by $10.

Why Trust Us

Top Ten Reviews has reviewed home security systems since 2011. Over the last two years, we logged more than 150 hours researching for the various updates of this comparison. We checked with sales and customer support representatives to verify each company's contract terms.

Before choosing monitoring plans and equipment packages to evaluate, we disqualified companies that don't reveal any prices without a sales call. We also rejected companies that don't share key contract terms and conditions online in some form before you sign. This narrowed our initial 23 companies to 11 that fit these requirements. You deserve access to vital contract terms before calling a salesperson. Lastly, we eliminated smaller regional companies that only offer service in a few states or cities.

Here are a few examples of security providers that we looked at, but ultimately didn't meet our selection requirements: Guardian Protection Services and Northstar Alarm Services both have almost no pricing and contract terms available online without a sales call, while Bay Alarm only offers service in California, Washington and Arizona. There are hundreds, if not thousands of security providers in the U.S., so vetting and rejecting potential candidates for review is an ongoing process each time we update our comparison.

While researching this topic, we requested information from two associations in the security industry. First, we contacted the Security Industry Association (SIA), which connected us with a board member, Kirk MacDowell, president of MacGuard Security Advisors Inc. He suggests getting a security system sooner than later, "Sadly, many consumers wait until a burglary occurs before they invest in a system. And burglars don’t discriminate."

We also got information from Jamie Vos, vice president of the Electronic Security Association (ESA), who told us, "You need to go into the decision-making process with your eyes wide open. Select the provider that understands your security needs, can act as your advocate and point out security needs you may not have considered or explain why a certain technology you want may not be the best option for you."

How We Tested

We define the best home security systems as those with good prices and fair contracts. We examined company websites and sought clarification from the services if we couldn't find something.

To evaluate pricing, we looked at the base rate, with smartphone controls, for comparable monitoring plans from each security company. Pricing breaks down into two categories: monitoring fees and starting costs. Monitoring fees are what you pay each month your contract is active, while you pay starting costs one time at the beginning of your contract.


As we examined contracts, we focused on the fairness of consumer-facing policies such as length of contract, early cancellation, equipment return and auto-renewal. A strong understanding of contract terms lets you grasp the relationship between a security company and its subscribers. Contracts help businesses offset operating and equipment costs, but they should also be transparent and equitable for customers.

While every security company offers 24/7 monitoring services, these are for emergencies, and customer service often has limited hours. We also assessed which customer support channels a company offers and whether its support hours extend beyond the business day, letting you get assistance on your time.

How Much Does a Home Security System Cost?

Monthly monitoring fees for a home security system range from $21 to $50, with contracts lasting three years on average. You can expect to spend an average of $120 in starting costs, which covers equipment, installation and activation fees. Unless your home matches a company's starter packages, you will pay more than this.

With few exceptions, this is a quote-based industry, which means equipment prices vary from home to home. Large homes with more points of entry need more equipment than small homes.

Each monthly monitoring fee in our comparison is the base rate for cellular monitoring and mobile app controls. Other taxes and fees also affect your home security system costs each month. If the company spreads equipment costs throughout your contract, the monthly fee might be higher as well. There's a silver lining to paying for an alarm system: It can lower your home insurance costs.

What to Expect From a Security System

Contracts Explain Fees & Cancellation Policies
Contract length ultimately affects your total costs and cancellation fees. Most security alarm systems have one- to three-year contracts, though five-year contracts also exist. The best contracts don't have a minimum term, instead offering month-to-month services. Auto-renewals are standard, with monthly renewals better than yearly ones.

Early-cancellation policies often require you to pay some or all of the balance remaining on your account. However, some of these policies are fairer than others. An ideal cancellation policy has no fees, but one that requires you to pay 80 percent or less of what you owe is better than one that requires 100 percent payoff.

Equipment return policies let you return your system and avoid most cancellation fees. Some contracts only give three days after installation for this. Most allow two to four weeks, and a few have longer return policies.

Customer Service
Customer service is similar to cell phone signal strength, where more bars mean a better signal. In customer service, more support channels and useful operating hours lead to a better signal.

We favored companies that provide support over social media. This is a reliable channel, since a public post or private message on a company’s Facebook or Twitter page often gets a quick response. Other effective support channels include live chat and phone, though phone support is less ideal. Email is the slowest support channel. We also favored companies with 24/7 customer support over those with limited business hours.

Psychological Barriers, Not Physical Ones
Unfortunately, once someone decides to break into your home, a burglar alarm can't physically stop them. However, it's a strong psychological deterrent that relies on the intruder's fear of getting caught.

As a result, a security system's yard signs and window decals can make would-be burglars reconsider targeting your home, and the blaring alarm could scare them away before they cause more trouble.

24/7 Home Security Monitoring
Alarm systems use certified monitoring stations to watch your home 24/7. When an alarm goes off, the monitoring station contacts you to see if everything's okay and sends help if needed or if there's no reply.

Security Devices Included
Three devices are the basis of every security system: a control panel, entry sensors for doors and windows, and motion detectors. Some companies include other equipment as an incentive, but it's not always free.

Wireless Equipment
Modern systems use battery-operated sensors that wirelessly connect to a control panel. The control panel requires a power cable most of the time, but usually has a battery backup.

Cellular Monitoring Connection
Most systems have a cellular link to the monitoring station, which we consider the best option for 24/7 security, even during power outages. Some providers can also use internet or landline connections.

Smartphone Apps
You can arm, disarm and control modern security systems with a smartphone, though some basic plans don't support it. More expensive plans usually offer features like smart home control and security camera viewing.

Warranty
In general, most companies with a lifetime warranty are actually talking about an extended warranty that requires a monthly fee in addition to monitoring. This is used to pay for shipping and service calls. Some providers charge a flat fee for each service call instead of requiring a monthly fee.

Most warranties require you put the system into test mode on a monthly basis to look for faulty sensors or dead batteries. Warranties don't cover dead batteries, so expect to change them every few years. Faulty devices under warranty are usually replaced for free.

Alarm Permits
A permit means you agree to pay for excessive false alarms that divert limited police resources and require your system to meet certain local standards. Vos said, "Different jurisdictions have their own unique permitting requirements. You should check with your local law enforcement to determine if a permit is needed and what the requirements are for that permit."

If you're unsure what you can do regarding your permit, ask if the security company provides assistance with permits or if you must do this on your own.

Security Systems: Getting the Basics

Contacting the sales team or buying equipment should be one of the last steps in getting a home security system. It's a good idea to develop an outline to help you explain your needs to the salesperson. This also makes it easier to turn down upgrades you don't want or can't afford.

Begin by making a list of exterior doors and windows you want to protect with entry sensors. Any door or window is susceptible, especially ones that aren't as visible from the street or nearby homes. Entry sensors are your first line of defense; your budget should allow for as many as needed.


Next, list the largest rooms and upper levels in your home. These are the first places you should put motion detectors, which act as a backup in case an intruder bypasses your entry sensors.

Although each alarm system in our comparison comes with a control panel, larger homes may need secondary panels or keypads near the exterior doors you often use.

Security Systems: Upgrading Beyond the Basics

Monitoring should be the main reason you have a system, but some upgrades can improve or go beyond simply spotting intruders. They often increase fees and starting costs, but aren't strictly necessary for basic security.

"Many times homeowners are not told about additional options," MacDowell told us. "A professional alarm company will suggest smoke and/or heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and water leak detectors can be added to just about any alarm system, to name a few."

Specialized Sensors
These include smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, pet-immune motion sensors, glass-break sensors, flood sensors, key fobs and panic buttons.

Smart Home Devices
Home security alarm system providers usually sell a variety of smart home devices designed to work with the system such as thermostats, garage door openers, smart locks, lighting controls and video doorbells. Most systems also allow you to use smart devices you may already have in your home such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, August Smart Lock, Ring Video Doorbell 2 and others.

You can also link your system to popular smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home Mini to add voice controls. Depending on the provider, you can use these voice controls to arm the system, control lights, unlock doors and adjust the thermostat. This functionality is available through Vivint, ADT, SimpliSafe, Frontpoint and systems with Alarm.com equipment, such as Brinks and Link Interactive.

Security Cameras
Nothing beats security cameras as useful tools for identifying burglars and accounting for stolen property. Security cameras can even give you a way to check on your family and home while you’re away.

Security cameras are best used to monitor the entrances to your home and property, both indoors and outdoors. You can also place cameras in rooms with valuable items, though you should avoid placing them in bedrooms and bathrooms. In most cases, a security provider does not have access to your camera’s video feed.

Because of the demand for security cameras, most providers require you to pay for their most expensive monitoring plan to add one to your system. This often means an increase of $5 to $10 a month over cheaper plans so you should only get security cameras for your system if it fits your budget. While part of the higher price covers cloud video storage and server costs, it also provides a healthy profit to providers.

Of course, you could always forego a security system and professional monitoring in favor of a standalone security camera or video doorbell, if that better suits your needs.

Medical Alerts
Many security firms offer medical alerts, but a separate service is better if you don't need a security system. Check out our reviews of medical alert systems for more information.