According to FBI reports from 2018, the number of household burglaries are decreasing every year in the US, but the average dollar value per offense has been on the rise, with an average of $2,799 of stolen items per burglary. The stats may sound scary, but there’s a lot you can do to protect your home, family, and valuable items from intruders—or attain proof to report a robbery if it were to happen. The most obvious starting point: installing a home security system.
Today’s home security systems range from simple video doorbells or outdoor cameras to monitor who’s on your front doorstep to full security systems with multiple cameras, sensors, and keypads. There’s no longer a need to sign up for expensive professional monitoring contracts—most of these systems offer free DIY monitoring as well as optional contract-free professional monitoring subscription plans that start as low as a few dollars a month.
Check out the quick reviews below of our top five home security systems, or scroll deeper for more helpful buying info and full reviews of those models.
How to Select the Right System for Your Home
The first thing to consider if you’re in the market for a home security system is whether you want professional monitoring or a DIY self-monitoring kit. With professional monitoring, if the system senses an intruder, you’ll get a notification such as a text message or email, and if you don’t respond, the monitoring company will call authorities for you, which is helpful if you’re not always available to check your phone. Meanwhile, free DIY systems put you in control, similarly alerting you through your phone and allowing you to call authorities if necessary.
Despite these differences, most of today’s home security systems offer both types of coverage. Either use the free DIY method or, at any time, opt into a no-contract professional monitoring subscription plan. These plans also often offer more cloud storage for video and other perks like two-way audio capabilities. Whether you go with DIY or pro monitoring, you’ll be able to set up these options yourself, since most are wireless without the need for permanent installation.
Finally, consider how much of your home you’d like to monitor before you buy. For outdoor property surveillance, you’ll need cameras that can withstand the elements like the Arlo or Eufy cameras. Or you can customize a complete home surveillance kit with the right amount of cameras, sensors, and other accessories to not only monitor for intruders, but also for fire, water, freezing pipes, and other emergencies while you’re away. If you simply want to view your front doorstep to check on packages, consider one of these video doorbells.
How We Selected and Rated Them
We researched 12 expert sources and 10,000 consumer reviews to select the top five home security systems of the year. To determine the Total Expert Score, we calculate the ratings from trusted publications such as CNET, Digital Trends, and PC Mag, and convert them to a 100-point scale to make it easier for you to weigh the best options. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of consumers who rated the product at least 4 out of 5 stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Home Depot, and Best Buy.
SimpliSafe The Essentials
Total Expert Score: 85/100 | Consumer Score: 80% give it 4 stars or higher
Customize your own security system that fits all your home’s needs.
There’s a reason the SimpliSafe home security system earned a spot in our 2020 Home Awards: SimpliSafe allows you to customize your own system from anything from a five-piece base kit up to Area 51-level surveillance. The Essentials Kit includes a base station, keypad, keyfob, entry sensor, and motion sensor at a great value, but SimpliSafe’s offering certainly don’t end there. Its packages go up to 14-piece kits including four entry sensors, two motion sensors, sirens, panic buttons, temperature sensors, smoke detectors, as well as freeze and water sensors. However, you can also build your own system to ensure you have all of the components you need for full home security. Plus, SimpliSafe offers plenty of other add-ons, such as the SimpliSafe smart lock, video doorbell, and indoor SimpliCam. In total, a SimpliSafe home security system can support up to 100 sensors, all of which are well-designed and discreet enough to blend into your home’s surroundings.
The other benefit of SimpliSafe system is in its name: Its specifically designed to be simple to set up and use. DIY installation is easy, with no wiring or other tools required. Just plug in the base station, place the sensors where you want, and download the compatible SimpliSafe app. While SimpliSafe doesn’t require a multi-year contract like some other professional home security companies, you will have to subscribe to get access to professional monitoring and app notifications. The standard plan ($15/month) monitors 24/7 and will send you alerts when sensors are triggered. If you don’t provide the safe word, it will dispatch police. For an extra $10 a month, you can upgrade your plan to gain more control over the system, including the ability to remotely arm or disarm the system, as well as get text and email alerts. Unlike options by Amazon or Google, the SimpliSafe will also integrate into any smart home ecosystem, so you don’t necessarily have to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant.
Arlo Pro 3
Total Expert Score: 84/100 | Consumer Score: 85% give it 4 stars or higher
A premium outdoor surveillance camera system now with color night vision.
If you’re not looking for a complete indoor security system like the SimpliSafe, then the latest Arlo Pro 3 outdoor camera system may be the highest quality option to monitor your home’s surroundings. Like the previous cams, the Pro 3 is simple to set up by following Arlo’s app instructions to connect the hub to your router and setup the cameras outside with their included magnetic stands and batteries—no wiring necessary. The batteries will last somewhere between 3-6 months, and it only takes about three hours to charge them back up. If you don’t want to worry about battery life at all, Arlo also offers a compatible solar panel that can charge your cameras without taking them down to plug in.
The Pro 3 system corrects many minor limitations from the Pro 2—namely, the siren is now built into the outdoor camera, and it adds 12x zoom (up from 8x), 2k resolution, color night vision, and a built-in spotlight. The cameras also have an excellent, wide 160-degree field of view. Like many video doorbells, the Arlo security cameras are equipped with two-way audio to communicate with any guests, and it can be integrated with an Alexa or Google smart home system.
Arlo offers three months of free use of its smart service, which provides you with notifications of motion detection in your customized activity zones, as well as 30 days of recording history. After your free trial, you can pick from a range of affordable subscription options, starting at just $3 per camera, per month. If you choose not to get a plan, you’ll only have access to live video streaming and notifications, but not more advanced monitoring. Unfortunately, Arlo doesn’t offer a single Pro 3 camera with the hub, so you’ll have to opt for the pricey $500 two-camera system with a hub, unless you already have an Arlo hub from a previous system. But if you only want to monitor one part of your home’s property anyway, you may be better off opting for Arlo’s video doorbell with similar security system and excellent video quality for under $150.
—For Google Users—
Google Nest Secure Starter Kit
Total Expert Score: 72/100 | Consumer Score: 97% give it 4 stars or higher
A simple DIY security system that’s best for Google Home users.
If you’re already a devoted Google smart home user, the Nest Secure may be the best system for you. It’s easy to arm and disarm through the app or Nest Tag, and the Nest Detect sensors can be placed on a window, door, or wall. The Nest app will also send you notifications when it detects motion. Nest also offers professional monitoring through Brinks home security for $29 per month, which provides additional security by continuing to monitor even if you lose internet or power.
Thanks to its built-in Google Assistant, the Nest does more than just surveillance: Ask Google questions and manage other Google devices through voice control. While the Nest hub works well, its base system is a little pricey for only including two key fobs and two sensors, so we mainly recommend it for those who are already invested in a Google Home smart system for the best integration with other Nest products, such as the excellent Nest Hello doorbell camera, Nest smart thermostat, indoor/outdoor Nest Cams, and other Google smart home speakers. While other options from SimpliSafe, Arlo, and more will connect with Google’s ecosystem, the most seamless smart home system will house everything under a single app.
—No Subscription Costs—
Eufy Cam 2
Total Expert Score: 73/100 | Consumer Score: 92% give it 4 stars or higher
If you don’t want yet another monthly subscription, its hard to beat Eufy’s outdoor security cameras.
Eufy offers a similar two-camera outdoor surveillance system to Arlo, but at a lower base price and without any hidden subscription costs. For just $300, you can set up two cameras outside of your home and get many of the same advanced monitoring features, including motion and human detection, mobile alerts, customizable activity zones, two-way audio, and integration to your preferred smart home system. Eufy offers all of this without any subscription required, because the hub with 16GB provides enough internal storage for up to three months of video recording, so you don’t have to pay to store your data in the cloud.
You also won’t have to sacrifice much in terms of quality if you go with Eufy’s DIY route. The EufyCam 2’s rechargeable battery even lasts longer than Arlo’s with up to a year’s worth of charge, though its field of view is slightly less at 140 degrees and it only has 1080p resolution. Nevertheless, Digital Trends claimed that it has clear video quality, especially when it detects a person, despite a little bit of distortion. Though it doesn’t have color night vision, its image quality is surprisingly clear and non-pixelated in the dark. This model also doesn’t include a spotlight, but Eufy does offer a two-camera system with built-in spotlights.
Ring Alarm 5-Piece Kit
Total Expert Score: 79/100 | Consumer Score: 91% give it 4 stars or higher
Amazon’s Ring may be the most accessible and affordable complete security system available.
Like the Google Nest Secure, we recommend the Ring home security system for those who are already tied into an Amazon Alexa smart home ecosystem. Like the SimpliSafe, Ring offers a variety of packages with a plethora of motion sensors, CO and smoke detectors, and more Ring components to add on like the popular doorbell camera or indoor cameras. However, we think the affordable base system is an excellent option for those looking to enter into the world of home security without paying a lot of money up front or later for pricey monthly subscriptions.
The Ring base station easily pairs with an Alexa speaker for hands-free control, and Alexa Guard will send alerts to your phone while away. This kit also includes a separate keypad, contact sensor for doors or windows, motion detector, and a Z-Wave range extender so that you have the flexibility to place the base station as far from the other sensors as necessary. In the future, you can always add on more components as needed.
Unlike the Google system that requires a pricey subscription for backup, the Ring is equipped with an internal battery for an extra 24 hours of power in case of a power outage. Ring’s system also integrates with plenty of other third-party smart home devices (other than IFTTT and Apple HomeKit), though it functions best with other Ring devices. While you can monitor your home by yourself for free, Ring also offers affordable monitoring plans at $10 a month to get 24/7 monitoring, including police dispatch with text and email alerts, as well as unlimited cloud recording—making it one of the most functional yet inexpensive professional monitoring subscriptions available.
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