Vivint Smart Home
The Vivint Smart Home system is one of the most sophisticated and customizable systems on offer.
Brinks Home Nest Secure
The system from Brinks Home Security is built around the Nest Secure alarm system.
ADT is the 800-pound gorilla of the home security market, its installation process highly rated.
Experiencing a feeling of safety and security in your home is priceless, but there’s no need to spend too much to get it. The best professionally installed home security systems can turn your home into your castle, warning you of intruders when you are at home or away. The basic models include motion sensors and door sensors that are triggered when someone is in your home, a keypad that you use to enable the system and a hub that sends a signal to a monitoring service.
The more expensive models add features such as water sensors to monitor for broken pipes, sirens that sound to scare off intruders and fobs that can disable the system when you get home.
After researching a number of services, we’ve concluded that Vivint makes the best professionally installed home security system. Vivint Smart Home offers a lot of features, and customers also raved about the installers and the software that controls the system. However, it’s also one of the most expensive systems. Brinks Home Nest Secure is our favorite security system for homeowners on a budget, as you’ll spend the least over a two-year period for the base package, and it works with all of Google’s smart home devices.
All of the systems in this article are installed by professionals. If you want to do it yourself, check out our guide to DIY security systems. Since the systems compared here are all installed by the company or another professional installer, all you need to do is open the door to let them in and pay the bill.
The Vivint Smart Home system is one of the most sophisticated and customizable systems on offer. It’s also the most expensive. It offers a huge range of features, from the standard motion and entry sensors to indoor and outdoor cameras, plus video doorbell and extensive integration with smart home systems.
The Vivint starter system includes two entry sensors, one motion sensor and the control panel for $600. There’s also a $200 installation fee. Vivint is all about customizing the package, though, so it focuses on creating custom packages with other components. These aren’t cheap: The company's own video doorbell costs $250 (including installation), while a self-installed video doorbell from Ring will cost you about $180. Vivint offers financing, which allows you to spread the up-front cost over time with a multiple year-contract, and told us that most customers go with this option.
There are two levels for the monitoring service. The $39.99 monthly service is for a basic alarm system only, while adding a camera or doorbell adds another $5 a month. If you finance the system cost, while you won’t have any up-front costs, you will have rather large per-month payments. A system that included two entry sensors, one motion sensor, the video doorbell and an outside camera, for instance, would cost you about $69 a month over a two-year contract.
Both reviewers and customers praised the professional installation of the Vivint system and praised the way in which the installer will set up the smart home integration for you: No more fiddling with Alexa skills to get the two connected. The reviewers also praised the 7-inch touch-screen control panel that is the heart of the system, finding it easy to use on a daily basis.
What reviewers say:
Wirecutter: "[Vivint] boasts an easy-to-use app, a speedy response time, and white-glove installation service, but it can be expensive and doesn’t offer many perks over a good self-installed system."
CNET: "Vivint is a solid choice for creating a robust smart home security system, but even with a no-contract option you'll still need to commit to monthly monitoring if you want full functionality."
Safewise: "… If you can afford to buy your equipment up front, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in a long contract. But Vivint’s equipment is on the pricey side, and every system requires professional installation."
Best budget home security system
The system from Brinks Home Security is built around the Nest Secure alarm system. Nest is now owned by Google, so it is no surprise that it integrates with Google’s own Assistant smart home system, which allows you to control the system with your voice. As well as two combined entry and motion sensors, this system includes two key fobs, which can disarm the system without the need of a key code when you tap on the keypad. That’s very useful if you are forgetful.
The Nest Secure system can also be installed by the user, although professional installation is available. It’s also wireless, so you don’t need to run wires from sensor to keypad. While the system is built by Nest, Brinks handles the monitoring and charges $29.99 a month. There is no long-term contract for this: It is all month to month.
Reviewers found that the Nest Secure system was easy to install, with the small sensors easily fitting into corners in hallways and on door frames. Reviewers also praised the ease of use of the key fobs and the ability to disable individual sensors, so you can do things like step out of the back door without setting off the alarm, while still being alerted if someone tries to break down the front door.
Note that this system is best used with other Nest devices, like the Nest Hello video doorbell and Nest Learning Thermostat, and that it doesn’t integrate with smart home systems other than Google Assistant.
What reviewers say:
PC Mag: "… a stylish DIY smart home security solution that's easy to install and configure, but is very expensive, and lacks integration you get with some other systems."
CNET: "… works well, but its value is only so-so, especially if you aren’t sold on incorporating Nest thermostats, locks and other Google devices to your smart home."
Best Buy: "Nest Secure is extremely easy to install and use. The Nest application walks you through the install and verifies each sensor is installed correctly."
Expensive monitoring, but low up-front cost
ADT is the 800-pound gorilla of the home security market. Its home security systems start at about $129 for installation and $44.99 a month, which includes two entry sensors, one motion sensor, a siren, keypad and remote. That’s the Traditional tier, which includes installation and remote monitoring.
If you want to integrate smart home features such as smart locks, you’ll need to go up to the Control tier, which costs $47.99 per month. This includes access to the ADT Pulse smartphone app, which is available for iOS and Android. This doesn’t work with smart home voice systems like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, though. That’s a bit more expensive than some, but it does include the cost of the equipment if you sign up for a three-year contract.
ADT's professional installation process is highly rated by both reviewers and customers. If you go with the higher tiers of service, the company also installs and connects the smart home devices and sets up the apps that control them.
While you are locked into a three-year contract to get the low up-front cost, ADT does offer a limited six-month money-back guarantee if the system doesn’t work for you. If you want to go the do-it-yourself route, ADT provides monitoring services for SimpliSafe’s security system.
What reviewers say:
PC Mag: "… Considering the level of service and all the equipment installed, the price is justified, and on a monthly basis, not that much higher than most of the competition."
SafeHome.org: "Known for superior professional installation and one of the best money-back guarantees."
Reviews.org: "ADT is a huge company that uses a network of third-party contractors to sell, install, and maintain its systems, so you never know quite what kind of customer experience you’re gonna get."
Resells through local companies
Alarm.com takes a slightly different approach than most other security companies: You don’t buy the system or service directly from the company. Instead, you buy a system through one of its resellers, who typically cover a specific region. Alarm.com makes the hardware and runs the monitoring service, but you don’t deal with them directly. We worked with a local dealer in Massachusetts to get the prices listed above, so your price might differ, based on location.
Our local reseller offers several levels of service, each of which offers different features, but with a similar up-front cost of about $300. The basic system, as the name suggests, is the lowest level, with three door sensors, one motion sensor, plus the keypad and siren. The monitoring cost is $45 per month with a five-year contract. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can also be added, for an extra cost. The $55 Life Safety package adds in carbon monoxide and smoke sensors.
The Alarm.com system also integrates with smart home devices from other manufacturers, including SkyBell video doorbells, Arlo security cameras and the August Smart Lock Pro. These can be installed at the same time as the system or added in later on. That’s a nice change from systems like Vivint Smart Home, which only works with its own components.
The installation service is provided by the local dealer, so the quality of service that you receive depends on the shop. However, many people prefer working with a local company rather than a large, faceless corporation.
Bundle home security with your cable bill
The telecom behemoth AT&T offers a security system under its Digital Life banner. With a package price of $550 and a Monthly Monitoring fee of $39.99, it is one of the more expensive options that we researched.
There is also a two-year contract for the monitoring: Try and get out of that and you might be liable for more equipment costs. That’s because the base package includes quite a lot of equipment: two recessed contact sensors for doors or windows, four entry sensors for doors, one motion sensor, a siren and a keypad. Additional sensors are also available: additional motion sensors, contact and window sensors cost $19.99 and $9.99, respectively.
The system also requires professional installation, which is included in the price. An app, available for iOS and Android devices, allows you to remotely monitor the system.
What reviewers say:
CNET: "If you're already planning to install a professional security system, AT&T Digital Life offers comparable rates."
A Secure Life: "AT&T’s two-year contract is shorter than a lot of security companies’, but if you cancel early, you’ll be charged a pretty hefty early termination fee. That could certainly put a damper on things, depending on your budget."
Cable TV and home security integrated
The cable company formerly known as Comcast offers home security mainly as an additional service for its cable TV customers, but it is also available to anyone in its coverage area. The base home system that the company offers includes a decent selection of features, with the entry sensors, one motion sensor and a touch-screen control center for $360.
For larger houses, there is a $480 option that increases the number of door sensors to five and adds in a wireless camera. There is also an ultimate kit that covers 10 doors and includes two cameras for $600. Xfinity also offers no-interest, 24-month financing for the system cost, so you can spread the cost of either system over time when you sign up for the two-year monitoring contract. Monitoring is provided by COPS Monitoring.
Additional sensors can also be added at a fairly low cost, like a $70 smoke detector, additional motion detectors for $40 and a $120 camera that can be used indoors or outside. If you have an Xfinity X1 cable TV box, you can control the system from there and watch live video from the camera.
The system can also control a wide range of smart home devices that are compatible with Z-Wave, such as smart locks, garage door openers and others, but that doesn’t work both ways: You can’t control the Xfinity system from Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices or view the camera video outside of the Xfinity Home app.
Xfinity has a poor reputation for customer support, and the customer feedback on its home security service doesn’t seem to be any different, with customers complaining of long wait times and a lack of response to email questions.
What reviewers say:
Safehome.org: "They handle the setup and installation for you, offer fast response times in emergencies and have strong support for home automation equipment."
Safewise: "If you’re an existing Comcast customer and you’ve been happy with your services, adding an Xfinity Home system might be a good security option for you. … But the low customer satisfaction ratings with Comcast are a red flag … so we recommend that non-Xfinity customers keep shopping around."
Home Security Systems: Costs Compared
|Service||Up-front cost/cost per month||Cost after two years||What’s included|
|Vivint SmartHome||$600/$39.99||$1,559.76||2 entry sensors, 1 motion sensor, keypad|
|Brinks Home Nest Secure||$299/$29.99||$1,018.76||2 entry sensors, 2 motion sensor, keypad, 2 key fobs|
|ADT||$129/$47.99||$1,280.76||2 entry sensors, 1 motion sensor, siren, keypad, remote|
|Alarm.com||$299/$45||$1,379.00||3 door sensors, 1 motion sensor, siren, keypad|
|AT&T Digital Life||$550/$39||$1,235.00||6 entry, 1 motion, siren, keypad|
|XFinity Home Security||$360/$39.95||$1,318.80||3 entry sensors, 1 motion sensor, keypad|
How much does professional home security cost?
The price of these systems varies widely, from a minimum of $30 to $50 per month for a basic system with a couple of door sensors and a motion sensor. However, additional sensors and things such as cameras will increase the price, often significantly. Part of the reason for that range is that some companies allow you to spread the cost of the hardware over the term of the contract, so you have little or no up-front cost, but a higher per-month cost.
As most of these systems also require you to sign up for a long-term monitoring contract, the monthly plan isn't a bad option for spreading the cost. However, make sure that you understand what happens if you move or decide you don’t want the system: In that case, some companies will charge a cancellation fee or demand that you pay for the balance of the contract.
How We Picked
To come up with our picks for the top security systems, we looked at the latest systems companies offered. We also considered professional reviews from a number of sources, such as CNET, PC Magazine, Reviewed and others, plus the customer reviews and best-seller lists of such sites as Home Depot, Lowe's and others. From there, we narrowed down the list based on the best selection of features, price and reviews, and contacted each to get a quote for installation and services.