Don’t wait for Christmas to get a video doorbell — why you need one now

Ring Video Doorbell DIY smart home
(Image credit: Ring)

Sure, getting your smart home situated for the holiday season — hosting, traveling, etc. — could wait a few more weeks. 

But if you’ve started your online gift shopping, you’re going to get a lot of packages coming to your house. And the last thing you want is for those deliveries to get stolen. One way to combat porch pirates: A video doorbell with package detection. 

The porch pirate problem

According to a survey conducted by C+R Research, 43% of people had packages stolen in 2020. The average value of the stolen package was $136. Though most companies refunded or replaced the looted goods, shipping delays combined with second-time sent packages could mean less presents ready for under the tree.

Porch pirates, or people who steal uncollected packages, are a pesky problem, though not one without a solution. Half the respondents in the same survey said their experience led them to purchase a video doorbell to deter future theft. Video doorbells all keep an eye on what’s happening at your door, and can send you notifications when there’s someone outside or other kinds of motion.

Video doorbells to the rescue

The best video doorbells offer dedicated package detection notifications. There’s also often preferred over traditional crown-mounted cams for residential front doors, since they’re placed where you can better see a face or what’s happening beyond your doorsteps. 

There are a few questions you should ask yourself before buying a video doorbell. “Does it have package detection?” is one of them. I’ll admit, when I got a Ring Video Doorbell (gen 2) a few months ago for my DIY smart home project, I didn’t consider package detection. Since I’ve been working at home for a year-and-a-half, I’ve been able to grab my deliveries as they’re dropped off.

I’m not as much of a homebody these days. In fact, most of the packages I’m having delivered are overstuffed with clothes more appropriate for locales that aren’t my couch. While I’ve half-managed to upgrade my wardrobe from a rotation of oversized sweatpants, I now have a sense of anxiety about the boxes that collect at my doorstep when I’m gone.

Ring vs Nest vs Arlo

Thankfully, that’ll be over soon. Ring announced it will add package detection to two of its video doorbell devices by midNovember. My Ring Video Doorbell Gen 2, along with the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2, can tell you you’ve received a delivery as long as you know how to set up package detection on a Ring Video Doorbell. It even has adjustable sensitivity in case you start getting too many false alerts. 

If I had the foresight about how much I’d want package detection, especially now that my early-purchased holiday presents are rolling in, I might’ve prioritized package detection more in my buying decision. I opted for Alexa in my smart home, use the Echo Show instead of the Nest Hub, and my genius Brilliant control panel plays nice with Ring devices. In other words, the latest entry-level doorbell seemed to make the most sense as I mapped out my smart home system.

There are solid alternatives, though. Both of Google's video doorbells, the Nest Doorbell (battery) and the Nest Hello, have offered package detection for a while. Same with the Arlo Video Doorbell. The Nest also warns you when a package has been removed, because even with obvious monitoring devices, porch pirates can be crafty. 

However, only the Nest Doorbell (battery) offers this feature without a subscription; to get this with Arlo it’ll start at $2 per month, while Ring’s plans start at $3 per month (to be fair, a subscription with either also gets you expanded storage and notification options). If you want to see which offers the best value, take a look at the best security camera storage plans compared. 

Bottom line

So I guess my advice is two-fold. If you’re ordering more things to your house than usual due to the holidays, consider using your corresponding company’s subscription if you don’t already, at least for a limited time. 

Second, you don’t have to wait until the holidays to buy a video doorbell with package detection. Just be sure to get one of two models eligible for package detection, so you can keep an eye on all your other arriving packages.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.