Many alarm companies today attract customers by offering low initial costs or perhaps even free equipment. The thought of setting up a security system without paying anything sure is enticing. However, keep in mind that there's almost always a catch. If they give you free equipment, the catch is probably that they'll profit from you through long-term contracts and high monthly fees. Fortunately, there are companies with low monthly rates, but at the same time, don't require a costly initial payment.
How Much Is "Affordable"?
Before we disclose our top picks, allow us to give you a background of how we picked who to recommend. In case none of the alarm companies below work for you, you can use this information to compare alarm companies on your own.
So what qualifies as "affordable"? Objectively, an alarm company's monthly rate is affordable if it's lower than a certain value you've set. If $25 is what constitutes as affordable to you, then any alarm company with rates lower than $25 should qualify. However, when you're talking about security systems, there are many other factors in play.
For example, there's an alarm company that offers monitoring for as low as $10 per month and it should make the cut if we're talking about price alone. Unfortunately, the features included in that rate doesn't meet our minimum recommended features, For starters, it uses landline for monitoring without cellular or broadband backup and it doesn't include smartphone access. If you include those features, the rate will shoot up to almost $30. That is no longer affordable.
Instead of looking at the introductory rates offered by alarm companies, we decided to compare the rates of monitoring plans that include all— or at least most— of the features we recommend for a basic security system, such as all-inclusive monitoring for burglary and fire, smartphone app for remote access, and cellular monitoring or cellular backup.
We also considered the contract as a determining factor. Most alarm companies will require you to use their service for a certain number of years — three years in most cases. If you fail to do so, there is what they call an "early termination penalty" which is equivalent to at least 70% of your remaining contract balance. If you don't have long-term security needs, such as if you're moving out of the country soon, then signing a contract won't work in your favor, so it's better to look for a company with a short-term or no contract at all.
Our Top Pick: Ring Alarm
When it comes to affordability, Ring Alarm's offer is hard to beat. Their Ring Protect Plus professional monitoring rate is only $10 per month, but it includes almost everything you need to effectively use your security system. For starters, it includes 24/7 professional monitoring via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. This means that the system sends alerts to you and the monitoring center through your existing internet connection. If your internet is down, however, Ring Alarm has a backup cellular connection, allowing it to still send alerts.
Ring Alarm is also fully integrated with the Ring App, the same app used to control and monitor Ring video doorbells and cameras. Through the app, you can manage your security system, arm and disarm it, and receive alerts.
On top of all that, the $10 monthly rate includes cloud service for an unlimited number of Ring cameras. All Ring cameras installed in the same location as your Ring Alarm will enjoy 60 days of cloud storage for all event-triggered recordings, allowing you to playback, download, or share event-based videos. In comparison, most traditional alarm companies charge $40+ per month to include video monitoring features.
To sum it all up, for only $10 per month, you'll get professional monitoring, cellular backup, access to the Ring App, and cloud storage for unlimited cameras under your account. There is also no contract.
Ring Alarm FAQs
How much does it cost to set up a Ring Alarm monitoring?
Ring requires that you buy a Ring Alarm security system prior to setting up monitoring services. You can buy a 5-piece package starting at $199, while a 14-piece kit sells for $329.
Can I use Ring Alarm without a monthly subscription?
That is another option. However, you'll lose professional monitoring, cellular backup, and cloud recording for your cameras.
What are the pros and cons of Ring Alarm?
Ring has the backing of Amazon, so unlike security startups, Ring is more likely to last. Their products and services are also inexpensive when compared to most companies. However, Ring is still building out their portfolio so it may take a while for it to become a full-fledged alarm company.
Where do I sign up for Ring Alarm professional monitoring?
You can sign up on Ring's website by logging into your Ring account.
Coming in at second place is abode, which offers a self-monitored monthly subscription for $8 per month and professionally monitored subscription at a rate of $20 per month.
Self-monitoring your system is less expensive, but it lacks professional response, which means that in case of a break-in, only you will be notified. If help is needed, it's up to you to call the local authorities or your emergency contacts. With professional monitoring, a team of trained central station operators will call for help and notify your emergency contacts.
abode's $20 per month professional monitoring service includes smartphone access, 24/7 monitoring, and cellular backup. There are also exclusive perks such as lifetime device warranty, premium customer support, and free ground shipping for orders within the continental U.S.
abode's $8 per month self-monitoring plan, on the other hand, includes smartphone access and cellular backup only. All the other perks as well as professional monitoring are not included.
You can also use abode without a subscription or even buy a three-day or seven-day on-demand professional monitoring. If used without a subscription, you'll end up with a security system that sends alerts to your smartphone, but requires continuous internet access. Without cellular backup, your system will go down along with your internet connection. With an on-demand professional monitoring option, you'll get professional monitoring, cellular backup, and smartphone access for three or seven days at a time. It won't auto-renew, so you'll need to renew your subscription every time you need professional monitoring.
You can learn more about abode in our abode review or in this article where we compared abode with Ring and another hybrid security system using hands-on tests.
How much does it cost to set up an abode system?
Security systems start at $19, but you can add one year of professional monitoring by adding only $100 to your equipment package. That's equivalent to over 50% discount on the monitoring fee.
How does abode's on-demand monitoring work?
When you need monitoring, such as when you're going on vacation, you can purchase a three-day or seven-day monitoring plan. During the three or seven days, abode will monitor your system. Once the plan is up, you'll go back to your previous monitoring plan.
What are the pros and cons of abode?
abode was a startup a couple of years ago, but they've proven themselves good by offering strong products and even better security features. However, some of their products feel cheap and outdated on-hand. Their products could use a little facelift.
Can I use abode without a subscription?
Yes. In fact, it's a useful system even without a monitoring plan. It can send alerts to your smartphone and you can access the system using the abode app. However, you won't be able to use its cellular backup feature.
Simplisafe is currently running one of the best promotions we've seen. Check their website for full details.
If you're talking affordability, SimpliSafe is one you'll almost certainly encounter. They've made a name for themselves by offering high-quality yet affordable security systems and services, which they claim is possible because they sell directly to end-users rather than employ sales reps and partner with dealerships.
SimpliSafe has two professional monitoring plans, but only one of them is recommended. The first and less expensive one is Standard. It includes professional monitoring and cellular backup for $14 per month. However, it lacks smartphone access and notifications, leaving the wireless keypad as the only means of controlling the system.
Adding $10 to your monthly fee will give you smartphone access and even enable certain smart home integrations with August Smart Lock Pro and Nest Thermostat. There are also additional perks such as Secret Alerts, which can be useful in monitoring liquor cabinets or safes, video verification if you have SimpliSafe cameras, and unlimited camera recording similar to Ring's.
To learn more about SimpliSafe's various features, you can check out our in-depth SimpliSafe review.
How much does it cost to set up a SimpliSafe system?
That will depend on the equipment package you'll choose. There are packages with prices ranging between $200+ and over $1,000. You can also custom build your security system and receive a 15% discount plus a free indoor camera.
What are the pros and cons of SimpliSafe?
SimpliSafe is a well-established company and they've shown their commitment to improving their products and services. However, their equipment lineup remains limited and they don't have a strong smart home presence.
Can I use SimpliSafe without a subscription?
Yes, but you'll lose all important features. Without a subscription, a SimpliSafe system can still detect intrusions, but it won't be able to send you remote notifications or inform the monitoring center.