Andrew Garcia

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Between these two security systems, our favorite is ADT.

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We hear it every once in a while: Aren’t all home security systems pretty much the same? After all, they serve the same basic function – protecting your home.

Not even a bit.

There are some stark differences between providers, even among our list of best security systems.  They all take a different approach to how they define security and how they go about solving the central issues of security. That’s before you get to issues like price, equipment styles, and features.

ADT and Ring make for a good illustration of this principle. Is there overlap? Sure, there’s a bit of similarity between these two. For the most part, though, they couldn’t be more different.

In fact, we’ll tell you a little secret. All those differences make them a little hard to compare. The whole apples to oranges thing. For example,

  • ADT absolutely takes the cake when it comes to professional monitoring and setup. It’s also top-tier when it comes to equipment quality and home automation.
  • Ring Alarm offers professional monitoring, but it’s more popular for self-monitoring. Where ADT focuses on professional installation, Ring makes a point of offering ridiculously easy DIY installation.

We’re professionals, though, and we actually did manage to come up with one system that we like best. We promise that before we’re through, you’ll know who got the nod.

Pro Tip: Want Ring Alarm’s easy DIY setup and ADT’s high-quality equipment and monitoring? Check out our SimpliSafe review, the perfect middle-ground between the two. As simple as it may be, SimpliSafe is surprisingly good at protecting homes.

Arming my ADT System

Arming my ADT System

Similarities Between ADT & Ring Alarm

OK, so we sort of built up the whole idea that these are two radically different companies that produce two radically different home security systems.

That makes this next bit embarrassing. It turns out, there actually are a few similarities between ADT and Ring.

We’d say their biggest similarity is just how well-known they are. Few home security systems out there have the name recognition of ADT and Ring. And their reputations are well-earned. Both have made significant contributions to the industry. ADT has been around for over a century. It practically invented home security, and it continues to innovate. Ring’s newer to the home security game, but the company pioneered doorbell cameras, which changed the home security game. Two well-known companies; two trailblazing companies.

FYI: We’re finding that wireless systems are fast-becoming the gold standard in the industry. Many of today’s best wireless home security systems (like Ring Alarm) can be installed in under 30 minutes with no tools.

Another crucial similarity? The heart of both systems is their apps. Both company’s apps let you use your smartphone to access your system, monitor what’s going on, arm and disarm specific pieces of equipment, and check the status of everything.

Ring Wireless Home Security System

Ring Wireless Home Security System

It’s also worth noting that neither company charges an activation fee. And both ADT and Ring Alarm offer a money-back guarantee. ADT’s guarantee is a generous six months (the best guarantee in the industry), while Ring Alarm gives you 30 days to return the system for your money back. Even so, both companies make sure you’re happy with your system before you’re locked into anything.

Finally, both ADT and Ring Alarm offer 24/7 monitoring services, though we should note that ADT’s professional monitoring costs a bit more per month.

Update: Ring and ADT just got a fraction closer. Part of ADT’s traditionalism has always been its insistence that customers sign up for professional installation. At a cost. Over the last year, though, ADT has finally begun offering DIY-installed security systems, just like SimpliSafe, Frontpoint, abode, and – wait for it – Ring. Find out more by checking out our complete review of ADT Self Setup.

If you want to really explore Ring Alarm to see if it’s right for you, we recommend reading our comprehensive Ring Alarm review. But if you’re thinking that ADT might be more your speed, then you should definitely visit our ADT hands-on testing and review page here.

Differences Between Ring Alarm and ADT

OK. So, as we were saying, these are two different systems produced by two different companies. What does that mean exactly?

Let’s start with something basic: installation. Ring is a true DIY installed system. It doesn’t offer professional installation (though the company does promise it can hook you up with local installers if you need them). Instead, it’s devoted time and money into creating a self-installation process that’s easy for any homeowner.

ADT, on the other hand, has always been a professionally installed system. Until recently, it didn’t offer a DIY option. A lot of people prefer that white-glove service. There’s no denying that it’s nice to put your feet up and let a professional do the job. Plus, you can count on ADT installers to know where to place equipment. And while the company has begsn offering DIY-installed systems, professional installation remains its bread and butter.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference, but the difference between the two is stark.

FYI: Right now, new ADT customers can save up to 40 percent on any ADT system when they sign up for monitoring. Plus ADT will throw in a free Nest Cam.

So, let’s talk automation. ADT offers a wider scope of home automation equipment, features, and integrations. Ring’s home automation capabilities, on the other hand, are limited to Alexa and Google Home integration and compatibility with a few third-party smart locks and lights.

Again, this is a matter of preference and may not be a big deal if you’re not particularly interested in home automation. After all, our main goal is to decide which is a better home security system. That said, if you’re looking to integrate smart home features into your home security — for example, add smart thermostat, locks, and lights to your security system — we think ADT is the better choice.

Ring Alarm offers limited smart functionality — though it does work great with Alexa for hands-free voice control. To explore other systems with Alexa compatibility, have a look at our in-depth guide to home security systems that work with Alexa.

ADT and Ring Alarm also differ in that Ring can be set up and installed nearly anywhere, while ADT home security systems require you to be a homeowner. This makes Ring Alarm a great choice for rentals, apartments, or even for use in the dorm room. The nature of ADT’s offerings is meant for more established households.

You should also note that ADT might require you to submit to a credit check, especially if you’re applying for a financing plan. Ring, on the other hand, does not require a credit check or a contract. Just pay for the equipment up-front and you’re good to go; no contracts and no credit checks.

While it might seem like Ring beats ADT when it comes to contracts and terms, the reality is more complicated. Sure, you won’t face any administrative hassles when signing up with Ring. However, credit checks, contracts, and payment plans can be a good thing when it comes to home security. Typically, it means you won’t have to pay for your equipment upfront; rather, you can spread the payments out over months and years so that you can afford the best equipment possible. We’ve seen this with other brands, too, like Vivint’s smart home security systems.

Did You Know? ADT requires a 36-month contract if you finance their equipment, while Ring Alarm systems are generally cheap enough that you can pay upfront and not enter into a contract.

One last difference to consider is that you have the option of using solar panels to power some of the Ring home security cameras. ADT does not have any solar energy options at this time.

Standout Features & Tech

When selecting the home security system that best fits your needs, you’ll really want to consider the different features that the systems offer. Note that ADT systems and Ring Alarm systems have quite a few differences when it comes to their features and technology. Here’s a look at what to keep an eye out for in each system.

Ring Alarm Features

The first thing to note about Ring home security systems is that there are different plans or tiers that you can choose to purchase. We mention it here because, as you go up in price, each tier has different features. That means the features we describe below can sometimes be plan-specific.

  • Self-Monitoring Options: Like ADT, Ring offers a full-service 24/7 professional monitoring plan. A Ring Protect subscription connects your home security equipment to a monitoring center that keeps an eye on your property day or night. And Ring’s price is $5 to $10 cheaper per month than ADT’s monitoring price ($18 a month if you’re willing to sign up for an annual plan). Ring offers something ADT doesn’t, though: the option to self-monitor your system. You can do this for no cost, or you can add video recording for $4 a camera or $10 for unlimited cameras. We recommend professional monitoring, but it’s always nice to have the option to self-monitor if you’re looking to save a little money.
  • Motion Activated Messages/Notifications: This feature means that you’ll be notified as soon as one of the motion sensors in your home is tripped. This is a great feature because the alert happens in real-time and will let you know as soon as an incident (or break-in!) occurs. Keep in mind that all of Ring’s cameras also have motion-triggered alerts.
  • Thirty Second Call Response: Ring home security systems boast a thirty-second response time. This is the time it takes for the monitoring center to reach out when your alarm goes off. And from what we’ve seen, this is a fairly fast response time for any incident in or around your home.

Did You Know? The industry standard response time is between 30-40 seconds. The fastest we’ve seen was offered by Deep Sentinel, at 20 second response times. Check out our latest Deep Sentinel review to learn more about this innovative, camera-based system.

  • Alexa Compatible: Since Ring is owned by Amazon, it makes sense that it offers seamless connectivity with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. This will give you hands-free voice control, allowing you to arm your system and view your cameras (with the appropriate smart displays) without lifting a finger. Other than Alexa and now Google Home compatibility, this is pretty much Ring Alarm’s limit in the smart home category.
  • Lifetime Theft Protection: Ring promises to replace any equipment, such as a camera mounted on your porch, if it is stolen. This theft protection plan does not expire. You may be wondering why someone would steal a security camera, but trust us, it happens all the time.
Ring Stick Up Cam

Ring Stick Up Cam

  • Real-Time Video and Two-Way Talk: With the Ring Alarm home security system, you can stream your security camera video footage in real-time, directly from your smartphone. The setup also has a two-way talk feature that can be used to speak to visitors and/or scare away intruders.
  • Video-Saving and Sharing with 180-Day Video History: The company provides the capability to share videos captured by Ring’s lineup of security cameras. The system can store video footage for up to 180 days. You will also have the option to save clips permanently if you capture the information that you need. It does come with a monthly fee though; $4 per month per camera or $10 per month for unlimited cameras.
  • Snapshot Capability: Another cool feature of Ring home security systems is that you can take snapshots on your screen. This is basically like taking a photograph to capture a frame from your security footage with the viewing device.

ADT Features

ADT has been in the home security business for 150 years, so they’ve had time to figure out a few home security tricks as well. We’re sure that Ring would admit, in fact, that some of its best features were actually pioneered by early home security companies like ADT.

Below we’ve listed the main features that you get with ADT. You’ll notice pretty quickly that ADT systems are a bit more advanced than Ring Alarm systems. Keep in mind, thought, that Ring is a more expensive system as well.

  • 24/7 Monitoring: Similar to Ring’s monitoring, with ADT’s 24-hour monitoring, an emergency response agent will always be ready to ensure that the proper course of action is taken in the event of a break-in or other crisis. We’ve experienced slightly faster response times with ADT, but both brands deliver in this category.
  • Touchscreen Panel: ADT offers the Pulse touchscreen control panel. You can arm and disarm your alarm and customize other settings with the swipe of a finger. ADT edges out Ring Alarm in this category, as Ring only offers a push-button control panel.
  • Home Automation Options: ADT’s home automation options allow certain appliances and equipment to be monitored, automated, and operated remotely from your phone or tablet. Being able to use your smartphone to operate your security system is a huge plus in our book.

FYI: With ADT, you can also connect any Z-Wave smart device into your system, opening up the potential to build out a smart home ecosystem.

  • Two-Way Talk Capabilities: ADT offers two-way talk capabilities as well, just as Ring home security systems do. Being able to talk between devices in the home or remotely will come in handy more often than you might think.
  • Mover’s Savings Package: ADT will work with you to save you money if you need to move. All you have to do is let them know that you are moving and they will schedule a re-installation. We like the flexibility offered here.
  • Equipment Averaged into Monthly Payment: ADT’s equipment costs a little more than Ring’s, but where you have to pay for Ring equipment up-front, ADT lets you finance costs for up to five years. They’ll also combine these monthly payments with your monthly monitoring charges so you pay one flat fee every month. Sure, you can buy one piece from Ring and then add to your system a little as you go. There’s something nice about buying a complete system right up front, though. It means you get everything you need and don’t have to worry about holes that need to be filled. ADT gives you that. Ring doesn’t.
  • Guaranteed Theft Protection: ADT offers a theft protection guarantee like Ring does. If your equipment is stolen, ADT guarantees replacement free of charge.
Blue by ADT Video Doorbell Installed

Blue by ADT Video Doorbell Installed

  • Professional Installation: ADT will professionally install the equipment for you so that you do not have to worry about improper installation or the safety of your home. Although ADT’s installation is generally on-point, we have heard stories to the contrary, and we’ve heard that the service can vary from region to region. Something to keep in mind.
  • Certificate for Use by Homeowners Insurance Companies: ADT will send you a certificate that can be turned in to your insurance company. Doing this will allow you to be eligible for certain rebates and reductions on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  • Six-Month Money-Back Guarantee: Customer service and support is paramount, and it’s a good thing that ADT is willing to back its promise of high-quality equipment with a six-month money-back guarantee. Here’s how it works: If your ADT system malfunctions, and ADT isn’t able to fix the problem within six months, they’ll refund your monitoring and installation fees.

ADT vs. Ring Alarm: Costs and Fees

The final important point of comparison is the cost of each home security system. After all, you’ll have to purchase the equipment (at least with Ring) and pay for a monthly monitoring service if you want to keep your home and family secure day and night. Let’s have a look at what you can expect to spend with each company.

Ring Pricing

Ring only recently began offering home security kits. Its basic five-piece kit costs $179.99, but you can expand that to up to 14 pieces for around $579.98. We often recommend going with a smaller kit to get started and then upgrading over time to suit your specific needs. That’s easier with a DIY system like Ring Alarm since the company doesn’t have to come back in and do additional installation.

And here’s a tip: Right now a lot of Ring’s alarm packages are on sale. Here’s a quick breakdown of the kits that are discounted:

Ring Alarm Sales

Ring Kit Retail Price Sale Price
Two Piece Video Doorbell/ Stick Up Cam Kit $199.99 $179.99
Five Piece Protected Starter Kit $299.99 $269.99
Eight Piece Protected Enhanced Kit $429.99 $379.99
14 Piece Protected Deluxe Kit $579.98 $499.99
Five Piece Whole Home Basic Kit $399.97 $359.99
Eight Piece Whole Home Enhanced Kit $599.97 $529.99
14 Piece Whole Home Deluxe Kit $829.97 $699.99

Once you purchase the equipment, you’ll have four Ring Protect plans to choose from. The first of these is the free option, which is pretty lean on features compared to the other plans. It does, however, come with motion-activated notifications, theft protection, real-time video, and two-way talk.

The Ring Protect Basic option costs $3.99 per month or $40 per year. In addition to the features offered in the free package, it offers snapshot capabilities, 60-day video storage, and video saving. This is the monitoring plan you’d choose if you were to install a Ring camera, but only one camera is covered by this plan.

The Ring Protect Plus package costs $10 per month or $100 per year and offers the same features as the Basic plan, only this plan covers an unlimited number of cameras installed at the same address.

Lastly, the Ring Protect Pro package costs $20 per month or $200 per year. This plan includes everything in the Plus plan, in addition to professional monitoring for the Ring Alarm.

To learn more about Ring’s offerings, have a look at our guide to Ring’s packages, plans, and pricing.

Did You Know? Ring has one of the most affordable monitoring packages in the business. To put it in context, the industry average is around $29-$39 per month for professional monitoring, and even DIY brands range between $15-$25 monthly. So $20 per month for a plan with camera cloud storage is a great deal in our book.

ADT Pricing

Let’s cut right to the chase: ADT is much more expensive than Ring Alarm, but you get what you pay for. Their Secure Home package costs between $58 and $61 per month (opposed to Ring’s $20 monthly fee). It includes 24-hour monitoring, three keypads, motion detectors, three window sensors, a siren, a back-up battery, and a remote. The good thing is that you don’t have to buy your equipment upfront.

If you want the works, consider going with ADT’s Smart Home package that costs $65 to $70 per month and gives you cellular connectivity, or go with the Smart Home + Video package for $75 to $82 per month, which comes with video support and smart home automations.

As you can see, ADT is more expensive than Ring on a monthly basis, but you won’t have to fork out hundreds of dollars on day one. Keep in mind though, you will need to enter into a contract with ADT for monitoring and equipment. Thankfully, they do offer that 6-month money-back guarantee that we mentioned earlier.

To really get a closer look, head on over to our in-depth breakdown of ADT’s pricing and plans here.

Which Is Better: Ring Alarm or ADT?

So which is better? Great question! It completely depends on your living situation, your budget, and the amount of features you want access to. For instance, if you’re looking for something quick and nimble that won’t break the bank, Ring Alarm is the system for you. We’d also recommend reading through our SimpliSafe review if you’re interested in a DIY system similar to Ring Alarm.

On the other hand, if you’re a homeowner who wants reliable monitoring and high-quality equipment (and you don’t mind paying for it), then ADT might be the better option. You’ll also have more smart home capabilities with ADT, which is something that we value. Either way, these are both great systems with solid reputations in the industry, so you really can’t go wrong here.

Our Pick
Our pick is ADT
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SecureScore™: 9.2 / 10 This rating is derived from our editorial team's research, hands-on product testing, and customer surveys.
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