You might be wondering, “How can home security systems be all that different from each other?” The truth is, although they strive to accomplish the same goals, home security systems can be night and day different.
Shopping for a home security system isn’t easy. You have to weigh things like company reputation, features, ease of use, and, of course, price. And don’t forget user reviews and reviews from experts. On top of all that, there are just a lot of technical specs to digest.
ADT and Ring are probably already on your radar if you’ve begun your search for your next home security system, so you know that as far as security goes, these products offer radically different approaches.
The good news is, we’ve tested both systems extensively, so we know them inside and out. And while we really like both, we also recognize that every home security system is great at some things and maybe not so great at others. ADT and Ring are no different. With this in mind, let’s dive right into our comparison of ADT and Ring, so we can clear up any questions you might have.
Similarities Between ADT & Ring Alarm
ADT and Ring Alarm belong to two different breeds of home security systems. For example, one is a system that requires a contract and professional installation while the other is a DIY system that is less expensive with no contract required.
Although they are more different than alike, ADT and Ring Alarm home security systems also have many similarities. For one thing, both have become household names — ADT for its longevity in the market and Ring for its introduction of video doorbells.
Ring and ADT also both have wireless options, meaning that you don’t need dig up your walls or hire a professional to install your system. That said, ADT is probably better known for its wired systems, which have been around forever and are still extremely popular.
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.
ADT and Ring home security systems are both intended to be used in conjunction with mobile apps. In other words, both systems can be accessed, monitored, and controlled remotely using your smartphone. Since mobile devices have become so integral to everyday life, it only makes sense that you should be able to use them for your home security system. Speaking of apps, we really like the Ring app, but ADT’s Pulse app offers plenty of functionality, too.
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.
Finally, both ADT and Ring Alarm offer 24/7 monitoring services, but the professional monitoring offered by ADT costs more per month.
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
Now that we have established how ADT and Ring home security systems are similar, let’s take a look at some of their biggest differences.
First off, ADT charges an installation fee, while Ring Alarm does not. This is because ADT requires professional installation and Ring is a DIY system. There are advantages to both methods, however, and it comes down to a matter of preference.
That said, ADT’s new Self Setup line is totally DIY, so you can cut that expense out of your ADT bill. That’s going to be very attractive for homeowners who’ve had their eyes on ADT but weren’t ready to rewire their homes.
Speaking of easy DIY installations, it doesn’t get any easier than Ring. From box to a fully operational security system, it only takes about 30 minutes. Of course, professional installation has its advantages. You’re guaranteed to have your system installed correctly, and without any DIY-induced headaches. In other words, those who aren’t very handy around the house will appreciate ADT’s professional installation.
FYI: DIY installation will save you money, but professional installation is the best option for some subsets of the population including those with mobility limitations, vision impairment or others with physical challenges.
ADT offers a wider scope of home automation equipment, features, and integrations. Ring’s home automation capabilities, on the other hand, rely on Alexa and integrations 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.
Since ADT has multiple payment options, the company requires that you have a satisfactory credit score to purchase their home security system. Ring Alarm, however, does not require a credit check or contracts, making the system easier to purchase. Just pay for the equipment up-front and you’re good to go.
While it might seem like Ring beats ADT when it comes to contracts and terms, that’s actually not the case. Credit checks, contracts, and payment plans can be a good thing when it comes to home security. This 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. As you go up in price, each tier has different features. So the features described below may be plan-specific.
- 24/7 Professional Monitoring: With Ring Alarm, you have the option to purchase a Ring Protect subscription plan that includes professional monitoring services for only $20 per month. (It’s one of the cheapest monitoring plans we’ve seen.) This ensures that a professional monitoring center is alert and able to respond to an active alarm, day or night. Alternatively, you can opt for a Ring Protect subscription plan that does not include professional monitoring. With the Basic or Plus plans, you get video recording for one camera or doorbell for $3.99 per month or video recording for all home devices for $10 per month.
- 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.
- 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; $3 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 has been in the home security business for 100+ years, so they’ve had time to figure out the best features and tech to include in a home security system. With that said, you might find some overlapping features with Ring Alarm, but that’s to be expected. Below we’ve listed the main features that you get with ADT. And we will say that ADT is more advanced than Ring Alarm, but it’s also more expensive on a monthly basis.
- 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: When you have ADT installed, you do not have to pay for the equipment up-front. Instead, the company will average out the cost of the equipment over your monthly payments to make the initial cost manageable.
- Guaranteed Theft Protection: ADT offers a theft protection guarantee like Ring does. If your equipment is stolen, ADT guarantees replacement free of charge.
- 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’s equipment starts at around $150 for a basic 5-piece kit, and ranges up to about $650 for a full 14-piece kit that can secure a large home. We often recommend going with a smaller kit to get started, and then upgrading over time to suit your specific needs. After all, it's a DIY system, so you can add to your Ring Alarm system over time.
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 per month or $30 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.
Let’s cut right to the chase: ADT is much more expensive than Ring Alarm, but you get what you pay for. Their Essential package costs about $37 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 Total Protection package that costs $43 per month and gives you cellular connectivity, or go with the Premium package for $53 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.