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While many home security providers require a monthly fee, it’s not absolutely necessary to use monitoring center services, and this is where the monthly fee comes from. In fact, some excellent security options don’t require it. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s begin by distinguishing between monitored and self-monitored systems.
Simply put, if you’re paying a monthly fee for monitoring, your alarm company’s monitoring center keeps watch over your home. Take SimpliSafe. SimpliSafe offers professional monitoring, and while that means paying a monthly fee, it also means that trained emergency staff are available around the clock to help you with any emergencies you may have, including cutting-edge features that let them see and speak to intruders during alarm events.
With no-monthly-fee systems, you’ll have to fend for yourself in case of emergencies. The system might alert you of anything out of the ordinary, or even sound its siren, but its job ends there. You’ll assume full responsibility of self-monitoring your home.
We can learn from this that monthly fees aren’t that bad, but in certain situations, you can make self-monitoring work. However, to make it work, you have to choose the right system with the right features to make things easier for yourself. Here's an easy checklist to help you get started.
Using that checklist, we narrowed the field to these four no-monthly-fee security systems that we think are the best out there. At the get go, we want to call out one of these companies, Arlo, which has recently added a whole-home security system to its lineup. We think you’ll like what the other brands are offering, too.
But first, wondering how long we test systems for our reviews and other interesting facts? Check out these quick stats:
|Test Duration||10-12 days|
|Monthly cost (optional)||$4.99-$14.99|
Now, let’s dive into our four best systems that don’t require ongoing fees.
SimpliSafe offers three things that we love: low prices, stellar equipment that they manufacture themselves, and no contracts. We’ve also found that their DIY installation is a breeze — it’ll only take 20-30 minutes of your time. For these reasons, as well as their flexible monitoring plans, they made our top 10 list of the Best Home Security Systems of 2023.
For affordability and variety, SimpliSafe equipment packages are hard to beat. SimpliSafe DIY home security systems range from $245-$699 — each with a 3-year warranty. Recently, SimpliSafe has been throwing out major discounts. Right now, for example, you can swipe up a complete security system for 45-percent off with monitoring plans starting at a buck per month.
The same discounts apply to custom packages. You can make your own package by starting with the base station and keypad for just under $200 and adding on sensors ($14.99 – $39.99 each) and other goodies like a video camera ($99 – $189.99) or a video doorbell ($169). SimpliSafe also has some cool environmental disaster sensors you can include for water, smoke, and freezing temperatures.
Once you have your equipment in place, you can self-monitor your system for free — no monthly fee required. However, when you do this with SimpliSafe, you get a bit less than you do with some of our other top security system picks. That’s because SimpliSafe restricts home automation and cloud video storage to those who pay a monthly fee.
The biggest drawback of skipping the monthly fee is the lack of professional monitoring. In case of an emergency, you’ll have to contact the authorities yourself. That said, SimpliSafe will give you all the tools you’ll need to monitor your system — a mobile app, siren on the base station, access to your camera feeds, and more.
FYI: SimpliSafe packages are currently 50-percent off. This is a limited-time deal, so take advantage while you can.
The app alone is extremely useful. It lets you manage your system settings, arm and disarm your system remotely, stream live videos from cameras, and alert you to potential break-ins.
Another great thing is that SimpliSafe is equipped with a siren — a loud one. That is essential if you’re self-monitoring, as you’ll be relying on the system a lot in deterring burglars.
Should you wish to upgrade your system, SimpliSafe’s 24/7 monitoring plan is worth a look. The brand offers three options:
Read more about SimpliSafe in our in-depth SimpliSafe review.
It’s not surprising to see abode on this list, given the amount of features it provides out-of-the-box. abode isn’t just a home security system. It’s also a quite capable home automation system. Abode systems are generally easy to install and they are wireless and DIY. Although we did hit a snag while installing abode, we still managed to finish the installation in under 30 minutes, which is impressive given how much equipment we ordered.
Getting started with abode is pretty straightforward. Choose from the two starter kits available: the iota All-In-One Security Kit for $329 and the Security Kit for $279.
Both systems come with built-in 93dB sirens and battery backup, which means they work even when the power is out. Both can also accommodate up to 160 devices, from sensors and smart home products to security cameras. And, if you’re looking to build a smart home, abode works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and hundreds of Z-Wave products.
Following are a few things that the Iota gateway (hub) offers and the Essentials gateway does not: a built-in motion detector, a WiFi-enabled hub, and a built-in 1080p streaming camera.
Now, going back to abode’s prices, it is pretty affordable. Its starter kit prices are on par with other DIY security systems we’ve tested. That’s one reason we picked abode as one of the most affordable security systems, but another reason is the amount of coverage it provides for such low prices. In addition, abode offers occasional perks. At the time of this writing, they were offering 50 percent off of their starter kits.
Each Classic Gateway starter kit includes a gateway or “hub,” one mini door/window sensor, and one key fob — each with a sleek, modern black-and-white design. From there, just add on any additional accessories you want. Most homes will need at least a couple of additional door/window sensors, which are $39.99 each. Note: We installed abode in our home and their mini sensors are the tiniest we’ve ever seen! They’re even smaller than Ring Alarm’s 2nd Gen sensors, which is impressive. You can also add an indoor/outdoor HD camera with motion detection for $59.99, a panic button for $35, and lots more. These prices are the MSRP, but you’ll often find discounts up to 50-percent off on abode’s website.
Additionally, the Iota hub is easier to install than the Essentials Gateway hub that comes with the cheaper starter kit. It connects to Wi-Fi directly, unlike the Gateway hub that requires an Ethernet cable. Thanks to its Wi-Fi compatibility, you can place iota wherever within your Wi-Fi range and use it as a regular security camera. Ideally, you would place it in a central location like your living room so it can perform its duties as a hub.
After our 75 hours of hands-on tests, we noted in our review of abode’s iota hub that we liked the built-in camera feature quite a bit. In the end, it felt like we would have missed something if we’d gone with the Essentials Gateway hub instead. For example, every time we armed or disarmed the system, our iota captured a short video clip, which showed up on our timeline in the app. We thought that was pretty cool, and well worth the price.
Whichever equipment package you choose, you’ll be getting the ability to use your security system as a home automation tool. CUE is abode’s native home automation platform, which is built right into the app. Use it to integrate your smart home devices so you can use Alexa or Google Assistant to control your security system. Or, use CUE to control your smart lights, your garage door sensor, and even your Bose speakers.
After setting-up your equipment, you can self-monitor for no monthly fee. This includes the ability to view live video (if your setup includes cameras), smart home integrations, and getting push notifications. If you’re taking a hands-on approach to home security, those features will be sufficient. However, if you want access to some of the system’s special features, you’ll need a monthly plan. Those features include: having a timeline in the app, storing captured video content, and executing automations. (Automations are rules you can create to tell the security system to do certain actions automatically, like arming the system at a pre-set time each night.)
Should you wish to upgrade to a monthly monitoring plan, you’ve got two options:
Ring, originally known for its video doorbell, now has an entire catalog of home security equipment — with no contracts or monthly fee requirements. In addition to seven versions of the well-known Ring Video Doorbell, we’ve reviewed Ring’s security cameras and the newer Ring Alarmand Ring Alarm Pro, security systems with a base station, window sensors, and all the goodies. The company offers a range of smart lighting and accessories, too.
Most of Ring’s products are sold individually. All of Ring’s cameras, including the $60 plug-in Ring Indoor camera, include everything you need in a security camera: 1080p HD quality, motion-activated notifications, real-time video, two-way talk, and lifetime theft protection. (If your Ring device is stolen, report it within 15 days to get a free replacement.)
These are strong features, and for competitive prices. Ring cameras range from $59.99 for the indoor cam to $199.99 for the floodlight cam. Video doorbells start at $99.99 and go up to $169.99 for more advanced features. Like many providers, Ring offers frequent discounts. For example, during the winter holiday season, the video doorbell was offered at a 40 percent discount.
Additionally, Ring offers home security systems categorized as Alarm Security Kits and Alarm Pro Security Kits. The two systems support the same set of peripherals, which includes a base station, keypad, entry sensors, motion sensors, and third-party smoke alarms. Starter kits for the two systems cost $199 and $299, respectively.
The main difference between the Ring Alarm and the Ring Alarm Pro is the base station. The former uses Ring’s classic base station, while the latter has a base station that doubles as a router. And it’s not just any router, but an eero 6 router.
Since we’re talking about security systems without monthly fees here, let’s focus on what you’ll get from Ring out-of-the-box. None of the Ring products require a monthly fee. The cameras and doorbells can stream live footage to your phone as long as they’re connected to the internet.
The Alarm Security Kits and Alarm Pro Security Kits, on the other hand, can notify you remotely of intrusions and other home events. Much like abode, as long as you have the time and energy to check on every notification, you should be able to self-monitor the alarm security kits without any problems. They can be equipped with entry sensors, motion sensors, panic alarms, smoke and CO detectors, so everything is pretty much covered.
Now, what you won’t be getting without monthly fees are cloud storage for cameras and doorbells and professional monitoring for the alarm security kits. What does that mean? Well, if you have cameras, they won’t record activity. You’ll have to be watching in real-time to catch break-ins, and you won’t have video evidence should you need it.
As for the security systems, without a monthly fee, you’ll have to call the cops yourself. If you do decide to add cloud storage and professional monitoring down the line, here are your options.
Prices start at $3.99 per month with Ring Protect Basic. This plan enables cloud recording on one camera, so if a break-in happens, that one camera will start recording and send the video to the cloud. From there, you can review, download, and even share the video.
The next tier is the $10 per month Ring Protect Plus, which enables cloud recording for an unlimited number of cameras installed at the same address. You’ll get the same benefits as with the Basic plan, but this time, you can recover recordings from all your cameras.
The most advanced plan from Ring is the Ring Protect Pro plan at $20 per month, and it’s most valuable if you have a security system, particularly the Ring Alarm Pro system.
Besides all the features included in the Ring Protect Plus plan, you’ll also get professional monitoring. Ring will monitor your system for you, assessing alerts as they happen and even calling the cops if necessary.
Additionally, this plan gives Ring Alarm Pro base stations 3 GB of backup cellular bandwidth per month, so devices connected to it can continue to connect to the internet even if your internet connection cuts out.
For a long time, Arlo was a bit different from the other security systems on our list in that Arlo only sold video cameras (including video doorbell cameras and floodlight cameras) and a few camera accessories, like batteries and solar panel chargers. However, they recently expanded their offerings with the release of a whole-house security system with professional monitoring services. The system is currently available for pre-order.
Arlo’s complete home security system is their newest offering. It includes a keypad sensor hub, two all-in-one sensors with eight detection functions, and an app to monitor your home. The equipment costs $199.99 and the monitoring fee is $9.99 per month.
Arlo security camera prices range from $99.99 to $299.99. All include motion sensors, color night vision, two-way noise-canceling audio, and a siren built into the camera. Resolution begins at 1080p HD, which is the gold standard for the industry, and it goes up from there, with 4K resolution on Arlo’s top-tier model.
If you’re looking for industry-leading picture quality, see how Arlo stood up to our hands-on tests in our Arlo camera review. There’s a reason we named Arlo among the best wireless cameras of the year, after all.
Speaking of picture quality, the field of view on Arlo’s base model camera is 130 degrees, and it increases from there, reaching 180 degrees on the 4K model. All of Arlo’s cameras have a modern, streamlined appearance in your choice of black or white. They have easy DIY wireless installation, and require no monthly fees.
Arlo’s Video Doorbell starts at $149.99 and goes up to $199.99, depending on installation type. You can choose wired or wireless installation. (Need help deciding? Visit our security camera installation guide.) They’ve got 180-degree viewing angles and all the great features of Arlo’s other video cameras: motion sensors, color night vision, two-way audio, and a built-in siren. They connect automatically to your Wi-Fi and work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Learn much more in our hands-on Arlo Video Doorbell review.
Now, what features does Arlo have to help you monitor your cameras? For free, you get instant notifications if movement is detected on your cameras. And at any time, you can view a live video stream from your cameras on your PC or mobile devices. But what about recording and other features? Those will cost. They’ve got three paid Arlo Smart plans that give you some extra monitoring functions.
What’s the best no-monthly-fee home security system?
Our four top-rated no-monthly-fee home security systems are SimpliSafe, abode, Ring, and Arlo.
Do no-monthly-fee security systems offer video recording?
They all offer real-time viewing for free, but most require a monthly fee for video recording. With a recording plan, they’ll store your videos on the cloud for a set length of time (often 30-60 days).
Do security systems without monthly fees offer professional monitoring?
Though many security systems without monthly fees do offer professional monitoring, they only include it as an add-on service that you must pay for. This would be an upgrade from the free self-monitoring option. Prices vary from one company to another.
How much do no-monthly-fee security systems cost?
Generally, the cost of a no-monthly-fee security system is the cost of the equipment you choose to install. That can vary greatly from one home to another. A single security camera may cost less than $100. Equipment for an entire DIY home security system averages between $250-$400.
Can I still get a homeowners insurance discount with a no-monthly-fee security system?
Often you can, but it depends on the insurance company. Many offer a discount no matter what type of home security system you have. The discount may be higher if you subscribe to a professional monitoring service. Check with your insurance company for guidelines.
Do no-monthly-fee home security systems still offer apps for access?
Most (though not all) do allow some measure of control via their app. However, the amount you can do in the app tends to be limited without a monthly subscription plan. For example, they may charge a small monthly fee if you want access to more advanced app features or if you want to receive mobile notifications.
Do all no-monthly-fee home security systems have DIY installation?
Most do. This is generally a simple plug-and-play style setup that takes about 20-40 minutes. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, though, nearly all companies offer professional installation for a fee.
Do no-monthly-fee home security systems have home automation features?
Yes, nowadays, many no-monthly-fee home security systems have home automation features and built-in integrations with major smart systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Automation features vary widely from one system to another, so read up on any system you’re considering so you’ll be sure to get the capabilities you’re looking for.
If you are looking for no monthly fee home security systems in 2023, you might consider learning what some of the basic features are and what they do. Then you can make an educated decision about which of those features you really need. Here are some of the most common security system features available in 2023 and what they do.
On the market for a security system with no monthly fee? If so, chances are you value streamlined simplicity. And that’s exactly what Wireless brings to the table. Wireless systems offer easy setup, with no drilling or wires to hide. And they typically use a secure cellular connection to communicate with the monitoring station. Wireless is where it’s at.
Go with DIY installation and save the blood, sweat, and tears for another day. Thankfully, most do-it-yourself home security systems don’t require a monthly fee. It’s a one-and-done upfront cost, and then you self-monitor from there. DIY systems don’t require drilling into walls, splicing circuitry, and all that nonsense. Get up and running with plug-and-play ease with DIY.
Just because you don’t pay ongoing fees doesn’t mean you can’t have nifty features. Real-time Mobile Alerts are sent to your smartphone when a security breach is detected. You then open the app to see what triggered the event, and take any necessary action (either get the nunchucks or call the police). Mobile alerts let you monitor your home on-the-go.
Control Panel technology is always evolving. These wall-mounted devices now come with modern touchscreens, allowing you to control your home security and automation with the simple swipe of a finger. And of course, your system’s mobile app lets you access these same features when you’re out and about. Even systems with no monthly fees offer impressive control panels.
Mount these devices strategically around your home, and enjoy a more robust home security experience. Powered by infrared sensing, motion detectors sound the alarm and send alerts when movement is detected in your home. To reduce false alarms, some detectors can distinguish between people and pets. And others even boast a facial recognition feature. Welcome to the future.
Secure your windows, doors, garage, and other entry points with Entry Sensors. All home security systems come with an assortment of these magnetic sensors. When the system is activated and the magnets separate, the alarm will sound signaling a potential security breach. The best no-monthly fee home security systems come stacked with entry sensors, but you can always purchase more if needed.
Everyone wants to feel safe in their home, but nobody wants another monthly cost. That’s why self-monitoring home security systems are exploding in popularity among homeowners and renters alike. These no-monthly-fee plans offer plenty of home protection, but at a surprisingly affordable price. Just watch out for the extra add-ons and upgrades that can ring up quite the tab.
Expand, customize, modify, repeat. Expandable home security and home automation allows you to build a system to suit your tastes. The money you save by not shelling out for monthly fees can instead be used to purchase new equipment. Security cameras, smart lighting, electronic door locks, you name it. Just be sure your system supports third-party equipment, as some require their own proprietary products.
Steer clear of long-term contracts and monthly monitoring fees. Instead, go with a no-contract security system. You pay an upfront equipment cost, but you’ll have outright ownership of your system. By owning your own equipment, you can do whatever you please with it, and even take it with you when you move. Break free of the perpetual cycle of contract signing with system ownership.