You know what gets under our skin? When you buy a piece of home security equipment, get it home, get it all set up and installed, only to realize you’ll have to pay $4.99 every month to get all the features to work. Didn’t you just buy the thing? Why do you have to spend more money to make it do what it’s supposed to be doing?
Never fear, though. There are quite a few manufacturers out there that understand this frustration. With them, everything comes out of the box working at full capacity, no credit card info required.
Pro Tip: When self-monitoring, quality of equipment is everything. Read how our highest-rated pick with no monthly fees kept us safe and secure in our detailed hands-on review of SimpliSafe. Spoiler alert: They have everything you’ll need to secure your home.
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.
FYI: Like home security systems, security cameras without a subscription are also available. To make things easier, we've looked at the best cameras without a subscription for you to choose.
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.
With this checklist in mind, we’ve narrowed the field down to these four no-monthly-cost security systems we think are the best in the business. Before we get going, though, we do want to call out Arlo specifically. They recently added a whole-home security system to their lineup that we think you’ll to like. If not, there are plenty of others on the list to choose from.
Before we get to the list, though, are you 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.
If you’re looking for an affordable, highly customizable system, SimpliSafe equipment packages are tough to beat. These DIY systems start at a little over $100, and their more substantial packages can cover the security needs of a large home with multiple entryways and windows. What’s more, SimpliSafe is always running some sort of discount. Right now, any security package is 45 percent off, and they’ll toss in a free wireless indoor camera if you select a monitoring package. We know we’re talking about systems with no monthly fees here, so keep in mind you don’t have to opt into monitoring to get the most out of your system, but at around a buck a day, it’s affordable.
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 the equipment is in place, you can self-monitor your system for free. You’ll get all the tools you’ll need for that — a mobile app, a siren on the base station, access to live camera feeds, and more.
The app alone is extremely useful. Using it, you can arm or disarm your system remotely, receive push notifications, and even check on your home if you have security cameras. You can also manage your security system from the app. And again, you can do that virtually anywhere as long as your mobile phone is connected to the internet.
The siren built into the base station is another great piece of tech for self-monitoring. It’s plenty loud; about as loud as a snow blower. If your house is large, though, we recommend supplementing the base station’s siren with an auxiliary siren, which you can also buy from SimpliSafe.
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.
Moreover, without a monthly fee, SimpliSafe is a pretty barebones security system. It’s reliable and effective, but you’ll miss out on smart home integrations and video recording.
FYI: SimpliSafe packages are currently 40-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.
|Smart Platform Integration||Alexa, Google Home, and August Smart Locks|
|Monthly Monitoring Cost||None|
Abode is another great option for people looking for a great security system without having to sign on the dotted line. Sweetening the deal even further is the fact that abode’s systems don’t just hit security out of the park – they double as home automation systems as well. And if you think that means an abode system is going to be complicated to install, well, we had ours up and running in just 30 minutes flat.
Getting started with abode is pretty straightforward. Choose from the two starter kits available. Or the two security bundles. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll get in them:
|Security Kit||iota All-In-One Security Kit||Smart Security Kit||Smart Security Bundle||Iota Bundle|
|What’s Included||1 iota Hub (camera and motion sensor)
1 Mini Door/Window Sensor
1 Key Fob
|1 Security Hub
2x Mini Door/Window Sensors
|1 Security hub
1 Keypad 2
1 Abode Cam
2 Mini Door Sensors
2 Smart Color Bulbs
1 Month Monitoring
|1 iota Hub (camera and motion sensor)
4 Mini Door Sensors
1 Acoustic Glass Break Sensor
1 Key Fob
2 Smart Color Bulbs
1 Month Monitoring
Keep in mind, you can also purchase a standalone security hub for $169.99 and build out your abode system from there. Here’s a list of the equipment you can purchase as well as their prices. As an added bonus, many of these items are currently on sale.
|Abode Equipment||Retail Price||Sale Price|
|Abode Cam 2||$34.99||$29.99|
|Wireless Video Doorbell||$99.99||$79.99|
|Mini Entryway Sensor||$19.99||N/A|
|Entryway Sensor 4 Pack||$79.99||$69.99|
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.
The more expensive kit comes with the iota hub, while the less expensive one comes with a regular gateway hub. Generally, we recommend the iota hub as it comes with crucial features that the basic hub lacks: a built-in motion detector and a 1080p streaming camera. Additionally, the iota hub connects through Wi-Fi, while the basic hub requires an Ethernet cable.
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.
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:
|Monitoring Options||Professional and DIY|
|Smart Platform Integration||Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit|
|Monthly Monitoring Cost||$20|
Originally known for their video doorbells, Ring has since expanded its catalog of home security equipment to include a full suite of self-monitored equipment. We’ve tested everything from Ring’s video doorbells to Ring’s flagship security cameras, and nine times out of ten, we like what we see. If you’re looking for top-notch security without having to pay hidden fees, Ring’s definitely a good bet.
What Ring does well, it does really well.
What do we mean by that? We mean DIY home security that is affordable, easy to use, and designed to last. No matter your security need, we’re pretty confident in saying Ring has a solution that’s on budget and in scope.
Now that doesn’t mean this brand is without its drawbacks. As you may be aware, they had some privacy issues they had to tighten up a while ago, and we aren’t necessarily in love with the design of some of their pieces of equipment. Some of it feels a little boxy, but we’re really splitting hairs here.
When it comes to functionality and reliability — which should be your primary concerns when it comes to any alarm system — Ring can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. Check out or review of Ring’s alarm system for more information on that, or we can order off of the a la carte menu.
While Ring does offer several alarm packages, they’re probably best known for their standalone equipment. None of these items require a monthly fee to operate, although we will say you’ll miss out on some functionality without a plan. Dealbreaker? Certainly not, especially for those looking for free and clear home security.
Here’s a quick rundown of the costs of some of Ring’s most popular pieces of equipment:
|Ring Stickup Cam||Indoor/Outdoor Camera||$99.99*|
|Ring Video Doorbell 4||Video Doorbell||$159.99|
|Solar Path Light||Smart Light||$34.99|
*On sale for $69.99
As you can see, there’s a pretty broad range of products to choose from here — another reason why we really like Ring. When it comes to total home solutions, they can be a one-stop-shop for most consumers.
|Monitoring Options||24/7 professional and DIY|
|Smart Platform Integration||Alexa and Google Home|
|Monthly Monitoring Cost||$20|
|Contract Length||1-12 months|
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.
|Power||Wired, battery, PoE|
|Field of View||Up to 180°|
|Resolution||Up to 2160p|
|Smart Platform Compatibility||Alexa and Google Home|
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.