There are two types of people in this world: people who wonder why you would ever pay all at once when you could spread out your payments over time, and people who would rather bite the bullet and pay upfront because credit always comes with a catch. Both sides have a point — especially when it comes to home security systems.
Financing your home security system allows you to break up that pricey purchase into monthly installments. But it can also lock you into a years-long commitment. Buying your home security system outright can be tough, but this gives you total control of your equipment from Day 1 and no monthly equipment fees to worry about.
We’ve tested dozens of home security systems, both systems you can finance and those you can purchase outright. Here are the pros and cons of each option.
Buying Upfront vs. Financing
Before you decide whether to buy or finance your home security system, you need to understand the difference. Let’s get into it.
I’m guessing you don’t need the concept of buying upfront explained to you in detail. It’s pretty simple: Pay money; get product — in this case, the sensors, cameras, base station, and keypad that make up your home security system.
But when it comes to a security system, it’s important to remember that you’re buying the product, not the service. Buying equipment upfront usually doesn’t entitle you to the extras, like a backup data plan or professional monitoring. Sorry. You might not have escaped the monthly fees just yet.
Pro Tip: Check out our picks for the best no-monthly-fee home security systems.
Financing your home security system takes a little more explaining. If you spoke to a salesperson (looking at you, Vivint users), they might have explained it to you as “renting to buy” or “paying a monthly equipment fee.” You’re actually taking out a line of credit or installment loan. You’ll pay a monthly fee for six to 60 months before owning your equipment outright.
Did You Know? In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission fined Vivint $20 million for deceptive practices related to its financing program.1 If the company pulled some shady shenanigans with your credit report, you might be entitled to compensation.
When you order a home security system, you are buying it upfront or buying it in installments. But sometimes, you’re not buying it at all. ADT is one of our favorite home security companies that has been known to lease equipment. In other words, you pay a monthly fee for five years, and at the end, you still don’t own your security system. These days, it offers more customer-friendly options, like the ADT Self Setup system. But check the fine print on your ADT home security system contract before you sign to make sure you’re buying, not renting.
Your local security company might offer its equipment for “free ” — scare quotes intended, folks. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and the same thing is true of home security systems. Companies that offer free equipment (or free installation, or free anything) will make up the difference elsewhere. That all-inclusive monthly fee includes the cost of the equipment too, just indirectly. You should also check the fine print to see who owns that free equipment. Are you getting a gift or a loan? You might have to give those cameras, sensors, and sirens back someday.
Home Security Systems with Financing Options
If you want to buy an Arlo camera system, the process is simple. Go to the Arlo website, pick out your favorite product, and buy it. But other home security companies let you pick between two options: buying your equipment right then and there or spreading out the cost into installments.
Companies like Vivint partner with banks, which offer a line of credit or installment loan to cover the cost of your purchase. You pay it off in monthly increments. At the end of your two-, three-, or five-year repayment plan, congratulations will be in order: You’ll officially own your equipment.
>> Read More: Top Three Alternatives to Vivint
Newcomers like Nest Secure and SimpliSafe offer financing through buy now, pay later (BNPL) services. If you’ve used Klarna to pay for a fancy bridesmaid’s dress, you know the drill. At checkout, you select the BNPL option. After a quick credit check, you’ll get a range of payment plans to choose from.
Either way, most security companies offer 0% interest financing. In other words, the total cost of the equipment stays the same as if you bought it upfront. But read that fine print! If you have bad or no credit, lenders might impose interest or require a hefty down payment.
Financing Options by Brand
|ADT or Citizens Bank
|24, 36, or 60 months
|Comenity Capital Bank or Bread
|6, 12, or 36 months
|6, 12, 18, or 24 months
|12, 24, or 36 months
|3, 6, or 12 months
|3, 6, or 12 months
|Citizens One, Citizens Pay, or Fortiva Retail Credit
|42 or 60 months
Will Financing Your Home Security System Affect Your Credit?
Financing a home security system is borrowing money, albeit in a roundabout sort of way. That means it could affect your credit.
>> Read More: Best Credit Monitoring and Protection Services
There are two kinds of credit inquiries: soft and hard. Soft pulls don’t lower your credit score, but hard pulls do. When a home security company offers you financing, be prepared: It may perform a hard inquiry.
FYI: Don’t worry too much about that hard check. Per the Fair Isaac Corporation: “For most people, one additional credit inquiry will take less than five points off their FICO Scores.”2
That’s not the only way financing a home security system could affect your credit. Owing a bunch of money, opening a new line of credit, and having only one kind of credit can all decrease your credit score.3 All of the above could potentially apply to home security system financing.
To state the obvious, skipping your monthly payments is not the way to a perfect 850 either. If you sign on to a payment plan you can’t afford, you risk doing serious damage to your credit score.
Did You Know? Buy now, pay later companies like Affirm and Klarna are new and — how should I put this? — lightly regulated. It’s not always obvious how using them will affect your credit score. Affirm reports some loans to Experian. Klarna doesn’t. That could change, so if you plan on financing your home security system with a BNPL service, keep an eye on the news.3
3 Reasons You Should Finance Your Home Security System
Financing your home security system has its drawbacks, but it could still be right for you, if…
1. You’re Too Strapped to Buy
Maybe you just can’t afford to buy a security system outright. (Psst: You should check out our most affordable home security systems of 2024.) But monthly payments for a basic security system can be as low as $8.4
2. You Need Professional Help
With installing and maintaining your security system, that is. Many of the best professionally installed security systems are available to buy with financing.
3. You Really Love Vivint
Or ADT. Or Frontpoint. (We don’t blame you. We like them too! Check out our Frontpoint review.) If you were already planning on choosing a security provider that offers attractive financing, go ahead. Just make sure you like it enough to stick with them for a while. You might not own that equipment for six years.
3 Reasons You Should Buy Your Home Security System Upfront
Not convinced financing is right for you? Plan to buy your home security system upfront if…
1. You Want an Arlo or Eufy System
Plug-and-play security companies tend to sell their devices directly. If you want to finance that Eufy dual video doorbell, you’ll have to do it yourself, as it doesn’t offer customers any financing options.
Pro Tip: You can pay for any home security system in monthly installments with good old-fashioned consumer credit. Put your purchase on a credit card with 0% interest for a DIY payment plan.
2. You Don’t Want to Sign a Contract
Do contracts scare you? I get it. If you don’t do your research (by digging into resources like our Frontpoint contract guide), you could end up with some unpleasant contractual surprises. Avoid signing up for more than you bargained for by not signing anything at all.
3. You Don’t Want to Mess With Credit
Remember, when you opt in to a monthly payment plan with ADT or Vivint, you’re actually taking out a (hopefully interest-free) line of credit or installment loan. If you’re buying a home security system with poor credit, this might not be an option for you. Even if it is, you might want to be careful with loans until you’ve built up a better financial foundation. We get it and we support you. Go for a $23.99 Wyze security camera, and get back to us when you’re in a better place.
How to Decide Whether Buying or Financing Is Right for You
Still stumped about whether you’d rather buy your home security upfront or on a payment plan? Here’s what you need to think about.
First, pick a home security system you actually like. Don’t like ADT? Don’t mess with its contracts. Love Arlo? Buy it outright.
If you’re still reading this, it’s probably not that easy. You might be caught between two options — or two financial options for the same product. While you’re deciding whether to finance or buy, break out the calculator. A high interest rate could bump the total price of that home security system right out of your budget. A 0% interest rate, on the other hand, could be a financial no-brainer.
Still not sure? Sleep on it. After all, the goal is to sleep easier because you have a home security system, not lose sleep because you made a hasty financial decision.