Professional home security systems from a trusted communications company
Cox Homelife is one of the wild card home security brands that we’ve been following over the years. By “wild card,” we mean that maybe, just maybe, they have great products that people just haven’t heard about yet. On the other hand, maybe it’s an inferior system, and the lack of “buzz” is just a reflection of that reality. We figured it could go either way. So, we got ahold of Cox Homelife and put it through our rigorous testing process. We wanted to learn about the costs and fees, features and technology, and all the good (or not so good) stuff in-between.
A few things stood out to us right away. First, it was very easy — almost too easy — to get started. They only offer one security package, so you won’t get confused by too many options. Also, if you go with the standard package, they throw in the equipment for free. This inclusion means you won’t have to pay steep upfront costs (which is huge). That said, we also found a bunch of hidden fees — nothing crazy, but they do add up. A couple of other things we didn’t love was the two-year contract and that Cox Homelife isn’t available in every state.
So, is it worth it? Do these home security and smart home automation systems offer something for you and your family? Well, we did all the research so that you don’t have to. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!
We did some digging, and we found that Cox Communications is the multi-billion-dollar telecom company behind the Homelife brand.1 Sure, that might be obvious. But perhaps not so obvious is that it all started back in 2010, when the company rolled out their home automation service as an experiment in Tucson, Arizona. It was a success, as they went on to expand into other markets (18 to be exact!) with home automation and security.2
Keep in Mind: Cox isn’t licensed to serve every state with their Homelife offerings. They mainly operate in coastal areas with a few mid-western states in the mix.
Before we get too much into the nitty-gritty, you’re probably curious about the cost of Cox Homelife. Thankfully, they don’t require $250-$500 upfront, like many companies out there. But you will have to front the installation and activation fees, which cost about $100 in total. Also, your mileage may vary depending on how many gizmos and gadgets you want.
The Free Starter Kit includes:
The $200 Digital Home Starter Kit includes:
FYI: It’s rare to see a security camera included in a free starter kit. So, we like that Cox Homelife offers an HD camera with every package.
Then, you’ll choose a monthly plan, which is also pretty straightforward. After all, they only offer two plans: Cox Homelife Automation and Cox Homelife Security. One gives you home automation for $24.99 per month while the other provides security and home automation for $54.99 per month. Here’s a roundup of the features and costs (keep in mind that we chose the security option):
|Options||Cox Homelife Automation||Cox Homelife Security|
|Smart lighting controls||Yes||Yes|
|Live video feed||Yes||Yes|
|Door and window alert||Yes||Yes|
|24-7 professional monitoring||No||Yes|
|Price||$29.99 per month||$54.99 per month|
We’ve tested a whole lot of home security systems (over 100 to date!), so we can say that Cox’s monthly monitoring fees are a touch pricey. But the cost itself shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, as there are plenty of companies that charge $55-$65 per month or more. All right, so now that we chose our equipment package and monthly monitoring plan, we’re sittin’ pretty at $55 per month, with an upfront investment of $100. So that’s it, right? No more costs? Well… not so fast.
If you want video monitoring, you’ll have to fork out an additional $14.99 per month for one camera or $24.99 per month for up to four cameras. Finally, if you’re worried about your equipment breaking or failing, you can get the Cox Homelife Equipment Service Plan for $4.99 per month. As you can see, at first glance Cox Homelife seems cheap compared to top brands like Vivint or ADT. But looks can be deceiving. Once we added up all the extra costs and hidden fees, we found that Cox Homelife is actually quite pricey. So, let’s see how it performed when it came to protecting our home and automating our life.
Pro Tip: You have to subscribe to the Homelife Equipment Service Plan within 90 days of your purchase; otherwise, you’ll have to pay $99 for a “preventative maintenance inspection” to get it at a later date.
As mentioned, we actually found it pretty simple getting started. They only have a couple of options, so checkout was fast and easy. Remember, you’ll have to sign a two-year contract before scheduling your installation date and time. Bear in mind that contracts are standard with security systems that include “free” (technically leased) equipment. Another thing to consider is your location, as Cox doesn’t serve most states. We won’t list them all here, as we’ve found that the regional availability is constantly changing.
Also, we recommend reading the fine print. We found several hidden fees that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. For instance, if you happen to live in Las Vegas, you’ll pay an additional $4 per month for “verified response.”3 We won’t get into what this means, just know that it costs $4 per month or $48 over the year. And you could’ve used that $48 to buy one drink on The Strip. You win some, and you lose some.
Here’s another thing we didn’t love about Cox Homelife. Now, don’t get us wrong, we do think professional installation has its benefits. But we don’t like that it’s a hard-and-fast requirement. We live in America after all, the land of “roll up your sleeves and do-it-yourself!” That’s why we naturally gravitate to DIY systems like SimpliSafe. The good news is that our Cox technician was friendly and professional, and he even gave us a walkthrough of our new system once it was up and running. Also, compared to the industry-standard cost for a professional install, which is about $100, Cox Homelife is pretty cheap at $50.
This juncture is where the rubber meets the road. Once our system was installed, we put it through several break-in scenarios. All in all, it performed well, and we experienced average response times of about 40 seconds. Note that 40 seconds is on the upper end of what’s acceptable, but it did squeak by to meet our standards.
The equipment was well made, and the door and window sensors were responsive. In fact, they were slightly sensitive compared to most systems we’ve tried. Another thing we thought was odd is that the Homelife Hub (the base station), didn’t have a push-button keypad or touchscreen controls. It’s just, well… a hunk of plastic. If you want the touchscreen control panel, you’ll have to purchase it separately.
Thankfully, we were able to control our system using the Cox Homelife mobile app.4 The app wasn’t anything special, but it allowed us to arm and disarm our system remotely, as well as tap into the live feed of our HD camera. We think you’ll like the indoor/outdoor camera and live-video feature. We’re still a little surprised that it’s included in the free standard package. Also, we were able to control home automation features — like smart lighting and other devices — using our smartphone, which is always nice. That said, Cox Homelife doesn’t work with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, which is disappointing.
One last thing to note is that Cox Homelife is a Wi-Fi-based security system. That is, it uses your existing Wi-Fi to function, send signals, etc. And there is a battery backup option that keeps you connected to the monitoring center if a power outage occurs. Of course, we always prefer cellular monitoring systems (like those offered by Frontpoint Security), as they’re typically faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi monitoring. On the other hand, we’ve found Wi-Fi connections to be superior to landline connections. So, it’s all relative. Overall, we didn’t experience problems with our system staying “live” and connecting to emergency personnel.
FYI: Cox Homelife offers 24-7 professional monitoring from a UL-listed TMA Five Diamond Certified monitoring center, which is the gold standard for professional monitoring.
Cox Homelife gets mixed reviews when it comes to customer service. The parent company, Cox Communications, holds an A+ BBB As you’ll see, they’ve been around for a long time. But in our experience with Cox Homelife, we weren’t exactly blown away by their customer service. While they do offer an extensive self-service portal — with troubleshooting guides, how-to articles, the works — they actually gave us the run-around when trying to call in for support. We were rerouted a few times before finally reaching someone in the Homelife division. So, this shortcoming is something to keep in mind. A company as big as Cox is bound to be a little slow and clumsy in the customer service department.
Did You Know: You can also find answers to your questions via live chat, Facebook, Twitter, and user forums. Cox Homelife provides several avenues for online support.
24-7 Professional Monitoring — With 24-7 professional monitoring, your system is always connected to the monitoring center so that agents can dispatch 911 if necessary.
Smartphone Controls — You can take your home security system on the go with remote access and controls using the Cox Homelife mobile app. It’s a well-designed app with solid functionality, but it’s nothing to write home about.
Instant Alerts — You’ll get instant activity alerts sent straight to your smartphone. This feature allows you to keep tabs on your home security status from anywhere in the world.
Home Automation — You can automate and set rules for smart home features like lighting, door locks, thermostats, and more. Note that Cox Homelife does not work with Alexa or Google Assistant, two popular platforms for voice control.
HD Camera — You can view video, snap pictures, and set custom recording rules for events like, say, your back door opening. And you can access and view your cameras using the Cox Homelife app. The camera can function either indoors or outdoors. But we recommend it for indoor use only.
Touchscreen Controls — This device allows you to control your system with a swipe of a finger. You can arm and disarm your system, view live-feed video, and more. However, the touchscreen control panel is sold separately.
Continuous Video Recording — Get continuous video recording (CVR) and other video monitoring features like 10-day video history. These plans do cost extra, starting at $14.99 per month for one camera (great service, but it’s not cheap!).
Wireless Systems — You won’t have to drill into walls or fuss with wires, as Cox Homelife systems are wireless and installed by professionals.
Environmental Monitoring — Monitor for smoke, fire, CO, and freeze/flood. Environmental monitoring devices integrate seamlessly into Cox Homelife systems. But remember, these devices are sold separately.
We have to say, Cox Homelife offers a decent lineup of equipment options. You will likely have to purchase at least one or two additional door and window sensors, as their packages only include two of these devices. So, if you want to secure all of your entry-points (which you do!), be ready to shell out $50+ from the get-go. Other than entry and motion sensors, you can also purchase different environmental monitoring devices and various smart features. Here’s the full menu of Cox Homelife equipment options:
|Door/Window Sensor||Security Monitoring||Standard + Security Plan|
|Motion Sensor||Security Monitoring||Security Plan|
|HD Camera||Security Monitoring||Standard + Security Plan|
|Smart Door Lock||Security Monitoring||Standard + Security Plan|
|Glass Break Sensor||Security Monitoring||Security Plan|
|Wireless Keypad||Security Monitoring||Security Plan|
|Homelife Hub||Hub||Automation Plan|
|Touchscreen Control Panel||Hub||Security Plan|
|CO Detector||Environmental Safety||Security Plan|
|Smoke & Heat Detector||Environmental Safety||Security Plan|
|Water & Flood Sensor||Environmental Safety||Security Plan|
|Smart Plug||Home Automation||Standard + Security Plan|
|Smart Thermostat||Home Automation||Standard + Security Plan|
|Smart LED Light Bulb||Home Automation||Standard + Security Plan|
Unfortunately, Cox Homelife isn’t exactly transparent about their equipment prices (or their fees!). But you can expect to pay average to slightly higher-than-average prices for add-ons and upgrades. Also, you should note that certain products only work with certain plans. You wouldn’t want to purchase a box full of environmental sensors only to find out they don’t work with your plan!
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the equipment is by no means high quality. It’ll do the trick, but don’t expect it to last a lifetime. We thought the quality was OK at best — but the devices don’t hold a flame to the likes of ADT or Vivint equipment.
Cox Homelife, in a word, is “passable.” It didn’t necessarily fail us when measured against our standards, but it certainly didn’t impress us in any one category either. The few things we liked about it — like the straightforward options, free equipment, and home automation features — are actually pretty standard across the industry.
And then there are the not-so-nice things about Cox Homelife. These drawbacks include long-term contracts, hidden fees, and limited availability. Overall, we give this system a hard pass for most people. That said, certain folks might find it a great fit for their situations. For instance, if you’re already a Cox customer, then you can likely bundle in home security at a discounted rate. But, all in all, there are probably better options for home protection that you should consider.
No, Cox Homelife requires professional installation. Thankfully, it only costs $50.
Yes, 24/7 monitoring is included in the security plan, which costs $54.99 per month.
Cox Homelife offers lots of helpful online support in their customer portal, but don’t expect stellar service over-the-phone.
Yes, Cox Homelife requires a 2-year contract on all systems. However, this is fairly standard for the industry.
Chances are, Cox Homelife is not available in your state (it’s currently only available in 18 states and Washington DC). Scroll to the bottom of the Cox Homelife website to see the full list of licensed states.
Cox Communications. (April 24, 2020). Wikipedia. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
Cox Homelife. (2020). Home Security System.
Cox Communications. (2020, April). Las Vegas April 2020 Product and Pricing Guide.
Cox Communications, Inc. (2020, February 20). Cox Homelife.
Cox Communications: Better Business Bureau® Profile. (2020, April 21). BBB.
As Managing Editor for SafeHome.org, Rob Gabriele has written and edited over 1,000 articles in home security. His expertise is in smart home automation and home protection with thousands of hours of testing and research under his belt. Formerly a reporter and producer for the USAToday network, Rob has been a writer and editor for over 10 years. He holds a Master’s of Science with an emphasis on writing from the University of Montana, and he currently lives in the Reno/Tahoe area of Nevada.