Best No-Contract Home Security Systems 2021

Just say "No" to long-term commitments and "Yes!" to one of these no-contract alarm systems.
  • Editor’s Choice
    Read full review
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    DIY installation
    Free self-monitoring
  • Best Professionally Installed
    Read full review
    4 out of 5 overall
    Proprietary technology
    Futuristic home automation
  • Best Value
    Read full review
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Customizable equipment kits
    Low cost
  • Best for Basics
    Read full review
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Touchscreen control panel
    Affordable

When it comes to home security, it just doesn’t always make sense to lock into a long-term contract. You might be renting, or you might change jobs a lot, or you might be a house-flipper.

Whatever your reasons, if you want to avoid a long-term subscription with a vendor like ADT, you have options. We reviewed flexible security companies and picked the top five to help you find the best no-contract home security system.

Compare top no-contract security system picks
CompanyProfessional monitoring price*Equipment costHome automation integrationLearn more
Abode$20.00/mo.Starts at $229.00Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Nest, Apple Homekit, Sonos, BoseView Plans
Vivint Smart Home$29.99–$44.99/mo.Not sharedAmazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Z-WaveView Plans
SimpliSafe$14.99–$24.99/mo.Starts at $229.00Amazon Alexa, Google AssistantView Plans
Cove$14.99–$24.99/mo.Starts at $229.00Amazon Alexa, Google AssistantView Plans
Scout$19.99/mo.Starts at $229.00Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Z-Wave, ZigbeeView Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

* Some systems allow you to monitor your home yourself for free or a lower price.

Save some money on your new home security system with these deals

  • SimpliSafe, our Best Value pick, has a deal for 30% off a new system plus a free indoor camera. SimpliSafe is affordable to begin with, so this is a great way to cut your costs even more. Check out the sale.
SimpliSafe logo
  • 30% off any new system
  • Free indoor camera

Data effective as of 04/29/21. Offers subject to change

What to look for in a no-contract security system

No contract is no contract, right?

Not so fast. When choosing a no-contract security system, you’ll want to look at monthly prices, equipment cost and features, and backup options to help determine the best deal.

Features of security systems with no contracts:

  • No contracts
  • Up-front equipment purchases

No-contract security systems vary quite a bit in terms of installation policies, moving policies, and monitoring options. But you never have to commit to anything long-term, and you’ll always own your equipment right off the bat.

By contrast, systems with contracts typically require a three-year minimum equipment. However, you don’t always have to buy your equipment up front; you can finance it and spread out the cost over a series of monthly fees.

A circular badge depicting the Reviews.org Editor's Choice award for April 2021

Abode: Editor’s choice

Abode logo
  • DIY installation
  • Free self-monitoring
  • Flexible professional monitoring
Pro monitoring from $20.00/mo.

Even if you own your own home, the thought of having to drill holes in your wall can be stressful. But Abode’s equipment uses adhesive backing, which means you can install it anywhere, and it also means you can pack it up and take it with you if you move.

And that’s not all. You can avoid the strain on your paycheck with Abode’s low self-monitoring costs.

We do recommend choosing professional monitoring if you can because you get an extra layer of protection when someone else is watching out for you. But if a full-time monitoring plan isn’t an option for you, Abode has an alternative that we really like.

If you choose their free, self-monitoring plan, you can still add a month of professional monitoring when you leave for a well-deserved vacation. There’s no contract, and it’s just $20. Ka-ching.

Finally, Abode authentication. A common concern about the security of home security systems (say that 10 times fast) is a lack of two-factor authentication.¹ Apparently Abode is paying attention because it recently announced that users can add two-factor authentication to their accounts.² That earns an A+ in our books.

When you add two-factor authentication, you’ll not only be asked for your password, but also an additional credential that only you have access to. This adds a second layer of protection to your account or device, making it harder for others to hack it. The types of credentials you might be asked for with two-factor authentication include the following:

  • A PIN or pattern
  • Your phone number, a key fob, or something else you own
  • Biometric identification, such as a fingerprint

So what don’t we like about this system? Unfortunately, the basic Abode kit doesn’t come with a keypad.

If you’re all about apps (or the key fob), the lack of a keypad in the Abode Essentials starter kit probably isn’t a big deal. But it may make granting others the ability to arm and disarm your alarm more difficult. Either way, if you want to add a keypad to your wall, you’ll have to shell out a bit more cash in addition to purchasing the starter kit.

Abode monitoring plans and prices
PlanMonitoring priceProfessional or self monitoringCamera cloud storageDetails
Basic$0.00SelfNoneView Plans
Standard$6.00/mo. Self7 daysView Plans
Pro$20.00/mo. Professional90 daysView Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Vivint Smart Home: Best professionally installed

Vivint logo
  • Proprietary technology
  • Futuristic home automation
Pro monitoring from $29.99/mo.

Vivint is known for its innovative security equipment—it’s one of the few traditional security companies that designs its products in-house (versus DIY security systems, which tend to have proprietary devices). This means your home security system and monitoring include some features that other systems may not have, making Vivint perhaps the most technologically advanced home security and automation system out there.

If you’re looking for two-way talk, live video feeds, a user-friendly mobile app, and a wide range of sensors (including flood/freeze, smoke, and carbon monoxide), then Vivint Smart Home is well worth the price.

Vivint Smart Home also ranks high among smart home security systems in our view, and its wide range of home automation capabilities is sure to satisfy even the most hands-on tech guru:

  • Lock/unlock doors
  • Set your smart thermostat
  • Adjust security cameras
  • Turn down the lights (or turn them on)
  • Open your garage door
  • Control small appliances
Heads Up icon
Vivint security cameras
If you’re looking for a system with a security camera, we highly recommend Vivint. Of the options on this list, Vivint offers the best video doorbell by far, and its other cameras aren’t shabby, either.

We have a separate review of Vivint cameras if you’d like to learn more.

Now let’s talk about the things about Vivint that we find frustrating.

Vivint’s home security packages lean toward the expensive end of the spectrum.

Vivint’s home security packages lean toward the expensive end of the spectrum, and if you’re aiming for the no-contract option, you can expect to pay a lot out of pocket.

You’ll need to pay for all your equipment up front to be able to choose no contract. And with equipment packages starting around $599, that’s a lot of cash to hand over all at once—especially when you tack on the $49 installation fee.

Also, other home security systems typically offer two to three options when it comes to your connection. Not Vivint. You’ll get the option of only a cellular connection, but you can relax a little knowing it also comes with a battery backup.

Lastly, if you’re not a fan of aggressive sales tactics, you may want to steer clear of Vivint. While its representatives are very knowledgeable and often make helpful recommendations for additions to your system, there have been quite a few complaints about their overly aggressive door-to-door sales tactics.

Vivint monitoring plans and prices
PlanMonitoring priceHome automation supportSecurity camera supportDetails
Smart Security$29.99/mo.

No

No
View Plans
Smart Home$39.99/mo.

Yes

No
View Plans
Smart Home + Video$44.99/mo.

Yes

Yes
View Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Reviews.org best value award badge for January 2021

SimpliSafe: Best value

SimpliSafe logo
  • Customizable equipment kits
  • Low cost
Pro monitoring from $14.99/mo.

Not feeling the pre-packaged sets of equipment? That’s OK because SimpliSafe also lets you build your own security system. Pick a color for your base station and wireless keypad, then go wild adding on different types of sensors, cameras, and accessories.

The price of SimpliSafe’s cheapest equipment kit will make your wallet smile. And probably make you smile too. Not to mention SimpliSafe also has low monthly monitoring costs. Now that’s a double bonus if we ever saw one.

Sadly, if you’re trying to build the home from Smart House (minus the evil A.I.), you’ll have better luck elsewhere. SimpliSafe keeps the focus on home security, but it does integrate with Nest devices, like the thermostat.

SimpliSafe also charges more to use the app, which we kinda sorta hate. Technically, you can self-monitor for free, but you won’t really be able to do anything without the app. That makes self-monitoring incredibly difficult.

Even the Standard monitoring plan is just a little too standard for us. You’ll need to upgrade to the Interactive option to even be able to get text or email notifications or access the online command center to customize your alerts and alarms. (What is this, 1999?) We hope SimpliSafe adds these features to the Standard package in the near future.

If you want camera support, you’ll pay $5.00 per month per security camera. That’s not a steep monthly fee, but it can add up if you need a lot of cameras as part of your security solution.

SimpliSafe monitoring plans and prices
PlansMonitoring priceMobile app accessCamera supportDetails
Standard$14.99/mo.

No

No
View Plans
Interactive$24.99/mo.

Yes

Yes
View Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Cove: Best for basics

Cove logo
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Affordable
Pro monitoring from $14.99

Not many no-contract security systems can give you a touchscreen control panel, but Cove can. And its panel does more than look nice—it lets you talk to a monitoring agent right through the screen. (That’s a feature we’ve only ever seen from bigger companies like Vivint.)

Cove’s pricing is only a little above market average. And its monitoring pricing won’t break the bank either. Plus, we like that Cove still lets you pay for your equipment over time if you don’t have a couple hundred bucks in up-front costs.

Cove doesn’t really have any home automation.

Home automation, where are you? Cove doesn’t really have any home automation options. If you sign on for its top monitoring plan, you do get some integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, but that’s about it. We’d like to see at least Z-Wave or Zigbee integration from Cove.

Also, unless you subscribe to Cove’s highest-priced monitoring plan, you won’t be able to use the Cove mobile app to arm and disarm your system (or do anything else). But unlike SimpliSafe, Cove does give you some extra perks to go along with the higher-priced plan, including a lifetime equipment warranty.

Cove monitoring plans and prices
PlansMonitoring priceMobile app accessLifetime equipment warrantyDetails
Basic$14.99/mo.

No

No
View Plans
Plus$24.99/mo.

Yes

Yes
View Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Scout: Best RFID option

Scout Alarm logo
  • À-la-carte equipment selection
  • DIY installation
Pro monitoring from $9.99

If you find most “one-size-fits-all” security equipment packages don’t quite meet your needs, Scout is the alarm system for you. Once you select a color (black or white—such choices!), you can add as many—or as few—devices as you like. Say it with us, Braveheart-style: “Freeedooom!”

Just like Abode, Scout Alarm is perfect for anyone who gets antsy about drilling holes in their walls. Just peel off the adhesive backing and stick those sensors wherever you please.

Also like Abode, the biggest downside to Scout is that the $229 package doesn’t come with a keypad, which means that unless you want to pay $50 more, you’ll mainly rely on your app to set up, arm, and disarm your system.

While this could be a pro if you’re looking for a minimalist approach to home security, it also means you’ll have to hand over a key fob if your babysitter, visiting aunt, or anyone else needs access and doesn’t have the app.

Scout monitoring plans and prices
PlansMonitoring priceCamera cloud storage priceProfessional or self monitoredDetails
Always On$9.99/mo.$2.99/mo.SelfView Plans
Always On+$19.99/mo.Included for one cameraProfessionalView Plans

Data effective 04/29/2021. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

Recap

If you’re searching for a home security system without a contract, you’ve got plenty to choose from. Here’s how our top five stack up:

  • Abode is our top pick thanks to its flexible monitoring plans—including the option to add professional monitoring only when you think you most need it.
  • Scout is a close runner up. We love its à-la-carte approach to equipment selection and its low monthly costs.
  • Vivint Smart Home impressed us with its intuitive design and loads of extra features. But the high price required to get in on that no-contract deal is a doozy.
  • SimpliSafe hit a home run with its home security system, but we hope they’ll add more home automation features in the future.
  • Cove is a lot like SimpliSafe, but with a bit higher-end equipment. Just like with SimpliSafe, we’re hoping Cove adds more home automation options to its system in the future.

Methodology

Picking out just five home security systems without a contract is no easy feat. There are a lot of excellent options on the market these days, and you’re likely to find something that fits your specific needs, even if it didn’t make our list.

When we picked Abode, Scout, Vivint Smart Home, SimpliSafe, and Cove, we looked at the following criteria:

  • Professional monitoring cost
  • Home automation features
  • Battery backup
  • Cellular backup
  • Equipment

No-contract security systems FAQ

How much does professional monitoring cost?

Professional monitoring for an alarm system almost always costs more than self-monitoring. You have to pay extra for the watchful eyes of a monitoring center.

We like to save money where we can, and we think self-monitoring is a great way to save on your security budget. But wherever possible, we encourage readers to go with a professional monitoring service. It’s just safer to have someone watching your system 24/7, something you personally won’t be able to do.

Apart from cost, the only real downside to professional monitoring is that your police or fire station may fine you for a false alarm from your security company.

Do I need home automation features?

Automation features are fun and helpful additions, and nowadays, most home security systems include them.

What’s more, certain automation features can improve your home’s security. Video doorbells with two-way talk and recording, automated door locks, and even appliance controls can let you breathe a sigh of relief by avoiding dangerous situations—or just not having to worry that you forgot to turn off the oven before you left.

If your chosen system doesn’t come with a certain piece of equipment (say a smoke detector or night vision camera), there might be an option from another brand that’s compatible with the system. Just check the compatibility specs before you buy.

Why does a security system backup matter?

If your power goes out or internet goes down, the last thing you need is a home security system that shuts down with it. All of our top five picks include a battery or cellular backup—or both.

What kind of equipment do I need?

Most systems come with a door and window sensor and motion detector to start. That’s usually enough to cover only a small portion of your home, so you’ll usually need to get more pieces. (Though if you have a small, one-entrance apartment, you may not need to get more.)

If you want cameras or a smart lock, you’ll usually have to get a more expensive package, design your own package, or integrate with another brand’s product.

Why isn’t Blue by ADT included in this review?

Blue by ADT didn’t make the cutoff this time, but it’s very likely we’ll include it in the future. Right now, it’s still finding its footing in the home security space.

Why isn’t Ring included in this review?

Ring is a good option for a no-contract, DIY home security system. It makes decent equipment and top-notch video doorbell cameras. And to top it all off, self-monitoring with Ring is free. But the Amazon-owned company has some privacy issues that make us reluctant to recommend it over other options.

Read our Ring review to learn more.

Sources

  1. Daniel Wroclawski, Consumer Reports, “Home Security Cameras From Top Brands Lack Basic Digital Security Measures.” July 21, 2020. Accessed April 29, 2021.
  2. Abode, “Abode April Updates.” April 5, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021.

Additional contributors

Mindy Woodall

Brianne Sandorf