Best No-Contract Home Security Systems 2020

Just say "No" to long-term commitments and "Yes!" to one of these no-contract alarm systems.

Let’s face it—there are times when a long-term commitment just doesn’t make sense.

No, we’re not talking about relationships. We’re talking about home security system contracts.

Maybe you’re a renter who’s not sure how long you can put up with paper-thin walls and loud neighbors. Or a parent who wants to make sure your child stays safe when they head to college and move into a house with friends. Or maybe your family is growing and you’re dreaming of moving into a bigger, more beautiful home soon.

These are all great reasons to avoid a long-term subscription with a vendor like ADT. We reviewed more flexible companies and picked our top five to help you find the best no-contract home security system.

Our top no-contract security system picks compared
CompanyProfessional monitoring price*Equipment costHome automation integrationLearn more
Abode$20.00/mo.Starts at $229Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Nest, Apple Homekit, SonosView Plans
Vivint Smart Home$29.99–$44.99/mo.Not sharedAmazon Alexa, Google AssistantView Plans
Scout$19.99/mo.Starts at $229Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Z-Wave, ZigbeeView Plans
SimpliSafe$14.99–$24.99/mo.Starts at $229Amazon Alexa, Google AssistantView Plans
Cove$14.99–$24.99/mo.Starts at $229Amazon Alexa, Google AssistantView Plans

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

Data effective 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

#1: Abode: Best for smart homes

Its flexible monitoring makes Abode an easy choice for our number-one pick.

abode home security logo

What we like about Abode

DIY installation, no holes required

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.

Free self-monitoring and flexible professional monitoring

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.

Two-factor authentication available

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

Data effective 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

What we don’t like about Abode

Extra cost for 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.

Curious to learn more? Check out our review of best DIY systems.

A badge depicting this brand as the Reviews.org Editor's Choice for September 2020

#2: Vivint Smart Home: Editor’s choice

If you prefer professional installation and a whole slew of features, Vivint Smart Home reigns supreme.

What we like about Vivint Smart Home

Proprietary technology

Vivint is known for its innovative security equipment—it’s one of the few traditional security companies that designs its products in-house. 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.

Futuristic home automation

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
Vivint monitoring plans and prices
PlanMonitoring priceHome automation supportCamera supportDetails
Smart Security$29.99/mo.NoNoView Plans
Smart Home$39.99/mo.YesNoView Plans
Smart Home + Video$44.99/mo.YesYesView Plans

Data effective 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

What we don’t like about Vivint Smart Home

Pricey no-contract option

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 at $599, that’s a lot of cash to hand over all at once.

Cellular connection only

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.

Helpful sales reps—but pushy

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.

Want to see why we rated Vivint highly? Check out our full Vivint Smart Home review.

#3: Scout: Best RFID option

Scout has all but the keypad: DIY installation, low costs, and a variety of features.

Scout Alarm logo

What we like about Scout

À-la-carte equipment selection

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!”

DIY installation

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.

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 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

What we don’t like about Scout

No keypad—but key fobs available

One 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.

Want to know more? Check out our full Scout Home Security review.

#4: SimpliSafe: Best value

SimpliSafe is a pro when it comes to no-contract home security, but falls short in home automation.

SimpliSafe logo

What we like about SimpliSafe

Customizable equipment kits

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.

Lowest cost of the bunch

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.

SimpliSafe monitoring plans and prices
PlansMonitoring priceMobile app accessCamera supportDetails
Standard$14.99/mo.NoNoView Plans
Interactive$24.99/mo.YesYesView Plans

Data effective 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

What we don’t like about SimpliSafe

Home automation is almost non-existent

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.

Standard option lacks app control

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 camera.

Get all the details in our full SimpliSafe review.

#5: Cove: Best for basics

Cove’s equipment is pretty high-end for DIY, but we’re waiting on more home automation integrations.

What we like about Cove

The control panel

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.)

Affordable equipment and monitoring

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 monitoring plans and prices
PlansMonitoring priceMobile app accessLifetime equipment warrantyDetails
Basic$14.99/mo.NoNoView Plans
Plus$24.99/mo.YesYesView Plans

Data effective 08/27/2020. Pricing is subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.

What we don’t like about Cove

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.

No smartphone control without top-tier monitoring

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.

Get all the details in our full Cove review.

Recap

abode home security logo

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.

No-contract security systems FAQ

How do you choose a no-contract system?

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

How much does professional monitoring cost?

Professional monitoring 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.

One reason iSmartAlarm didn’t make our list was the lack of a backup. We hope the company will address this issue in the future.

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 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.

Still debating between a no-contract home security system and one with a contract? Take a look at our best home security systems review—it includes both types of alarm systems.

Sources
1.    Hewlett Packard Enterprise, “Study on IoT Security
2.    Abode, “Abode April Updates

Additional contributors

Mindy Woodall

Brianne Sandorf