Whether you live in a studio apartment or a six-bedroom house, security systems help protect your property from intruders, package thieves, and your neighbor’s 9-year-old kid who keeps ding-dong ditching your door.
But if you live in an apartment, security systems can prove tricky. Yeah, you want to arm your entryway, but you also don’t want to drill holes in your walls and commit to a three-year contract. How do you get the security without the ball and chain?
Just for our renter readers (and some of our staff members), we sorted through a bunch of security systems on the market and came up with the five best options for apartment dwellers
Best security systems for apartments and renters
|Provider||Monitoring price||Contract length||Details|
|$34.99–$49.99/mo.||3 years||View Plans|
|$24.99–$34.99/mo. (through MONI)||None*||View System|
*Unless you opt for a professional monitoring plan through MONI with a 3-year contract.
What to look for in an apartment security system
The best alarm systems for renters have DIY installation, easy portability, and no contracts.
Most landlords would rather their tenants didn’t drill holes in the wall or install complex security systems that are difficult to take down. Especially if you tend to move from one place to another fairly frequently (say, every two years or so), then you don’t want to be tied down by an apartment alarm system of all things.
This can be a problem considering many security providers have 3- or 5-year contracts and professional installation, which makes it more difficult to move the equipment from place to place.
That’s not to say you can’t move your equipment around with a bigger, more traditional provider. (We cover a bunch of them in our Best Home Security Systems review.) Most security providers have relocation options and packages. They just tend to be more expensive and more complicated than the easy DIY systems we prefer for renters.
Security system features that work best for renters:
- DIY installation
- Minimal equipment
- À la carte buying options
- Contract-free monitoring (or short contracts)
- Portable security cameras
If you’re into home automation, you might also want your home security system to support Z-Wave or Zigbee integrations so you can add in things like light controls.
SimpliSafe was one of the first companies to offer no-contract DIY security. You can choose whether to pay month to month for professional system monitoring or rely on the system’s loud siren to scare off intruders.
We ranked SimpliSafe best overall for renters precisely because it is indeed simple. It’s super affordable, it’s easy to install, and it does its job. We like that SimpliSafe has transparent pricing and offers a full range of equipment so you can choose which components you want and leave the ones you don’t.
What we don’t love is that you must subscribe to SimpliSafe’s top monitoring plan if you want to control the system from your phone. Providers like Nest and Abode give you mobile app access with or without a monitoring plan.
All the providers on our list keep things relatively inexpensive, and SimpliSafe is no exception. If all you want is a super basic system, you’ll pay around $200.
Basic SimpliSafe System:
- 1 base station
- 1 wireless keypad
- 1 keychain remote
- 2 entry sensors
By contrast, a basic equipment package from Vivint costs $549.
Some big-name providers like Protect America will give you a free basic system when you sign up for a monitoring contract. But the key word there is “contract.” You’re locked in for anywhere from one to five years, depending on the provider. And if you want out early, you might have to pay some serious penalty fees.
You don’t have to get professional monitoring from SimpliSafe. But if you don’t, no one will call the police if someone breaks into your house.
SimpliSafe has a local alarm (also known as a loud siren), that will hopefully scare off any intruder who trips the sensors. But if you want someone to watch your system and call the authorities for you, you need a monitoring package. Otherwise, you might not know there was an alarm for hours (or days, if you’re out of town).
SimpliSafe monitoring plans
|Plan||Monthly price||Mobile control|
We do think it’s weird and, frankly, a little ridiculous that SimpliSafe doesn’t give you mobile app access without its top-tier monitoring plan. If you don’t want to rely on the siren but do want to self-monitor your system, mobile app control is pretty vital.
That said, SimpliSafe’s top-tier plan is pretty cheap by industry standards and might be well worth the investment to you.
SimpliSafe gives you basic, utilitarian equipment for pretty low prices. Both its equipment and monitoring prices come out cheaper than a big-name provider like ADT, and the service is still reliable.
SimpliSafe base station
The SimpliSafe system centers around a little piece called the base station. The base station communicates with your sensors and triggers an alarm if something goes wrong.
If you can, put the base station in a low-profile place like behind your TV stand or under a side table. You have to plug the base station into a wall outlet, which limits where you can hide the thing. But the idea is an intruder won’t be able to quickly find the base station and smash it, so just keep it discreet.
Other SimpliSafe equipment
SimpliSafe offers a decent array of sensors, including carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms. You can order as many or as few sensors as you want, which is great for an apartment that might have only one door and a couple of windows.
You use the keypad to arm and disarm the system with a code. It’s not fancy or particularly pretty, but it works.
SimpliSafe keeps it simple with peel-and-stick DIY installation. You get all the equipment in a box and put it up yourself. We found it pretty easy to stick the sensors on the doors and windows and put the keypad by our main entry door.
The next time you move, you just pull the pieces off and take them with you.
SimpliSafe offers just one security camera: the SimpliCam. It’s a basic wireless indoor camera—and inexpensive, too, at $99.
- Detects motion based on heat signatures
- Sends instant alerts when it detects movement
- Lets you watch a live feed from your mobile device or computer
- Comes with night vision
- Runs on Wi-Fi
The SimpliCam gives you a pretty good HD feed and decent audio quality. And unlike mobile control for its security system, SimpliSafe is not stingy about video support. You can get alerts for the SimpliCam on your phone and view a live feed for free.
If you want to store any footage or review clips later, SimpliSafe will let you—for $5 per month.
SimpliSafe gives you a full range of options and lets you build the system that works for you. If you want to full fortress and get sensors for every window in your apartment, plus carbon monoxide detectors, then great. If you just want a sensor for your front door, then you can do that too. Pretty simple.
Abode is a sleek newcomer to the security industry (the rumor is one of its creators is a former ADT executive). The system is the product of a Kickstarter fundraiser and was officially released in 2015. The idea was to make a DIY-installation, high-tech security system with no monthly contracts or long commitments.
We’d say Abode definitely delivers on the tech front. It keeps its system fairly simple, but its devices are smart. Abode’s motion detectors also take photos, and its indoor cameras don’t scream “security camera,” so you can set them on a bookshelf and still keep things classy.
SimpliSafe offers a wider array of equipment than Abode—and for less money—but Abode is a few steps ahead in the tech game.
Our only real complaints about Abode are that its equipment starter pack doesn’t come with a keypad, and its monthly price for professional monitoring is high for this kind of system.
You’ll pay about the same price for basic Abode security equipment as you would for Scout or Frontpoint—and less than you would for Nest. Abode add-on equipment can get pricey, but the starter pack might be enough if you just need to cover a couple of main entry points in an apartment.
Abode starter pack:
- 1 Gateway (hub)
- 2 entry sensors
- 1 motion detector/camera
- 1 key fob
Abode offers something we’ve never seen before: on-demand professional monitoring. Even if all you do is buy a starter pack, Abode gives you on-demand professional monitoring for a few days at a time for a low price.
So if you’re going out of town and want some backup, you can get it without having to commit to a contract or even an entire month.
|Plan name||3-day monitoring||7-day monitoring||Monthly price|
Abode’s Connect plan gives you additional benefits like cellular backup for the Gateway (Abode’s hub) and 14 days of media storage—hence the monthly subscription price. But even Abode’s basic support lets you buy professional monitoring for short periods of time.
If you do want professional monitoring on a monthly basis, then that’s where Abode gets more expensive. You can get cheaper 24/7 professional monitoring plans from both Scout and SimpliSafe, although Abode’s plans do cost less than both Nest’s and Frontpoint’s options.
|Plan name||Monthly price||Annual price||Professional monitoring|
|Connect + Secure||$30||$240||24/7|
If you choose to pay annually instead of monthly, you can save $10 a month, which makes the price on par with SimpliSafe and Scout. But paying for a year at a time kind of defeats the purpose of not having a contract.
Like SimpliSafe and Scout, Abode uses a main hub to communicate with sensors and control the system. Abode calls its hub “the Gateway,” and like Scout’s hub, it has both Zigbee and Z-Wave functionality, which is great if you want to add smart lights or other smart home devices into your security system.
You control the Abode system mostly from your smartphone, but you also get a key fob. Unlike Scout, Abode does make a keypad you can use to get in your house without fumbling with the key fob or digging out your phone. But the keypad doesn’t come with Abode’s equipment starter kit—you have to buy it separately for $79.
If you plan to use your smartphone and key fob exclusively, then no big deal—skip the keypad. But we would like to have the option included in the starter pack.
Other than that, we’re most impressed with Abode’s motion sensors. They don’t just sense motion—they also take photos of the thing causing the motion. This way, you don’t call the police just because your dog knocked over a side table in the living room.
With the motion sensor/camera combo, you get some of the benefits of an indoor camera without actually having to buy an indoor camera.
With Abode’s motion sensor/camera combo, an additional indoor camera might seem a bit too much. But if you have pets (or anything else) you want to keep an eye on, Abode does have a camera option.
Most indoor security cameras work using Wi-Fi, but Abode’s lets you connect via ethernet as well. Ethernet is more reliable and secure than Wi-Fi, so we appreciate the option.
Abode’s indoor camera also gives you a high-quality HD feed, and if the camera’s motion detection is triggered, it shows you what happened immediately before the alert, as well as during the incident and afterward.
If you want to store media footage, remember: you’ll want to invest in Abode’s $10-per-month Connect plan.
Overall, we were really impressed with Abode’s tech-minded equipment and flexible approach to professional monitoring. The only reason Abode didn’t beat out SimpliSafe on our list was price. But if the tech is worth the cost to you, we think Abode is an excellent security option.
With Frontpoint, you get standard security equipment manufactured by GE, and you sign a contract. So overall, it works more like traditional providers like ADT and less like some of the up-and-comers on our list, such as Nest.
We included Frontpoint on our renter’s list despite its contract because the company has excellent customer service, which makes it easier to relocate your service if you move.
You also install the system yourself—just peel and stick—so you don’t have to wait around for professional installers to put in or take out your system. Plus, no holes in your wall.
Frontpoint has the most expensive monitoring prices on our list, so expect a bigger monthly bill.
Frontpoint monitoring plans
|Plan name||Monthly price||Details|
You also have to sign on for a three-year contract with every Frontpoint system. But signing a contract has its perks—you get big discounts on equipment.
Frontpoint Safe Start Pet equipment package:
- 1 standard control panel
- 4 door/window sensors
- 1 glass break detector
Retail price: $169.94
Discounted price: $99.95
Considering how equipment can be a huge up-front cost when you’re just starting to build your home security system, the three-year commitment might be worth it to you to get the discount.
Frontpoint equipment isn’t super eye-catching, but it gets the job done. You can choose between a standard and a touchscreen control panel (although the touchscreen upgrade will cost you a little extra).
If you’re like us, you’ll use your smartphone for almost everything you do with your security system anyway. In which case, having a fancy touchscreen doesn’t really matter.
Whichever control panel you choose, Frontpoint gives you full home automation capabilities. The system uses Z-Wave, so you can add in any device that’s Z-Wave compatible and even connect it to your Amazon Alexa for voice control.
We don’t use a ton of Z-Wave products (like smart locks) in apartments, but smart lights you can turn on and off with just your voice or an app are always convenient.
Frontpoint has both indoor and outdoor security cameras, as well as Skybell doorbell cameras.
If you want wireless indoor cameras you can move around without tripping on cords, no problem. And we always love a good doorbell cam, though you might have to clear that one with your landlord first.
We like that Frontpoint has streamlined the buying and installation process and made it easier for customers to get a top-level, industry-standard security system. But we would like to see its technology stand out a bit more.
We can’t deny it: Scout has style. It makes some of the prettiest equipment we’ve seen, and both online ordering and DIY installation are super easy. However, the system does work a little differently from what we usually see, and sometimes, the traditional systems are more user friendly.
That said, Scout offers the cheapest professional monitoring on our list (aside from SimpliSafe). The system also comes with both Zigbee and Z-Wave compatibility, so if you want to go full smart home (or smart apartment), you don’t have to be restricted to one or the other connection type.
Scout system price
Scout is affordable. Technically, you could run the system with just a Hub and a single entry sensor, which would cost you $158.
Of course, we’d recommend getting a little bit more than that. Let’s say you want enough equipment to monitor your main entry door and a couple of windows, plus the door panel for easy access.
Basic Scout equipment:
- 1 Hub
- 1 door panel (comes with two key fobs and one sticker)
- 3 entry sensors
Total cost: $285
Scout equipment isn’t the absolute cheapest we’ve seen, but you don’t need much of it to make the system work.
Scout requires you to choose a monitoring plan, unlike SimpliSafe, which lets you use the system as a local alarm. Luckily, Scout monitoring plans are cheap.
Scout monitoring plans
|Plan||Monthly price||Monitoring type|
|Always On +||$19.99||Professional|
We don’t love that you must have a plan in order to use the mobile app, but at least Scout’s cheapest plan gets you mobile access and control—unlike SimpliSafe.
Scout’s system all centers around the Hub. The Hub plugs into your internet router or modem via an ethernet cable and communicates with the system’s various sensors.
Just like with SimpliSafe’s base station, ideally, you hide the Hub where an intruder wouldn’t easily spot it. That’s easy enough if your internet router is already set in some dark corner of your apartment. But if the only place you can plug in your router is right by the entryway, the Hub might be a little more conspicuous.
You can also use the mobile app and ditch the key fobs and stickers entirely. But in either case, you have to always know where your key fob or your phone is.
It’s not a big deal overall. If you’re leaving the house or walking in the door, you probably have both your keys and your phone in your hand anyway. But it also means you have to give everyone you want to give access to the system—kids, babysitters, pet walkers—individual stickers instead of just a unique user code.
We think at least having a keypad option (like Abode and Nest do) is just easier overall and better for the customer.
Scout offers only three sensors:
- Entry sensor
- Motion sensor
- Water sensor
Most of the other systems on our list have extras like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors. But door/window sensors and motion detectors are the most important parts of a security system, and you probably wouldn’t put your own smoke detectors in a rented apartment anyway.
This part’s easy: Scout doesn’t offer any security cameras. But the system can use Nest Cams, and they work pretty seamlessly together. You can view activity and receive notifications for your Nest cameras through the Scout app.
We’d like to see Scout offer a keypad, even just as an option. If it did, it would rank higher on our list. But Scout’s system is still easy to order and install and (mostly)
Nest has been making waves with its learning thermostat and security cameras for years, but this is its first venture into actual security systems. Since we’re already big fans of other Nest products, we were excited to see the company give a full alarm system offering.
We like that Nest combines a keypad with a key fob entry option. It also combines its door/window sensors with motion detectors, so you need only one piece of equipment for both purposes.
All that said, Nest equipment is expensive. Like, super expensive. You’ll pay quite a chunk of change for just “okay” value.
This right here is the worst thing about Nest: it’s pricey. A simple Nest starter pack costs a whopping $499.
Nest starter pack
- 1 Nest Guard
- 2 Nest Detects (entry sensors/motion detectors)
- 2 key fobs
Total cost: $499
That’s a whole lot of money for not a lot of equipment. You can probably cover a small apartment with just those pieces, but at what cost? All of the other providers on our list will give you more equipment for less money.
If you already have and love other Nest products, it could be worth it to invest in the system. But overall, Nest is last on our list for a reason. We’re not sure the equipment justifies the cost.
You can self-monitor your Nest system for free using the mobile app. But Nest also offers a professional monitoring option through another security provider, MONI.
MONI for Nest professional monitoring plans
|Option #2||$34.99||3 years|
Notice that if you sign a three-year commitment with MONI, you get a $10 per month discount. If you don’t, you’re stuck paying $34.99 per month (as much as Frontpoint), while still paying far more for equipment.
Nest equipment looks (and is) smart. The system comes with a Nest Guard, which you use to arm and disarm your system. It’s also the part that communicates with your other sensors.
Just plug in the Nest Guard near your main entry door and arm/disarm it by swiping a little key fob. You can also type in a code if you really feel like it. We like the option to do both, which is something Scout doesn’t offer.
Nest’s entry sensor, Nest Detect, is what really got us: it’s a sensor/motion detector combo, which means it can both tell when someone opens your door or window and detect motion inside the room. All that in one fancy little piece.
And that’s about it! Just two types of equipment and a key fob and you’re good to go. You can also control the system through the Nest app, which is free regardless of whether or not you opt for professional monitoring. (Take note, Scout and SimpliSafe.)
Like every other provider on our list, Nest has DIY installation. You order the equipment online and set it up yourself. And since there’s so little equipment, Nest is really easy to install and move with you wherever you go next.
Nest does offer several cameras, both indoor and outdoor. And because they’re made by the same company, Nest cameras work well with its security system. Nest also has a doorbell cam coming out soon, the Nest Hello, which we can’t wait to test out.
If it’s worth it to you to have all-Nest products, then the security system is just one more part of your total Nest system—but only if you’re willing to pay the price.
We think Nest is too expensive for the value you get from it. But we love Nest’s smart technology, and we’re excited to see how the system develops in the next few years.
Best security systems for apartments and renters—summary
- The best systems for apartments and renters have no contracts, low monthly prices, and DIY installation.
- SimpliSafe gives you a full range of inexpensive equipment, but you have to pay a higher monthly monitoring price to get mobile app access and control.
- Abode offers innovative equipment at a reasonable price, but if you want a physical keypad, you have to pay extra.
- Frontpoint has good customer support and excellent equipment discounts, but you have to sign a 3-year contract. Plus, its monthly monitoring prices are higher.
- Scout has stylish basic equipment with a unique experience, but sometimes a regular keypad is easier.
- Nest gives you the best of both worlds: button-less entry with a keypad option. Its equipment is innovative and smart, but it’s very expensive for what you get.