Best Renter and Apartment Security Systems 2020

We found the best alarm systems for apartments so you can protect your property and still get your security deposit back.
  • Best Value
    Read full review
    3.25 out of 5 overall
  • Editor's Choice
    Read full review
    3.75 out of 5 overall
  • Best Customer Service
    Read full review
    4.5 out of 5 overall
  • Best RFID Option
    Read full review
    3.5 out of 5 overall

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 be tricky. Yeah, you want to arm your entryway, but you also don’t want to drill holes in your walls or 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 best options for apartment-dwellers.

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Abode sale
Abode’s having a sale on its DIY systems. If you’ve been thinking of investing in home security, now’s your chance.
Best security systems for apartments and renters
ProviderMonitoring priceSelf-monitoring option?Details
SimpliSafe$14.99–$24.99/mo.NoView Plans
Abode$0.00–$20.00/moYesView Plans
Frontpoint$44.99–$49.99/mo.NoView Plans
Scout$9.99–19.99/mo.YesView Plans
Cove$14.99–$24.99/mo.NoView Plans

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

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 you have to take down later. 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:

  1. DIY installation
  2. Minimal equipment
  3. À-la-carte buying options
  4. Contract-free monitoring (or short contracts)
  5. 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: Best value

SimpliSafe system and equipment

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, like the name says, it’s 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 Abode give you mobile app access with or without a monitoring plan.

System price

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 $230.

Basic SimpliSafe System:

  • 1 base station
  • 1 wireless keypad
  • 1 motion sensor
  • 1 entry sensor

Total: $229

Some other 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.

Monitoring price

You don’t have to get professional monitoring from SimpliSafe. But if you don’t, no one will call the police for you if someone breaks into your house.

SimpliSafe can work as a local alarm (also known as a simple 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
PlanMonthly priceMobile controlDetails
Standard$14.99NoView Plan
Interactive$24.99YesView Plan

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

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 control your system from your smartphone, 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.

Security equipment

SimpliSafe gives you basic, utilitarian equipment for pretty low prices. Both its equipment and monitoring prices come out cheaper than a 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.

Source: SimpliSafe

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 flood sensors 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.

Installation

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.

Security cameras

SimpliSafe offers just one security camera: the SimpliCam. It’s a basic wireless indoor camera—and inexpensive, too, at $99.

SimpliCam features:

  • Detects motion
  • 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 isn’t 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.

Summary

SimpliSafe gives you a full range of options and lets you build a system that works for you. If you want a 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.

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

Abode: Editor’s choice

abode home security products

Abode is a sleek addition to the security industry. 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 you still get smart devices. 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.

System price

Abode’s basic security equipment is priced a bit higher than Scout’s or Frontpoint’s. The cost only really starts to add up for add-on equipment. Abode’s starter pack is the same price as SimpliSafe’s and Cove’s.

Abode starter pack:

  • 1 Gateway (hub)
  • 1 door/window sensor
  • 1 motion sensor
  • 1 key fob

Total: $229

Professional monitoring

Abode highlights the benefits of a no-contract system with its on-demand professional monitoring. If you’re going out of town and want some backup, you can get it without committing to a long-term contract. And you don’t have to get professional monitoring if you don’t want to; self-monitoring is always an option with Abode.

Abode monitoring plans
Plan namePlan priceDetails
Standard$6.00/mo.View Plan
Pro$20.00/mo.View Plan

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

Both Abode’s Standard and Pro plans give you additional benefits like cellular backup for the Gateway (Abode’s hub) and media storage—hence the monthly subscription price.

You can get cheaper 24/7 professional monitoring plans from both Scout and SimpliSafe, although Abode’s plans do cost less than Frontpoint’s options.

If you choose to pay annually instead of monthly, you can save around $40 per year, which makes the price on par with SimpliSafe’s lowest-priced plan. But paying for a year at a time kind of defeats the purpose of not having a contract.

Abode equipment

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.

Source: Abode

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.

If you plan to use your smartphone and key fob exclusively, then no big deal—skip the keypad. But we’d 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.

Security cameras

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 $6-per-month Standard plan.

Summary

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.

Frontpoint: Best customer service

frontpoint equipment in box

Frontpoint is like a hybrid between traditional security companies like ADT and less like some of the up-and-comers on our list, such as Cove. Its monitoring prices are high but its equipment is affordable, and you don’t have to sign a contract.

We love the no-contract option, but another reason we included Frontpoint on our renter’s list is 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.

System price

Frontpoint has the most expensive monitoring prices on our list, so expect a bigger monthly bill.

Frontpoint monitoring plans
Plan nameMonthly priceDetails
Interactive$44.99View Plan
Ultimate$49.99View Plan

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

Frontpoint’s equipment is pretty affordable, especially compared to other big brands like Vivint. Frontpoint offers a consumer financing option that lets you pay for your equipment over time if you don’t want to buy it all up front.

Considering how equipment can be a huge up-front cost when you’re just starting to build your home security system, Frontpoint’s financing option can save you from a pretty serious hit to your wallet.

Security equipment

Frontpoint equipment gets the job done. The system uses a hub and a wireless keypad (or touchscreen) to let you control the system, which is pretty much the same way SimpliSafe works.

Source: Frontpoint

If you’re like us, you’ll use your smartphone for almost everything you do with your security system anyway—and in that case, the kind of keypad you use doesn’t really matter.

Frontpoint also 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.

Security cameras

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.

Summary

We like that Frontpoint has streamlined the buying and installation process and made it easier for customers to get a top-level security system. Just be prepared to pay a higher price for monitoring every month than you would with another company on this list.

Scout: Best RFID option

Scout Starer Pack

We can’t deny it: Scout has style. Its equipment is nice to look at, 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 $140.

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.

Scout Small Pack:

  • 1 hub
  • 1 door panel
  • 1 motion sensors
  • 2 access sensors
  • 2 key fobs
  • 1 yard sign

Total cost: $229

Scout equipment isn’t the absolute cheapest we’ve seen, but you don’t need much of it to make the system work.

Monitoring plans

Scout requires you to choose a monitoring plan, unlike Abode, which lets you self-monitor your system for free. And if you want professional monitoring, it’s yet another upgrade.

Scout monitoring plans
PlanMonthly priceMonitoring typeDetails
Always On$9.99SelfView Plan
Always On +$19.99ProfessionalView Plan

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

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’s lowest priced option.

Security equipment

Scout’s system all centers around the hub. The hub is the control center, and it 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.

Plus, the hub itself makes a siren noise when someone trips a sensor, which will lead any intruder right to it if they decide to smash your system rather than run away.

Luckily, Scout gets a notification immediately after someone trips a sensor, so even if an intruder finds the hub and smashes it, you should still be covered (at least if you have a professional monitoring plan).

Scout door panel

This is the part where things get different. We’re used to seeing security systems with control panels where you enter a code, but Scout gives you an alternative option.

Scout offers the Scout door panel. The door panel goes on your door (obviously), and you use a key fob or a little RFID sticker (which you can put on anything) to arm/disarm the system when you enter or leave.

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 individual stickers to everyone who needs access to the system—kids, babysitters, pet walkers—instead of just a unique user code.

Scout does also offer a keypad option now, which is an easier pick if you would rather just type in a code when you come home.

Security cameras

Scout offers an indoor camera that gives you HD streaming and night vision. It’s missing some essential features, like two-way audio, but if you just want a super simple little cam that can keep an eye on your living room, the Scout camera might fit the bill.

You can also get a Scout doorbell camera for impressively cheap—only $99.

Summary

Scout offers some interesting alternatives to the standard ol’ keypad, like a door panel and RFID stickers. Overall, Scout’s system is easy to order and install and pretty easy to use, too.

Cove: Best for basics

Cove is a pretty new DIY security company, but its equipment makes it seem like it’s been around for years. If you’re looking at pricing, then Cove is on par with SimpliSafe, but Cove’s equipment has more functionality.

What we love most about Cove for renters is that there aren’t any sneaky fees or extra costs for moving or switching your service. And since you don’t have to sign any contracts, you can cancel it if you ever need to.

System price

Cove keeps its pricing on the same level as SimpliSafe’s—for both equipment and professional monitoring. The good news is that means both are super affordable. Buying a starter equipment package won’t break the bank, and neither will your professional monitoring subscription.

Basic Cove equipment:

  • 1 control panel
  • 1 entry sensor
  • 1 motion sensor

Total: $229

Professional monitoring

Cove offers two monitoring plans to choose from, and both of them offer 24/7 professional monitoring. They’re also both pretty affordable, but if you want to be able to control your system from your smartphone, then you’re going to need to opt for Cove Plus.

Cove professional monitoring plans
PlanPriceContract lengthDetails
Cove Basic$14.99/mo.NoneView Plan
Cove Plus$24.99/mo.NoneView Plan

Data effective 10/23/2020. Offers subject to change.

You get more from Cove Plus than just app access, which does make it seem worth the cost. For one thing, Cove gives you a lifetime warranty on your equipment, which we haven’t seen from other new security companies.

Cove Plus also gives you a $5 equipment credit every month that you can save over time and use to upgrade your equipment when Cove rolls out new products. If they put out a camera or a smart hub or something else you want, you can just use your credits to buy it.

Security equipment

The basic equipment is our favorite thing about Cove—especially the touchscreen control panel. The panel lets you talk to a monitoring center agent through its speakers when something triggers your system. (Normally, you’d have to answer a phone call.)

Source: Cove

Cove also uses a couple other ways to get in touch with you. If something (or someone) sets off your alarm system, Cove will text you immediately and reach out through the control panel. If the agent doesn’t get an answer, they’ll start making phone calls.

Cove installation

Like every other provider on our list, Cove has DIY installation. You order the equipment online and set it up yourself. If you want a little help figuring out what you need, you can also talk to a Cove agent on the phone or through email, chat, or social media.

Security cameras

If you want a system with the best security cameras, then Cove is not for you. It offers only one camera right now (the Yi Indoor Camera) and its low-bar features make it not one of our faves. That said, Cove is still a pretty new company, so we’re hoping it will add more cameras to its line-up.

Summary

Cove’s touchscreen panel takes it a step above other DIY security providers. It doesn’t offer any super great cameras, and for renters, that’s the biggest downside. But its equipment and monitoring prices are both low enough and offer enough value to make the Cove system worthwhile.

Recap: Best security systems for apartments and renters

The best systems for apartments and renters have low monthly prices, DIY installation, and no long-term contracts.

  • SimpliSafe gives you a full range of inexpensive equipment, but you have to pay for the top-tier monitoring plan to get mobile app access and control.
  • Abode offers innovative equipment, but if you want a physical keypad, you have to order it separately.
  • Frontpoint has good customer support and excellent equipment discounts, but its monthly monitoring prices are pretty high.
  • Scout has stylish basic equipment with a unique experience, but sometimes a regular keypad is easier. (And if you want one, you have to order it separately.)
  • Cove gives you affordable equipment and monitoring, and its Cove Plus monitoring plan lets you build credit to upgrade your equipment over time—without charging extra.

Still not sure which is the best security system for you? Check out our Best Home Security Systems review to compare more options.

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