Updated April 10, 2016

Study: Best Home Security - ADT vs Vivint vs Frontpoint

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Some people rely on their dog for security (a pit bull, yes but a toy poodle, not so much). Others feel a deadbolt offers enough reassurance when they turn in for the night. But many of us need to feel safer at night and when we're away from home.

A home security system can provide ongoing monitoring, giving you a direct and quick line to the local authorities if there’s an intrusion, and it can even save you some money. Having such a system could knock up to 20% off your insurance premium (assuming your insurance company offers such a discount).

So which system is the best?

To help you consider your options, CreditDonkey compared the top home security companies, including ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint, to highlight what each company has to offer and which one may be the right fit for your needs.

Study Methodology

CreditDonkey used four factors in determining the best home security company:

  1. Monitoring
  2. Price (including monthly fee)
  3. Equipment
  4. Customer Support

Today’s home security systems go far beyond a passcode box next to your front door. And they don’t just attempt to give a head’s up about burglars. They can offer sensors that can tell if your house may be on the brink of danger from other sources, such as fire and water.

With some services, you could monitor your house by video or make adjustments from your mobile device. Companies that have a range of options were rated higher, as your needs may change as you age, as you add family members to your home, or as you add to your home-security budget.

We also considered the type of equipment from each company and, of course, the price. For assessment purposes, we used the intermediate packages from each company for comparison (ADT Pulse, Vivint Energy Management, Frontpoint Interactive). We chose this level because it includes the items consumers want most in a home-security package.

What is the Best Home Security System?

ForHome Security Company
Best for the MoneyProtect America
Best Customer SupportFrontpoint
Best MonitoringADT
Best EquipmentVivint

BEST HOME SECURITY FOR MONITORING: ADT

  • Monitoring: 24/7, theft, fire, carbon monoxide, home control, free app for mobile access, email, text and phone alerts, video monitoring and glass break sensor for additional fee 5/5
  • Pricing: ~$49.99/mo. ($28.99-58.99 package range), installation fee, six-month money-back guarantee, $500 theft security guarantee, deals for new customers 4/5
  • Equipment: wired and cellular systems, 10 door/window sensors included, motion detector, keychain remote, state of the art devices 5/5
  • Customer Support: free in-home consultation, complaint level high, BBB rating of "B" 3/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.25/5

ADT is probably the first name to come to mind in home security, with its recognizable brand and logo. It’s services are available nationwide, and the company dominates the home security market.

As with any company that's been around a long time, ADT needs to keep up with technology by adding other offerings to make it competitive. It’s now adding voice commands, a "chaperone" service which serves as a virtual companion for entering unsafe places, and providing monitoring services to third-party equipment manufacturers. In a recent CNET story, Ry Crist wrote: "By offering that monitoring to others, ADT capitalizes on its successful service side, while also strengthening the security offerings and easing the burden of a service overhead from any hardware partner that wants in. That's a savvy move by ADT, and not one we expected.” A solid company that adjusts to a changing marketplace is one that is more likely to stick around and offer additional services that you may want in the future.

Why We Like ADT
This is a trusted name in home security that's been around for over a century. It offers a comparatively low fee for limited basic service, which is still better than no security at all. And it also offers medical alerts. The variety of offerings means customers have flexibility as their needs change.

The Downsides
Many customer complaints over the years, three-year contract required, cumbersome website to navigate, and there's an installation fee (though some reimbursement is offered).

Don't want to pay an installation fee? You might want to consider a do it yourself solution.

Who ADT Works Best For
Consumers who want a budget-friendly basic system, people who want a trusted name in the industry with decades of service, customers who still want the security of a landline connection.

To learn more about ADT, read our in-depth ADT review.

BEST HOME SECURITY FOR EQUIPMENT: VIVINT

  • Monitoring: 24/7, severe weather alerts, small appliance control, glass break sensor for additional fee 4/5
  • Pricing: On the high side, $59.99/mo. ($53.99-69.99 package range), $149 activation fee 3/5
  • Equipment: touch screen control, three sensors included, lifetime warranty, light control, 12 energy-efficient light bulbs included, #53 on PC World's 2012 100 Best Products list 5/5
  • Customer Support: instructions and tutorials available via website, working diligently to improve customer relations , BBB rating of "C+" 3/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 3.8/5

Vivint, formerly known as APX, is one of the largest home security companies in the country. It is currently #46 on the Forbes "America's Most Promising Companies" list.

To stay competitive, Vivint has updated its foray into "smart home" security by launching Vivint Sky. The seamless touch control panel allows you to control lights, thermostats, and high-def streamed video from cameras installed in your home. Nancy Blair of USA Today recently reported on Vivint Sky's innovative technology married with basic protective services: "Think of Vivint's model as an updated take on old-school home security providers that install a system in your home and then charge you a monthly fee for services."

Why We Like Vivint
It’s branching out into new home security technologies and working hard to improve customer relations. The rebranding effort has a clear aim to please consumers.

The Downsides
Relatively expensive, both monthly and installation/activation fees, plus lengthy contract required. No flooding, freezing, or garage door sensors available.

Want affordable home security? Compare home security systems starting at only $19.99/month.

Prefer no long-term commitment? SimpliSafe offers DIY wireless home security without a long-term commitment.

Who Vivint Works Best For
The company’s “smart home” option can be used to control your thermostat and lights remotely, and even to look at a live video of your house when you’re not there. Still a fairly new option, this should appeal to tech-minded consumers who like advanced technologies.

To learn more about Vivint, read our in-depth Vivint Review.

BEST HOME SECURITY FOR CUSTOMER SUPPORT: FRONTPOINT

  • Monitoring: 24/7, "Crash & Smash," medical emergencies, remote access, light and appliance control, location-based monitoring 5/5
  • Pricing: $42.99 ($34.99-49.99 package range) month, 30-day free trial, discounts to AAA members 5/5
  • Equipment: no installation fees, all cellular (wireless), only three sensors included in package, two year warranty on equipment, no intercom system 4/5
  • Customer Support: excellent, few complaints, live chat via website, BBB rating of "A+" 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.8/5

Frontpoint is an all-cellular system, so there are no wires to cut. It offers DIY home installation, which other companies can't due to their more intricate, wired set-ups.

Entering the crowded home security market in 2007, Frontpoint was started by two young ex-employees of the financial firm Goldman Sachs, who knew they had to do something to differentiate their product. Their answer was YouTube, as April Joyner noted in an Inc. magazine article. They posted video tutorials on the Frontpoint website and the popular video site. “Its most popular video, which shows how to install the company's security system in two minutes, has been seen thousands of times," Joyner writes. That marketing campaign has continued to work for them.

Why We Like Frontpoint
Do-it-yourselfers can install their own system, but professional installation is available for those less assured. It offers a free, no-risk trial period (your money will be returned if you cancel) where consumers can get hands-on experience using the product and decide if it works for them. And you can get wireless video monitoring with the company’s ultimate package for a minimal increase in cost.

The Downsides
The equipment only has a three-year warranty, which could get expensive in the long run if replacement is necessary. Frontpoint also usually insists on a three-year contract, but will allow a one-year contract if you ask.

$34.99/mo too much? You might want to consider Protect America, SimpliSafe, and LiveWatch.

Who Frontpoint Works Best For
Consumers who prefer wireless systems. Those who want an easy, do-it-yourself installation. Customers who don't have landlines, people on a budget who want video surveillance, people who want good customer service and no-risk trial periods.

To learn more about Frontpoint, read our in-depth Frontpoint review.

Other Home Security Options to Consider

Protect America, which offers free basic equipment, and LiveWatch, which claims to have the fastest response time, deserve honorable mentions. It's also worth noting that, while not officially home protection per se, Google has entered the automated home market by purchasing Nest, a service that links thermostats and smoke detectors, and Apple has unveiled HomeKit, which allows control of thermostats, lights and other home-based products through your iPhone.

Home security technology continues to rapidly advance. And savvy burglars will try to keep up with that by circumventing alarm systems. However, carbon monoxide detection, fire alarms, the ability to turn your lights on and off, knowing when your kids come home when you're at work -- all of these monitoring services are attractive to consumers who want to protect their assets and have peace of mind. For this alone, a home security system is worth considering. If it's a budgetary decision, weigh the pros and cons: A basic monitoring service might not justify the cost if you're not getting carbon monoxide monitoring or remote access to your electronics. But if you have the money, an all-inclusive monitoring plan might be just the ticket to put you at ease when you're away from your home.

    Protect America

    Protect America: Get Free Home Security Quote

    Get up to $1,400 in free equipment with Protect America, a CreditDonkey #1 recommended partner for the best home security system for the money. Includes 24/7 professional monitoring, easy setup, and no installation fees.

Cynthia Cohen is a retail analyst at CreditDonkey, a home security comparison and financial education website. Write to Cynthia Cohen at cynthia@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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