Best Flexible No-Contract Home Security Systems

Each year, we rigorously research and rank the best home security systems on the market. Most of these choices require you to sign a contract for a year or more, but you may not want to make that kind of financial commitment—especially if you’re a renter or a newbie to home security systems.

We’ve mined the best home security systems out there to find the gems that don’t require you to sign a contract. Some of the options on this list do still have monitoring service plans available, but they allow you to commit month by month rather than for years at a time.

Our Ranking#1#2#3#4#5
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost$227.00*$229.96$149.99$279.99$199.00
Required monthly fee minimum$9.99$0$0$0$0
Professional monitoring available
Camera

can be integrated with other products
Home automation

can be integrated with other products
Integration/
compatibility
Nest, Amazon Echo, IFTTT, Philips Hue, LIFXNoneAmazon Echo, IFTTTLife360None
Cellular backup
Battery backup
Our Ranking #1
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost
$227.00*
Required monthly fee minimum
$9.99
Professional monitoring available
Camera

can be integrated with other products
Home automation

can be integrated with other products
Integration/
compatibility
Nest, Amazon Echo, IFTTT, Philips Hue, LIFX
Cellular backup
Battery backup
Our Ranking #2
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost
$229.96
Required monthly fee minimum
$0
Professional monitoring available
Camera
Home automation
Integration/
compatibility
None
Cellular backup
Battery backup
Our Ranking #3
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost
$149.99
Required monthly fee minimum
$0
Professional monitoring available
Camera
Home automation
Integration/
compatibility
Amazon Echo, IFTTT
Cellular backup
Battery backup
Our Ranking #4
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost
$279.99
Required monthly fee minimum
$0
Professional monitoring available
Camera
Home automation
Integration/
compatibility
Life360
Cellular backup
Battery backup
Our Ranking #5
Company
View product
Review
Estimated starting cost
$199.00
Required monthly fee minimum
$0
Professional monitoring available
Camera
Home automation
Integration/
compatibility
None
Cellular backup
Battery backup

*Unlike the other companies on this list, Scout doesn’t price according to packages; all systems are built à la carte. This starting price estimate is based on the cost of the hub ($129), one door panel ($69), and one access sensor ($29).

#1 Scout Alarm

Scout is our top no-contract system because it offers a nearly ideal combination of security, customization, and compatibility. We’ve reviewed Scout a couple of times in the past and have always thought it had potential for greatness. Fortunately, Scout has proven our instincts correct and continues to improve as the company matures. Its lack of a camera was one of our biggest concerns back in 2015, but Scout has since partnered with Nest to bring the Nest Cam into its family of compatible devices. A couple more of our favorite features include its cellular backup, which ensures it still sends signals in the event of internet failure, and its battery backup, which keeps your system running if the power goes out.

In order to provide its high level of security, Scout does require a monthly monitoring plan to operate, but the prices are fairly low, and you never have to commit for more than a month at a time. Scout offers two tiers of monitoring: Always On for $9.99 per month, and Always On+ for $19.99 per month. Both plans include these benefits:

  • Email notifications
  • Mobile app for iOS and Android
  • Push notifications
  • 4G LTE cellular and battery backup
  • SMS alerts

In addition to the above features, the Always On+ plan includes 24/7 professional monitoring service. This means that if a sensor is triggered, not only will you get a notification on your phone as with the Always On plan, but the Scout monitoring center will be notified as well. The Scout monitoring center can contact the proper authorities when necessary, so you’re not on your own to find the help you need. We always recommend going with professional monitoring when it’s available, but if that’s not currently in your budget, you could upgrade your plan for a month or two at a time. If you go on vacation, for example, you could upgrade to Always On+ with professional monitoring for a month, and then switch back to Always On for the next month. If you want to stick with one plan and save some money, Scout offers a 10% discount with one-year subscriptions.

To get started, you need the hub and at least one door sensor, but other than that, Scout’s equipment is entirely à la carte and customizable to the unique needs of your home. Installation requires no drilling or holes in your wall; everything is attached using the mounting tape included with the devices. In addition to the hub and door sensors, Scout offers access sensors and motion sensors, and it is compatible with a variety of other devices, including Nest, Amazon Echo, IFTTT, Phillips Hue, and LIFX. It’s this broad compatibility that sets Scout above its competitors because it means the system can adapt and grow as technology develops, and you won’t get locked into a dated system that doesn’t age well.

Pros

  • Professional monitoring available
  • Customizable equipment purchase
  • Broad compatibility with Nest, Amazon Echo, IFTTT, Phillips Hue, and LIFX
  • 4G LTE cellular and battery backup

Cons

  • Requires a monthly monitoring plan to operate
  • No native camera, but compatible with Nest Cam

#2 SimpliSafe

If you’d like a more traditional home security system, our first runner-up, SimpliSafe, offers impressively reliable devices without the multi-year contracts typical of traditional systems. Our previous review took issue with the absence of cameras from their lineup, but in August 2016, SimpliSafe beta released an indoor camera for $99. Some customers are concerned about software issues and additional monthly monitoring fees, but hopefully SimpliSafe will take this feedback seriously before the official release.

Unlike Scout, SimpliSafe does not have any mandatory monthly fees, but it does offers two optional paid monitoring plans: the Standard plan for $15 per month, and the Interactive plan for $25 per month. Both include 24/7 professional monitoring and a cellular connection for guaranteed transmission of signals and alerts. In addition, the Interactive plan also includes SMS/email alerts, remote app control over your system (iOS and Android), and secret alerts. Without a monthly monitoring plan, your SimpliSafe system will work only as a local alarm, with no alerts to your app or connection to the local authorities. As with Scout, because there’s no contract, you can always upgrade your plan for additional monitoring while you’re on vacation or if you decide you’d like more security long-term.

SimpliSafe comes with a base station, a wireless keypad, and a master keychain remote. Beyond that, you can build a custom package or choose from one of five equipment packages, ranging from $229.96 to $539.85. Even if you go the pre-made package route, you can always add any of these additional devices:

  • Security camera (in beta)
  • Entry sensor
  • Motion sensor
  • Glassbreak sensor
  • Panic button

You may have noticed that the equipment list doesn’t include any home automation devices—this is SimpliSafe’s weak point. Its high-performance security sensors and professional monitoring options bring it to second place on our list, but unless SimpliSafe can join modern security systems with all-inclusive home hubs, it’ll remain a secondary system.

Pros

  • Professional monitoring available
  • Cellular backup available
  • Security camera recently released in beta

Cons

  • No home automation
  • Monitoring plan required for mobile app control

#3 iSmartAlarm

iSmartAlarm is our third pick because it is a more comprehensive system than Piper and Canary, but it lacks the monitoring options of Scout and SimpliSafe. It’s an entirely self-monitored system, which means there are absolutely no monthly fees, but there’s also no option to switch to professional monitoring while you’re out of town. With iSmartAlarm, you are responsible for monitoring your system via the app (iOS and Android) and dispatching the authorities in case of a home invasion or other emergency.

Similar to SimpliSafe, iSmartAlarm bundles equipment into packages based upon the size and needs of a home, to which you can add individual a la carte items. The Starter Package is $149.99 on Amazon and includes a CubeOne hub, one contact sensor (a door/window sensor), one motion sensor, and one keychain remote tag. Other packages include more of these items for a bigger home, or they accommodate different goals, such as video surveillance or home automation.

For video surveillance, iSmartAlarm offers three different cameras: Spot, KEEP, or iCamera. The Spot and KEEP cameras can be purchased and operated separately from an iSmartAlarm system, while the older-generation iCamera option can only be purchased and operated with the Premium Package. All cameras include free cloud storage and on-demand streaming. The Spot doesn’t have the same kind of pan and tilt capabilities as the KEEP, but at $99 (on Amazon), it’s the best deal with its own interesting features. For example, the Spot camera has unique sound recognition capabilities. This means it can distinguish a smoke alarm from a dog’s bark, and it will send you a notification that specifies that a smoke alarm is going off in your house, allowing you to take the appropriate action.

iSmartAlarm provides home automation primarily through the Smart Switch, which communicates with your CubeOne and allows you to set schedules and control your appliances and electronics remotely. iSmartAlarm also has its own IFTTT channel and connects to Amazon Echo and Alexa, so it’s a fairly low-cost path to a home that is both secure and automated.

Pros

  • No monthly fees
  • IFTTT channel for home automation
  • Compatible with Amazon Echo and Alexa
  • Sound recognition

Cons

  • No professional monitoring
  • No cellular or battery backup

#4 Piper

Like iSmartAlarm, our fourth pick, Piper, is a self-monitored system with no monthly fees and no professional monitoring options. Unlike iSmartAlarm, Piper’s camera is the central hub of the system through which all other devices communicate. Again, Piper does not have any professional monitoring, so you’re on your own to monitor the app (iOS and Android) and call 911 in the event of an emergency.

In a change from our review, Piper has discontinued the Piper Classic, and now the newer Piper nv is its flagship product. Here’s what you get with Piper nv:

  • 3.4 megapixel camera
  • Night vision
  • Two-way microphone/speaker
  • Motion sensor
  • Light sensor
  • Sound sensor
  • Humidity sensor
  • Thermometer
  • 105dB siren
  • Series 500 Z-Wave controller

The camera can be purchased individually as a starter security device, or as part of a bundle, which are differentiated by their emphasis on home automation, lighting, or home security. As with other systems, you can add individual items later, though these additional devices are limited to door/window sensors, water/flood sensors, smart outlets, and smart lightbulbs.

Oddly, Piper has a backup battery, but not cellular backup, so your system, which means an alarm won’t be transmitted if your battery runs out—but the system will still work as a local alarm if the power fails. But without cellular backup, you won’t have any remote access to your system since Wi-Fi and Ethernet are power dependent.

One feature unique to Piper is its partnership with Life360 to provide Smart Arming. Through the Life360 app, you can set up a family circle and add all the members of your household. When all the members have left the house, you’ll get a notification, and you can arm your system. I can see this feature working best in a house with roommates or in a family with older children, where household members are more independent and mobile.

Pros

  • No monthly fees
  • Remote pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities via app
  • Built-in two-way microphone
  • Smart Arming with Life360
  • Battery backup

Cons

  • No professional monitoring option
  • Limited home automation
  • No cellular backup

#5 Canary

Canary, our fifth pick for no-contract home security, is more of a smart camera than a full security system. While Piper has accessories compatible with its central camera hub, Canary’s camera functions as the entire system. It is equipped with night vision; a one-way microphone; motion detection; and sensors for temperature, humidity, and air quality.

Canary is entirely self-monitored via the app (iOS and Android), and requires no monthly fees. The camera includes unlimited video downloads and a 24-hour shared video history, but pay attention to the fine print—those 24 hours are split across every user you add, so if you’re the only one monitoring, you get the full 24 hours, but with two people it becomes 12 hours each, with three people it becomes eight hours each, and with four people it becomes six hours each. I personally would not want to have to remember to review footage every six hours.

Canary offers a 30-day video history with a membership for $9.99 per month, or $99 per year with a full-year commitment. One of the listed benefits of a Canary membership is “incident support,” which shouldn’t be confused with professional monitoring. In Canary’s own words, “In the event of a qualifying incident, we’ll provide you with a dedicated agent to help retrieve video evidence, process your insurance deductible reimbursement, and assist through a home theft event.” So all professional assistance you’ll receive comes after the incident, not during, meaning there’s still no one to call the police when you cannot.

As we’ve noted in our review, Canary is a great option for a small apartment or office because it requires no installation—not even with mounting tape—and you won’t be locked into any long-term contracts. If you have a larger property to monitor, it would be safer and more cost effective to go with a more comprehensive system.

Pros

  • Good for an office or small apartment
  • No installation whatsoever

Cons

  • No professional monitoring option
  • No cellular or battery backup
  • No third-party device or service integration

Why go without a contract?

Going contract-free for home security could be a good option for almost anyone, but it’s especially advantageous for home security newbies and for renters.

If you’re new to security systems, a no-contract option is a good way to test the waters without being locked in. You can find out how you want to interact with your system—for example, a mobile app with alerts can connect you to what’s going on at your home, but some people find that they’d rather not worry about that and opt for a professionally monitored method instead.
No-contract systems are also great for renters because they offer a great deal of flexibility if your living situation changes. Your living situation may be more in flux than a homeowner’s, and a no-contract system allows you to make decisions about your monthly bills on a similarly flexible basis.

What to look for

A no-contract system shouldn’t mean a lower caliber of security. The best systems, even without a contract, still offer professional monitoring as an option, so you don’t have to carry all the responsibility for calling 911 during an emergency.

Since many modern systems rely on the internet rather than phone lines to transmit their signals, some people worry about their system becoming useless if the internet fails, and rightly so. The best companies will offer cellular backup, which means signals will be transmitted via cell towers, resulting in faster and more reliable alerts. Similarly, the ideal system would also include backup batteries to keep the system powered and still transmitting signals during inevitable power failures.

Look for a system that has a wide variety of equipment options as well. Or, if the company itself doesn’t manufacture a lot of different devices, look for a company like Scout that provides broad compatibility with other companies’ products. Right now your top priority might be basic home security, but in the future you may find you want to sync your smoke detectors into your system or even add some home automation features. A flexible system will grow with you as your needs change and as smart technology continues to develop.

You shouldn’t have to sign a contract to feel safe

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your financial security for your home’s security. Although upfront equipment costs are at times slightly higher than they are with contracted systems, a home security system that doesn’t require a contract can save you money in the long run. You won’t have to pay installation fees, and you have the flexibility to adjust your monitoring style on a monthly basis. If the system doesn’t meet your needs, you may be out a couple hundred dollars (be sure to pay attention to your system’s warranty, though), but that’s better than being locked into a monthly bill for the next three years.

Scout and SimpliSafe have professional monitoring options so you can still get some of the highest-level home security without a long-term commitment. iSmartAlarm, Piper, and Canary are all one-time purchases (unless you add more equipment later on), so you won’t have yet another monthly bill to pay. I’ll say it one more time: If you can afford it, professional monitoring is always your safest option because you have someone else making the important phone calls for you. No matter which system or monitoring style you go with, each of these five options is a low-cost and low-commitment introduction to a more secure home.

Have you used any of these five systems? Do you opt for professional monitoring or self-monitoring? Tell us about your experience in the comments.