Shopping for a home security system? Before you sign on the dotted line, read your contract carefully and understand all the ins and outs, including contract length, what’s included in the cost and other agreement details. There’s a lot to understand about home security contracts, so here’s a rundown of the basics.
What to expect with monthly fees
Know what you’ll be paying for every month. The specifics will depend on your security system company, what (if any) money you put down, whether or not you purchased and installed the equipment on your own and more. Often, the monthly fees include:
- Equipment costs: Contracts are how security companies allow customers to put little to no money down on equipment such as a keypad, windor and door sensors, motion detectors and more. If you don’t pay for those in full upfront, their costs will be spread out over your monthly payments for the duration of your contract.
- Installation costs: If you have a technician install your system, you may be paying for their work through your monthly fee as well. (More here.)
- Equipment maintenance: Sometimes, equipment needs servicing, fixing or replacing, and your monthly fee will likely go toward those services.
- Monthly monitoring service and other business costs: You’ll be paying for dispatch and monitoring, as well as customer service and other costs the company has for doing business.
What’s the average contract length?
Average contract length for a home security system is 36 months. Often, three years is how long it takes to pay off the equipment and installation. Contract length can vary though—you might be able to get a contract for just one year, or you might be asked to sign one that’s as long as 60 months.
Know the contract length, the rate you’ll pay for the duration of that contract and what would happen if you were to break that contract.
Do longer contracts = less money?
Wondering if you can pay a lower monthly fee if you sign a longer contract? It’s a possibility. That’s because a longer contract can mean installation and equipment costs are spread out over more a longer repayment period. So, you’re not really paying less overall, but it might be appealing to people who want to pay a lower amount each month.
That might not always be on the table, so ask your security company if it offers different contract options for customers and get all the details of what you’d be paying with each one before you choose.
Do all home security companies require a contract?
Some security companies do offer a month-to-month option with no contract, but that may be only available if you purchase the equipment upfront or rent it from the company (and so the rental fee will be part of that monthly fee).
There’s also the option of purchasing your own wireless security system equipment, installing it yourself and paying a company just to do the monitoring.
Ways to get out of a security system contract
The good news is, if you’ve signed a contract and plans change—you end up moving or you decide to go with a different company, for example—there’s usually a way out of your contract.
- Pay off your balance: Getting out of your contract might simply mean paying off the remaining balance of your equipment, installation and maintenance fees. If you’re close to the end of the contract, this might not be a very large amount.
- Turn in your equipment: You may have to return your security equipment to the company if you want to stop making payments.
- Ask your new security provider to buy you out: If you’re switching to another company, they may be able to buy you out of your existing contract, meaning you’ll owe little to nothing to the previous company and can switch over fairly seamlessly. In fact, some of the equipment may even be able to be reused by the new company.
- Have your security system moved to your new home: Okay, so technically, this won’t get you out of your contract. But it is another option. If you’re moving, call your security company and find out if there are any fees to move the system to your new pad. You may be required to renew your contract, but you may not have to pay to have the equipment moved and reinstalled.
Security system contracts can vary widely from provider to provider, so read yours carefully and understand all the fine print before you sign. For example, some plans auto renew when the initial contract period ends, if you don’t opt out. In others, the monthly fee may get lower after the contract length, since the equipment is then paid off.
When weighing your options, keep in mind any future plans or possibilities, such as switching companies, moving or getting rid of the system altogether. In choosing a security company, having a contract that fits your budget and your need for flexibility is key.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.