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How to Choose a Home Security Vendor

When comparison shopping for a quality home security dealer, the considerations essentially boil down to one crucial component: service. From installation and maintenance to monitoring and responsiveness, home security providers run the gamut from locally-owned and operated companies to nationally-recognized providers – each competing to win your business through an ever-expanding assortment of technology and attentiveness hopefully resulting in your overall peace-of-mind.

But even though the biggest may not necessarily be the best, you do get what you pay for in this industry. So here's a quick checklist to keep in mind when evaluating similar offers.

Pay close attention to:

  • Cost. As with most service-oriented companies, security providers are continuously trying to upsell on goods and services. But not all of them may be suited to your needs. Some estimates for a professionally installed system range from $1,200 to $1,500 but that doesn't include active monitoring. Monitoring packages are numerous and can include monitoring for burglary, fire and smoke, carbon monoxide, and medical alert, each of which can be included depending on how much you're willing to spend a month. Before committing to a package, make sure you understand each of its components and whether or not they apply to you.
  • Reputation and Years in Business. This is biggie. Whether or not you commit to a contract for monitoring services, there may be items that malfunction or a configuration of the equipment that needs adjusting if you remodel or rearrange the contents of a room. As such, the company you select should not only have a reputation for support but also hold an established track record, proving that they've been in business for at least five years and will presumably be in business to support you in the future. Further, their hiring practices and the licenses they hold are key concerns for consideration. For example, do they conduct background checks on their employees? Are they licensed and bonded to install security equipment in your state?
  • Customer Service. The level of service provided could mean the difference between life and death. That's why dealers offering anything less than 24/7 monitoring should be closely scrutinized unless your needs are extremely limited. Other factors that often appear as service perks among notable dealers are a money-back service guarantee, theft-protection guarantee (which pays your insurance deductible up to a set dollar amount if your home is burglarized), relocation discount to set you up in your new place if you move, and a discount certificate that proves your level of protection and enables you to obtain lower rates on your homeowner's policy. To figure out which dealers are rated the best, three great places to begin your search are the local and national chapters of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, your local Chamber of Commerce, and the American Society for Industrial Security.
  • Contract Terms. Read the fine print. Most home security plans will require a minimum term of 36 months. After this initial period, your contract can be renewed in periods of one year or more. That said, there are providers who offer a month-to-month plan (sometimes provided during special promotion periods or via the web), enabling you to try out the services without having to committee to a lengthy service agreement. Check around before committing to any one plan. These month-to-month deals are ideal for those who rent and can end up being more cost-effective for those who move routinely.
  • Warranty. As mentioned above, the guarantees a home security provider is willing to include often quickly set them apart from their competition. A warranty will typically cover equipment only and extend for a limited time period – although there are providers who offer free lifetime warranties. While some providers lease their equipment to you, placing the onus on them if it fails within your contract period, others sell it to you outright. So make sure that if you're actually buying the equipment, you understand the warranty and exactly what it covers. Most do not cover batteries installed in equipment, damages as a result of abuse, acts of God, or cases where the equipment has been used for something other than its intended purpose.