Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
ExpertiseMacy covers a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, smart home tech, fitness, nutrition, travel, lifestyle and more.Credentials
Macy has been working for CNET for coming on 2 years. Prior to CNET, Macy received a North Carolina College Media Association award in sports writing.
David Anders is a senior writer for CNET covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining CNET, David built his industry expertise writing for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. In his 5 plus years covering broadband, David's work has been referenced by a variety of sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and more. David is from and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
ExpertiseBroadband providers, Home internet, Security Cameras
What is the best overall DIY home security system?
Home security systems don't have to be expensive. If you want to monitor your home but don't want to pay for a professional setup, a DIY security system may just be the best option for you. There are a ton of DIY security cameras and monitoring setups in the market today, that are simple to install and can help keep your home safe without the expenses and contracts that come with a professional security system.
Over many years, our CNET experts have explored dozens of different configurations and setups and have rounded up the best DIY home security systems on the market right now. After thorough testing, the Ring Alarm Pro is our pick of the very best DIY home security system overall.
We've picked out some great home security systems, but the Ring Alarm Pro is a stand-out offering. It comes with a reasonable price, reliable security features and has a myriad extra features like backup Wi-Fi, and local processing and storage. The best part about building your own security system is that Ring and most of the other do-it-yourself home security systems on our list allow you to mix and match cameras, keypads, entry sensors and more for a customized security setup that's optimized for your space. As such, you don't have to get all the components from just one brand.
The Ring Alarm Pro system has shaken the DIY home security market, wrapping a Wi-Fi 6 Eero router into its base device. That means you get all the basic security you'd expect from, say, SimpliSafe or Abode, but you'll also get access to all sorts of extra features, including cellular-powered backup Wi-Fi in case of power outages, network security monitoring, local processing and storage for all of your Ring devices and integration with Alexa's Guard Plus service (provided you have an Echo speaker or display).
Ring still has a troubling history when it comes to its privacy practices and policies, but the Ring Alarm Pro is undeniably one of the smartest DIY home security systems I've ever tested, and it's surprisingly well priced in a crowded market. The base system with four entry sensors, one motion detector, one Z-Wave extender, a keypad and a base station costs $300, though you can currently snag it for $90 off, and you can add other devices a la carte for reasonable prices.
SimpliSafe was one of the first DIY home security system options to hit the market and is a reasonable alternative to ADT and other professional alarm company firms. That's due in large part to this home security system's affordable cost and wide variety of accessories. SimpliSafe makes a variety of different starter kits that usually start at around $250, and you can often get them for less through discounts.
SimpliSafe's impressive array of accessories such as indoor and outdoor security cameras, key fob, additional motion sensors, smoke detector, glass break sensor, siren and solid performance for the price make it our favorite DIY home security system -- if basic security is all you're after.
Arlo, maker of one of our favorite outdoor security cameras, introduced its new home security system and it immediately stood out for its All-in-One sensors. While most home security sensors serve a single purpose such as motion or sound detection, the Arlo All-in-One sensors are capable of eight different detection functions. The sensors can detect motion and sounds such as smoke or CO alarms, plus changes in ambient light or temperature.
1 hub, 1 keypad, 1 motion sensor, 2 entry sensors and 3 months of professional monitoring
1 keypad control panel, 2 All-in-One sensors
Cellular-powered backup Wi-Fi, network security monitoring, local processing, storage for all of your Ring devices and integration with Alexa's Guard Plus service
Customizable system, built-in Wi-Fi and cellular, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
Customizable system, integration with many third-party devices, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
24/7 emergency response, smart interactive notifications, cellular and battery backup, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
Factors to consider when choosing a DIY home security system
When selecting a home security system, the first decision to consider is usually a DIY-versus-pro system decision. But since you've already decided to go the DIY route, here's some more parameters to consider when shopping around for home security systems:
Equipment and installation
Do you just need to keep watch over your entryways? A good video doorbell for your front door and an outdoor camera covering the back may be all you need -- easy to install and monitor yourself. However, if you want to keep closer tabs on your home inside and out with 24/7 monitoring and quick access to emergency response services, you'll want a more robust system. Most DIY (and professional brands too) offer home security bundles with most, if not all, of the equipment you'd need to get started and the ability to add single devices as needed.
Smart home compatibility
Most home security devices are compatible with Alexa and Google Home smart hubs, but if you prefer Apple HomeKit or another smart home ecosystem, you may have to do a bit more shopping and comparing to find a system compatible with your existing smart home devices. Don't fret over compatibility too much, however, as Matter will make it easier to connect previously noncompatible devices.
Costs, upfront and ongoing
We listed "cost" last here for a reason. A complete home security system will likely cost you at least a couple of hundred bucks, so be prepared for that. There's the potential to spend lots more on equipment, of course, or a lot less -- maybe a $35 security camera will satisfy your security needs.
Still, the upfront cost of a home security system is roughly the same from one brand to the next, so don't let cost be the deciding factor. Find a system that has the equipment and features you want first, then compare pricing. And if you're comfortable with self-monitoring, DIY systems may not come with any ongoing costs. Monthly subscriptions (without a contract) for cloud storage, enhanced features and possibly even professional monitoring are typically an option with DIY systems, often for lower monthly fees than professional services.
How we test home security systems
Hands-on testing is core to our evaluations of any home security products. In short, when it comes to home security systems, we pay special attention to the user experience, the promised features, reliability and overall value -- along with a few other elements. We do the testing in a real home environment over the course of at least a full week. If you want to read more about our review process, check out our in-depth article on how we test home security systems and services.
Other DIY home security systems we tested
The above systems weren't the only DIY options we explored. We've also tried out Abode Iota, Cove, Lorex, Frontpoint, Kangaroo and Ring Alarm. Lota was a great security system, but it wasn't able to match Simplisafe's prices. Frontpoint, meanwhile, offers great hardware at competitive prices, but its monthly $45 monitoring fees are too much. Cove simply struggled to distinguish itself in any significant way.
Budget-friendly options Kangaroo and Ring Alarm were serviceable, and we'll continue to monitor them as options for our list. Finally, Lorex offers a local network of connected cameras -- but it doesn't offer the integration that smarter systems do for the same price.
DIY home security system FAQs
How do I choose the best DIY home security system?
There are a few considerations to take into account when choosing the right DIY home security system.
Obviously, cost -- both upfront for equipment and potential ongoing subscription fees for monitoring or storage -- is one of the main factors when choosing a home security setup. A starter system may only begin at $100, especially if you find it on sale. Others can set you back $200 to $300 or more, and the price could inflate even higher with each sensor, camera or alarm you add. Adding another layer of complication to the equation: Many of these systems see significant discounts throughout the year.
Speaking of adding devices, be sure to factor in the number of areas, such as doors and windows, you'll want to place a camera or sensor when choosing a DIY security kit. Some DIY security systems may come with a base and one or two sensors while others, like the Ring Alarm Pro, come with four sensors, a motion sensor and a range extender.
Higher-priced DIY security systems are likely to come with more devices, plus lots of useful features and compatibility with other smart home devices, which is something else you'll want to consider when choosing a DIY home security system. The Ring Alarm Pro, our top pick for DIY security systems, features cellular-powered backup, local processing and storage for Ring devices along with easy integration with Alexa Guard Plus service.
Finally, you'll want to consider local-versus-subscription storage and monitoring options. A DIY Ring system, for example, could offer a number of monitoring and data storage options for an added monthly cost that aren't available with other devices. On the other hand, if you'd rather monitor your home security system and handle data storage yourself, many devices allow you to do so at no extra cost.
Is it better to have professional home security service over a DIY version?
A DIY home security system certainly has its advantages, like lower pricing and simple self-installation, but professional security has its perks. While DIY systems are typically easy to install and set up, you won't have to worry about any of that when a professional system is installed by an experienced technician.
Professional systems are generally more expensive than DIY but may come with lower upfront costs. It's possible to get free or discounted equipment and free installation with a professional system, but keep in mind that you may also have to sign a one- or two-year contract.
Signing a contract is unfortunate, but the level of monitoring, support and warranties may be worth it. While DIY systems often come with warranties, monitoring options and technical support on their own, professional services are likely going to deliver a more hassle-free experience -- if you're willing to pay for it.
How much do DIY home security systems cost?
A DIY security system can cost $60 to $400 or more depending on the brand and model you buy and where you purchase it. For a higher cost example, SimpliSafe's 10-piece DIY home security system that lists for $479 on its website -- and those prices can go much higher if you opt for all the bells and whistles the service offers.
Like with any addition or upgrade to your home, you'll want to evaluate the costs, and what you get for the money, when choosing a DIY security system for your home. It's easy for the cost of a DIY system to add up, but keep in mind that choosing a cheaper system that doesn't meet your needs may not be worth your while either.