In an ideal world, we'd all be able to lock down our homes with no chance of unwanted guests entering, but until fairly recently, such security was out of reach for most people. These days home security systems are more affordable and often completely DIY, removing the barrier to entry even more.
The best home security systems consist of various smart home devices, from the best security cameras to contact sensors and more. They're also very easy to add to and expand over time, so if you want more outdoor cameras or a smart lock, they're often easy to integrate into your existing system.
If you have an Alexa or Google Assistant speaker in your home, then a smart security system is the way to go. Connecting the two will let you receive alerts and give voice commands – useful for when you don't have your hands free. The best smart displays will allow you to view a live stream of your chosen area to keep an eye on things.
This article will focus on DIY home security systems that don't generally need professional installation. Not only does this keep costs down, but it also means that anyone in any home can install one. First, you should decide what components you will get the most out of, which will help you choose the best home security system for you.
What do you need?
It may be tempting, but you probably don't need a 30-piece security set when you live in a two-bedroom house. Home security systems come in various compositions, from camera-centric to single-device alarms. If you're looking for something below $300 / £250 / AU$450, you'll likely get the basics of a contact sensor, motion sensor, home base, and security camera, but it varies.
Security cameras are probably the element of a DIY system that we're all most familiar with and many people often opt for a single camera over a more elaborate setup. These cameras can be used indoors, outdoors, or both, and are usually best mounted to a wall for the best view.
Motion sensors do what they say on the tin and detect when someone or something is moving in an area of the home. This is useful for detecting break-ins when you're away, and they can often be configured to ignore pets.
Attach these to a door or window, and you will be alerted when they are opened. The devices come in two pieces, one attached to the frame and the other to the window/door itself, so it can tell when these two parts are separated.
Leak sensor, glass break sensor and smoke alarm sensor
Slightly more advanced options, these sensors can be placed in the relevant areas to avoid missing faults in plumbing, a smoke alarm alert, or a window breaking.
Keypad & app
While most modern smart security systems make it easier to use the app for things like shutting off alarms and monitoring events, some will also provide a keypad for times when you aren't actively using your phone.
Many home security systems fold their siren or alarm into the home base, which should be placed in a convenient location where you are most likely to hear it (or shut it off when there's a false alert), like the living room.
Are you a renter or a homeowner?
What you can do with things like outdoor security cameras and smart alarms may differ significantly depending on whether you own your home or you are renting.
If you don't have permission from your landlord, you might not want to drill holes into your wall or permanently attach anything. Thankfully, most home security systems can be installed using removable tape. We recommend checking what's included to see if it would be the most suitable for your situation.
Homeowners, meanwhile, have a little more choice.
Upfront cost or subscription?
While we're looking at keeping the upfront cost of purchasing a security system low, you should also keep an eye out for hidden subscription costs that often come with these DIY security kits. We've outlined the total costs below, with top brands charging between $12.99 and $22 for premium features. So, remember that even if you get a bargain on the kit itself, things can still get expensive.
Home security packages for less than $300 / £325 / AU$504
Ring Alarm 8-piece kit (2nd Gen)
How many pieces? Eight, including a base station, keypad, four contact sensors, a motion sensor, and a range extender.
Does it have a camera? The Ring Alarm 8-piece kit (2nd Gen) doesn't include a camera, but you can easily add extras like the Ring Spotlight Cam.
Subscription costs? Ring Protect Pro gets you professional monitoring with 24/7 access to services like police, fire, and medical help.
Total costs - $250 / £180 (for 7-piece + Ring Indoor Cam) / AUS$504 for the kit + $20 / £8 / AU$15 per month for a subscription.
How many pieces? Just one, with the camera also functioning as an alarm, motion detector, and climate (temperature, humidity and air quality) monitor.
Does it have a camera? Yes, the Canary Pro is an indoor camera.
Subscription costs? $9.99 / £7.99 per month or $99 / £79 per year for 30 days of video storage, access to emergency services, a safety button that automatically sends the police to your location, person alerts, desktop streaming, and incident support.
Total costs - $169 / £139 + $99 / £79 per year for a subscription. It's not available to buy in Australia.
Find out more about the Canary Pro Indoor Home Security Camera.
How many pieces? Four, including a base station, motion sensor, contact sensor and key fob.
Does it have a camera? No, the Abode starter kit doesn't include a security camera.
Subscription costs? You will need a subscription to use the Abode set. The Standard Plan with self-monitoring and home automation costs $6.99 / £7.99 per month and the Pro Plan with professional monitoring and 7-day video storage costs $21.99 / £13.99 a month. Both are contract-free.
Total cost - about $232 (on Amazon) / £295 + $7-$22 / £8-£14 per month for a subscription. It's not available to buy in Australia.
Find out more about the Abode Security System Starter Kit.
Yale IA-320 Sync Smart Home Alarm
How many pieces? Six, including a base station, two motion sensors, an external siren, a contact sensor and a keypad.
Does it have a camera? No, the 6-piece Yale system doesn't include a camera, but that can be added separately.
Subscription costs? Nothing - the Yale Alarm systems are completely self-monitored with no extra costs.
Total cost - $270 / £248 on Amazon. It's not available to buy in Australia.
Find out more about Yale's smart alarm kits.
How many pieces? Nine, including a base station, keypad, four contact sensors, two motion sensors, and a security camera.
Does it have a camera? Yes, the SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security System includes a SimpliCam.
Subscription costs? A premium subscription at 93c / 83p per day gets you guest passcodes, secret alarms for when you need to be private, unlimited video recordings, and professional monitoring.
Total cost - $299.99 / £324 (for 7-Piece) on Amazon + about $28 / £25 per month for a subscription. It's not available to buy in Australia.
Find out more about the SimpliSafe 9 Piece Wireless Home Security System.
eufy Security 5-Piece Home Alarm Kit
How many pieces? Five, including a base station, keypad, two contact sensors, and a motion sensor.
Does it have a camera? No, the eufy Security 5-Piece Home Alarm Kit doesn't include a camera.
Subscription costs? Nothing, the eufy system is completely self-monitored with no extra costs.
Total cost - $130 / £109 / AUS$269 on Amazon. It's not available to buy in Australia.
Find out more about the eufy Security 5-Piece Home Alarm Kit.
How many pieces? Four, including a base station/camera, key fob, and two contact sensors.
Does it have a camera? Yes, the base station also works as an indoor security camera.
Subscription costs? None.
Total cost - about $139 (on Amazon). It's not available to buy in the UK or Australia.
Find out more about the Honeywell Home Smart Home Security Starter Kit.
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Caroline is a freelance contributor for TechRadar, working primarily across the smart home and appliances channels. Currently the smart home editor for Livingetc and other homes titles, she has a decade of experience in technology journalism and loves nothing more than using whatever knowledge she has gained to help herself and others make better decisions about what devices to bring into their home.