It's best to find a burglar alarm without a contract

Are you paying big bucks for a burglar alarm? New self-install kits are available that don’t require a landline and only cost $15 each month for monitoring. offers a $200 self-install starter kit for apartments and a $300 kit for homes. Both options feature non-contract $14.99 monthly monitoring, which includes a cellular link to emergency dispatch. The home system includes wireless sensors for complete protection of up to 2,500 square feet.

While this could represent a great money saving opportunity, a lot of people may be leery of self-install system. If you still prefer to go with a traditional burglar alarm monitoring company, here are a few general pointers to keep in mind:

  • Know how many doors and windows you need protected before you get a quote.
  • A basic system hooked up to a UL-approved station should cost $15-$20 each month for monitoring. Installation of equipment will be extra, usually $600 to $800 for a typical house. Beware of supposedly "free" equipment because the costs will be built into your monthly monitoring.
  • Never sign a contract. Contracts with hidden rollover provisions are particularly dangerous. If you have a rollover provision, you must contact the company in a very specific way (sometimes even on a certain day) to break your contract without being penalized. If you fail to do that according to the mice type, you're automatically renewed for high-rate monthly monitoring for a period of 12, 24 or 36 months.
  • Most people sign up for monitoring following a crime in their neighborhood. The perceived risk you feel skyrockets when you hear about break-ins near your home. That's not the time to shop for a burglar alarm — don't make an emotional decision.

Consumer expert Clark Howard's column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark's website.

-- Clark Howard -- Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs -- for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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