27th July 2021
According to both London's Metropolitan Police and a Which? survey of ex-burglars, you're less likely to become a victim of burglary if you have a well-fitted and well-maintained burglar alarm system. That means fitting one is a worthwhile investment.
The best alarm for your home depends on your personal preferences, your budget, where you live, what your home is like, and what level of protection and response you're after.
To help you make the right choice, watch the video above for a breakdown of what you need to consider when buying a new burglar alarm.
Firstly, you need to decide what you would like to happen when your alarm goes off:
Scroll down for more information on each of these options. Costs vary between the different alarm types; visit our page on to find out more about pricing and getting the best deal, including insider tips from installers and our survey of burglar alarm owners.
The second decision you'll need to make is whether to opt for a wireless alarm system or a traditional wired one. Wireless alarms use battery-powered sensors that communicate with a control panel using radio signals.
These alarms tend to look nicer and are generally easier to install - you can often do it yourself. You can easily add additional sensors, and removing the system when you move house is a lot less tricky than for wired versions.
However, wireless systems are usually more expensive, and you will need batteries for all components, such as the control panel and all sensors.
Wired systems, on the other hand, need wires running to each of the sensors to work - more than half of people we surveyed have a wired alarm (52%). These systems may be cheaper to buy, but they are more expensive to have installed: the wires need to be hidden away, so labour costs are higher.
If you're ready to get a burglar alarm installed you can use our Which? Trusted Trader service. All of our endorsed traders have been thoroughly vetted and checked by ex Trading Standards assessors so you can be ensured that whoever you hire is a reliable local trader.
Use our search tool below to find a Which? Trusted Trader in your area.
When a bells-only alarm (also called an audible alarm) is triggered, it makes a loud noise, which will hopefully alert someone in the area to the situation and/or scare off an intruder. 57% of the people we spoke to own one of these types of alarms.
However, unlike a monitored, dialler or smart alarm, it won't automatically contact a named person or the police, so there is no guarantee that any action will be taken if you're out.
It's worth thinking about the kind of area you live in before deciding to get a bells-only alarm. Is there an active neighbourhood watch that gives you confidence that someone will call the police in an emergency? If not, do you have friends and relatives who live close by who you could count on to take action?
You can install one of these alarms yourself, or you can pay a one-off fee to have it installed by a professional.
If you're not comfortable with the idea of relying on a neighbour to let you know if your alarm goes off, you could consider a dialler alarm, also called an auto dialler.
With these alarms, the dialler will contact you, or nominated friends and family, when your alarm is triggered. This means that you or they can then contact the police or ask a neighbour to investigate the issue.
Most dialler alarms allow you to programme a list of between three and 10 phone numbers, which will be called in the priority order you've set. The first person it successfully contacts is able to stop the rest of the numbers from being contacted.
Some more hi-tech models can also alert you if there is a fire or flood in your home, or connect to a panic button.
There are two types of dialler alarm:
Smart home-security systems connect to your smartphone or tablet, or those of family members. This means you, or they, will be alerted when your alarm is triggered. These systems also allow you to control your smart security from your phone, even when you're away from home.
There are a lot of options when it comes to smart home security. In all cases, you will need a central hub that connects to all other compatible devices via wi-fi, in the same way that a standard alarm connects to sensors around your home.
You can then connect elements to it, depending on the system you choose, including motion sensors, cameras, and lighting sockets that allow you to switch lights on and off when you're out.
You can install smart systems yourself, although a professional installer will know the best possible positions for the items you've chosen.
Smart systems can be expensive, especially if you want to add a lot of extra components. A basic kit can cost around £200, but will come with only the main hub and a few sensors. It's likely you'll need more to cover your entire house.
Visit our guide to smart home automation to find out what other smart security gadgets are available, including door locks and security lights.
If you want more peace of mind that a problem at your home will be dealt with quickly, you could consider a burglar alarm with a monitoring contract - 38% of the people we spoke pay for one of these.
You can get monitoring contracts for wired or wireless alarms, but both the alarm itself and the installation must conform to certain standards - you won't be able to install it yourself.
There are two types of monitoring contract: keyholder and police response. In either case, you pay a monthly or annual fee, and then the monitoring company will alert a nominated keyholder or the police when the alarm goes off.
The alarm system connects to a receiving centre, which is notified each time your alarm is triggered. First, the receiving centre will call your home's landline to ask for password identification. If this is incorrect or no one answers, it will take action. This is either to inform the keyholder(s), or to call the police, depending on what type of contract you have.
Keyholder monitoring is done through a company (the 'receiving centre'), which will either respond itself when the alarm is triggered, or contact your nominated keyholders. Of the people we spoke to who have a monitoring contract, 75% have a keyholder one.
These companies usually also offer maintenance contracts and can remotely check for problems - just make sure you get a breakdown of any extra costs this could incur before committing.
Nominated keyholders must live within 20 minutes of the house, be able to drive, and have access to the house. It's your responsibility to keep the alarm company up to date with their details, and suggest alternatives if they are away.
A number of installers we spoke to didn't believe monitoring contracts with nominated keyholders are any better than having a dialler, especially as there's an annual cost involved. However, the 24-hour service offered by monitoring may make you feel more secure, and the company will be liable if no action is taken in the event of a burglary.
This type of contract means the receiving centre will contact the police when your alarm is triggered - 52% of alarm owners that answered our survey have a police contract, which you can have in addition to keyholders.
If you would like this kind of contract, it's important to check that the company you choose is registered with the local police force.
When your alarm goes off, two indicators within the house, such as a door contact and a motion sensor, must both have been triggered to warrant police call-out. This is to avoid false alarms wasting police time.
According to the Metropolitan Police, a massive 92% of all alarm activations in the UK in recent years have been false alarms. In our survey, we discovered that 43% have experienced a false alarm, and half have had more than one.
If your system has three false alarms (four in Scotland) in 12 months, you’re struck off the police register, and they won’t respond if the alarm goes off.
It's worth noting that paying for this service doesn't guarantee that the police will come out. One police officer we spoke to, DCI Taylor, said that whether police go to your home - and how quickly - depends on what other incidents are happening at the time, and what resources are available. He said: ‘If we're fairly certain there's someone in the premises, it's a higher priority.’
With any standard burglar alarm, regular maintenance should highlight and reduce defects, give you peace of mind, and give you more redress if something goes wrong - 79% of the alarm owners we surveyed have their alarm maintained.
If you get a burglar alarm maintenance contract, your alarm will be checked once a year (twice a year if you have a police-monitoring contract) either remotely or by an installer coming to your home.
Costs for this vary, particularly as you can get different levels of maintenance, such as additional free call-outs or parts included. Our page on details what we found when we called a number of different installers for quotes, and shows you how you can potentially save nearly £400 on your alarm system and installation.
Having your alarm system professionally maintained can help tackle any problems with false alarms. It is also a requirement for some insurance companies, and if you have a monitoring contract.
*In January 2019, we surveyed 2,083 members of the public who own a burglar alarm about their system. Data has been weighted to be representative of the GB/UK population (aged 18+).