How to really compare quotes

Ok, so now you’ve had three alarm companies look over your home and assess the charges for an alarm system, and you’ve gotten the three written quotes. Now you’re ready to make your final decision in the cool light of day, away from the high pressure of the alarm company’s salesman. Of course, any company that won’t visit your home to review your needs is simply not worth considering, no matter how attractive their initial offer might sound, and you’ve wisely disregarded them. You’ve also wisely, and very quickly, eliminated the “money machine” companies offering heavily advertised, poor quality, “all-in-one” systems boasting “2 way voice”, and opted instead for the high quality professional systems offered by real alarm companies. You’ve also made sure all quotes provide at least a reasonable level and fairly consistent amount of coverage of the home.


So now you have finally come down to three, often widely varying quotes ! How do you REALLY make sure you are comparing “apples to apples” here ? Follow the systematic process below and you will be able to assess the REAL costs of each quote over the longer term.


Make three columns and itemize and add all of these cost factors to determine your total cost over the longer term for each company:


1-Upfront price: This can vary greatly and is often dependant upon the length of contract you are asked to sign, and the monthly rate. The lower the upfront cost, the more the monthly ! Conversely, the higher the upfront, the lower the monthly should be !


2-Monthly rate: Multiply by 60 the monthly rate regardless of the length of the contract. Most alarms stay in place on average 72 months, so five years will allow you to compare your real costs between companies. Monitoring costs are far and away your biggest expense, and the area of largest profit for the alarm company. Most dealers are assessed between $3 and $6 a month per monitored customer, based on the quantity of customers monitored. The difference is profit, taxes and operating overhead !


3-Warranty: Is the warranty only a certain length of time, or is it in force for the complete length of the contract ? Very important, what does it cover…backup batteries?, Acts of God damage from phone line lightning strike?, or does it have any fine print excluding things that normally go bad (like batteries). Factor in the cost of one battery every five years on average


4-Service charges: What is the price of a service call to come out to change a battery, or more commonly, to replace a contact on a door or window that you have changed? Who is responsible for changing AAA or Lithium batteries in wireless components ? Factor in one service call in the five year period. Ask how quickly they come on average after receiving your call ! (many large companies can take weeks to visit – NOT even remotely acceptable when your keypad is beeping like crazy!!)


Now that you’ve done all this, the bottom line figures can be quite astonishing. What you’ll likely find, is that the so called “free system” is anything but over the longer term. Remember the old saying…”There ain’t no free lunch”


Once again, I encourage you very strongly to shop for a company that does not lock you into any kind of contract other than a month to month one ! These people will stand behind their products and services since they know they have to perform properly for you, or lose your business to someone else who can ! They also know they can’t arbitrarily increase the monthly rate annually (as do most of the larger companies) without the risk of losing your business.


Ignore the big company propaganda that little companies are not to be trusted, and long term contracts are to your advantage – just not so !! Follow your instincts dealing with sales reps statements……


Check and READ the contracts of all companies to avoid:


1- Auto renewal clauses trapping you into another like or shorter term. Once the contract is finished, your term should be “month to month” ONLY.


2- Automatic “cost of inflation” increases in the contract. This should not be acceptable without your signoff at the very least.


3- Limits of liability based on the requirement for you to monthly test your system. Any decent company will program in weekly or daily test signals to ensure your system is functioning properly.


In 20 years in the alarm business, I can only remember a couple of times when clients have actually called asking how to test their systems !! A note on the keypad stating that the customer should test the alarm system monthly should NOT be a way for any company to attempt to absolve themselves from liability, especially if they negligently don’t program in auto tests.


NOTE: Take our word for it – after either the cable company or the telephone company has visited your home, there is a better than average chance your alarm system will no longer be able to call the monitoring station. Without an automatic test signal to the station, you can go for years without a functioning alarm system without anyone knowing about it !! (going in after one of the technicians from these communications companies has visited the customer represents fully 10% of my after sales service calls !!!)


For any contract clause you find objectionable, have the salesman cross it out and initial. If they won’t do so, keep on shopping !!


Remember, as the buying consumer, you should always be “in the drivers seat” !!!