Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Video Doorbell

Deter porch pirates and catch would-be vandals with a camera that connects directly to your smartphone.

Closeup of video doorbell
Security doorbells can come with as few or as many bells-and-whistles as you think you’ll need to protect your home (and packages).Ring

In this age of online shopping and home deliveries of goods, a locked door isn’t enough to prevent thieves from stealing your property. The advent of porch pirates, who steal delivery-service packages placed outside front doors, means that you need an additional level of protection. A video doorbell, which consists of a motion-activated camera with a wide-angle lens that will record anyone and anything moving outside your front door (and to the sides and beyond, in some cases), is an excellent deterrent. A video doorbell will record a thief, the vehicle he or she drove up in, and the date and time of the crime—and one with infrared light will do so in the dark as well. It also sends an alert to your device when activated, allowing you to call the police immediately. Any porch pirate with half a brain (and granted, many seem to not even have that) who sees a package at a residence with a video doorbell would certainly avoid it.

Many video doorbells also allow for live viewing as well as two-way audio, so you can communicate with delivery people, solicitors, neighbors—anybody who comes to your door—even when you’re not home. That’s a great convenience. And some offer more security measures as well. How you communicate with visitors, how you store video, whether you want the video doorbell to perform other functions, and price are all criteria for choosing one. Here’s how to choose.

Budget Doorbells

MECO 1080P Doorbell Camera with Free Chime
Meco’s video doorbell comes with a 32GB SD card and comes with a remote doorbell chime.Meco

Some video doorbells store video on an SD card, others allow them to be accessed online. Doorbells with SD cards are less expensive overall because there’s no monthly subscription fee associated with viewing videos and other services. Some come with additional features, such as an indoor chime unit alerting you that someone is at the door. These typically only work with devices on which an app can be downloaded, such as a phone or tablet.

Doorbell Conversation

Ring Video Doorbell with HD Video
The Ring video doorbell is compatible with Echo devices, alerting you when someone is at the door and enabling you to communicate with them.Ring

Video doorbells with a subscription service allow you to access and see video on any device that can connect to the internet. That means that you don’t need to remove an SD card to see video, and you don’t need to have your phone or tablet nearby to see and talk to someone at the front door. Some are also Alexa enabled, which means you will get an alert and can communicate with someone outside from any room in your home that has an Amazon Echo device.

Doorbell Extras

SimpliSafe 9 Piece Wireless Home Security System
The nine-piece SimpliSafe wireless home security system comes with a doorbell camera, four entry sensors, and two motion sensors.SimpliSafe

Some video doorbells are part of a package of security devices, such as entry sensors for windows and motion sensors for other outdoor areas, which send alerts to a base station. Alarms can be set and deactivated via a keypad. If you want additional measures of protection that are all part of one system, this is the type of video doorbell to choose.