How to choose the right home safe for your needs

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Open home safe
Image Credit: Dreamstime

After we recently told you that money expert Clark Howard prefers to store his valuables in a home safe rather than a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union, we got some questions about choosing the right home safe for your particular needs.

Since home safes come in all shapes and sizes and are meant to suit different needs, there are a lot of things to consider before you buy one. In this article we’ll cover what you need to think about in order to make an informed decision.

How to pick the right home safe for you

The most important things to consider when selecting a safe for your home are size, the types of protection you’re looking for and — of course — price. Let’s walk through the options in each of those categories.

What size safe do you need?

First of all, you need to consider what items from your home you want to store in your safe. This will determine what size safe you need.

The most common home safe sizes are in the 1 to 2 cubic feet range. Just imagine a safe that is 12 inches wide by 12 inches tall by 12 inches deep and that will give you an idea of what a one cubic foot safe would look like.

A roughly 1 cubic foot safe
A roughly 1 cubic foot safe (Credit:SentrySafe)

Of course, if you just need to store a few important documents, you could go with a safe that’s even smaller. These typically look more like lockable boxes than what most people think of when they think of safes.

SentrySafe fire chest
SentrySafe fire chest for documents

If you have larger items that you need to store (a coin collection, for example) you’ll likely need a 1 cubic foot safe or larger.

What documents should go in your safe?

Speaking of documents, one of the main reasons people buy home safes is to protect their most important ones. Some documents you should consider storing in a home safe include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Passports
  • Wills and living trusts
  • Home and car titles
  • Insurance policies
  • Tax returns

Team Clark is often asked what documents you need to keep and for how long. We’ve got a guide to just that here.

What else should go in your safe?

Beside documents, there are other things you should consider storing in your home safe for added security. These include:

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What kind of protections are you looking for from your safe?

SentrySafe fire & waterproof safe
SentrySafe fire & waterproof safe

The next thing to consider with regard to home safes is the protections that it can offer in case of fire, water damage and burglary. Here’s what to look for in each area.

Fire

Many people purchase safes because they worry about what would happen to their valuables if a fire were to break out in their home. For that reason, safes are rated based on their resistance to fire by UL, formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories.

As UL explains, “a one-hour rating means that the safe can withstand 1,300-degree Fahrenheit heat for an hour while still protecting the contents of the safe.”

Generally speaking, that should be plenty of protection for most people. However, if you are particularly concerned about keeping your documents safe in the event of a house fire you can find safes with higher fire ratings — just be prepared to pay more for them.

Burglary

Another primary reason people purchase safes for their homes is to protect their most valuable possessions if their homes are broken into.

Obviously, in this case the heavier the safe is the more unlikely a burglar is to walk away with it. For this reason, the lockable boxes mentioned above are probably not a great choice for you if burglary is your primary concern — unless you have a really good hiding spot.

While it’s possible a burglar could try to break into your safe while inside your home, this is time-consuming and usually requires some special tools.

They’re more likely to try to walk out with your safe and break into it at another location. Purchasing a safe that would be difficult or impossible for one person to carry (say 100 pounds or more) is good insurance against this happening.

If you’d like added protection against burglary, look for a safe that can be bolted down — many models have this option.

Water

People who live in areas that are prone to flooding may also look to a home safe to protect their valuables if their home in inundated with water.

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If this is important to you, look for a safe that is described as “waterproof” or “water-resistant.” In many cases, the description will offer specifics similar to the fire rating. For example: “waterproof for up to 24 hours in eight inches of water.”

How much are you willing to pay for a home safe?

Finally, when considering which home safe to buy, price is naturally going to come into play.

Those document boxes we discussed above start around $20 to $30. Extra large, heavy duty models can cost several thousand dollars.

The truth is that most people will be perfectly happy with something on the far lower end of that range.

If fire resistance and waterproofing aren’t important to you, you can buy a 0.5 cubic foot AmazonBasics Security Safe Box for around $60. Business Insider recently named that model its “Best overall home safe.”

For less than $200, you can get a 1.23 cubic foot Sentry Safe Fireproof Safe with Digital Keypad. Home Depot says this safe is one of the most popular it sells.

Of course, you can keep on working your way up from there depending on your needs.

Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and many other retailers sell home safes online and will let you filter by many of the specifications mentioned in this article. Figure out what you need and comparison shop those sites to find the best price on the best fit for you.

Final thought

It’s never fun to think about getting burglarized or being the victim of a house fire or a flood. But these things do unfortunately happen every day to people all over the country.

By taking a few minutes to figure out what kind of home safe you need and spending a little bit of money to purchase them, you can have the peace of mind of knowing you’ve taken another step toward protecting your most valuable possessions.

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