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12 Different Types of Home Safe Options to Protect Your Valuables

A close look at a small domestic safe with jewelry inside.

There are several different types of home safe. The essence of a safe is a metal or plastic box that requires a key or code to open. Simple enough right? Until you begin looking at safes and realize that the choices can be overwhelming. To provide adequate protection, it’s important that you get the right type of safe for your needs.

Before you purchase a safe, you’ll need to ask yourself some questions. What are you protecting? What and who are you protecting it from? What’s more important, expense, or security? Do you prefer a lock, combination, or both?

What are you protecting? Safes can protect many different types of valuables. Guns, jewelry, medication, and paperwork are all very different types of items, and not all safes will provide adequate protection for all these things.

A small modern safe with a keypad placed on a wooden shelf.

What and who are you protecting it from? Fire and water damage? Burglary? Kids? Nosy neighbors? Keeping a nosy neighbor from discovering your secret stash requires less security than protecting from a thief. Fire and water can damage many valuables, so if this is a concern then you will need to choose a safe that offers protection from them.

Which is a bigger concern for you, expense, or security? Budget safes generally don’t offer the same amount of security as more expensive options. Your decision will depend on your budget as well as how valuable your valuables are.

Beware of False Claims

Not all safes are created equal, and not all safes are as secure as the company would have you believe. For example, claiming that their safe is approved by California DOJ, when it is not found on their list. Before purchasing any type of safe, be sure to do some research to ensure that it stands up to its claims.

Types of Locks

All safes have some type of lock. The two standard options are a key or a combination. Combination locks can be mechanical or digital. All of these have their own advantages and disadvantages.

The Type of Safe You Choose Matters

I’m going to tell you a secret. You would be amazed at how many safes, particularly lockboxes, can be opened with a butter knife. If you are trying to keep things like medication out of reach of young children, these work well. If you are trying to protect your items in case of a burglary, they are not effective. How about a secure safe that doesn’t offer fire protection? If you are keeping important documents in it, this isn’t the right type for your needs.

Key Lock

A close look at the stainless steel dial of a safe with numbers around a knob.

Key lock boxes, called lockboxes, are usually the bare minimum in security. They are designed for convenience or to protect your valuables from mishaps, not thieves. Some of them are designed to be fireproof. They are often used to store medication. It can slow someone down a little, but it will not provide real security from theft. Perfect for protecting against nosy neighbors and young children, but not great for security. They are typically the most inexpensive type of safe. They are great for easy accessibility. Many even offer the option of only locking them when there’s a security concern.

Combination Lock

A close inspection of a safe's code combination lock mechanism.

Mechanical combination locks are popular because many people have a difficult time keeping up with their keys. In fact, these boxes can even be used to store a spare key. Mechanical combination locks take more time to access than digital ones, but they have a much lower failure rate than digital combination locks. Digital locks are considered more convenient and provide faster access, but when they fail you may have to hire a locksmith to open them.

Other Lock Types

Many combination locks, especially digital ones, provide an override key. This allows you to unlock the safe with the code or the key. This is important because these often use batteries. If the batteries die, you can’t use the keypad.

Some new safes also offer a biometric lock. These will use your fingerprint as the key for the safe. Fingerprint locks are commonly used on mobile phones. They won’t read if the sensor is dirty, but should work fine as long as you keep it clean. They have the advantage of not having to remember a code.

Types of Safes to Protect Your Valuables

The types of safe are

  • Diversion safe
  • Fire-resistant safe
  • Burglary Safe
  • Gun safe

Diversion Safe

A hollowed out book with a stack of money inside.

Diversion safes are fun. They feel like something out of a 1950s spy film, where an innocuous object has an important hidden use. The security of this type of safe is that it doesn’t look like a safe. Standard safes make themselves a target to thieves. When you see a safe, you know it contains something valuable to its owner. Nefarious people may then target the safe trying to get to its contents.

Of course, a good burglary safe is designed to withstand this assault, but what if you don’t have the cash to spend on one? What if you just want to stash $20 where your roommate won’t be tempted to grab it? What if it’s simply a personal item that you would like to keep personal?

A diversion safe is a good option if:

  • What you are trying to keep secure doesn’t have enough value to warrant a more expensive safe
  • You don’t have the money for a burglar safe
  • You want to keep your valuables easily accessible
  • You are more concerned about privacy than security

The best diversion safes are:

Art Deco Collection Celestial Sun Decorative Secret Storage Book Box
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Book safe with key: perfect if you actually read

BARSKA Picture Frame Safe with Combination Lock
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Picture frame can safe: Feel like a millionaire by hiding your valuables behind a picture frame. Who’s going to look there?

Coca Cola Coke Soda Can Diversion Safe Stash
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Can Safe: Just be sure that you don’t throw it away when you are cleaning up. It’s designed to look just like a regular soft drink can

Fire Resistant Safe

A close look at an old and battered fire-resistant safe.

Fire-resistant safes are good for protecting things that would be damaged by a fire. There are some caveats to this though. Most of them are designed to provide protection for a short amount of time. if your house burns down, an inexpensive fire safe isn’t likely to hold up. They don’t provide security protection either. If you want to store important documents that are time-consuming to replace, like birth certificates and insurance papers, this is a good option. They aren’t recommended to use with anything very valuable or irreplaceable. They simply aren’t secure enough.

Here’s the kicker. Many burglars, guns, and wall safes are also fire resistant or fireproof. However, fire-resistant safes aren’t burglary safes. Fire-resistant safes have to meet less stringent regulations than other types of safe because they are designed to only provide temporary fire protection.

Many types of safe are also waterproof. Generally waterproof means that they can withstand 8 inches of water for 24 hours. They are designed to protect from floods, water leaks, and water due to fire. They are great for keeping your valuables dry inside your home, just don’t expect them to withstand the pressures of a body of water. Throughout the safe descriptions, fire and water resistance will be noted for specific safes.

Safes designed to be fire resistant have a UL rating. A Ul rating of 125-1 Hr means that the temperature will not go above 125 degrees as long as the temperature of the fire doesn’t get over 1,700 degrees. A UL rating of 350-1 Hr means that the inside of the safe will not reach over 350 degrees in an hour. Some safes are designed to last much longer, so you may find one with a higher hour rating, indicating that it will last longer in a fire.

Best Fire Resistant Safes:

SentrySafe 1170 Fireproof Box with Key Lock 0.61 Cubic Feet,Black
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SentrySafe Fireproof safe: some fire protection at a reasonable price

Home Security Electronic Lock Box - Safe with Mechanical Override, Digital Combination Lock Safe, LED Low Battery Indicator, Includes Mounting Bolts, Keys & (4) x ‘AA’ Batteries - SereneLife SLSFE15
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Serene Life Safe Lock Box: 1/2 an hour of fire protection, minimal security, waterproof, budget option

Fireproof Document Storage Bag Set - (2000℉) Protect Important Documents from Fire and Flood - Two (Extra Strength) Waterproof and Fire Proof Document Bags, Fire Safe Bags
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Fireproof document bag: Can provide extra fire protection or be used as a stand-alone, no security, waterproof

Burglar Resistant Safes

A close look at a modern burglar-resistant safe.

Burglar resistant safes are designed to provide maximum security from thieves. If you have the type of valuables that would make you a target, a burglar safe is a great option.  Some are designed to be fire and water-resistant as well, offering you all-around protection. This type of safe is ideal for things that you don’t need often, but want to keep safe. Emergency cash and heirloom jewelry are a few examples. While you shouldn’t have any problem opening the safe, it’s designed for security over convenience. Keep this in mind if you will be getting into the safe frequently.

They can also be rated by UL Laboratories, the same company that created the fire-resistant rating. This rating considers the makeup of the safe, and how long it would take an intruder to get inside it. These values are based on a skilled criminal, not the kids down the street that may attempt to break into a safe out of the opportunity.

The common ratings are TL-15 and TL-30. TL-15 means it would take a skilled thief 15 minutes to break into the safe, and TL-30 means it would take 30 minutes. If you have a home security system, this increases the chances that your safe will withstand an attack. Even if you don’t, burglars like to get in and out quickly, so the time it takes to crack the safe will usually save your valuables.

Burglar safes come in two varieties: stand-alone safes and walls safes. Stand-alone safes are designed to be bolted to the floor or the wall to prevent the criminal from leaving your home with them so they can crack it at their leisure. Wall safes are installed inside the wall, and usually mounted to the studs. They may be visible or covered with a picture to provide extra protection due to diversion.

Most burglar safes can be purchased in either stand-alone or wall safe options.

Best Burglar resistant safes:

SentrySafe PL048E Electronic Security Box, 0.5 Cubic Feet, Black
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Sentry Safe: Large stand-alone safe, fire and water-resistant, tamper alarm, six bolts, pry-resistant

TIGERKING Burglary Digital Security Safe Box for Home Office Double Safety Key Lock and Password 3.47 Cubic Feet
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Tiger King: Standalone safe, interior shelves, five locking bolts, smart alarm, create two passcodes and view who opened safe

SentrySafe X031 Security Safe with Key Lock, 0.35 Cubic Feet, Black
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Sentry Safe Wall Safe: Fire and water-resistant, five locking bolts and four deadbolts, digital keypad

Gun Safe

A large gun safe with rifles inside.

Gun safes are designed to provide security while still allowing you quick access. There are two types of a gun safe. Storage gun safes offer great security and are large enough to hold your rifles, shotguns, and handguns. A personal protection safe is designed to hold one handgun and allow you quick access to it in an emergency. If you choose to use any type of gun for home defense, make sure that you can get to it. An intruder will not wait politely while you remember the combination to your safe.

It’s important to note that in some states, including California if your gun isn’t properly secured you could be liable for any crimes committed with it. Perhaps even worse than the financial toll is a sense of responsibility if a crime or accident occurred because your gun wasn’t properly secured. If you own firearms, a gun safe is a necessity for your safety and that of your loved ones. It protects your home security, but also your home security. It’s a part of responsible gun ownership.

The best gun safes are:

BILLCONCH Biometric Gun, Smart Handgun Safe with APP Two Guns Capacity Pistol Safe with Auto-Open Lid and Rechargeable Battery (Biometric Safe)
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Billconch: Unlock with your key, pin, fingerprint, or your phone app, easy handgun access

Barska AX11652 Quick Access Biometric Rifle Safe, Small, Multicolor
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Barska Quick Access Biometric Safe: DOJ approved, biometric access, 4 long gun storage, storage shelf, four deadbolts

SWSD16GUN-EMP 60 Minute Fireproof 16 Long Gun Safe with EMP Lock
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SWSD: Expensive, but worth it. Lifetime burglar and fire protection 10 locking deadbolts, Digital lock with key bypass

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