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We all have things we want to protect from floods, fires, and thieves. A home safe can keep your valuables out of harm’s way. But, if you choose poorly, all they’ll provide is the illusion of security. That’s why I tested several safe options and interviewed a professional safecracker to help you find the best home safe.
- Best Overall: SentrySafe Waterproof and Fireproof Safe
- Best Portable: Vaultek Essential Series VE10
- Best for Documents: SentrySafe Fire/Water File
- Best Quick Access Pistol Safe: LANGGER V Biometric Slider Safe
- Best UL-Certified: FireKing KR Series
How to Choose a Home Safe
I interviewed safecracker Charlie Santore of Santore & Son Lock & Safe, to get his perspective on safe security and fireproofing. Santore is the person people call when they’re locked out of their safe, often after a criminal has tried breaking into it or after a fire. He has also worked with law enforcement to open safes after an attempted robbery. In addition to cracking safes he services them and has had hands-on experience with a lot of models. Here’s what he had to say.
Home Safe Security
If you’re expecting a thief to pick a lock or use gadgets to open your safe, you’ve watched too heist movies.
“In the modern wave of burglary and crime, people don’t run around manipulating safes open. Most burglaries right now are people using cutting wheels, abrasive tools, grinders, concrete saws, and that kind of stuff. So at the end of the day, a secure lock winds up being a very small part of a bigger problem,” he says.
According to Santore, criminals are using cheap angle grinders with abrasive wheels to cut openings in safes. He says most consumer safes have walls made of drywall, for fire protection, sandwiched between thin steel, which can be cut through in minutes.
If you look at most safes you can buy at big box stores, even the pricey ones, they’re made of 12 to seven gauge steel. Consider that seven gauge steel is only 3/16-inch thick and 14 gauge is even thinner at 5/64-inch thick. So you can see how it wouldn’t be difficult to cut through that and make a new door.
Safes can receive a burglary rating, which is important for insurance and it means the safe has gone through pretty rigorous testing. There’s a lot of designations and varied testing protocols for each rating. You can read about them here. Basically you want to avoid safes that have a B, C, or B/C rating because no testing is required and these designations only mean the safes have a lock. Look for safes with a UL RSC, TL-15, TL-30, TL-30X6, or TRTL-30X6 rating. Those ratings mean the safe has gone through actual testing and can protect your guns to a certain standard. Without going to a vault, the most secure is the TRTL-30X6, and those safes will run you $10,000 to $25,000. There is a used market for high-security safes, which can save you some money.
Features of a Secure Safe
- Thick steel walls
- A burglary rating
- Ability to be bolted down
Even if your dreams of stopping criminals with a safe have been dashed, you might still be holding out hope it will at least protect your belongings from fire. The reality is that it depends on the fire’s duration and intensity.
Santore lives in California and is often hired to open safes that have been through devastating forest fires.
“If you’re in a place where there’s a raging fire, and no one’s gonna get out there for hours or half a day, I don’t care whether the safe is rated for hours, it’s just not going to make it out of there,” Santore says. “If you’re in a residential area, and the fire department gets there in 10 minutes, your stuff is probably going to be fine. There might be some smoke damage, but it’s gonna be fine.”
He doesn’t recommend a solid steel safe if you’re concerned about fire. Look for a composite construction that has some type of fire retardant insulation. “A lot of them use a fire activated door seal that, when it heats up, expands and seals it off from heat and smoke,” he says. The seal also helps keep water and smoke out of the safe.
You’ll see safes listed with a fireproof rating for a specified temperature and amount of time. These ratings are either done by independent labs or two popular certification companies — Korea Industrial Standards and Underwriters Laboratories.
While the exact testing differs, the basic idea is that a safe is placed into a burn chamber where the temperature reaches 1,350 to 2,000 degrees. A temperature probe inside the safe measures how long it takes for the internal temperature to reach 350 degrees — for perspective, paper will char at 387 degrees and combust at 450 degrees.
Korea Industrial Standards and Underwriters Laboratories go beyond fire endurance and include impact and explosion resistance tests. The UL test is considered the most rigorous and I recommend looking for safes with their rating.
- UL has several rating scales but their 350 scale is the standard.
- UL 350/One Hour Rating: The internal temperature of the safe doesn’t exceed 350 degrees when it is exposed to 1700 degrees for one hour.
- UL 350/Two Hour Rating: The internal temperature of the safe doesn’t exceed 350 degrees when the safe is exposed to 1850 degree temperatures for two hours.
Consider that a house fire typically burns at 1,100 to 2,000 degrees, and can reach over 1,000 degrees in just four minutes. So the tested temperatures are at the extreme end of a home fire.
What to Look for in a Fireproof Safe
- Walls made from steel and insulation material
- A heat-activated door seal
- A UL fireproof rating
To learn more, read our full story on how to choose a safe.
Best Home Safes: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: SentrySafe Waterproof and Fireproof Safe
- Fire Rating: UL Classified to endure one hour at 1700°F
- ETL Verified to withstand a 15-foot fall during a fire and remain closed
- ETL Verified for 24 hours of protection in water up to 8 inches deep
- Four live-locking bolts
- Must use key and combination to open
- Pry-resistant hinge bar
- Locking drawer
- Interior light
- Bolt down hardware
- Uses four AAA batteries
- Exterior: 16.3 x 19.3 x 17.8 inches; The door requires 14.75 inches of clearance to fully open
- Interior: 12.6 x 11.9 x 13.8 inches
- 1.23 cubic foot capacity
- Weight: 86.69 pounds
- Easy to use digital combo lock
- Fire and flood protection
- Not too heavy
- Not much interior space
If you’re looking for a quality home safe to keep jewelry, documents, and other small items in, this model from Sentry Safe is one of the best options under $300. It’s gone through rigorous testing for fire, water, and impacts: It’s UL certified for fire and ETL certified for impact and water resistance. Should you keep $100,000 in cash in this $290 safe? No. But, without going to a full on professional jewelers safe it provides a good level of protection without breaking the bank.
At 90 pounds, one or two people can carry it up stairs. A hand truck makes easy work of moving it around the house too.
To open the safe, you’ll need to turn the key, and then enter the combination. That makes getting into the safe slow, but it is secure. You’re not going to fit a ton of items into the 12.6 x 11.9 x 13.8 inch space, but for things like pistols, jewelry, documents, and other small valuables, it is sufficient. The locking drawer slides out and the top lifts open. The door has pockets for additional items too.
I think this safe will meet most home safe needs and it provides a good compromise between affordability, portability, and security.
If you want a faster entry option with similar specs, SentrySafe makes a home safe with a biometric lock. This safe is also available with a two hour fire rating, which bumps the price to $400.
Read Next: Best Gun Safes
Best Portable Safe: Vaultek Essential Series VE10
- Exterior Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.5 x 2.125 inches
- Interior Dimensions: 9.875 x 5.375 x 1.5 inches
- 18-gauge steel
- Interior lighting
- Uses a rechargeable battery
- Electronic combination lock
- Backup key entry
- Opens quickly
- Easy to program
- Provides a tamper message
- Not fireproof
I was introduced to Valtek through their Lifepods, which I use while traveling. The Lifepod is awesome for keeping things secure while you’re on the road, but it’s not the fastest safe to access. The Essential Series VE10 on the other hand is fast to access and is still easy to take with you. There’s no delay after you type in your four digit code and the light automatically comes on.
You can get the Essential Series safes in various sizes from compact to large. The VE10 is the smallest. It’s ideal for a subcompact pistol or small personal items like a wallet, cellphone, passport, jewelry, or cash. While it’s diminutive size makes it great for travel, it’s also at home in a desk or bedside drawer and it comes equipped with a cable for securing it to furniture. I can also see this being a great option for a small vehicle safe.
Best for Documents: SentrySafe Fire/Water File
- Fire Rating: 30 minutes at 1550 degrees
- ETL Verified to protect against flood damage for 72 hours
- Key lock
- Holds 40 standard hanging folders
- Dimensions: 14.3 x 15.5 x 13.5 inches
- Weight: 38.85 pounds
- Designed for documents
- Easy access
- Water and fire protection
- Key lock is easily defeated
If you need a place to store things like birth certificates, passports, tax documents, and your kids drawings, this is a simple fireproof option. It’s not going to stop a determined criminal from stealing the goods inside. But, it will protect your items from fire for up to 30 minutes. You could also put the most important documents inside a fireproof envelope and then inside this safe for extra protection.
The best feature of this product is that it’s designed to work with hanging folders, which makes it functional for organization. It’s a safe that works with your life as well as protects your belongings.
Best Quick Access Pistol Safe: Langger V Biometric Slider Safe
- Max handgun length of 9.5 inches
- Holds one gun and spare magazine
- Weight: 12.5 pounds
- Anti-impact latch
- Can store 20 unique fingerprints
- Opened with fingerprint, keypad, or keys
- Opens quickly
- Easy to install
- Good directions
- Not discreet
If your goal is to keep a gun out of the hands of untrained family members, while still having quick access, this biometric sliding safe is a good option. It mounts to furniture or a wall with supplied screws. Keep in mind the safe is about as discreet as a bowling-ball-sized goiter, so you’ll need to carefully place it if stealth is important to you.
Once it’s mounted I found the setup of the combination and biometric scanner to be very easy. It opens fast and the smoothness of the operation gives the safe a quality feel. I like that the gun is positioned for quickly establishing a grip; it’s a lot like drawing from one of the best holsters.
Best UL-Certified: FireKing KR Series
- UL two-hour fire rated (1,638 degrees) and impact tested
- UL RSC burglary rated
- Electronic lock
- Weight: 635 pounds
- Outside Dimensions: 41.25 x 25.5 x 28.87 inches
- Inside Dimensions: 30.25 x 18.5 x 21 inches
- Price: $3,800
- Top-tier UL certification
- Easy access
If you want excellent fire protection, you can’t avoid safes that are heavy and expensive. It’s just a function of the materials used in these safes. Also keep in mind that larger safes are delivered by freight and those companies usually don’t bring safes into your home or up stairs.
In addition to its impressive fire rating this safe is also RSC rated for burglary. So it’s been tested for forced entry with tools. It uses an electronic lock for fast entry and has a lot of space for valuables.
How I Chose the Best Home Safes
I think a home safe should integrate into your life just like a piece of furniture. If it doesn’t organize your belongings or allow easy access, it doesn’t matter how well it protects your belongings. That’s why I weighted function heavily in my picks. I also selected safes based on the features Santore recommends for fire and theft protection.
Final Thoughts on the Best Home Safes
When you’re choosing a home safe, first consider the items you’ll store in it and what level of protection they’ll need. Then think about where you’ll keep the safe and how often you need to access it. Those considerations will narrow down the hundreds of options to the single best home safe for your needs.