Value of Content
The worth of the safe's content is the main consideration when buying a safe. Safes are like parachutes, when you need one you don't want it to be made cheap. When protecting your money, do not go cheap. Here are our recommendations based on what you are putting into your safe.
* Less than $1,000. Mostly paperwork, small valuable. An inexpensive home fire safe is fine.
* Over $1,000 - Up to $5,000. Upgrading to a business-rated safe.
* Over $5,000 - Up to $10,000. Look at burglary-rated safes.
* Over $50,000. Get a TL-30 rated safe and if over $100,000 a TL30 X 6 rated safe
Pro Tip: A Brief Word on Fire Ratings
When looking at fire ratings, look at both the time and temperature the safe was rated for. Most cheaply made safes are rated at 1200 degrees. Which is OK for some city situations where the fire department arrives quickly to a small home. A typlical small home in a fire will only reach 1100 degrees. But if you want to ensure the content stays underneath the combustion point of paper, look for safes that have been rated to 1400 or even 1700 degrees. They will last longer in a fire. Buyer beware, a non-UL fire rated safe will like not make it through a fire.
Collections (Stamps, Baseball Cards, etc…) & Paper Word (Tax Returns, Wills, Passports, etc...)
For paperwork, most people ready to buy a safe will only need an inexpensive fire-rated home safes. You may ask yourself, "What safe fire rating should I buy?" You don't need much. For homes less than 1500 sf in metro areas, 30 minute fire safes offer ample protection. When a home catches fire, it takes a bit for the heat to build up. By the time it does, the fire department may already be spraying water on the home cooling it down. For larger homes a 1-hour fire rated safe should do it. For rural areas, you may want 2 hours (the maximum you can purchase) since fire response time to those areas is slow...if it arrives at all.
If your collection is valued over $1,000, you'll want to upgrade to a business safe or a fire and burglary rated safe to protect the content from theft. Burglary rated safes For collections over $10,000 upgrade to a BF Rated American Security Safe, a TL-15 burglary vault.. For maximum anti-theft protection, choose a TL-30 burglary vault. These are the safes used by jewelry stores for maximum anti-theft ratings.
Pro Tip: A Brief Word on Business Safes
Business safes are called business safes not for their security rating, but because they have locking drawers on the inside of the safe so the business owner can prevent access to additional material by someone that has access to the safe. For example, you may want your manager to deposit and access cash, but you may not want him to have access to the company checks. It is true they are one step above a home safe in terms of construction, but if you're storing a lot of cash in it, upgrade to a burglary rated safe.
Jewelry or Other Items of Large Value
Consumers want their jewelry safes to fit in small spaces (like in closets or cabinets). The hardest thing about smaller jewelry safes is that it is difficult to get any kind of real security built into a small safe. Those safes at the discount stores are junk and will not protect your content. Most home safes are simply built to keep honest people honest by avoiding easy temptation. You need to consider the value of the jewelry when choosing a jewelry safe and decide on size vs security.
We recommend burglary rated jewelry safes for any content over $1,000. We are lucky enough to be carrying a fantastic line of Burglary rated jewelry safes from Burg Wachter that are smaller safes, but built still built tough enough for protection of their content. For collections over $10,000 though you will really want to consider upgrading to a BF-Rated American Security Safe, a TL-15 burglary vault, or for maximum anti-theft protection, a TL-30 burglary vault. These high security safes are big and their weight per square inch are as good as they get. Jewelry stores use TL-30 safes to protect their jewelry. So if you're placing a lot of valuable jewelry into the safe, find the space and get a high security safe.
Corporate Records (Data disks, employee files, etc…)
For data storage, you want a business safe with both fire and burglary protection. Many come with water protection as well. Fire protection should be at least 2-hours to sustain the heat generated and length of burn of large building fires. Take a close look at the temperature the safe was rated at as office building can burn hotter than the 1200 degrees cheap safes are rated out. Many business safes also have a drop rating. This is the rating that the safe will drop from without breaking open. The most common drop rating is 30 feet. Data safes are ideal but large business safes and gun safes are used frequently because you get a lot more space for only a bit of additional cost.
Firearms and Guns
Gun safes can offer both burglary and fire protection. Gun safes come with a wide range of options depending on your needs. If your main interest is simply to keep young children away from the firearms, low end and less expensive safes will suffice. If you are protecting a valuable collection the larger burglary rated and fire protected safes may be desired. We see many homeowners and businesses use gun safes to protect cash, valuables, and paperwork because the price per square inch is inexpensive when compared to other safes.
Gun safes are often attacked by prying on the front door of the safe to separate the bolts from the frame of the safe. To prevent this, a door with at least a solid 3/16 inch plate (over the entire door) should be chosen if you want security. 1/4 inch and above is even better. The BF rated gun safes from American Security are some of the best built gun safes. They have 1/2 inch solid steel door plates and concrete filled walls.
Pro Tip: Safe Door Thickness. Ignore the overall thickness of the door dimension provided by safe manufactures. It is useless information since most of the door thickness is attributed to air. For security, look at the bolt size, the thickness of the door plate, and the construction of the bolt work.
Cash Management (for businesses that want to protect frequent cash drops–such as restaurants)
Drop safes, Deposit Safes, or Money Management Safes can be used to protect cash accrued throughout the day. Drop Safes allow for frequent cash drops and can be mounted under counters. Deposit safes are larger and used for more permanent storage. These safes typically offer no fire protection and are used for daily cash drops and short term money storage. Money management safes can also have different sections (a top and a bottom). One drop section allows for access to dropped funds - ideal for armor car services. The other section remains isolated and works like a regular safe for owner only access. Some drop safes can come with several drop compartments to accommodate deposits from separate shifts or managers. Each drop compartment holds its cash in its own section so each can be individually held accountable for their own deposits and errors can be traced very quickly. The lower section may have a fire rating.
If you are going to use an armor car service, many require dual credentials for the section they are to access (two people must be present to open the safe, each with a different key/code to get in). This way, a manager or above must be present to open the safe with the armor car company and they can keep an eye on the armored car company's pick up crew. Most often this is by dual key, but some will allow an electronic lock that requires two codes to open the safe.
When Secrecy is Your #1 Concern
If you don’t want someone in your home knowing there is a safe there, floor safes are a great option. In our opinion, wall safes just don’t offer enough storage space to be useful. Floor safes can only be installed in floors that are not post-tension slabs. To identify a post tension slab look for a marking stamped into the concrete at the entrance to the garage. The main disadvantage is size. Even the largest floor safes offer only a few cubic feet of storage.
Another disadvantage of floor safes is that no manufacture will warranty an electronic lock on the door because if there is ever water on the floor, it will flow right into the safe.
If you want to know why we've made these recommendations, read out blog post The 5 Most Important Features of a Safe or watch our video