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Safe Buying Guide

Safe Image

Understand the complexity behind some of the features in safes, and find what you need to protect your family and your valuables when searching for the right safe.

Choosing the Right Safe


Safes come with a variety of different features. Some offer different levels of protection, while others offer specialty trays and shelves that keep contents organized or hold different-sized objects. Between all of the model numbers, certifications, sizes and locks, finding a safe that's right for you can seem like a daunting task. Here are a couple of tips for finding the safe that best fits your needs.

Types of Protection

Fire Protection

Safes should be tested by an independent testing facility to verify the length of protection they provide. One of the most common is Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Locating the UL symbol on your safe’s package will help you ensure that you're getting quality fire protection for your important documents and valuables. Fire-resistant safes are categorized by the length of time the contents of the safe are protected in the event of a fire.

  • ½-hour fire protection at 1550°F or 843°C
  • 1-hour fire protection at 1700°F or 927°C
  • 2-hour fire protection at 1850°F or 1010°C

Water Protection

If you live in a flood plain or the space you're storing your valuables is moist, you'll want to consider buying a safe that protects from water damage. Just like UL tests safes to verify how much fire protection they provide, the independent testing firm ETL Semko tests safes to ensure protection from flood and other water damage.

Safes can receive ETL verification in two categories:

  • Waterproof Safes: Product can be completely submerged with minimal water entry (0.5 grams / 8 drops)
  • Water-Resistant Safes: Product can withstand 15 minutes of 1,000 gallons of water spray as well as 1 hour standing in 6 inches of water


Security Protection

Protecting your documents and valuables from unauthorized access is critical. And safes come with a variety of features that keep prying eyes from what's most important in your life. Features like:

  • Pry-resistant doors
  • Solid steel construction
  • Bolt-down kits
  • Tethering cables
  • Larger bolts
  • Number of bolts
  • Antifish hoppers

Lock Types

  • Privacy Key Lock: Keys account for the most standard and basic option. With no combinations to remember, and typically accompanied by a spare for convenience, this is the simplest way to secure your valuables.
  • Combination Lock: This locking option consists of a three-number combination. No batteries are required.
  • Mechanical-Dial Lock: This type of lock contains a three- or four-number factory-set combination. One of the oldest and most basic forms of locking, mechanical dials are a trustworthy and reliable form of securing your possessions.
  • Electronic Lock: Digital-locking systems usually require a one- to eight-digit password but no batteries. Multiple-user options also are available. If you're not thrilled with the idea of turning a dial and having to remember a complicated trio of double digits, this choice provides the option of choosing your own password. All you have to do is simply punch the buttons.
  • Dual-Lock Options: Available for both mechanical-dial and programmable key pads, an additional key can provide extra security or override access in case of a forgotten combination.

Safe Sizes

  • Small safes are less than 0.8 cubic feet in size. These safes are particularly good for storing items, such as passports, cash, spare keys, jewelry and small collectables.
  • Medium-sized safes are roughly 0.8 cubic feet. These safes are ideal for storing hanging folders, paper documents, binders and large collectables. 
  • Large safes run between 1.2 and 2.0 cubic feet. These safes can hold multiple binders, cash drawers, hanging file folders and larger collectables.
  • Extra-large safes are over 2.0 cubic feet in capacity. These safes can secure firearms, hunting accessories, data storage and file large amounts of paper documents.

Organization Features

Many safes may receive very specific verifications or certifications to ensure that the items you're looking to protect are safe and secure. They may also provide certain organizational features that make storing them easier and prevent damage. For instance if you're storing:


You should look for a safe that easily accommodates various-sized papers. A lot of safes offer a hanging file rack to help you keep your files labeled and organized. This is helpful for keeping important documents and certificates neat and undamaged over time.


In order to keep bills and loose coins organized, you may want to consider a cash box that includes a removable money tray or bill clips. Many safes are specifically designed to hold money. If you're searching for a depository safe, look for features such as antipry doors and antifish hoppers to protect cash, receipts, deposit slips and other valuables.


Many safes offer carpeted flooring, which can prevent your valuables from being scratched. Also many safes offer additional protection for important documents and valuables by including locking drawers inside the safe.

Frequently Accessed Items

Items, such as keys, passports, and USB drives, may need to be accessed frequently. Key racks, in-lid and door organizational features enable you to conveniently retrieve these items.