Many people who want a safe at home will buy a used business-type safe from an auction or directly from a business that is closing. They assume that a used commercial safe will provide appropriate security and fire protection at a cheap price. Most business safes, however, are not suitable for home owners.
The majority of gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, bars, etc. have safes. But their safes are typically steel B-rate units with no fire protection. Businesses generally want to deter theft but do not want to pay the extra cost to get fire protection. Many businesses have detailed daily accounting systems, so even if they do experience a loss due to fire, their business insurance will cover cash that was burned up. Homeowner’s insurance is different, it normally does not cover a loss of cash.
Businesses often have deposit-type safes with which employees can drop money into the safe without opening the main door. But any form of external deposit doors, drawers or slots will allow hot air to infiltrate the safe. A home owner using this type of safe is likely to lose everything that was locked inside.
Some B-rate safes do not offer as much burglary deterrence as a home owner should have. While the door is usually ½” thick steel, the bodies are thinner – much thinner. In a retail setting the safe is normally anchored securely to the floor so it cannot be moved, and it is located in a place where there is no access to the thin steel body. Access to the sides of a safe is very common in homes, so a commercial B-rate safe is not ideal. Beside that, stores have additional security in the form of alarms, cameras, etc., which most homes do not.
Consumers frequently assume that all safes protect against fire and burglary. They do not appreciate the differences in mindset of a home owner vs. business owner. Even when a business experiences a loss, it is most often just one day’s revenue; the home owner might lose a significant percentage of his life savings.
Other issues like weight work against using a business safe at home. For instance, we were called two weeks ago to a recently closed jewelry store. Knowing that the jeweler’s large vault had both fire and high security ratings, a man planned to buy it for his home. He hired two men with an appliance dolly to move the safe to his house. Well, the safe weighed 4200#, so his plan did not work. If he had been successful in getting home, there was no way that his main floor or stairs would have supported the vault, anyway.
If you plan to buy a used business safe for your home, do enough research to make sure it is an appropriate unit.