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If you buy online, don't forget to consider shipping costs, although free shipping might be available.

For a wider selection, and possibly more knowledgeable sales help, you can go to a store that specializes in safes.

What they cost For about and up you can buy a fire chest, smaller than a safe but still large enough to hold a stack of documents.

Home safes might not be the best place for your precious jewelry, rare coins, or 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card.For those kinds of treasures, a safe-deposit box at a bank probably offers more protection.Your basement could be better from a fire-protection standpoint; there's usually less down there to burn, Soos says.But if your home is located in a flood-prone area, the safe might be at greater risk in the basement.For home safes, 30 minutes of protection is most common, although you can also find safes that offer one or more hours' worth, typically with higher price tags.

Generally speaking, 30 minutes should be sufficient, Bonsib says.

For example, safes rated to protect paper documents shouldn't get any hotter than 350 degrees on the inside during a fire, according to John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL in Northbrook, Ill.

If you plan to store old tape recordings or 35mm slides, however, you'll want a safe that's rated not to exceed 150 degrees inside, he says.

What else to keep in it The table below lists some important documents you might want to keep in a safe.

And the Insurance Information Institute points out that a home safe can be a good place to store an inventory of your possessions...

A TL-15 rated safe, for example, can withstand an attack of at least 15 minutes using common tools.