How to Pick a Good Locksmith
Last updated in May 2015
As we point out in our articles on home security, burglars usually enter homes through non-artful methods—by opening unlocked or poorly locked doors and windows. Before springing for a whiz-bang electronic home security system, it makes sense to fortify your home’s low-tech barriers. To upgrade or add locks, you need a good locksmith. Our ratings will steer you to area locksmith operations that provide excellent advice and solid workmanship at a reasonable price.
Where to Turn for Advice and Help
Our Ratings Tables list the area locksmith services that received 10 or more ratings in our surveys of area consumers. Our surveys on locksmiths ask customers to rate companies they used “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” for “doing work properly,” “starting and completing work promptly,” “letting you know cost early,” “advice on service options and costs,” and “overall performance quality.” (We primarily survey Consumers' Checkbook and Consumer Reports subscribers. Click here for further description of our customer survey and other research methods.
Our Ratings Tables report the percent of each company’s surveyed customers who rated it “superior” for each question. Many of the companies were rated “superior” for “overall performance quality” by at least 80 percent of their surveyed customers.
Our Ratings Tables also show counts of complaints we gathered from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for a recent three-year period, the number of complaints on file with the Consumer Protection Division of the Illinois Office of the Attorney General for a recent two-year period, and complaint rates relative to the volume of work companies do. Click here for more information on reported complaint counts and rates.
One simple step for protecting yourself in case you get defective locks or lousy locksmithing work is to pay with a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act and the dispute-resolution policies of credit card issuers allow consumers to refuse payment for faulty products and services.
Keeping Costs Down
Since many local locksmith outfits get high marks from their customers for service quality, obtain prices from a few of them to make sure you don’t pay too much. You’ll find that prices vary widely from company to company for the same work.
The price comparison scores shown on our Ratings Tables provide a starting point for your shopping. Our mystery shoppers asked companies listed on our Ratings Tables for price quotes on three jobs. The price comparison scores indicate how each company’s quotes, on average, compare to the average price for all companies quoting on the same mix of jobs. The price comparison scores are adjusted so that the average for all companies equals $100. A company with a score of $110 had prices 10 percent higher than the average company’s prices; a score of $90 indicates the company’s prices were 10 percent lower than average.
As you can see, the price comparison scores vary substantially. The differences are even more dramatic between the lowest and highest prices quoted for individual jobs (see the table below).
Fortunately, you don’t have to pay more to get the best service: We found that several of the highest rated locksmith services also charge low fees.
Although our shoppers gave each company the same description for each job, bear in mind that there might be differences in the quality of materials and workmanship the different companies planned to use.
If you know what you want done, you can shop for prices by phone. If you’re not sure, ask locksmiths who visit your home for a written description of the work and how much they’ll charge to do it.
|Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted by Companies for Illustrative Locksmith Jobs|
|Description of job||Low price||Average price||High price|
|Install new single-cylinder deadbolt locks in two doors||$175||$266||$412|
|Emergency lock picking of a key-in-knob lock||$50||$94||$160|
|Re-key three deadbolt locks and provide four copies of keys||$100||$142||$214|