This $10 Amazon Buy Is a Cheap Way to Safely Change Your Locks

updated Feb 3, 2020
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(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Moving day is just wild. There are so many moving parts (ha!) and so much adrenaline and excitement, especially if you’re closing on a new house on the same day. Despite the chaos, there’s one thing you should do right away: Get new keys. It’s easy to overlook, and tempting to skip for now while you tend to the more pressing matters, like what box is the kettle in, but so important nonetheless.

This is definitely a case of better safe than sorry. When the previous residents hand their dirty old keys over, don’t assume you now hold all sets in existence. They might have given them out to neighbors, friends, past tenants, and contractors over the years.

Case in point: Someone showed up on my porch once, belligerent and looking for the previous owner who had, he said, evicted him and ruined his life. I felt safer knowing we had already changed locks on our second day in the new house.

Even if you totally trust that there are no nefarious strangers running around with the key to your front door, here’s another good reason to make this change: If the home comes with a front, side, and back door, and each has a deadbolt and a doorknob lock, you’re talking up to half a dozen separate keys. Skip the giant janitor-style keyring and choose a one-key-fits-them-all situation. Trust me, it is so nice to not fumble for the right one when you’re in the rain with an armful of groceries.

So what exactly is involved in changing out your locks? Well, first, you don’t have to actually change the locks themselves (unless you just want a new look or maybe upgrade to a smart lock). You can just re-key them. And for that there are two routes: DIY, or hire a pro.

DIY with Rekey Kits

To DIY you’ll need a rekey kit. They’re specific to lock brands like Schlage or Kwikset and are shockingly inexpensive at the big box stores and Amazon. This Schlage one, for example, is less than 10 bucks and lets you do six locks. Reviews are mixed, and you do need to be handy (and be able to work with small objects) and patient. There are also detailed tutorials that, to be honest, I don’t think I’d attempt with my fumble fingers.

Hire a Locksmith

Or you can take the easier, but costlier, route, and hire a locksmith. Do your due diligence here and spend a little time making sure the company is legit before, you know, giving them keys to your home. Jim Hancock is the Operations, Education, and Certification Manager for ALOA Security Professionals Association, which certifies locksmiths. The locksmiths we used for our home— who’ve been in business for 100 years—are certified with them. According to Hancock, the industry is flooded with people who call themselves locksmiths but are actually scam artists.

To safeguard yourself, “The most failproof method to locate a qualified, reputable locksmith is to ask your friends, neighbors and co-workers,” he said. “If they use them and recommend them, you can probably trust that a good job will be done.” If you don’t know anyone, the Association also offers a Find A Locksmith service so you can get people who’ve been vetted through background checks and who are licensed if that state requires it.

So once you’ve got somebody you can count on, what are you looking at when you have a pro come out? Though prices vary depending on the part of the country, you can expect to pay between $10-$15 per cylinder (key hole) to rekey the lock. Most locksmiths also charge a trip charge for coming to you to perform the work, not unlike electricians or plumbers. Hancock adds a warning for anyone considering the DIY route, saying, “If the lock fails or gets damaged in the installation, you have no service guarantee as offered by a professional locksmith on their work and a faulty install could be more detrimental to your security than not rekeying at all.”

Either way you go, once you’re locked up and all set? Be smarter than I was, and don’t label your keys with anything that could lead to your home. I lost our new keys while out walking my dog a few months after moving in, and realized the keyring had our names on it. One Google later and I was able to see our house address online. Maybe I should have asked for a repeat customer discount when I called the locksmith!