If you have a ‘lock emergency’ it is very tempting to pick up the phone and call the first locksmith number you find. Unfortunately, this is often the very worst thing you can do. Even if you are not facing an emergency e.g. you are looking for a locksmith to upgrade a lock or fit a new lock, you need to take care. Taking the time to find a good locksmith can be the difference between an affordable, efficient, well executed job and an expensive botch job. Here are some of my dos and don’ts to help you quickly find a locksmith you can trust to do a good job.
This is the most obvious ‘do’. If someone you trust recommends a locksmith then this is usually your best bet. Good locksmiths build up their reputation through years of hard work and good customer service. They will rely on word of mouth recommendations for a lot of their work.
If you don’t have any recommendations, reading reviews can help you get a feel for a company. You can check out their reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp etc. Even the best businesses get the odd bad review but if you find that there is a pattern of unhappy customers then you are best to avoid it. Of course, some rogue locksmiths have been known to create fake five-star reviews. Always check that reviews look natural. Be wary of ones all posted on the same day or which repeat the same phrases.
Most people have little idea of the cost of replacing a lock, so it is difficult to know if you are being ripped off. It is usually a good idea to get a few quotes so that you can compare like for like. Be wary of a locksmith who says they will need to come to your door to give you a price.
Experienced locksmiths will be familiar with most lock problems and will be able to give you a pretty accurate quote over the phone. However, some locksmiths charge by the hour, not for the full job. Always make sure you know exactly what the quote covers. Also, check if there is a separate call out charge and if VAT is included in the price.
In ‘locked out’ situations, some unskilled locksmiths will arrive at your door with power tools at the ready. Unfortunately, drilling a lock out can result in damage to your door and door surround as well as being much more costly. Although occasionally a drill is needed for a very difficult lock, a fully trained locksmith will always try non-destructive entry (NDE) techniques first. Locksmiths who use these techniques can usually get you back inside your property without any damage to your lock or door. The job will cost less too! NDE techniques can take years to master and are a good indicator of a competent, fully trained locksmith. Always check that these techniques are mentioned on their website or ask if they use them when you call for a quote.
Any locksmith should offer you at least a 12 month guarantee on any new locks they fit. However, some dodgy locksmiths use cheap locks (purchased from places like Ebay) to keep their costs low and margins high. A professional locksmith will always use good quality branded locks and will be happy to let you see the packaging.
If you search for a locksmith online, always remember that the first few results at the top of the page will usually be paid advertisements. They can be easily identified via the word Ad. in front of the listing. They are often paid for by large companies using untrained, poorly skilled ‘engineers’.
Often large national locksmith companies run adverts online and in newspapers etc. that suggest they are local businesses with local offices. Then when you call them you are put through to a call centre miles away. Instead of speaking directly to a locksmith, you end up talking to a call centre operator. Any work is then subcontracted out to an available locksmith in your area. This means that you have no idea how experienced or skilled the locksmith arriving at your door will be. In fact, this is how most new locksmiths get work! National locksmiths will also charge a lot more because they need to cover the cost of the locksmith and the call centre.
Always check out the website of a locksmith you are interested in. A professional looking website indicates a locksmith who has put in the time and effort to promote their business rather than a fly-by-night. A picture of the van they use, with a visible company logo, is always a good sign. Unlike an unmarked white van arriving at your front door, it will give you confidence that the company is completely legitimate. In the same way, a photo of the locksmith can also be reassuring.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful. If you do find a good local locksmith don’t forget to store their number on your phone or keep it in a safe place!