What factors can influence the cost of an emergency locksmith?

There is no government licensing for locksmiths so you can be charged any sum of money without restriction. It is always best to obtain two or three quotes if you have the time to do this, not always possible in an emergency but there are steps you can take to protect yourself against inflated call out fees.

Apart from the hourly rate, there are several other factors which can influence the final bill for an emergency locksmith and these include:-

  • The brand of the lock being replaced
  • The time of day so it can cost more out of hours
  • Where you live – London and the South East are always more expensive
  • Time taken to complete the job
  • The distance the locksmith has to travel

Here are some average emergency locksmith costs:

  • Change a standard Euro cylinder lock on uPVC door – £85
  • Change an anti-snap Euro cylinder on uPVC door – £110
  • Change a mortice lock – £115
  • Replace a night latch (Yale) on a wooden door – £90
  • Change a rim cylinder – £70
  • Replace a patio door lock – £90
  • Replace a garage door lock – £80
  • Simply gaining entry or removing a damaged or broken key normally costs in the region of £80-£100.

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Some locks are more difficult and expensive to open than others

There are different techniques to manage a lock that is jammed or broken; some locks are more tricky or troublesome than others, for instance, mortice locks can take longer to open than a rim or euro lock. Basic cylinder locks on uPVC doors can be easy to unlock but the high-security anti-snap locks require specialist tools and knowledge and will inevitably take longer and cost more money. Remember, if locks are damaged during the process then they will end up needing to be replaced.

When might you need an emergency locksmith?

There are several situations when you may need to call on the services of an emergency locksmith and these include:

  • You have locked yourself out of your home and to gain entry would cause serious damage to doors or windows
  •  Your keys are damaged and won’t work properly – some emergency locksmiths can cut new keys cut on-site
  • Your keys are lost – usually, a locksmith would advise a complete change of locks
  • There has been a domestic incident or a crime and the locks on the property need changing without delay

How to avoid losing your keys

Always try to have a routine with your keys, keep them in a bag and not a coat pocket. Keys can become mislaid with a change of coat or sometimes lost if the lining wears out and they fall through the bottom of the pocket. If you do carry your keys in a pocket then try to pick one that has a zip or is internal within your coat for added safety.

Always put your keys away in the same location when you get home. It is advisable not to leave them out on display particularly if your vehicle keys are on the same key ring. It has been known for burglars to use the letterbox on the front door to fish keys off a hall table, try to access keys which are near a window or break into a property to specifically to steal vehicle keys.

Find somewhere hidden and unobvious and always put your keys away in this location when you get home.

Keep a fluorescent tag or disc on your keys so you can more easily spot them if you drop them. If you don’t have a suitable bag or coat pocket, for example, if you are out walking then use a secure belt clip or a lanyard around your neck. Don’t rely on carrying keys in your hand as you will at some point have to put them down and they will get mislaid.

Use a big, bold keyring which makes it harder to lose keys and will make a noise if you drop them. It also makes it easy to fish keys out of a bag or pocket.

Finding a reputable emergency locksmith

Finding a reliable and professional locksmith is not just about avoiding paying over the odds for the job you need doing, there is also a huge issue of trust involved as these people have access to the keys to your home. So the cost of an emergency locksmith can be hugely inflated by unscrupulous traders or, they just may not be competent to do the job at hand.

There is no government regulation over the locksmith profession so anyone can set themselves up as a locksmith and there is also no control over charging levels. Fortunately, there is an organisation called the MLA – the Master Locksmiths Association – who can help in sourcing a reliable locksmith. The MLA offer help with:

  • Finding a locksmith who offers a key cutting service and who can cut and copy keys by code or by hand if you need a duplicate set
  • Sourcing an emergency locksmith to let you into your home
  • Finding an auto locksmith if you have lost or damaged your car keys
  • Some locksmiths offer other services such as fitting burglar alarms, security grilles and CCTV systems
  • Installing or repairing window locks
  • Safe opening
  • Finding an MLA approved locksmith shop
  • Full security services for home or business premises
  • The Master Locksmiths Association is a not for profit organisation established to promote the level of skills and ethics within the industry. It runs its own licensing scheme whereby all locksmith companies, shops and individual locksmiths undergo regular inspections to ensure the quality of service and there is also an exam based qualification.

If you choose a locksmith approved by the MLA then you can be certain of the following:-

  • The locksmith has been vetted with a Criminal Records Check via the Disclosure and Barring Service
  • That he or his company is subject to regular inspections
  • They are fully qualified and have passed the MLA exam

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Practical steps if you lose your keys

Losing keys will usually require a lock change but you can avoid an expensive call out fee if you can keep a spare key hidden somewhere safe or with a neighbour. This will at least allow you time to look for the keys at your leisure and possibly avoid the expense of an out of hours call out.

You can buy key fobs which contain a tracker chip and these can be attached to the keyring and then tracked via an app on your phone. The Amazon Tile is a very handy device which you can attach to anything, not just your keyring. Using the Smartphone app, you can locate any valuables you have lost or misplaced by asking Tile Mate to play a loud tune to help you find it. Amazon Tile is also compatible with Alexa if you need more help in the search for lost keys.

There are other competing products like the TrackR Pixel which is a more budget-friendly version of the Amazon Tile and handily lists all the last locations that the keys were in as a prompt. It also has a light-up LED on the device alongside the activated sound to help you find your keys quickly and easily.

How to prevent being scammed by a rogue locksmith

There are several standard techniques which the MLA have noticed across the industry so here are the key things to avoid when looking for a locksmith:-

  • The locksmith bait and switch price scheme is a big problem in the industry resulting in customers being hugely overcharged for simple jobs. The MLA has examples on its website of what these adverts can look like on a Google search. Typically, the bait is a very low price like £39 or £49 but the final bill will be much higher. These adverts top the Google search list because they have paid to be there. Rogue locksmiths also turn their advertising on and off throughout the day. If the price looks too good to be true then it usually is
  • Fake third party approval, accreditation or certification like a false DBS check, unsubstantiated claims of approval or certification from a trade association like the MLA. The MLA logo is trademarked and so the MLA can take action against locksmiths using the log and making false claims as this is also in contravention of consumer protection legislation and the unfair trading regulations. Genuine locksmiths will provide solid evidence of their accreditation
  •  Claims that a locksmith works with the police or is police recommended. Clearly, the police will use emergency locksmiths pretty regularly but they never recommend a particular locksmith, the most they are likely to say to any individual who asks for a recommendation is that they choose an MLA approved contractor. The police do not approve locksmiths, this is fictional. Some locksmiths will falsely use the logo of their area police force on their advertising or paperwork
  • Be aware of subcontractors, you could be calling a nationwide call centre even though the number you have rung appears local. Clues will often include a regional accent that is out of your area and the unmistakable buzz of a call centre environment in the background whilst you are on the phone. All these call centres do is phone a list of local locksmiths which you could do for yourself and then just load the price. Ask for the name of the locksmith who will be coming to your property and question whether they are subcontracting the work. Also, find out who you are actually paying, you should know who your contract is with just in case the work is defective or shoddy and you want to take action
  •  Avoid locksmiths who are vague on the phone about the pricing, you should be able to ask for an hourly rate and a rough estimate of repair or replacement services for a broken lock. Be suspicious of someone who repeatedly talks about low pricing or who won’t commit to a rate

It is easy to panic in a genuine emergency and you could end up with a huge bill, much higher than it needs to be and possibly poor quality or defective work as well. You need to be certain that the people you are allowing to access your home are safe and trustworthy, after all, they have the keys.

It is worth keeping a directory of numbers of emergency tradesmen so if you do have a problem, you will have the reassurance that the people you are calling have already been vetted and authenticated. This is certainly one way to keep down the cost of an emergency locksmith which can be unavoidable – most people lose their keys at least once in their life and it is always a situation of particular stress and worry.

Always make sure that you obtain any necessary guarantees and warranties for the work done and any new locks fitted, another thing which is easy to overlook in a crisis. Get familiar with the MLA website and then you will be much better informed if the worst comes to the worst and you do have a lock or key crisis.

It is easy to panic in a genuine emergency and you could end up with a huge bill, much higher than it needs to be and possibly poor quality or defective work as well.  You need to be certain that the people you are allowing to access your home are safe and trustworthy, after all, they have the keys.

Rich Crossley
Having spent 30 years working all over the world for top-tier investment banks, I’ve owned and developed houses all over the world – Europe, the US and Asia. I’m now based back in the UK and involved in the property industry – oh, and I’m a keen DIY enthusiast!
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