Don't Get Ripped Off By Locksmiths

Monday, July 24, 2006

Most people don't think about locksmiths until you need one. And choosing one at random, especially in an emergency situation, could cost you.

Michael Finney says you can save money and frustration by simply asking a few key questions.

When you're locked out of the house, car or office, it's tempting to hire whoever can get you back inside in a hurry. But that doesn't mean you should pay outrageous prices. There are easy ways to get help get a reasonable cost if you know how to ask for it.

We've heard the horror stories before: consumers charged big bucks for emergency locksmith work.

Kathleen Cunningham, Brisbane: "They handed me a bill for $641 dollars."

Linda Foreman, Pacifica: "I ended up paying him $260 dollars."

Robert Krughoff, Consumers' Checkbook magazine: "Checkbook magazine found big differences in what you'd have to pay different locksmiths to have deadbolt locks installed, ranging from $150 for 1 or 2 locks, all the way up to more than $350 & big differences in price."

Since there's no law limiting what a locksmith can charge, consumers really need to shop around.

Robert Krughoff, Consumers' Checkbook magazine: "If you're locked out, you're not going to want to spend a lot of time shopping, but even then, you can call a couple of places and find out what their charges will be."

Tony Mannella owns Transbay Security Service, which received top marks for quality and price. He says you'll get a more accurate quote if you provide as many details as possible, such as what type of lock you have. You can usually find the brand on the edge of the door.

Tony Mannella, Transbay Security Service: "You always want to find out what kind of door, is it a wood door, metal door, metal jamb, wood jamb, and that helps us give the price right off the bat."

Once you provide information, make them do the same.

Locksmiths are required to be licensed by the state, so make sure they're licensed and bonded.

Ask about their minimum charge for a service call.

Tony Mannella, Transbay Security Service: "Then, do they have a charge for opening a door, a charge for taking the lock off the door, for making the key, the price of keys."

Also, find out where they're located and whether there are additional charges based on distance.

And of course, get recommendations.

Robert Krughoff, Consumers' Checkbook magazine: "If you've got good feedback from a lot of people, that's a good stating point for choosing a locksmith."

Locksmiths are also required to carry a pocket license with them, so ask them to show it to you and make sure it's actually for the person doing the work.

For information on verifying a license, or other tips on how to choose a locksmith, read The Back Story.

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