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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Is It Cheaper To Rekey Or Replace Your Lock?

by Taylor October 17, 2022

Face it – your key or lock is lost or broken. So what do you do now?

Maybe you just need a rekey. The truth is that the specific configurations of a lock are not set in stone, and a skilled locksmith can rearrange the tumblers within to make them open with a different set of keys. This is generally considered simpler than getting a lock replacement done.

But you might actually need a lock replacement. This is believed to be a longer and trickier process, especially if your new lock is a different brand. The locksmith sometimes needs to drill holes in the door or change some wiring while often providing an entirely new set of keys. It’s easy to gravitate towards rekeying over replacement.

But is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks? The truth is that both these processes can change wildly depending on circumstances. What if you need a lot of new keys for every lock in your home but can easily do a replacement using the same cheap lock brand? Is it less expensive, then?

Many factors go into rekeying and replacement costs. It’s crucial to know each of these factors to understand what your specific situation will need. When budgeting for a locksmith visit, things can get complex fast.

So is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks? Here’s everything you need to know.

  1. Rekeying Overview
  2. Rekeying Prices
  3. Replacement Overview
  4. Replacement Prices

Rekeying Overview

Before answering the question of is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks, you need to ask: what actually happens in a rekeying? How do they work? And how do you know if you need one? To understand how lock rekeying works, you need to know how a pin tumbler lock works.

Pin tumblers are the most common lock type. Other lock types exist, and they can be rekeyed as well, but in all likelihood, the lock you want to be rekeyed is a pin tumbler. These are the most common lock type due to how relatively secure they are. They have their own bypasses, but the truth is every lock in existence has a bypass, and pin tumblers are usually safe enough.

Let’s visualize what the inside of these locks looks like. Imagine a cylinder. When a key is entered through the face of the cylinder and rotated, then the door will open. So essentially, you’ll want to design this cylinder to only turn under specific circumstances. That’s where the nominal pin tumblers come in.

Drill a couple holes at the top of the cylinder and stick some pins partway into these holes. Give them something to rest on so they’re permanently halfway inside the cylinder, and put casing around them to hold them in place. Bam! Now the cylinder can’t be turned at all! To turn the cylinder and open the door, you have to move the pins.

Next, you need to put some wiggle room for the pins to move around. The trick is that this wiggle room needs to go both up and down. You’ll need to replace whatever the pins were resting on with a second set of pins. How does this work?

When the key is entered, it pushes the bottom second set of pins upward. This then moves the first set of pins upward as well. Push them high enough, and you’ll remove the first set from the cylinder altogether. Push them up too high, and now the second set of pins is blocking the cylinder from turning. You need to push each pin to the correct height.

Each pin is a different length, so only the correct key bitting can push the pins to the right height. It’s actually a relatively simple mechanism for how secure it is.

Rekeying a lock is essentially just replacing or reordering the pins so that a different type of bitting will push them up to the right height. It’s pretty simple. So is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks?

What Goes Into Rekeying Prices?

Before asking is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks, we should go over what kinds of things you’ll need to pay for, no matter what service you’re requesting.

You’ll have to pay an hourly fee as well as a travel fee that’s higher for rural areas. If it’s an emergency, expect to pay more. Ironically, the same goes for peak hours of 7-10 AM and 5-8 PM. Any work done on garage doors tends to be more expensive than typical front doors. If expensive equipment is needed, that can up the price.

The brand of the lock you’re working on changes price, too. Think about how many new keys you’ll need, because each has a small price. With a $50-100 travel fee, $50-100 per hour, +$25 for peak hours, and $20 to even $150 more for emergencies, everything can start to add up.

So what goes into rekeying prices, specifically? Is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks?

Before going over the service fees of rekeying and which locks are the most expensive, let’s go over what can influence rekeying costs.

If you don’t have copies of the original key, the locksmith will have to pick the lock. This creates more labor and ups the price, potentially past replacement costs. And if you want to install a master lock system (where one key opens all locks), if some of your locks aren’t the same brand, you’ll need to replace those locks and rekey the others.

Multiple brands to rekey is also harder on the locksmith, upping the time it takes and labor costs. So is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks if the locksmith deals with multiple brands? In that scenario, replacing might end up cheaper.

And, as a side note, if you plan to do all of this work yourself, rekeying kits can be more expensive than new locks.

Rekeying takes longer than replacement, making labor prices higher. Although, in some good news, if your lock is a Kwikset, it’s designed to be incredibly easy to rekey, giving it shorter and cheaper labor times.

So what’s the final service price, and is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks? The rekeying alone can cost $20-60 per lock with an additional service fee ranging from $35-130. Different types have different repin and rekeying prices. Pay attention to the one you have to determine this. Here’s a list from least expensive to most expensive.

  • Rim/Mortise locks: $20-30
  • Adams Rite Deadlatch: $25
  • Interchangeable Core Cylinder: $31
  • Master Lock System: $25-35
  • High Security: $25-35
  • Tubular: $30-40
  • Safety Deposit Box: $30-40
  • Car Door: $35-180
  • Ignition: $50-225

Replacement Overview

The replacement of locks is pretty self-explanatory. You don’t need to know it intimately to answer if it is cheaper to rekey or replace locks. It can vary a bit depending on the one being removed and the new one being installed. But generally, it’s what you’d expect.

The locksmith checks the brand and then makes any adjustments necessary if the new lock is entirely different. They then unscrew the plate inside the door and remove the doorknobs.

Most of the process is a series of removals. They remove the faceplate, latch mechanism, and strike plate using their screwdriver. After that, it’s just a matter of reversing the process. A new strike plate, latch mechanism, and faceplate are put in place of the old. The new doorknob spindle goes inside, and the new doorknobs are installed.

Deadbolt locks are replaced similarly. When the faceplate is removed, the deadbolt is cleared from the debris and loaded in place. Again, it’s a pretty straightforward process. So is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks?

What Goes Into Replacement Prices?

Don’t forget the universal pricing factors already discussed previously – hourly fee, travel fee, emergency fee, peak hour fee, equipment fee, and the duplicate key fee. They don’t affect the answer to the question of is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks, but they’re important to consider.

Replacement itself can cost $50-200. If drilling is necessary, you can add on $95-150. If you need new keys, they can cost $1-4 each (hey, not all of these prices are huge).

It’ll cost more to replace a lock with a completely different brand. If you’re dealing with multiple locks, that can also add up. In general, if you have a whole bunch of them that need replacement or rekeying, then rekeying is better.

You might only need certain faulty parts replaced rather than an entire replacement. That can actually save you money. So is it cheaper to rekey or replace lock parts in the end? It’s hard to say.

Buying your own lock and knowing what you want will save you money too, since consulting which brand is best is gonna increase time and cost you.

You also need to ask if you need just a doorknob or also a deadbolt, as getting both will obviously be more expensive.

So is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks? The work that you need to be done can vary in expense. Here’s a list of types of lock replacement ordered from cheapest to most expensive.

  • New Knob: $25-55
  • Privacy Lock: $25-60
  • Deadbolt: $40-75
  • Padlock: $30-80
  • Lever Lock: $60-85
  • New Knob: $80-150
  • Exterior Door Lock: $70-170
  • Electrified Lock: $150-175
  • Electric Strike: $150-200
  • Car Lock: $50-250
  • Keypad: $70-250
  • Bluetooth Lock: $60-300
  • RFID Lock: $100-300
  • Keyless Lock: $150-300
  • Garage Door Lock: $95-325
  • Electromagnetic Lock: $220-350
  • Mortise Lock: $125-400
  • Smart Lock: $100-450
  • Wifi Lock: $200-450
  • Biometric Lock: $150-500
  • High Tech Electronic Lock: $2,000+

FAQs

Is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks?

Whether or not it’s cheaper to rekey or replace locks depends on several factors. Generally, it’ll be less expensive to get a rekeying done than a replacement, but you still need to ask some questions.

Do the locks need a replacement or simply need a few parts changed? Have you already bought a new lock? If not, do you already know which one you want? Are you missing the original key? Do you need different brands rekeyed? These are all factors that can lead to replacement being cheaper.

Is the price to rekey a lock high?

Rekeying a lock can be expensive, although it’s still necessary for your security. A simple lock rekeying can add up to around $100, while a more complex operation can cost you $500+.

What factors go into the rekey lock price?

If you’re getting a lock rekeyed, pay attention to whether or not you have the original key or if the locksmith will have to pick the lock. If you need different brands rekeyed, this will up the labor cost. You’ll also have to pay fees for hours worked, travel, emergency, equipment, peak hours, and duplicate keys.

All that considered, you should ask yourself – is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks altogether?

What’s the average price to rekey a lock?

The usual, cheap lock rekeying costs most people around $100, although often a bit higher. If you just need your front doors rekeyed to prevent someone with a key from coming in, this is around what you’ll pay.

But if you need multiple differently branded locks rekeyed, you’ll need to pay more. And if you don’t have the original key, that can up prices. Is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks in your scenario? You might be surprised by the answer.

Conclusion

When asking is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks, things get more complicated than simply considering which one tends to be less expensive. Rekeying is less pricey, but there are several circumstances where you’ll want to get a replacement instead of a rekeying.

Both procedures can get quite expensive in the right circumstances. You should expect to pay over a hundred dollars at least, and maybe more if you need something complicated done. Essentially – is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks? The answer is that it doesn’t always matter.

Maybe you’ve decided that you can afford something a little more expensive. Maybe getting your mortise locks replaced with a smart lock is surprisingly within your budget. Now you’ve stopped asking, “is it cheaper to rekey or replace locks” and instead are going to go a different direction than you expected.

Hopefully, after looking over the data, you’ve decided which one would work best for you. Either way, a professional locksmith service can help you get your locks working as you want them to, whether through a simple rekeying or a more complex replacement. Good luck with your lock situation!

Category: Buying Guides, Commercial, Residential

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