Dear PoP – Locksmith Recs

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

“Dear PoP,

Do you have any suggestions for cheap, trustworthy locksmiths in the DC area? I have been swindled by locksmiths in the past and want to know if you or your readers have any suggestions.”

Who do you guys recommend? Not to be too naive but how do you get swindled by a locksmith? Is that like being overcharged or they don’t actually do the work properly?

35 Comment

  • The one I used was a TOTAL rip off. $120 to open a non-deadbolted lock. Yuck. He was there literally 5 min.

  • Go find Earl at Capitol Locksmith, across Georgia from the new CVS at NH.

    • I’ll 2nd Earl. He is a great guy. And Capitol Locksmith (which is a general hardware store) also sells some candy!

  • We paid $500 to have 3 locks re-keyed and he misaligned the deadbolt to the point where it takes 5 minutes to get in the back door.

  • I used Barry’s Locksmith when I moved into my new house. He did a nice job but did come in slightly over the estimate ($100) due to having to get some extra parts.

  • Home Depot…

    I paid $85 to puchase 10 new locks/door knows and installed them myself. You will only need a Philips head screw driver so you might have to pay a few dollars for that too.

    • Also, if you buy locks w/ different keys, you can get them rekeyed for $3-$5 so everything matches. Unless you really, really love your door knobs it’s usually cheaper to reinstall new locks (even high quality) than to hire a locksmith

    • +1

      When it comes to locks, DIY is the way to go. I got hosed by a locksmith when I moved into my house. They treat everything like it’s an emergency call. Also, isn’t it strange that being a locksmith is still a specialty? Seems a little antiquated. Installing or rekeying locks is easier than you might think. All the instructions are on the box. And the worst thing that can happen if you can’t install it is that you call a handyman to do it for you.

  • Apparently there are a lot of uncertified locksmiths in the yellow pages and they will charge you ridiculous prices. Your best bet is to go thru the Associated Locksmiths of America at and find someone who is certified.
    FWIW, I paid like $20 a lock to get rekeyed. I wish I could remember the name of my locksmith, but I found him thru ALOA.

  • Not sure if this pertains to the original post or not, but if you’re going to DIY, you can rent an angle grinder to cut through padlocks from Logan Hardware on P St for cheap.

  • We used the Lock Doctor (Steve) when we moved into our new home and could not have been happier. He was pleasant on the phone, quoted me a reasonable price and arrived on time and completed the job speedily. His car had even broken down that morning, so he took a cab to and from my house!

    202) 232-6806

    • I tried to use him to install new locks, but he was a no show two appointments in a row. Worked out for the best though. After a brief youtube tutorial, did the job myself in about 15 minutes, saving $65 bucks in the process. I recommend DIY, most lockwork is within reach of laymen.

  • Go with some qualified locksmiths for sure. I paid over $200 bucks for this guy to take off a lock and he definitely was quoting me prices way over what I was told on the phone and seemed like he got a call from a buddy to come by in his family minivan. No ID, no company name, no insurance, just a contract locksmith. What happens is when you call a company like:

    for instance…you get a call center and then they contract the work out to some random contractor of their choosing and you have no idea who it may be.

    You just don’t know how much though until they actually check out your lock. Mine was completely striped as someone had been trying to break in so he tried to charge a lot more than the $30-$40 dollars I was told on the phone. They said it might be higher but I never imagined that high. They could have at least given me a range.

    I would go here instead:

    and make sure they are affiliated with:
    as anyone who is a member of the organization has to to pass criminal background checks before they can pick your lock.

    Even though our fellow sure was pleasant, I would go with someone qualified for sure.

  • I was locked out of my apt late one night and had to call a locksmith. They assured me on the phone (after telling them in great detail what my locks were like and the situation) that it would be $95 even.

    Guy shows up, we walk to my apartment, he says “It’s going to be $250 and I only take cash.” What do you do? It’s 3am, you just want to get into your apartment and have no way to know if you tell this guy to take a hike that the next guy won’t charge you more. I agreed, he drilled the lock, handed me a new one and walked away with the $.

    In hindsight, I should have told him to get lost, I know.

    • who the hell has 250 in cash?

      • ah

        Someone who’s not prepared to say “I was told $95 on the phone–I’m sure even $95 looks pretty good over getting zero for coming out at 3am”.

        • ha. good point.

          man i should make sure a few more neighbors have my key.

          • Same thing happened to me, except I was leaving to catch a flight home for Christmas. And I DID tell him to get lost. He actually cursed me out and said I owed him the fee to come and look at it. I called the referal company and they had him drop the price to $150. The locksmith then proceded to cut a whole in both the door and lock instead of use his tools to work it open. So then I had to buy a new lock and door altogether after getting into the house. SOB did it just to spite me for calling him out on overcharging. I have never written a more angry letter of complaint… got no response. THAT, POP, is how you get swindled by locksmiths.

    • I had to pay a guy $325 in cash at midnight in a similar situation because he had to change out a deadbolt and the door lock. The whole job took him about 15 to 20 minutes.

  • I have used Brooks and Central Lock (on 5th) in the past. Both do good work, but Brooks was quick and cheap, and they also do after hour work.

    Brooks Locks & Key, Brooks Lock & Key Service*
    8849 Walker Mill Road
    Capitol Heights, MD 20743-4922 map
    Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV Metro Area
    Phone: (301) 420-7307

  • The world of 24 hour locksmiths is a shady business. I’m convinced that a lot of the numbers in the yellow pages (remember those?) go to the same guy.

    I had a similar experience in that the price quoted on the phone NOT being what I was told in person. This is when I had to get my fire safe (Sentry) with my passport inside opened at 3am the night before I had to go out of the country. FYI – if anyone ever needs to do that, i can save you the 150 bucks. Crowbar = 3 seconds of work. So glad I paid.

    For the non-24 hour services, I would wholeheartedly recommend Dinku’s Locksmith: (202) 486-5827. They changed the locks on all my doors after I bought my house and charged a very reasonable rate (I can’t recall the exact number, but it was about 60 per door, all keyed the same).

  • if you’re in a situation that allows for it, take your locks in to a hardware store and have them rekeyed there.

    or go buy one or two new locksets and swap out the ones you are taking in.
    far cheaper than house calls.

    taking them out and reinstalling them is very easy.

    • This is a great call. I called out a locksmith (a highly rated one) who wouldn’t give me a quote on the phone. They wanted $400 to do a couple locks so I swapped out a lock at a time and brought them to the hardware store. Cost $40 and could not have been simpler.

  • Don’t go with 123 Locksmith, which is a scam operation that goes under a bunch of different trade names, including most of the ones that appear when you google “DC locksmith,” like 24/7 locksmith, etc. They charge a high fee to come out without telling you, and when they get there they quote a really high fee for the service which you agree to because you’ve already sunk a bunch of money into the first fee, and then the final bill ends up being even higher. They charged us like $350 to replace a simple lock at our place in CH with a crappy lock that would cost $20 or less at Home Depot. I never would have called this company if they didn’t hide behind a constantly changing array of trade names that keeps people from finding out how shady they are when you google them (the company that comes out is not the company that you call). When I finally managed to track down the parent company through all of the sham companies they operate as, they were unresponsive and I never got my money back. So consider this your retribution, 123 Locksmith.

  • Getting a price quote on the phone, and a much larger bill upon arrival/entry was is a very common scam that got alot of attention a few years ago. Alot of state AGs have since been prosecuting, so it’s a bit less common than it was. More here:

  • Ah, yes, looking for something that is both “cheap” and “good.” Ever elusive.

    The fact is, locksmiths are expensive because they come when you call. You aren’t paying for the expertise, you are paying for the expertise coming to your house.

    If you need locks rekeyed, for example, you can bring one to most any locksmith and get it done for 10 bucks or so.

    They will probably charge you $35 or more to do it at your house, though.

    What exactly is your need for a locksmith? Changing the locks on your house? If so, bring them all the cylinders. Or some of them in several batches, so you can still enter your house. Anyone with a screwdriver can remove a deadbolt in a few minutes, it will save you a lot of money.

    If your need is because you are locked out of your car/house, well, then, you’re screwed. Break a window, it will probably cost you less to fix it.

    All that said, I recommend Sure Fit Security in Silver Spring. They do on-call work in DC, and they have always done good work. They charge $12.50 per cylinder to re-key locks if you bring them to them. You could easily do your whole house for under a hundred bucks, IF YOU BRING THEM THE LOCKS.

    On the other hand, it is cheaper to buy a whole set of new locks at Home Depot than it is to have them (or any locksmith) rekey your house on-site.

  • I used Allen’s Lock to replace a deadbolt and make a couple keys for it. He can be reached at 703-444-4828 (he answered the phone “hello?” so I wasn’t sure it was the right number but it was).

    It cost about $100 for parts and labor. I have no idea if that’s a competitive rate and I didn’t care because my landlord told me I could just take the cost out of my rent. But he did come when he said he would and was very pleasant. And my deadbolt doesn’t lock people in my apartment the way the old one did, so I’m satisfied.

  • I just need to second the recommendations for Steve from the The Lock Doctor.

    One time, when my boyfriend was living in a studio basement apartment, he left his keys on the table. We called the first locksmith in the phone book. He came like 90 minutes later and unlocked the door for something ridiculous like $150. But, unbenownkst to us, he also broke the lock on the door. I went into the apartment, my boyfriend went to change a load of laundry and bam, I am now locked INSIDE the apartment with no way out — basement apartment = bars over the door. We called the locksmith back. He said he’d only come back if we agreed to give him another $150. I said no and, despite being slightly panicked at being locked in the apartment, then tried to find someone else. We called Steve and he agreed to come immediately over to the apartment to let me out. On the phone, he walked me through how to try to unlock the door myself. I was able to, but he still and replaced the broken lock for like $35. He is the BEST locksmith I have ever encountered and an all-around nice guy. He’s now programmed into my phone as the locksmith to call in case of emergency. I recommend him very highly.

  • Go to a good lock or hardware store (I like Central safe & lock 1107 7th St. NW. Buy a combination lockbox (you can set the combination to whatever you want) and have an extra set of keys made. Put the keys in the lockbox and lock it somewhere near your house.

  • 3rd rec for Steve (the Lock Doctor). I had him come out and redo the locks and keys on my new place and he was on time, professional, and really nice.

  • While we’re on the topic of locksmiths….

    It’s a really good idea to get a AAA membership. Even the most expensive membership is less than an emergency call to the locksmith. If you get locked out of your car, or if you’re with someone who does, you can call AAA and they’ll come and unlock you for free. It’s worth nothing that the membership covers the person and not the car so you can be in any vehicle, even if you don’t own the car, and they’ll help you.

    My boyfriend accidentally locked himself out of his rental U-Haul van at 11pm, but since I was with him, I just calmly dialed AAA and they were there within the hour and unlocked the van with no problem.

    I had gotten scammed by a locksmith here in DC once before (similar story – wouldn’t give a quote on the phone and charged $180 for a simple unlock procedure), and after that I signed up for AAA so that wouldn’t happen again.

    I wonder if there is a similar service you could subscribe to for homeowners or renters.

Comments are closed.