Rekey vs Changing Locks (Know Your Right Move)

Should you rekey or completely change your locks? It’s a question many grapple with, and this article aims to guide you towards an informed decision.

Both options come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice often hinges on specific circumstances.

For instance, if you possess a high-end, durable lock, it might be more economical to simply rekey it rather than replace the entire mechanism. This is primarily because rekeying a high-quality lock typically incurs fewer costs than an outright replacement.

To provide a clearer understanding, let’s delve deeper into what each process entails and weigh the pros and cons of rekeying versus changing locks.

Rekey vs Changing Locks

What Is Rekeying A lock?

Rekey a Lock

Rekeying a lock is the process of removing the existing pins and springs and replacing them with new ones that will work with a new or existing key.

The current pins inside the lock are replaced with pins of different lengths for the teeth of your keys to reach properly. So if you already have a key that’s suitable for the lock you’re rekeying, you can rekey the lock to work with the teeth of that key.

Rekeying your locks is usually the more cost-effective way of keeping your house secure as compared to changing the whole lock.

You’ll need to detach the lock from where it is and take it into a locksmith for rekeying. Don’t forget to take both the current key of the lock and the new key you want to use.

If everything runs smoothly, you should only land up paying for the labor as you won’t need to buy any new keys.

If you don’t have the last key used inside the lock, the locksmith will have to pick your lock first before rekeying it which is going to cost you extra.

You can rekey multiple locks to use with one key but you need to realize that not all locks work with the same types of keys. This means that you’ll need to double-check and make sure that all the locks you plan to rekey work with the same type of key.

If you’re thinking of rekeying a lock, first ask the locksmith how much it will be to replace the same exact lock to confirm its value. If rekeying the lock is almost the same price as a replacement, rather purchase a better lock to get rid of the cheap lock you’re already using.


Advantages of rekeying locks:

  • Rekeying a lock will normally cost less than changing a good quality lock.
  • Rekeying different locks will allow you to use one key for multiple different locks.
  • Rekeying a lock allows the locksmith to evaluate the current locks’ condition and correct any problems like insufficient lubrication.


Disadvantages of rekeying locks:

  • It’s not worth the price of rekeying a cheap lock.
  • If the lock you’re rekeying is old and worn you might land up needing to replace it shortly after rekeying it.
  • Rekeying the lock doesn’t make it any more secure if it was picked.


What Is The Process Of Changing A Lock?

Obviously not much of an explanation needed here, replacing a lock involves removing the current lock and then installing the new one. This is the only option you have if your current lock is broken in any way.

This is also the option to go for if you want to increase your security or change the style of lock to a lever or knob type handle.

Advantages of changing locks:

  • Replacing old locks with new lubricated locks will ensure you won’t have any problems for years to come.
  • You can increase the strength of your security by replacing your current lock with a stronger lock.
  • New locks always come with new keys.
  • You can upgrade to an electronic smart lock that has many benefits over conventional locks
  • You can choose a lockset that you find visually appealing

Disadvantages of changing locks:

  • It’s more expensive to buy a new high-quality lock than to rekey your current lock


When Should You Choose To Rekey A lock?

If you ever want to use one key for multiple locks, you should rekey the locks. Just check with the locksmith to know if all the locks you plan to use will take one key type.

When you move into a new house with expensive locks already installed, you should rekey to keep the high-quality locks. You’ll spend more money on replacing a premium lock compared to having a premium lock rekeyed.

If you lose your keys and are worried that they might fall into the wrong hands, rekey your locks. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a spare key for the lock, the locksmith will charge you extra for the rekeying process to be performed.

If anyone that was living with you moved out, you should rekey your locks because even if they gave their copy back to you they might have already made another copy.


When Should You Choose To Change The Entire Lock?

You should replace your entire lock whenever your lock is giving problems that lubrication can’t fix.

Replacing your current locks with stronger ones is always a good decision to increase your security.

You might want to replace your new homes locks entirely with new ones and then use the old locks at another property.  If anyone has a copy of the old lock key, they won’t know where those locks went so there won’t be a risk in them using it.

It’s a good decision if you want to upgrade your lock to a new smart lock like this one on Amazon. This way you don’t have to worry about keys anymore.

Anyone who needs access just uses a unique code to get in. You can give keyless access to different people and monitor them so that you know who’s coming and going.

You can even lock and unlock remotely from your cell phone at any time from anywhere.

If your current lock has been picked, you should replace the entire lock with a new one that’s more secure. The same goes for if your locked was physically tampered with to gain entry.

If your lock has been overcome in any way by a burglar, you’ll need to change your lock to a higher grade lock.

Besides functionality and security, if you just want to purchase new locks for the modern design or lever instead of a knob, you have an unlimited number of choices to go for.


Can I Rekey A lock Myself?

Re-Key a Lock Kit with Pre-Cut Keys

Yes, you can rekey locks yourself using a rekeying kit like this one from Amazon.

The rekeying kit comes with everything you need to rekey your lock but is specific to one manufacturer so if you have two different brands of locks, you’ll need two different rekeying kits.

These types of rekeying kits only allow you to rekey locks to the keys included in the package and not to other keys you may have.

The rekeying kits are usually comprised of two or three new keys, pins to go into the locking cylinder, special tools needed for the rekeying process, and luckily, a manual on how to perform the rekeying process.

Rekeying locks yourself usually isn’t very cost-effective though considering you need to buy the rekeying kit. These kits only have a certain amount of pins in them to use so you’ll need to buy more pins every time you need to rekey a lock.

The other problem with rekeying with a kit is that you can only rekey your lock to the keys included in the kit and not your own key.


Conclusion: Rekey vs Replace Locks

Rekeying a lock vs changing locks really depends on your situation.

If the reason is that you’re moving into a new house and you want the cheapest option, rekey. The same goes for if someone has just moved out of your house, rekeying is the quickest, cheapest, and easiest option.

If a worker who had keys to your house is not working for you anymore, rekey. There is no way of knowing if the keys were ever copied.

If you’ve lost your keys you should get a quote from a locksmith for a lock-picking, rekeying, and key cutting and compare the price to a new lock with keys included. Don’t move down on the quality of your current lock though.

If your current lock was picked, change the lock instead of rekeying because the same lock will be just as easy to pick as it was before. Rekeying doesn’t change the vulnerability of the lock, you need a higher quality lock instead.

Make sure to get quotes from the locksmith regarding all your options or else they might just choose the most expensive option for you.

Be careful of scammers posing as locksmiths. There are a lot of scammers registering their fake services on well-known search engines. What these scammers do is tell you that you absolutely need to replace the locks no matter what the situation.

If they’re asked to pick a lock for you they’ll tell you that it’s a special lock that they will have to drill through and replace. They drill through locks instead of picking them because they have no real lock-smith skills.


Related Questions

How Much Does It Cost To Rekey A Lock?

Rekeying a lock will cost between $50 and $130 for a house lock and between $75 to $180 for a car lock. You will be charged an extra lockpicking fee if you don’t have the current unlocking key. The price also depends on whether or not you take the lock to the locksmith or if it’s a call-out.


Will Home Depot Rekey Locks To Match?

Yes, Home Depot can rekey locks to match your current keys. If the lock that you’re buying from them is a Schlage or Kwikset, the process should be quick and easy. If they have any difficulties getting the job done, they will refer you to a locksmith.


Will Home Depot Rekey Locks For Free?

Home Depot can rekey most of the locks they sell but it’s not a free service. With prices fluctuating so quickly, it’s best to give them a call and get a quick quote. Their contact number is 1-800-466-3337.


Does Lowes Rekey Locks For Free? It used to cost around $5 to rekey a lock at Lowes back in 2009! Not bad, it’s a bit more nowadays. For an up-to-date quote, you will have to give Lowes a call at 1-800-445-6937.


Can Two Locks Have The Same Key?

Yes, two locks can definitely have the same key. Besides going through the rekeying process, different locks can just coincidently have the same pin set up inside.

Not that anyone will ever be able to figure out where the other lock is that has the same key pattern. Luckily there are thousands of possible combinations.

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Edward Clark
Edward Clark, with 15 years of hands-on experience, is a distinguished expert in smart locks and home security systems. He holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Cybersecurity and is a member of the Electronic Security Association (ESA). His credentials include certifications from ASIS International, IAPP, CompTIA, NTS, and CEDIA. With expertise spanning risk management, electronic security, and data privacy, he's been featured in The Guardian, Forbes, Wired, and more. Edward's mission: guiding individuals toward secure homes using the latest technologies.

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