When you're locked out of your home or car, you're usually desperate to gain entry again. And that means you may call the first locksmith number you can find. But not every locksmith is reputable, and even trustworthy locksmiths may charge a premium for immediate or after-hours service.
What can you expect from a reliable locksmith versus a questionable one?
1. Identify a good locksmith before you need one.
Just like you might carry the number of a taxi company "just in case," you should also find a reputable locksmith before you need one. Talk to friends and family members to get recommendations, then have the locksmith you are considering perform some small service for you, like cutting a key. This will give you an idea of how the business is managed, whether it is local, and whether you're a good fit as a customer.
Sometimes your roadside assistance program can also recommend locksmiths, especially for auto lockouts. This is another good way to identify a reputable practitioner.
2. Look for legitimate business markers.
Start when you make your first phone call. Does someone answer the phone with a professional greeting? Or does your call go to a questionable voicemail message?
Some less-than-savory locksmiths may arrive on the scene in a dirty, unmarked vehicle. You may request paperwork or a business card that has a printed logo and contact information. If you get any clues that your locksmith is less than professional, don't hesitate to dismiss him or her before any work has been done, and call another person.
3. Don't rely on a phone quote.
One "bait and switch" tactic that scammers use is to quote a low cost for a straightforward job when you call, but once the work is done, they charge you three or four times more.
Consider that a professional locksmith should have a good idea of the work involved to gain access to a typical home lock or car. There may be issues that come up once the locksmith is on site, but those should be identified before the work starts.
While it's good to find out by phone what to expect, have the locksmith put the quote in writing once he or she arrives on the scene. That way you won't be surprised once the work is completed.
Taking some steps to be a smart consumer can help you avoid a huge, unwarranted locksmith bill that you're not expecting.