Door Lock Buying Guide

Many of the deadbolt locks tested by Consumer Reports lack the level of protection you might want or expect. In our labs, a few well-placed kicks or a couple of minutes under assault from a cordless drill were all it took to defeat almost every lock in our ratings. That goes for conventional deadbolts, electronic locks with keypads, and smart locks—those you can operate with a smartphone or smart speaker.

CR’s test results are especially unsettling, given that forcible entries (both attempted and completed) were the entry method used for about 62 percent of all burglaries in 2019, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. But though it’s true that a determined burglar will always find a way in, our ratings can help you find the right lock to give your home a fighting chance.

Latest Trends

The door lock market doesn’t change as quickly as the markets for other products, such as appliances and electronics, but there is plenty of change afoot when it comes to smart locks.

Internet-connected smart locks are improving in a number of ways. Newer models connect directly to WiFi, negating the need for hubs and bridges that connect them to the internet. Some smart locks now feature fingerprint sensors, giving you a way to unlock your door without a key, a PIN code, or a smartphone. And retrofit smart locks (models that essentially add smarts to your existing lock) are getting smaller.

August (a sister brand of Yale) made its latest retrofit model, the August WiFi Smart Lock, smaller than the previous version. But a new startup called Level has made its retrofit model, the Level Bolt, so small that it simply replaces the bolt of your existing deadbolt.

Smart locks will see more changes as the smart home industry adopts a new communications standard called Matter. Through this standard, smart home devices from different manufacturers will be able to talk to each other without the need for dedicated partnerships between companies.

The standard already has support from Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, and over 170 other companies, including Assa Abloy (parent company of August and Yale), Kwikset, Level, and Schlage. Matter-certified products are expected to enter the market by the end of 2021.

How We Test Door Locks

The deadbolts, electronic locks, and smart locks that enter CR’s labs get kicked, picked, and drilled into oblivion.

For the kick-in tests, CR’s test engineers built a custom jig that allows them to swing a 100-pound steel battering ram at a replaceable section of door with the deadbolt installed. They repeat the test eight times, at increasing heights, or until the lock fails. The models that fail—and at least half do—then go through another test round with a reinforced box strike plate installed on a new lock sample. Again and again, CR’s experts have found that this basic do-it-yourself upgrade improves security for any lock (more on that later).

For the drilling test, we evaluate how well each lock can withstand attack from a cordless drill. And for the picking test, we assess the internal mechanisms of each lock to see how easily they can be picked.

All models, including smart locks, receive a score in each of the four break-in tests, allowing you to easily compare each lock’s strengths and weaknesses in the face of a physical breach. The only exception is retrofit smart locks. These locks replace only the interior side of your existing deadbolt, essentially adding smarts to the lock you already use. As a result, a retrofit smart lock’s resistance to kicking, picking, and drilling is entirely dependent on the deadbolt it’s paired with.

Both types of smart locks also get additional testing. We investigate features such as smartphone alerts, remote locking and unlocking, geofencing (the ability to automatically lock or unlock the door based on your phone’s location), voice control (via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri), shareable electronic keys, access logs of who comes and goes, and even tamper alarms. Our testers factor these features into our ratings for ease of remote access, convenience, and security add-ons. We also run through the wireless setup process to see how difficult it is to connect the locks to a smartphone and other smart home devices (such as smart speakers), putting ourselves in your shoes. For the details on how well each door lock performs in these tests, see the results in our door lock ratings

What We Found

Very few locks we rate earn a high Overall Score, and some locks prove to be far more susceptible than most to brute-force attacks. Below are a few key takeaways.

Drills Easily Open Most Locks
With all but the high-security locks we test, even an ordinary cordless drill can disable the cylinders in 2 minutes or less. Our drill test on the Medeco Maxum 11*603, which has hardened cylinders, ruined the lock but denied access. So you’d have to replace the lock but not the contents of your home.

Parts Are Often Inadequate
All locks come with a strike plate that attaches to the doorjamb. But as we’ve reported in the past, many of these come with short screws that catch only the jamb and not the framing of the house. The kick-in resistance of most locks improves dramatically when we replace a stock strike plate with 3-inch screws and a box strike, which you can buy online for as little as $5. “We think manufacturers should include beefier hardware with their locks,” says CR’s lock test engineer, David Trezza. “A lock should be secure without consumers having to buy an aftermarket part.”

New Technologies Don’t Solve Old Problems
We find keypad-operated door locks to be convenient. These models allow you to create codes for temporary access to guests and contractors; you can delete the codes when access is no longer needed, without having to change the lock or call a locksmith. This process is even easier with smart locks, most of which allow you to create and delete PIN codes and electronic keys from your smartphone. But many of these high-tech locks are still susceptible to physical break-in tactics, such as drilling and picking.

Door Lock Types

Today’s door locks can be separated into three categories—conventional, nonconnected deadbolts; smart locks; and retrofit smart locks. Here’s what you need to know about them.

A deadbolt door lock.

Conventional and Electronic Door Locks

These models don’t offer fancy features, but they can keep your doors secure. They range from a high-end, drillproof model from Medeco to inexpensive deadbolts you’d find at a variety store to electronic models with keypads that allow you to program PIN codes. Most are single-cylinder locks, and a few models can be rekeyed without the need to hire a locksmith.

Pros: Models are affordable and often rekeyable. Deadbolts significantly improve security over key-in-knob locks alone. Electronic locks let you lock and unlock your door without a key.

Cons: They lack the convenience and extra features of smart models.

Door Locks Ratings
A smart door lock.

Smart Locks

These models do more than lock doors, offering remote control, voice control, access logs, geofencing, and other smart features. Features such as remote control and voice control often require a separate WiFi adapter or bridge that transmits the signal from the lock to your wireless router, and that costs extra. However, more and more WiFi models are coming to market. There are also Bluetooth-only smart locks that have limited wireless range but offer some smart features.

Pros: These models add convenience and—with optional WiFi connectivity—peace of mind through remote control and other smart features.

Cons: They’re just as susceptible to forced entry as nonconnected locks, and they’re potentially vulnerable to digital hacks. They usually require extra hardware (sometimes sold separately) for remote features and are more expensive than conventional deadbolt locks. Bluetooth-only models’ remote features work at a limited range.

Smart Locks Ratings
A retrofit smart lock.

Retrofit Smart Locks

These models offer all the same features as regular smart locks, but instead of fully replacing your deadbolt, they replace part of your existing deadbolt (usually the interior side with the thumb-turn). This allows you to essentially keep your existing deadbolt and keys while gaining smart features, such as remote control and auto-unlocking.

Pros: You get to keep your existing keys and the exterior side of your deadbolt, which might match your front door handleset.

Cons: The physical strength of these smart locks is entirely dependent on your existing deadbolt. If the deadbolt is weak to kicking, drilling, or picking, the smart features won’t do much to stop an intruder.

Retrofit Smart Locks Ratings

How to Choose a Door Lock

1. Learn Lock Lingo
The deadbolts we’ve tested, both conventional and smart, are usually single-cylinder, operated using a key (or keypad and PIN code) from outside or a thumb-turn from inside. The high-security locks have hardened cylinders, unique pin configurations, and other defenses. Industry rankings, Grades 1 to 3, seem to track with our ratings, with Grade 1 locks being the most difficult to disable. But packages don’t always display that information, so you might have to check company websites to find out how a lock is rated.

2. Decide How Much You Can Spend
A high-security lock of the Medeco caliber might seem expensive, and smart locks aren’t cheap, either. But if you have a break-in, the deductible on your homeowners insurance is likely to be higher than the cost of the lock. And insurance policies commonly give discounts for homes with deadbolts.

3. Determine Whether You Want a Smart Lock
The price alone might be enough to make you scoff at buying a smart lock, but before you dismiss it, consider the convenience it delivers. A smart lock can be very helpful if you often forget to lock your door, or need to let contractors or cleaners in when you’re not home.

Smart locks solve those problems by way of smartphone apps and optional remote locking and unlocking features. Just know that remote access usually requires the use of some sort of WiFi bridge, at an additional cost. (Most smart locks don’t have WiFi built in because the chips are too power-hungry for the AA batteries that typically power them, but that is changing.) And if you’re considering a smart lock but don’t want to pay extra for WiFi access, an electronic lock might serve your needs. This type offers keypad access and the ability to program and distribute PIN codes to various guests, but it can’t talk to your smartphone.

4. Beef Up the Door Frame and Lock
Weak doors—in particular, hollow-core doors—may give way before the lock does. Whichever type of lock you buy, be sure to use a box strike made of heavy-duty metal and install it with the screws provided. Another option is to install 3-inch screws on your existing strike plate. Hinges should also be secured with 3-inch screws.

You might not want to spring for a double-sided lock, though; many municipalities consider them to be a fire hazard because you need a key to unlock the door from inside, which creates the possibility of being trapped. But they can offer peace of mind if installed on a door adjacent to glass sidelites by robbing a would-be burglar of the ability to break the glass and reach in to unlock the thumb-turn.

Door Lock & Smart Lock Features

Conventional deadbolts don’t offer many features outside of DIY rekeying, but smart locks certainly do. Here are a few lock features that can add security and convenience to your home.

Door Lock Brands

Owned by Assa Abloy and considered one of the largest and fastest-growing lock companies in the world, August designs and markets smart home access and entry products, including smart locks. Its products are available nationally at Amazon, Best Buy, and other online retailers.
Baldwin is a subsidiary of HHI, a division of Spectrum Brands. Baldwin is considered one of the premium brands within the lock category, offering a wide array of products. It’s a brand favored by designers and retails at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and authorized dealers.
A part of HHI, a division of Spectrum Brands, Kwikset is one of the biggest residential door lock brands. It was one of the first brands to introduce an electronic door lock, and it offers one of the largest lines of smart locks. The brand is also known for its SmartKey Security technology. Kwikset locks are available at home centers and retail dealers nationally.
A subsidiary of Fortune Brands Home, the Master Lock brand is one of the most famous and well-known worldwide. It markets a wide range of products, including combination locks, padlocks, and many other security products. Its products are sold at Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, authorized dealers, and hardware stores.
Another subsidiary of Assa Abloy, Medeco is one of the largest manufacturers of medium- and high-security locks for both residential and commercial use. Its products are favored by many professional locksmiths and are available at authorized dealers and Amazon.
A subsidiary of Allegion, Schlage is a widely sold lock brand that manufactures a wide range of residential and commercial products. It makes nonconnected and smart locks that are available nationally at Amazon, Best Buy, home centers, and hardware stores.
One of the oldest and most recognized brands in the security industry, Yale is a subsidiary of Assa Abloy. The brand produces a wide array of products for residential and commercial use. Its smart locks include both keyed and keyless products. Models are available at Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, and authorized dealers.
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