Door Lock Buying Guide
How to Pick a Lock

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 minutes under assault from a cordless drill was all it took to defeat nearly every lock in our ratings. That goes for both conventional deadbolts and smart locks—those you can operate with your smartphone.

CR’s test results are especially unsettling given that forcible entries (both attempted and completed) were the entry method used for 52 percent of all household burglaries in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Household Burglary special report. But while 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.

How We Test Door Locks

Every deadbolt and smart lock that enters CR’s labs gets 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 ever-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 DIY upgrade improves security for any lock (more on that later).

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 smart locks in our ratings get additional testing. We investigate features like smartphone alerts, remote locking/unlocking, geofencing, voice control (via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri), shareable electronic keys, logs of who comes and goes, and even tamper alarms. Our testers’ experiences factor into CR's unique Smart IQ score, so you can judge what you're paying for in a smart lock. We also run through wireless setup, including connecting them to a smartphone and linking them to virtual assistants for voice control, putting ourselves in your shoes. 

What We Found

Very few locks we rate score particularly well, and on the other end of the chart, a handful prove far more susceptible than most. Below are a few key takeaways.

Drills Easily Open Most Locks
With all except one lock classified as high-security, even an ordinary cordless drill can disable the cylinders in 2 minutes or less. Our drill test on the Medeco Maxum 11603, 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 door jamb. But as we've reported in the past, far too many of those included short screws that only catch the jamb, and not the framing of the house. We can say that because the kick-in resistance of most locks improves dramatically when we replace a stock strike plate with three-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 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 access codes for temporary access to guests and contractors that you can delete 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 electronic keys from your smartphone. But many of these high-tech locks are still susceptible to physical break-in tactics like drilling and kick-ins.

Door Lock Types

Today's door locks can be easily separated into two categories—conventional, non-connected deadbolts and smart locks. Here's what you need to know about them.

Conventional Deadbolts

These models don’t offer fancy features, but can keep your doors secure. They range from high-end drill-proof models from Medeco to inexpensive deadbolts you’d find at a variety store. All of them are single-cylinder locks and a few models can be rekeyed without the need to hire a locksmith.

Pros: Models are affordable and often re-keyable. Deadbolts significantly improve security over key-in-knob locks alone.

Cons: Lack the convenience and extra features of smart models.

Smart Locks

These models do more than lock doors, offering remote control, voice control, access logs, geofencing, and other smart features. However, to use them all you’ll need a separate WiFi hub or bridge that transmits the signal from the lock to your wireless router, and that costs extra. Some models completely replace your existing deadbolt, while others convert existing deadbolts into smart locks.

Pros: Add convenience and—with optional WiFi connectivity—peace of mind through remote control, access logs, and other smart features.

Cons: Just as susceptible to forced entry as non-connected locks, and potentially vulnerable to digital hacks. Require extra hardware for remote features. More expensive than conventional deadbolt locks.

How to Choose a Door Lock

1. Learn Lock Lingo
The deadbolts we’ve tested, both conventional and smart, are single-cylinder, operated using a key from outside and 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 hardest 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 tag alone might be enough to make you scoff at buying a smart lock, but before you dismiss them, consider the convenience they deliver. Smart locks 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 for those problems by way of their smartphone apps and optional remote locking/unlocking features. Just know that remote access requires the use of some sort of WiFi bridge, at an additional cost. (Smart locks don’t have WiFi built in because the chips are too power-hungry for the AA batteries that typically power them.) 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. Whatever 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 a fire hazard because you need a key to unlock the door from inside, which creates the possibility of being trapped. 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.

Lock Features

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

Door Lock Brands

A part of HHI, a division of Spectrum Brands, Kwikset is one of the biggest residential door lock brands. They were one of the first brands to introduce an electronic door lock and offer one of the largest lines of “smart” locks. The brand is also known for its Smart Key Technology. Kwikset locks are available at home centers and retail dealers nationally.
One of the oldest and most recognized brands in the security industry, Yale is a subsidiary of Assa Abloy, considered one of largest and fastest growing lock companies in the world. The brand produces a wide array of products for both residential and commercial use. Their smart locks include both keyed and keyless products. Models are available at Home Depot, Best Buy, Amazon, and authorized dealers.
A subsidiary of Allegion, Schlage is a popular lock brand that manufactures a wide range of residential and commercial products. They make both non-connected and smart locks that are available nationally at Best Buy, Amazon, home centers, and hardware stores.
Like Kwikset, Baldwin is another 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.
Recently acquired by Assa Abloy, August designs and markets smart home access/entry products, including smart locks. Their products are available nationally at Best Buy, Amazon, and other online retailers.
Another subsidiary of Assa Abloy, Medeco is one of the largest manufacturers of medium and high security locks for both residential and commercial use. Their products are favored by many professional locksmiths and are available at authorized dealers and Amazon.
A subsidiary of Fortune Brands Home, the Master Lock brand is one of the most famous and well-known worldwide. They market a wide range of products, including combination locks, padlocks, and many other security products. Their products are sold at Home Depot, Amazon, Walmart, authorized dealers, and hardware stores.
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