Rekeying or Changing the Lock: What Should You Do

Informational Articles

When you move into a new home, lose a set of keys, or just want the keys for your home’s locks to match, your first instinct is probably to change the locks. What many people don’t know is that there’s a second option: rekeying. This can be a much cheaper and more practical option than changing a lock. Let’s look at rekeying vs. changing locks and find out what the difference is and when it might make more sense for you to rekey your home instead of replacing locks.

Rekeying vs. Changing Locks: What’s the Difference? 

When you change locks on the house, you are replacing the entire locking mechanism. This means that a locksmith will remove the entire lock from a door and replace it with a new one that has a different set of keys. Depending on the type of lock, this can often be quite expensive because you are paying for both the labor and a completely new lock. 

Rekeying locks is different from replacing them because the current locking mechanism stays in place. What the locksmith does, in this case, is take the lock apart and replace the tumblers, also known as key pins, inside. Tumblers or key pins are the moving parts inside of the lock that align with the grooves on the key and allow it to unlock the door. In other words, once the pins are changed, the old key will no longer work, and you will receive a new key that matches the new pins. Rekeying your lock is always cheaper than replacing a lock. This is because there is no added cost of purchasing a new lock entirely.  Additionally, there is less labor costs from having the lock changed by a locksmith.

How Much Does It Cost to Rekey a Lock?

Rekeying a lock is much cheaper than changing it because you don’t have to purchase a whole new locking mechanism. The only things you will have to pay for are cheap replacement pins, a new set of keys, and the labor. Since a professional locksmith can usually rekey a lock in a matter of minutes, the costs to you are minimal.

Benefits of Rekeying your Locks

Rekeying a Lock
Rekeying a Lock

If you call a Locksmith, it will always be cheaper to rekey your locks rather than change them.  However, if you are changing the locks yourself it can sometimes be cheaper to change the locks because there is no added cost of having to pay a locksmith to do the work for you.  This applies only if the locks are cheap locks.  If you have expensive locks then hiring a locksmith may be a better alternative. 

There are however other benefits of having the locks rekeyed by a locksmith.  If you were to change 3 locks on your own you would have 3 different keys for the 3 different locks.  A locksmith can give you one key to all the locks by rekeying all the locks the same.  Doing this is much more convenient and can save you time, money, and give you a higher satisfaction.  Carrying multiple keys can cause confusion and may even get you accidentally locked out of your house if you were to take the wrong key while venturing out.

How to Rekey a Lock

Rekeying a lock requires a particular combination of tools and expertise. A locksmith will use something called a pinning kit to change the pins inside the lock. Keep in mind that to quickly do so, the locksmith needs a copy of the original key. If you don’t have a single copy of the key, the locksmith will have to pick the lock, which can result in higher labor costs for you. If this is the case, you should consult with the locksmith first to compare the prices for changing vs. rekeying the lock.

You may find in your research that it’s possible to purchase a rekeying kit to rekey a lock yourself. Although it is indeed possible, a rekeying kit can cost more than $200, making it more expensive than having a professional do it. You also run the risk of permanently damaging the lock if you try to rekey it yourself and do it incorrectly, which would result in you having to replace the lock entirely. If you don´t have any experience with rekeying locks, it’s best to leave it to a locksmith.

Changing Locks vs. Rekeying: When to Do Each

Changing Locks

Changing a Lock
Changing a Lock

When you want to upgrade the overall security of your locks, changing them entirely to something more robust makes the most sense. When you rekey a lock, the strength of the locking mechanism stays the same and only the key changes. If your goal is to upgrade the security of your home, changing the entire locking mechanisms would make the most sense.

Another case in which you would want to replace the locks is if they are old or damaged. Maybe they have rusted over time or perhaps they were tampered with during a burglary or attempted burglary. In both cases changing your locks is a good idea. You might also consider changing your locks for purely aesthetic purposes to upgrade the look of your doors or as part of a more extensive home renovation.

-Rekeying Locks

If you are happy with the security of the locks on your doors, but you’re worried about the keys, rekeying is a much easier and more affordable choice. For example, if you move into a new home and you don’t know who else has the keys or you lost a set of keys, and you are worried that someone may have found them, it makes sense to simply rekey the locks. The same goes for if you know someone has a copy of a key and you no longer want them to be able to use it.

 Another case in which you might want to rekey locks is if you want the keys to match for two or more different locks. For example, if you have a back and front door with two different keys but you would prefer to be able to use one only. It’s important to know that if you want to rekey multiple locks to match one key, they must have the same style of keyhole or be of the same brand.

 You can check if the keyholes are the same by trying to insert the key for one door into the keyhole for the other. If it goes in, they have the same style of keyhole and can be rekeyed, so they both share one key. On the other hand, if the key for one door will not fit in the keyhole for the other door, it won’t be possible to rekey them without changing the lock on one of them so the keyholes match.


Whether you already knew that rekeying was an alternative to replacing locks or not, you should now know much more about the two methods and understand what the key differences are. Use this added knowledge to evaluate your unique situation and think about what you want to achieve with your locks and keys. Then, choose the method that makes the most sense for you and your budget. If you still aren’t sure, remember that you can always consult with NELA locksmith to help you decide.

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