3 Must Do’s When Choosing a Locksmith

As a Professional Vancouver downtown Locksmith servicing the Metro Vancouver Area, I spend a lot of time fielding calls from potential customers. Some of it is about our Downtown Vancouver Key Store such as how much does it cost to duplicate keys (it depends on the key blank) or what are our Key Store hours (Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm).

Other calls are about Mobile Locksmithing Services including Lockouts, Rekeys, Mailboxes, Door and Lock Repairs etc. One thing that I am always happy to tell you is how much a locksmith service call costs which can surprise some people. So here are a few reasons why I charge what I charge and how you can choose the right downtown Vancouver locksmith for you.

As always, please feel free to call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. Or you can just drop by our Downtown Vancouver Key Store located at 555 West Hastings St. We are located on the bottom floor of the SFU/Harbour Centre next to Gastown’s only BC Liquor Store.

Tip #1: Is your Locksmith licensed and insured?

Have you ever asked a Locksmith for his/her Locksmithing License?

Just like you need a Driver’s License to operate a motor vehicle in BC, Locksmiths (and other security professionals) need to be licensed by the BC provincial government. As a licensed Locksmith in Vancouver, I am legally obligated to carry my BC government issued Locksmithing license anytime during work. This also obligates me to show my license to any law enforcement personnel, and in turn, any clients who request to see it.

In Vancouver, there are two types of Locksmith licenses. The first is for a fully licensed Locksmith (like myself). The second is for a Locksmith Apprentice who is supposed to be under the direct supervision of a fully licensed Locksmith.

I think most people will be surprised by the number of unlicensed “Locksmiths” running around town. I don’t want to give any credence to these shady operations, but these companies are basically call centres based in a foreign country that take your phone call and direct the work order to a pool of local guys they have in the Vancouver area.

The call centre gets about 50% of the sales and the so-called “Locksmith” gets the other half. These vampires have huge marketing budgets and rank very high in Google search results. They own multiple websites under different company names targeting Vancouver that funnel the calls to the same call centre in Eastern Europe and squeeze out local Locksmith shops.

Since they have virtually no local infrastructure nor a BC Security Business License, they don’t have any fully licensed Locksmiths nor licensed apprentices. So what does that mean for you?

  • Lack of safety and professionalism – you are literally inviting some random guy (sorry it’s a male dominated industry) to your home or business
  • Huge variance in skill levels – this is a skill based trade and unlicensed Locksmiths are the bottom of the barrel
  • Lack of recourse – warranties are virtually never honored and the business owners are in another country outside the reach of our judicial system

So next time you book an appointment with a Locksmith, ask to see their BC Security Worker License. It will have a code that starts with the letter ‘E’. For example, my license number is E60825. It will say “Locksmith” on the left with a photo ID on the right. Also make sure it has not expired.

For additional verification, you can take that BC Security Worker License number and go to the BC Ministry of Justice website to verify the number. Here’s the link: https://justice.gov.bc.ca/security/utilities/

Low prices does not make a good Locksmith

In terms of pricing, unlicensed Locksmiths are unbelievably cheap. Their websites promise service calls for under $100. I’ve seen some call centres advertising a $15 service call. It’s literally too good to be true. If you can’t get a licensed plumber for under $100, there’s no way you can get a licensed Locksmith for under $100.

Some Locksmith shops have a fully licensed Locksmith at the office supervising multiple Locksmith Apprentices. They cost a bit more. Some shadier shops will hire people off the street promising a new hire a Locksmith Apprenticeship but drag it out for months or years. Once they get the Apprenticeship license, then the company never sponsors the Apprentice for the full license.

It’s a way to minimize labour costs and keep charge-out fees low. There is a group of Locksmith companies in Vancouver with a common owner that does this. They have some fairly large Master Service Agreements where cost control is paramount. This is one of the reasons why I dislike MSAs. The margins are so tight that professionals are forced to do subpar work.

Then you have shops that employ only fully licensed Locksmiths like mine. We cost more because we have a Master Locksmith on every service call. At Archer Lock Services, we generally have clients that prefer fire-and-forget solutions. If you have a problem, we fix it and you never have to worry about it again – or at the least, for a very long time. More on that later.

Tip #2: Does your Locksmith have a physical location?

A few years ago, I saw a Venn diagram at a supplier’s office. It basically looked like this:

best locksmith in downtown Vancouver

Basically it says:

  • Any good or service that is fast and cheap is generally of low quality
  • Any good or service that is good and cheap is usually slow to deliver
  • Any good or service that is good and fast generally costs more
  • Any good or service that is good, fast and cheap is virtually non-existent

Most customers want our service to be the last one – good, fast, and cheap. However, that’s a unicorn and we don’t deal in fairy tales. When I started this business, I had to choose between cheap and fast and good and fast. I chose the latter because it’s the one that allows me to sleep at night without worry.

Yes, we cost a bit more than an Apprentice, but our fully licensed Locksmiths provide a higher quality of work with less call backs from our clients. We have to charge more as our operating costs are higher.

Another factor that drives our higher cost is that we have a physical location in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. Our Key Store at 555 West Hastings St is one of two key stores left in the downtown core. In fact, there has been a Key Store at the same location and space for 40+ years. My wife and I are the third family to operate this mom-and-pop key store.

Our Downtown Vancouver Key Store near Gastown has one of the largest selections of residential and commercial key blanks. We use the latest and the industry’s best key machines to provide fast accurate key duplication service with no questions asked money-backed guarantee Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm.

Would it surprise you to know that 90% of the locksmiths in town do not have a physical location? As I mentioned previously, the big call centres are located in countries beyond the legal reach of the Canadian government and most other locksmiths operate virtual home-based businesses.

While a brick-and-mortar location is not a guarantee of quality, it does lend credence to the legitimacy and tenure of a business. On the plus side, if something goes wrong or you simply wish to have a chat, we have a store near the Waterfront Skytrain Station where you can come to talk to us. On the downside, it does mean higher operating costs, which are partially passed onto our mobile service customers.

The main problem with non-brick-and-mortar companies is that they can just disappear at any time. Locksmith call centres are completely virtual to begin with. However, even home-based businesses can disappear overnight with a click of a button. This is much harder to do with a well established Vancouver based Locksmith business like ours. 

Tip #3: What kind of warranty does your Locksmith provide?

The final tip on choosing the right locksmith for you has to do with the type and length of warranty provided.

When I first started my business, I immediately instituted our standard 1 year warranty on parts and labour. Back then, I was part of a larger franchise and was told I was crazy to offer such a long warranty, particularly on labour. 

Most locksmiths in Vancouver provide a 1 year warranty and a 30 days warranty on labour, if at all. The 1 year warranty on parts is fairly easy as most manufacturers provide a 1 year warranty on all their products, anyway. 

On the other hand, we are the only Vancouver Locksmiths who provide a 1 year warranty on labour as well. This also includes after hours and weekends service calls. If a lock that I provided and installed fails on a Sunday evening, it’s still covered under our warranty. Good luck trying to get the same guarantee of service from a lesser locksmith.

Best locksmith warranty in town

So how can we provide such a guarantee and remain in business? By simply providing quality parts and installing them to a high standard. Basically, if we do our job right, the warranty could be 1 year or 10 years and it won’t matter. We pride ourselves in doing the job right, the first time.

If you choose a cheaper locksmith, just make sure to ask about the length of warranties on both parts and labour. Also, make sure to get that guarantee in writing. Call centre dispatched locksmiths often have no idea what was discussed between you and the call centre so get any warranties in writing and signed.

So are there situations where our Best in Vancouver warranty would not apply? Yes there are. Basically they fall into the following categories:

  • Jobs where the client supplied the parts. It might be cheaper for you, but we can only provide our warranties on jobs where we supplied both the parts and the labour.
  • Situations involving break-ins and tampering. We can only warranty parts that are used as intended. If someone breaks the lock by misuse or vandalism, we can’t cover that kind of unforeseen scenarios. 
  • We told you something was a bad idea, but you did it anyway. For example, we recommend the client install a heavy duty lock in a crime-prone area, but they install a cheaper lock.

Basically, no lock can withstand tampering or abuse forever. Even the Heavy Duty Grade 1 Commercial Hardware will eventually give-in and fail. However, the higher the quality of the product, the better the warranty.

Extra Long Warranties

At Archer Lock Services, we do not sell extended warranties. Mostly because, no one has ever asked for one. We are fairly generous with our warranties, especially to our long term clients.

Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to discuss lock hardware with unusually long manufacturers’ limited warranties. Unlike your standard Home Depot grade deadbolts, knobs, and levers, Commercial Grade locks have a much longer expected life cycles – particularly in respect to Mortise Locks. In turn they have much longer limited warranties. For example:

  • Sargent HD 8200 series mortise locks – 10 years
  • Schlage HD L series mortise locks – 10 years
  • Sargent HD 10 series levers – 7 years
  • Schlage HD ND series levers – 10 years
  • Sargent MD 7 series levers – 5 years 
  • Schlage MD ALX series levers – 10 years
  • Sargent Electromechanical devices – 2 years
  • Schlage Electromechanical devices – 3 years

While the Sargent/Schlage Heavy Duty Grade 1 and Medium Duty Grade 2 locks cost more than the Residential Grade 3 and knock-off from competitors, they are designed to last longer and provide lower cost per use over the product’s expected life cycle. This is why we always recommend clients choose a name-brand lock from a reputable company with exceptional manufacturers’ limited warranties.

It’s like buying a Toyota or a Lexus over a Skoda. It will cost more upfront, but it will last longer.

Final Thoughts

No matter which criteria you use to choose your next locksmith, just remember you get what you paid for. Like similar trades, Locksmithing is a skill-based trade where experience, equipment, and talent actually matters. If getting the lowest price is your only priority, we still recommend you ask the following questions:

  1. Is this locksmith licensed and did he show me his BC government issued license?
  2. Does this locksmith have an actual local physical location with a storefront?
  3. What kind of warranty does this locksmith provide and is it written down?

As long as you take a few precautions, you should be fine. If in doubt, please feel free to call or text me at 604-363-2760 or email me at alex@locksmithvancouver.com. Or you can just drop by our Downtown Vancouver Key Store located at 555 West Hastings St. We are located on the bottom floor of the SFU/Harbour Centre next to Gastown’s only BC Liquor Store.

Finally, my wife and I have decided to extend our Key Store hours Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm. We are still closed on the weekends as the mall is closed. Mobile Locksmithing Service will continue to be available 8am to midnight although rates will vary outside of regular working hours.

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