In the course of my many years as a locksmith servicing the Washington, DC (and specifically Northern Virginia area) as a locksmith, I’ve come across countless models and brands of residential locks. And the one piece of advice I would like to impart to my readers today is: Think long and hard before purchasing self-rekeying locks.

At first, this advice would seem a bit self-serving. After all, if you can rekey your own locks, you don’t need to pay me or another locksmith to do it. And, if you rekey your locks often (perhaps you rent property and have tenants frequently coming and going), then the cons of the Kwikset SmartKey and Schlage SecureKey systems might be outweighed by the pros. But the average person might rekey the locks to their properties once in the locks’ lifespan, mitigating any costs saved by having a locksmith come out to do the job. And the negatives of these two systems are not in short supply.

For example, much more often than with a standard key system, I come across self-rekeying locks that have simply stopped functioning without warning. Self-rekeying locks possess two-to-three times the moving parts as a regular lock, and they’re often small, plastic parts which break with great ease. It doesn’t take much for your lock to be rendered inoperable, requiring replacement (and a locksmith to get you in the place if you have no other entrances).

Also, these self-rekeying locks cannot be picked. And, while this sounds like a plus at first, the average criminal doesn’t know how to pick locks: He’s much more likely to knock in a window or even check for an open door. However, when you have locked yourself out and call a locksmith, these locks nearly always require drilling to open, meaning you’re out the cost of a new lock and installation where a traditional lock might have been picked, keeping it perfectly intact.

Last, unlike a regular lock, if you lose the keys to these fixtures, it is next to impossible to rekey them. Regular locks can be taken apart and reset, as it were, to be set to the key of your choice. Self-rekeying locks do not possess this luxury: If you’ve lost the keys to them and want to rekey them later on, you’re more than likely looking at replacing them.

Ultimately, security decisions are yours to make. But take the collected anecdotal wisdom above into consideration before you put locks on your next residence.