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Best smart locks 2020: Front door smart locks for your home or vacation rental

Best smart locks 2020: Front door smart locks for your home or vacation rental
(Image credit: August)

Investing in a smart lock is a fantastic way of increasing the security of your home, but it is imperative that you make the right decision for your home. After all, just like a regular lock, you’re trusting a smart lock with your possessions and, most importantly, your safety. We've reviewed the best smart locks from August, Schlage, Yale, and other top brands to bring your our top picks.

As much as your classic house key may feel comforting and familiar, investing in a smart lock makes a whole lot of sense. Offering you a virtual key to your home via your smartphone or home assistant means you can always keep track of your home, even when you’re not in. That means no more stressing because you can’t remember if you locked the door. You can also allow people such as dog walkers and baby sitters into your home as and when you choose, which is great if you’re not quite comfortable trusting them with a permanent key, and you know better than to leave your spare under the doormat. This is also perfect for those with vacation rentals such as Airbnb properties, as you can add and remove guest codes at your convenience, or even set an expiry timer.

Choosing the best smart lock for your home

Smart locks are a fast-evolving industry, but the best smart lock for your home isn’t necessarily the most up-to-date. Even though it’s important that you opt for something with software compatible with your smart home setup, some of the locks in our guide are tried and tested favorites that have been keeping users happy and safe for years. 

Make sure when buying a smart lock that it’s suitable for your home. After all, every door and lock is different, so if you can’t change your deadbolt (which will cost extra for installation) then opt for something that can be retrofitted with your existing hardware.

To make your home smarter and safer, you can also check out our guides to the best home security systems, best home safes, and best video doorbells


The best smart locks

1. Schlage Sense BE479: Best smart lock overall

Best Smart Locks 2020

(Image credit: Amazon)

Schlage Sense BE479

The best smart lock we reviewed

ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 Certified
Three-year electronics warranty
Detects when someone uses a key
Limited smart home compatibility
Remote access requires extra purchase

The Schlage Sense is the most secure smart lock we tested. It detects when people use codes, keys or the mobile app to unlock the door. We like that it has an ANSI/BHMA Grade 1 certification, the highest residential security rating a lock can earn.

The Sense replaces your existing deadbolt, and its encrypted Bluetooth connection means that only someone with a password can access it. When we tested the Sense, we liked how easy it was to add and remove key codes as well as how quickly the lock responded to the app, which was faster than other locks we tested, though it's not as fast as some newer locks. The app also lets you set up auto-lock, which secures the door if you forget to lock it after you come in. The app initially came out for the iPhone, but the company has since released an Android app, though it isn’t as polished as the iOS version. Despite the lock's excellent security, it's only compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa and Google Home, though you need to buy the Schlage Sense Wi-Fi Adapter to use the latter two. For remote access, you need the Wi-Fi adapter or an Apple TV. The batteries in the Schlage Sense last up to 12 months. The lock has a lifetime warranty on the mechanical components and the exterior finish, though its electronic components are covered for three years. This is the best warranty among smart locks.


1. August Smart Lock Pro: Easiest smart lock to use

Best Smart Locks 2020

(Image credit: August)

August Smart Lock Pro

An attractive and easy-to-use smart lock

Best-in-class smart home compatibility
Easy to fit 
Super smart
Only as strong as your deadbolt

The August Smart Lock Pro is the most advanced smart lock we tested. It comes with a variety of innovative features such as the ability to detect when your door is open. It's also compatible with more smart home devices than other smart locks.

Our testing revealed that this lock is easier to use than the competition, narrowly beating the other August lock in our comparison. If you choose to add the August Smart Lock Pro to your smart home, you have a variety of options such as Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Z-Wave and IFTTT, which covers every major platform. You can also connect the lock to an August Doorbell Cam Pro, which is the best combination between the two types of products we've seen. While you can buy the August Smart Lock Pro as a standalone product, you're more likely to see it bundled with the August Connect, a device that adds remote access over the internet. Because the August Smart Lock Pro is a retrofit-style smart lock, much of its physical security relies on the deadbolt to which you attach it. Considering this is already an expensive lock at $279, upgrading your deadbolt makes it even more expensive. The battery life on this smart door lock is shorter than other brands we reviewed, and the one-year warranty isn't great, but the smart home functions and easy controls help make up for that.


3. Yale Assure Lock SL: Best keyless smart lock

Best Smart Locks 2020

(Image credit: Yale)

Yale Assure Lock SL

A modern smart lock with keyless entry for ultimate protection

Looks great
Remote monitoring
WiFi capabilities 
If the batteries die, it’s a hassle

Breaking up with your house key is a difficult thing, but it’s also the best way to prevent lock picking. This deadbolt lock will take a little longer to install than a retrofitted one, but it’s actually a very straightforward process thanks to the in-app guidance. 

Because this is a WiFi-compatible smart lock, you can keep track of its use remotely. This means managing codes from a distance and even getting alerts if the door is not closed properly. This makes it perfect for those with holiday rentals, as well as busy homes with plenty of visitors. You can add and remove a code whenever you want, but there is a limit of 25 codes. Some smart locks allow more, but we’re not sure many families will need more than this anyway!

Because it’s powered entirely by batteries, the Yale Assure Lock SL has battery-savings to help prolong its battery life. However, if the batteries do go flat on you, you’ll need to use a 9V battery to charge the lock from the outside. It’s great to have this backup energy feature available, but obviously the charging will be a hassle, so we suggest regularly changing batteries to make sure you never need to worry. 


4. August Smart Lock (3rd Gen): Best value smart lock

Best Smart Locks 2020

(Image credit: Amazon)

August Smart Lock (3rd Generation)

This classic turns your smartphone into a key

Affordable
Fast, easy installation
Excellent smart home compatibility
Only as strong as your deadbolt
Remote access requires extra purchase

The 3rd Gen version of the August Smart Lock doesn't have as many features as the original, notably lacking Apple HomeKit support, though it is much cheaper, making it the best value among smart locks.

The August Smart Lock 3rd Generation looks different than August's earlier locks. This design looks more like what you would see on many keypad locks and is slightly smaller than the original August Smart Lock. This lock comes with an innovative universal adapter plate that makes installation fast and easy. August also added a sensor to the lock that uses a magnet on or in your doorframe to tell if the door is open. No other smart lock maker has such a useful feature to boost security. August's mobile app is among the best we looked at. While August Smart Lock has some of the best smart home compatibility of the locks we tested, you need to buy the August Connect before it works with a smart home system and allows remote access. Another concern we have is that August is a retrofit lock, so it's only as effective as the deadbolt you attach it to. The lock’s one-year warranty matches the industry average, but it doesn't compete with Schlage's three-year warranty.


6. Schlage Connect BE469NX: Best Z-Wave smart lock

(Image credit: Amazon)

Schlage Connect BE469NX

It's not the smartest, but it has Z-Wave technology.

Unique alarm functions
Three-year electronics warranty
Z-Wave smart home compatibility
No smartphone app
Must program codes by hand

The Schlage Connect has two advantages over most of the smart locks we tested: It's the best Z-Wave lock we looked at and the fifth-most secure smart lock.

On the security front, we like that the Connect has a unique tamper alarm that detects lock picking attempts, not just forced entry like some other smart locks. The lock replaces your current deadbolt and meets standards for ANSI/BHMA Grade 1, which is the highest level of physical security a lock can achieve. It also has an auto-lock feature that locks your door after 30 seconds, but you need to activate it since it's off by default. Because the Schlage Connect uses Z-Wave technology, you need a smart hub to unlock most of its features, including remote access and smartphone control. In our tests, we used the Wink Hub and found the Schlage Connect worked better than the other Z-Wave locks we reviewed. You can program up to 30 key codes, though you must do it by hand without a compatible smart home system. As with most smart door locks, the Connect works for up to 12 months on four AA batteries. This lock comes in six finishes, more than any other model we tested, so it can likely match your existing décor. As with Schlage's normal locks, you get a lifetime warranty on the mechanical components and exterior finish. The electronic components carry a three-year warranty, which is much longer than the average of one year.


7. Kwikset Obsidian: Best budget smart lock 

Best Smart Locks 2020

(Image credit: Amazon)

Kwikset Obsidian

A great smart lock for those on a budget

Keyless design 
Attractive and secure
Inexpensive
No smartphone controls without smart hub

The Kwikset Obsidian is one of the first keyless locks we've tested, and we found it a delightful experience. The square touchpad makes it the most futuristic smart lock we've tested.

The touchpad on the Obsidian has is the only thing you see on the outside of your door, there are no distracting keyholes. It comes in two finishes: stain nickel and venetian bronze, though they serve more as an accent to the screen. This lock is secure against lockpicking and has a Grade 2 ANSI/BHMA rating. This stunning smart door lock is very easy to use with or without a smart hub, though it works best when used as part of a smart home system. We tested the Amazon Key Edition of the Kwikset Obsidian and Amazon Cloud Cam. When paired together, you can control the lock remotely with the Amazon Key app to let in guests and get notifications when someone comes in the door. While you can program codes and change some settings manually, the Kwikset Obsidian doesn't have any smartphone controls of its own, which means you need a compatible smart hub with ZigBee controls. There's also a Z-Wave version of the lock available.


Why trust us?

Best smart lock reviews: Why trust us? 


We've tested smart locks since 2016, mostly focusing on what makes an excellent lock. To assess this, we referred to the standard from the American National Standards Institute and the Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association. We looked for potential gaps in each lock's security before anything else. We also looked at convenience and design as secondary factors in choosing a smart lock.

During our research and testing phase, we emailed Keith Brandon, Kwikset vice president of residential access solutions, and asked about reasons homeowners and renters might want to buy a smart lock. He told Top Ten Reviews that "People choose smart locks and smart lock conversion kits because of the added values and convenient features like in-home delivery, remote monitoring and control, and remote access management. There are so many different smart locks and conversion kits on the market and each offers a different solution so no matter who you are, or the type of home or apartment you live in."

We also emailed Dale Pistilli, vice president of sales and marketing at August Home. When we asked how homeowners can get the most out of their smart lock purchase, he said to "Make sure the lock works with other key smart home products in the house (smart speakers, thermostats, security systems) and has the flexibility to integrate with new products as they become available."

Whatever your reason for wanting a smart lock, we understand that everyone's budget and needs are different. That's why we've worked to create a comprehensive comparison to help you decide if a smart lock right for you. We hope you'll find value in our conclusions and we’ll continue to improve this guide in the future as new locks arrive on the market.

How we tested

How we tested the best smart locks

When we first tested smart locks in 2016, we used an old door and some deadbolts. We installed braces to keep the door upright and drilled enough holes to install 12 smart locks. This has saved time since installing, testing and swapping locks on a normal front door is an arduous process. However, it had the unfortunate side effect of ruining the door, which one of our co-workers dubbed "the most secure door ever."

The mere presence of a smart lock won't necessarily stop a determined individual from coming through the door. However, each lock can potentially improve security around your home through alerts, activity logs, sirens, jam detection and auto-locking.

We looked at each lock's ability to send mobile alerts when the lock is in use or if someone tampers with it. We learned basic lock-picking to test if tampering had an effect, but the Schlage Connect was the only lock that reacted to us manipulating the lock.


We found that the best smart locks also log each time someone uses a key, code, app or uses the interior thumb turn. Locks that can detect these activities give you a complete record of when visitors enter your home, though some Z-Wave and ZigBee models require a smart hub to track activity.

Similarly, locks with loud sirens help stop break-ins, and signal you to notify the police. Some locks, like the Schlage Sense, will set off a siren when something hits the door, while others, like Kwikset Kevo, only sound an alarm when the lock is improperly removed from the door. Though the Schlage locks can be more sensitive to you slamming the door, we found this had a better chance of alerting you to a break-in.


Our security tests also included an evaluation of what happens when a lock jams. Upon jamming, most smart deadbolts will sound a tone or send a notification to your smartphone, so you can check that the lock is secure. August goes a step further with its locks by essentially turning them into door sensors that can tell if the door is ajar. This is a unique feature that brings extra security.

What we tested for

Best smart locks: Ease of use and installation

When we looked at smart door locks that use either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, we tested how well their mobile apps unlocked and locked, considering responsiveness and how easily you can control the lock by hand. We also tested each lock's ability to assign guest keys and took note of whether it offers remote access over the internet. For guest access, we also looked at whether a lock can grant temporary access based on time and date.

Our testing revealed that most smart home locks are easy to use, though the mobile apps and smart home controls distinguished the best smart door locks from those that are just good. One of the defining factors is whether a lock has a built-in keypad. A keypad lets you share guest codes without a mobile app. We liked keypad locks that let you add codes using an automation system or a mobile app, though they can be programmed by hand as well.

We also looked at how easy and how long it takes to install to get a picture of whether you should install on your own or hire a locksmith. We reviewed two kinds of smart locks. The first type is a new lock, which replaces your current deadbolt entirely. The second type is a retrofit or conversion kit, which attaches to your current deadbolt's hardware. Brandon suggests picking a conversion if you're a renter or in a homeowners association and can't swap out a deadbolt for a smart lock kit.


Our installation tests revealed that all these locks can be installed in less than 30 minutes, with some of the retrofit locks, such as the August Smart Lock, taking less than 10 minutes to install. Keypad locks without a mobile app take more time to program, but the included manuals help make this easier. Keep a list of the codes you create in a safe place so you don't erase existing ones or give out the wrong code.

Main features to consider when buying a smart lock

Keyless Locks

Keyless locks are perhaps the most attractive of all deadbolts. For example, the Kwikset Obsidian, Nest x Yale and Yale Assure SL all have keypads without keyholes, resulting in a sleek, modern design. If the battery dies, there's a place to connect a 9-volt battery under the keypad for emergency power so you won't get locked out.

Warranty

Most smart lock warranties last one year, which should give you enough to time to determine if the lock works properly and replace it if necessary. The longest smart lock warranties come from Schlage, which offers three years of coverage. Most locking mechanisms and finishes on non-retrofit models come with a lifetime warranty.

Video Doorbell Pairing

Smart doorbells, such as Ring Video Doorbell and August Doorbell Cam Pro, are one of the most useful smart home devices that you can pair with a smart lock. With both installed at your front door, you can let in guests as they arrive or have a delivery person leave a package inside your home.

Depending on the company, a doorbell might use the same app as the smart home lock or give you a quick link to the smart lock app. We discovered this when we linked the smart locks to the doorbells we were also testing. August and Nest both use the same app for their locks and doorbells, but August's app lets you unlock the door from within the call. Companies like Ring and SkyBell give you a shortcut to partner apps instead.

Using Smart Locks with Amazon Key

Like video doorbells, Amazon Key pairs a smart lock with a security camera, the Amazon Cloud Cam, so you can let people in your home while away. The main difference is that the camera watches the door from inside your home.

Amazon Key has a few catches. First, you need to buy the Key Edition of the Amazon Cloud Cam and a compatible ZigBee smart lock. Amazon sells these products together in the Amazon Key Home Kit, where you can choose from Yale and Kwikset locks, including the Kwikset Obsidian, Yale Assure SL and Kwikset SmartCode 916. These bundles are competitively priced and allow you to remotely control the lock with the Amazon Cloud Cam.

Another catch is that unattended delivery is only available to Amazon Prime members in certain geographic areas, it's not available everywhere. If you live outside the service area or don't have Amazon Prime, you can still buy the camera and lock together, which you can use like any other smart lock with remote access.

Smart lock FAQ

Smart lock FAQ: Tips on buying a smart lock

How much do smart locks cost?

You can expect to spend between $100 and $300 to buy a smart lock, with most locks costing an average of $175. With regards to costs based on lock type, retrofit and new locks cost about the same. If you want Wi-Fi access with your smart lock, expect to spend an additional $70 to $100 for an adapter, though some smart locks such as August Smart Lock Pro and Nest x Yale are available in bundles with a Wi-Fi adapter.

Do you need to hire a professional?

Smart locks only require a quick look through the manual and a screwdriver to install. To program the lock, you may need a smartphone or to put in codes manually. Both tasks are easy enough for most people. However, you might want a locksmith if you need to drill a new hole in your door or rekey the lock to match existing keys. Some Kwikset locks we tested, such as the Kevo, have a SmartKey feature that lets you rekey the locks yourself, provided your existing keys are compatible.

What are ANSI/BHMA Grades?

Of the three ANSI/BHMA lock grades, Grade 1 is the most secure, since it is the most resistant to forced entry and lock picking. Grade 2 locks offer exceptional protection against residential intruders. The lowest grade locks, Grade 3, simply meet the minimum requirements for securing a door. Some generic deadbolts lack a specific rating altogether. Retrofit-style smart locks, like August and Danalock, don't have a grade because they attach to your existing deadbolt. With this type of smart door lock, it's a good idea to invest in an excellent companion deadbolt.

How do I get guest access?

Locks with smartphone apps often give you an unlimited number of guest keys, which gives them an advantage over keypad locks. Locks with keypads typically have a limited number of codes you can create, but unless you need more than 20 codes, it's not an issue. If you plan to use your lock for Airbnb or VRBO guests, either type will work, though a keypad is a better choice if your guests don't have smartphones or the location doesn't have internet access.

What is remote access?

Consider buying a Wi-Fi add-on or smart hub so you can add users or key codes remotely. Smart hubs and Wi-Fi adapters cost the same on average, about $80, but a smart hub is a better investment since you can connect other devices from other brands. Wi-Fi adapters are often overpriced unless you can buy them in a bundle with your lock of choice. Standalone smart locks usually have a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection but don't require extra equipment beyond a compatible smartphone and still have some sort of smart home compatibility. If you plan to add a wireless door lock to your smart home, compatibility is the first thing you should look at. Most of the products we reviewed are compatible with a smart home hub or security system. If you already have a smart hub, Z-Wave- or ZigBee-compatible locks are likely your best option.

What is the best smart lock battery life?

The battery life of an average smart lock is around 12 months. August and Lockitron only last about three and eight months respectively, so you might want a different lock if you don't want to replace batteries as often. As with all battery-powered devices, the less you use your lock, the longer your battery lasts.

Style vs substance ?

Look for a lock with many finish options, since it makes it easier to match your home's decor and the doorknob already on your door. Some brands, such as Schlage and Kwikset, often have traditional and contemporary styles for the exterior escutcheon. Schlage, Kwikset and Yale all sell matching doorknobs as well.