A lot of caper movies feature bad guys who quickly and effortlessly pick locks.

Here in the boring real world, burglars aren’t so sneaky: Most gain access to homes via unlocked windows or doors, or they push open poorly secured ones.

So before throwing big money at a company to install and monitor a home security system, equip all exterior doors, including those leading to a garage, with good deadbolt locks — and use them. Key-in-the-knob locks are inadequate for security because they can usually be quietly shimmied open in a few seconds.

Relatively handy homeowners should be able to install most types of locks. You’ll need one or two special drill bits to make large-diameter holes with a 3/8-inch electric drill.

If you don’t want to DIY, you’ll need a good locksmith.

Through special arrangement with The Washington Post, you can access Washington Consumers’ Checkbook’s ratings of local locksmiths for quality and price free of charge until March 1 via: Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/locksmiths.

Since many local locksmith outfits get high marks from their customers for service quality, obtain prices from a few of them to make sure you don’t pay too much. If you know what you want done, you can shop for prices by phone. If you’re not sure, ask locksmiths who visit your home for a written description of the work and how much they’ll charge to do it.

Checkbook’s undercover shoppers collected price quotes from local locksmiths for carefully specified jobs and found prices varied widely. For example, to install new single-cylinder deadbolt locks in two exterior doors, prices ranged from $235 to $530. For an emergency lock picking, prices ranged from $65 to $208. And, Checkbook found, you don’t have to pay more for top-quality service. Some locksmiths who received high marks from customers also charged low fees.

One simple step for protecting yourself from defective locks or lousy locksmithing is to pay with a credit card. The Fair Credit Billing Act and the dispute-resolution policies of credit card issuers allow consumers to refuse payment for faulty products and services.

Kevin Brasler is executive editor of Washington Consumers’ Checkbook and Checkbook.org, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. It is supported by consumers and takes no money from the service providers it evaluates. Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. You can access Checkbook’s ratings of local locksmiths free of charge until March 1 at Checkbook.org/WashingtonPost/locksmiths.