Locking mailboxes have been a growing trend for many reasons. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing for a modern home but they also help protect your mail, packages, and by extension identity. No one wants sensitive information to get into the wrong hands.
Are locking mailboxes a worthwhile investment?
If your mail has ever been stolen, a locking mailbox solution is the perfect solution. They are stylish and reduce the likelihood of identity theft. Having your identity stolen is no joke, your credit score takes a dive and you may be liable to pay any credit card balances or loans a thief has taken out in your name. Keeping your mail safe is just another defense to prevent this from happening.
While there are many cheaper options on the market it is worthwhile to invest in a quality mailbox when it comes to a locking solution. They will last many years with the correct care and serve as a visual deterrent to any thieves.
Where can a locked mailbox be mounted?
For most residential and some commercial applications, a post-mounted solution for roadside delivery is the easiest option. Mailbox and post packages that include everything required for the installation are widely available and easier than ever to install. If you have a mailbox, there are many options that allow a steel post to slide directly over your wooden post reducing the overall installation time even more.
Post-mounted mailboxes come with two different kinds of posts. They will feature either an inground post that is designed to be set directly into the ground using concrete.
If you need to mount your mailbox to a pre-existing surface such as a sidewalk or a driveway you can opt for a breakaway or surface-mounted post. These mailbox posts come with a base plate that can be mounted to any pre-existing surface using bolts. In some instances, you may also want to create your own pedestal from concrete since this will provide a very secure mounting option for models that feature multiple mailboxes on a single post.
In some instances, you may want to mount your locked mailbox to a wall. These wall-mounted mailboxes usually only require a few holes to be drilled to which your new mailbox can be mounted.
Before proceeding with any new installation it is always recommended to reach out to your local postmaster to get their feedback on the model you have selected and also the location. They will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information about any local guidelines that must be fulfilled in addition to the standard USPS installation guidelines.
Multi-Unit Mailbox and Post Packages
It is becoming a more common requirement that mailboxes for neighborhoods need to be close together to reduce the cost and effort required to deliver mail. This modern approach is especially applicable for condos and newly developed neighborhoods. Under these circumstances, you may opt to mount multiple mailboxes to a single post or multiple posts.
Traditionally each mailbox would have been mounted on its own individual post but this is changing. It is very common to see upwards of two or three mailboxes mounted to a single post. For a single post, it is not advisable to have more than 4 mailboxes but for multi-post setups, there is no limit. Mounting multiple mailboxes to single or multiple post setups also helps to cut down on installation costs since fewer holes need to be dug during installation.
What material should you choose for your locking mailbox?
Security locking mailboxes are available in various materials and your location and security requirements are the driving factor behind what you should choose.
Plastic is the least desirable material since it is the least robust. It would be fairly easy to break into. Where are some plastic models on the market they are rare and should be avoided since the material is not very robust.
Aluminum - is a great option for a lightweight mailbox, where security is a concern but not the primary concern. Aluminum, especially that made from sheets tends to be more flexible and easier to break into. The greatest benefit however is its rust resistance. If you have in a humid environment with lots of rain this can be a perfect choice. It is easy to maintain and lasts a long time.
Steel is the most common material used for security locking mailboxes. It is robust and provides the highest security at a low cost. The main downside is related to its weather resistance since it will rust with time. Modern units will be powder coated to prevent corrosion but this will require maintenance over time. Any nicks and scratches that are left exposed to the elements will eventually allow the underlying steel to rust and should immediately be fixed with touch-up paint as a preventive measure.
Electro Galvanized Steel
Electro-galvanized steel is the material of choice due to its high strength and cheap availability. Most mailboxes will be made of 16 gauge or thicker material which is extremely robust. They will be powder coated to protect them from the elements and are difficult to break into.
Stainless Steel is another option but is rarely used due to the increased cost. It is rust-resistant like aluminum, but at the same time as strong as steel. In an ideal world, every mailbox would be made from this material since it has the best of both worlds. Only very few locking mailbox models are made from this material and can generally only be found at specialty retailers and manufacturers.
What types of locks are available?
Locking mailboxes are available with a variety of different locking mechanisms generally divided into 4 different levels from least to most secure. Some models also offer the option to use a thumb latch, whereby you remove the locking mechanism altogether so it no longer requires a key. This may be suitable if mail theft isn’t your primary concern and you prefer the square modern looking of locking mailboxes over the traditional Jorolem style mailbox initially designed by the USPS.
Level 1 - Standard locks
Tubular locks use a round key instead of the more common flat key. The pins are arranged in a circular pattern and the key is also circular. A cheaper version of this lock with a low number of pins is generally not considered very secure and can be opened with commonly available specialty tools.
Disc Wafer Tumblar Lock
Disc wafer tumblar locks are likely the most secure standard lock. They often feature laser-cut keys with close tolerances making them difficult to pick. Another additional advantage is that they are difficult to drill out and open with brute force. Mailboxes from Mail Boss all feature this style of lock by default.
Cam locks use a similar principle to the disc wafer lock except that each pin consists of two or more pieces. These locks are generally considered more low security depending on the type of key and tolerances of the locking mechanism. They are used for office furniture or other less security-intensive applications. Keys often have no correct orientation and are keyed the same on the top and bottom for ease of access.
Combination locks can be opened by anyone that has the correct combination. This is especially convenient if multiple people require access to your mailbox. There is also the option of having a backup key that always allows you to open the lock even without the correct combination.
Level 2 - Medeco Deadbolt
Medeco deadbolts provide an additional level of security for standard level 1 lock. They are made from hardened steel according to the UL437 standard for safety for key locks. They provide additional security against brute force entry using hammers and sawing.
Level 3 - Claw Lock
A claw lock adds 4 extra points of security that prevent brute entry. When the door is locked, steel claws (red) hold the door in place in addition to the standard lock. This makes prying open the steel door extremely difficult since there are multiple points holding the door in place.
Level 4 - Medeco Deadbolt & Claw Lock
The Medeco Deadbolt and Claw Lock include the best of levels 1-3. Adding 5 points of security, these locks are as tough as they come. The locking mechanism is made from 10 gauge stainless steel making it not only extremely strong but also rust-resistant. With all the security features combined this locking mechanism will stop any thief dead in their tracks.
Level 1 is common among all manufacturers however levels 2-4 can only be found on Jayco Industry mailboxes. Their mailboxes are custom-made to order and can be altered according to your specific needs. They are best suited for applications where sensitive documents need to be protected.
Your capacity requirements are determined by the type of content you expect to receive. For most residential users the ability to accept mail, magazine, and maybe packages the size of a pill bottle is more than sufficient. If you expect to receive many small packages you will however have to choose a larger model designed for this purpose. Since the incoming mail slot is fixed this is a choice that must be made at the time of purchase.
Another factor that comes into play is how much mail you anticipate you will receive and need to store. If you receive lots of junk mail, many brochures, and magazines a larger mailbox would be a better choice. If you travel frequently then larger models are also better since they can store multiple days’ worth of mail. Some models can store many weeks’ worth of mail but these are generally very large and might not be the most appealing design due to their size.
Will locking mailboxes accept packages?
In the age of e-commerce, it is becoming more relevant that packages can be received and kept safe until they can be collected. More mailbox manufacturers have added models that can accept small to medium size packages, some even accepting items as large as shoe boxes but these are not the norm yet.
Most locking mailboxes can accept standard mail and items up to the size in manila envelopes. When it comes to small packages there are a few models to choose from. It must also be noted that only the USPS is allowed to deliver to your mailbox and other delivery services such as Amazon, UPS, and FedEx, for example, are not allowed to place their deliveries in your mailbox. This is due to mailbox restriction law which states that only items with postage paid are allowed to be placed in your mailbox. For further details, the following article better highlights mailbox restriction law.
Mail Package Drops
There is also a sub-category of locking mailboxes known as package drops. They are specifically designed to receive single or multiple packages and are much larger than your standard mailbox. Mail Package drops for single packages will feature a slam lock. A slam lock is left open until the carrier deposits a package, at which point they “slam” the door whereby the locking mechanism engages. Since the carrier does not have a key, once the door is closed, no additional mail or packages can be placed inside until it is left unlocked again by the owner.
Mail package drops can stand alone, or can also be placed on a mailbox gang featuring other mailboxes. More often than not they are designed to be placed near your door since many package deliveries are made by carriers that aren’t allowed to deliver to your mailbox anyways.
Why are locking mailbox so big?
Unlike a standard mailbox, locking mailboxes are generally much larger. In order to ensure the mail stays safe, their security features require additional space inside the mailbox. The hopper mechanism and anti-fishing technology require a significant amount of additional space to ensure passersby are unable to stick their hands in and walk off with your precious mail.
Locking mailboxes also feature a boxy design since they have internal moving parts. A rounded design would allow for a third party to fish out the mail which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
United States Postal Service standards applicable to locking mailboxes
The current standard used to certify mailboxes is USPS Standard 7C. It is also applicable to locking mailboxes. This latest standard was released in September 2015 and additional details can be found here.
Choosing the right locking mailbox for your application is a personal choice. You can opt to go with a top-of-the-line custom model by Jayco Industries or a more standard model from Mail Boss. The level is security you will receive and need is directly related to the types of mail you will receive and your budget. More budget-friendly models start at around $125 and the most expensive models which can be used for either residential or commercial applications can cost upwards of $1,000 depending on your choice of locking mechanism and material.