How To Shop & Compare Locking Mailboxes

You’re probably shopping and comparing residential locking mailboxes because:

  • There’s been recent mail theft and vandalism in your neighborhood or,
  • your current mailbox is rusted, dented and falling over – it doesn’t make a great first impression or,
  • Your partner is nagging you.

But honestly, who wakes up on Saturday morning excited about buying and installing a new mailbox? Not me.

You know what is exciting?

The pride you’ll feel knowing you’re protecting your family while enhancing your property at the same time. Plus, you’ll know you got the best value because you took the time to compare the important components of locking mailboxes.

After reading this article you’ll know the 7 things to think about when shopping for a secure locking mailbox.

  1. Assess Your Mail Theft Risk
  2. Measure Your Mail Volume
  3. Consider Your Mailbox Placement
  4. Choose the Right Mailbox Material
  5. Select the Right Security Features
  6. Pick Your Personal Preferences
  7. Budget Your Investment

 

1. Assess Your Mail Theft Risk

There are hundreds of locking mailbox styles, sizes, and colors. Don’t get overwhelmed or sidetracked by all the options.

 

Evaluate your security risk. Do you live in a rural area or the suburbs where thieves have time and access to mailboxes? Is your mailbox out of sight from the house? Do you pick up your mail soon after delivery or does it take days before you get it? Does sensitive information, money or medication frequently come in the mail?

 

Your Mail Theft Risk is High If:

    • Your mailbox is out of direct sight,
    • You can’t promptly pick up mail after delivery,
    • You get sensitive information or medications in the mail,
    • There’s been recent theft/vandalism in your neighborhood,
    • You have minimal road traffic,
    • Your mailbox sits in an isolated area. 

2. Measure Your Mail Volume

Assess your lifestyle and mail volume needs. Measure your typical amount of mail and small package deliveries. Do you get a lot of small packages, magazines or business size envelopes? What are the dimensions of packages you receive?

 

Are you able to pick up your mail daily or does it need to stay secure for a few days at a time? Measure the depth of accumulated mail.

If you accumulate several days’ worth of mail, focus on the size and depth of the mail holding section. Pay extra attention comparing the different intake styles and size.

3. Consider Your Mailbox Placement

Consider your mailbox placement. Will it attach to an individual post or does the USPS in your area require a single row of roadside mailboxes? Does your mailbox sit at the end of your property or driveway? Does your mailbox attach to the house or building?

 

If you’re required by your area USPS to group individual mailboxes on a horizontal post, you may need to collaborate with your neighbors on upgrading.

Be aware that the USPS has strict guidelines for curbside mailboxes. Don’t let your mail get interrupted because of non-compliance. Use USPS approved locking mailboxes.  Get our FREE Installation Guide.

4. Choose the Right Mailbox Material

Residential locking mailboxes are made from a variety of materials. Each type of material has advantages and disadvantages. The material used determines the strength and durability of residential mailboxes. Keep reading for specifics and compare the differences. Choose the residential mailbox that best fits where you live, the weather conditions of your area, and that matches your style.

 

The most common types of materials used for locking mailboxes are:

    • Steel
    • Stainless steel
    • Aluminum
    • Molded plastic
    • Brass

Steel Makes the Strongest Locking Mailboxes.

3 Types of Steel Are Commonly Used for Secure Mailboxes:
    • Regular steel,
    • Galvanized steel
    • Stainless steel.

Regular Steel is strong and durable. However, it’s not rust and corrosion resistant on its own. A final layer of powder-coated paint must be added for rust protection.

Suitable for rural, suburban, neighborhood, and industrial areas. Good for most climates. Regular steel mailboxes steel need consistent maintenance. Mailboxes will show wear and tear within a few years in climates with high moisture, heat, strong winds, blizzards, and salty sea air.

 

Galvanized Steel has been coated with a layer of zinc making it more corrosion resistant. It’s hard, strong and durable but not rust and corrosion resistant over time without powder coating.

Suitable for rural, suburban, neighborhood, and industrial areas. Good in most climates. Galvanized steel mailboxes need consistent maintenance as well. Mailboxes will show wear and tear quickly. Climates with high moisture, heat, strong winds, blizzards, and salty sea air will take a toll in a few short years.

 

Stainless steel is 25-30% stronger than either regular or galvanized steel. Skyscrapers are made of stainless steel because of its strength. It doesn’t rust or corrode. It can withstand significant stress, for example, getting hit by a baseball bat.

 

Suitable for rural, suburban, neighborhood, and industrial areas. Suitable for all climates. Stainless steel mailboxes need no or very little maintenance. Stainless steel mailboxes are ideal for extreme weather conditions. They won’t show wear and tear after years in climates with high moisture, heat, strong winds, blizzards, and salty sea air.

 

Aluminum is a more porous metal, lighter weight, and quite soft. It doesn’t have the strength of stainless steel or steel and dents easily. Aluminum is fairly weather resistant but susceptible to corrosion and pitting. It needs to be treated with a powder coating and sealant.

 

In general, aluminum holds up well in weather conditions. The real problem with aluminum is its “softness”. A baseball bat will do major damage.

Suitable for suburban neighborhoods. Good for mild climates. Aluminum mailboxes need consistent, seasonal maintenance. They’re not durable in extreme weather conditions such as high moisture, heat, strong winds, blizzards, and salty sea air. Plan on replacing an aluminum mailbox after a few years of use.

 

Plastic mailboxes are molded from hard plastic. Locking plastic mailboxes are mostly decorative and provide little security. They do not hold up over time.

Suitable for suburban neighborhoods and mild climates. Best if installed in a protected place, attached to the house; perhaps on a front porch or front door.

Brass has an elegant look and adds aesthetic appeal. Brass is a lightweight material. But brass needs regular maintenance and polishing to prevent a green colored build up from oxidation. It can quickly lose its lovely appeal and instead look dirty. Locking brass mailboxes provide minimal security.

Suitable for suburban neighborhoods and mild climates. Best if installed in a protected place, attached to the house or building; perhaps on a front porch or front door.

  Comparison Chart of Mailbox Materials

Locking mailboxes are made from a variety of materials. Each has its appeal so prioritize what’s important to you. Is it strength and security? Or esthetic appeal? And decide how durable and “like new” you want your mailbox to look over time – without maintenance. Here’s a summary chart to make it easy.

 

 

Strength

Resists Denting

Durable

Weather Resistant

Maintenance or Buy New

Pricing

Regular Steel

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Galvanized Steel

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Stainless Steel

High

High

Low

Moderate-High

Aluminum

Minimal

Minimal

Moderate

Low

Molded Plastic

Low

Low

High

Low

Brass

Minimal

Low

High

Moderate-High

 

5. Select the Right Security Features

Locking mailboxes have various security features; the more features, the more secure the mailbox. The top security features to compare in residential locking mailboxes are:

    • Anti-pry or pry resistant design
    • Recessed doors
    • Anti-shear protective plates
    • The type of lock used
    • Anti-fishing features of the mail intake system
    • The mailbox construction

 

Pry-Resistant or Anti-pry features make a mailbox difficult to pry open with a crowbar type tool. The two areas most vulnerable to leveraged attack are the locks and doors. The following features add security against theft.

Recessed doors - Mailboxes with recessed doors are more secure than ones where the door is flush with the mailbox face. When doors are recessed, a crowbar can’t get enough leverage to pry it open. Also, the stronger the mailbox material, like steel or stainless steel, the more impervious the door is to crowbar attack. 

Anti-pry or anti-shear latches and protective plates built behind locks add extra security. Again, these added features make locks highly crowbar resistant. Manufactures’ committed to security have made these features standard with all their locking mailboxes.

Locks – The type of lock and the lock material makes a difference in security. A flimsy lock is pointless. A stainless steel five-pin cam lock is recommended. Even when thieves try to drill out a quality lock, they’re usually unsuccessful.

Mail Intake Systems come in two styles: hoppers or slots. Compare the two mailbox intake systems.

Slots are a simple opening usually behind an unlocked door. The mail carrier opens the door and deposits the mail straight into the slot. You’ll want a slot opening that’s high enough to receive your typical package. But watch out that the opening isn’t big enough for an arm to reach in and pull mail out.

Hoppers are what you find in the blue USPS mail drop-off mailboxes. The hopper is an angled bin attached to an unlocked door.

Hoppers can usually accommodate bigger packages and stacks of mail. They make it difficult for a thief to reach an arm in because of the hopper angle - but not impossible. A hopper that’s too large for the mailbox depth makes it easier for arms to reach in. In general, hoppers make mail fishing a little trickier for thieves.

Anti-fishing features in locking mailboxes vary. What is mail fishing? Fishing is when thieves feed a fish line, wire, or string through the opening with sticky tape on the end. Envelopes stick to the tape and they “fish” the mail out.

Some manufacturers’ have designed extra anti-fishing features. Check the mailbox design if you’re worried about mail fishing. The more isolated and out-of-sight your mailbox, the more time a thief can spend fishing your mail.

How locking mailboxes work. People often ask if the mail carrier needs a key when you have a secure locking mailbox. The answer is, No. Only the mail retrieval door is locked and you, the homeowner, have the key. The mail intake system is NOT locked. See our article on How Secure Locking Mailboxes Work.

Mailbox Construction, how a mailbox is put together, depends on the material it’s made of. The construction can add to the structural strength of a mailbox. The stronger the construction, the more impact and vandal proof. Compare these construction components in locking mailboxes.

 Welded - Stainless steel and steel are welded. The two types of welding used are spot welding and seam welding. Both types are incredibly strong. Welding is far stronger, more durable and secure than riveting.
 
Rivets, nuts & bolts -  Mailboxes put together with rivets, or nuts and bolts, are weaker than welding. Rivets and, nuts and bolts can come loose and rust out. They’re easier to drill out too.
 
Rolled edgesA rolled edge design gives a mailbox greater structural stability and strength. It’s double the strength on the front edges. A mailbox with rolled edges is more vandal proof and able to withstand impact from baseball bats and moving vehicles.

6. Pick Your Personal Preferences

Once you’ve determined the material, security features you want, and the size you need, it’s time to select color and style. Steel and Aluminum mailboxes are electromagnetically powder coated in a variety of colors. Some companies offer custom colors and designs in addition to traditional black. Stainless steel doesn’t need a protective finish because it doesn’t rust, although companies offer colors so customers have choices. Stainless steel looks great au natural for years and years. 

Many homeowners are building custom stone and brick surrounds or columns for their mailbox. Whether you do a DIY project or have a surround professionally built, be sure to check the USPS rules for curbside mailbox. Height and distance from the curb are specific. Get our FREE Installation Guide.

Your mailbox is “your home’s handshake.” Your handshake says a lot about you and so does your mailbox. Whether whimsical, kitschy, classy, substantial, or utilitarian, a mailbox compliments your property and expresses your personality.

 7. Budget Your Investment

Locking mailboxes range anywhere from $38.00 to $1,300. The mailbox size, mailbox material, security features, and lock quality all contribute to mailbox price. Although, I’m surprised at the number of mailboxes priced at $400-$500 that offer no locks, no security, and limited durability - what the heck!  At least you’ll know better now that you’ve read this article.

 For some people, the Made In America seal is important. It may add a little more to the price, but not necessarily. If you want to know more about why buy American, read our article Why Buy American Made?

Some companies offer free shipping. If you’re buying a strong, heavy quality mailbox, shipping can add significant cost. Be sure to factor shipping costs into the total price.

Decide on the investment you’re willing to make. The longer you plan to live in your current home, the more you’ll want to invest in long-lasting durability. But if your home is a stepping stone, invest in security and less on long-term durability. Quality mailboxes built for both security and durability usually have higher prices.

Secure locking residential mailboxes can be purchased directly from manufacturers, retail hardware stores, Amazon, Etsy, etc. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the choices. Follow these steps in assessing your needs. Compare security features and materials. Then you can narrow your search.

Summary

Save time, eliminate confusion and get the best value. Follow these 7 steps when shopping and comparing locking mailboxes. 


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