Selling Home Safes

May 1, 2009
A safe rating label indicates the minimum standards to which a safe has been rated. Not all brands of the safes in a specific category offer the same protection.

One of the benefits this bad economy is providing locksmiths is the opportunity to sell more safes. People are afraid and are buying safes in record numbers. Many people are buying safes either from a mass merchandiser who sells a few models from one or maybe two suppliers, or from companies that have little expertise selling safes. The customers think these safes will protect their valuables. The term protection and valuables often have different meanings for the person purchasing a safe and the person selling the safe.

To avoid confusion and sell the right safe, always talk to the customer to find out what they consider valuables and protection. According to my resources, the sad reality is that customers are being sold the wrong safe and/or a safe that won’t meet their expectations.


Safes come in several varieties, based on function: burglary (money) safes, fire safes and burglary/fire safes. Money safes are designed to protect against burglary, not against fire. A standard burglary safe will not protect paper money against a fire. Burned or stolen, either way it’s gone!

Fire safes are designed to protect their content from fire. There are a number of classifications for fire safes. These include protection for paper and computer media. For paper, there are different times of protection, 20 minutes and one hour as examples.

Standard fire safes do not provide protection against burglary even though the illustration on the cover of the container may show money, jewelry and papers.

A money/fire safe can provide a degree of protection against fire and burglary. Many different safe configurations can provide both.

To help locksmiths and customers, most safes have labels indicating construction information and the degree of protection offered. Burglary safe standards are used by insurance companies. Having safe standards provide the insurance companies a basis for what can be insured and for how much.

'C' and 'B' RATE SAFES

The basic burglary safe standard used by insurance companies is the “C” rate safe. This “C” rate safe must have at least a 1-inch thick steel door. The five sides of the body of the “C” rate safe must have at least one half-inch thick walls. The safe must have an Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) rated combination lock and relock. Slots or hoppers are not allowed. This is the minimum for a “C” rate safe. There is no physical test for a “C” rate safe standard.

A safe whose door or body is less than the minimum “C” rate requirement, while having a UL rated combination lock and relock, is a “B” rate safe. Most basic fire safes are automatically considered “B” rate safes. This is the lowest rating given. “B” rate safes are the most popular safes, the most available and the least expensive safe.

Burglary safes that have more protection than the “C” rated safes include the standard “E” rate safes and the UL Burglary Classification TL-15 and TL-30. As the level of burglary protection increases, the container weight and the cost increase. The insurance company rated “B”, “C”, “E”, etc. safes are not physically tested; they meet physical specifications only.

A safe rating label indicates the minimum standards to which a safe has been rated. Not all brands of the safes in a specific category offer the same protection.

Safe ratings have changed over the years. An important change to be aware of is the equivalent option. For example, a “C” rated safe must have a one-inch thick steel door or material providing equivalent resistance. Fire, gun and burglary safes can gain the equivalency (composite) option by having the exterior and interior thin gauge metal with fireboard (or special cement between) and hard plate. Know the make-up of the walls and the door of every safe you sell.


Underwriter’s Laboratories conducts physical tests to test the integrity of the safe and attempt to defeat it. The entry level test is the Residential Security Container (RSC) test. This five-minute test is used to see if UL technicians can gain entry into the safe using specific tools and methods. For example, there can be a five minute drilling test. If not successful, there will be additional tests each for five minutes. Some of the tests include prying, hammering, etc. If entry is not gained, the safe passes the test.

The RSC test is not required for any safe in order to be sold. However, a safe must pass the test in order for manufacturers to attach the RSC label to the safe model.

Note: Safe manufacturers design and print their own Residential Security Container (RSC) labels that include their identification number. Some insurance rated “B” and “C” burglary (and burglary/fire) safe manufacturers have their safes tested, enabling the safes that pass the RSC test to carry the RSC label.

Additional UL tests include the TL-15 and TL-30. A TL-15 safe must successfully resist entry for a networked time of fifteen minutes. A TL-30 must successfully resist entry for 30 minutes. The test includes attacks by common mechanical and electrical hand tools including carbide drill bits and grinding tools.

Underwriters Laboratories has UL 72 - Tests for Fire Resistance of Record Protection Equipment including safes and filing cabinets. Fire-resistant record protection equipment is rated by the type of media. For example paper, photographic film and computer disks. The length of time (minutes) at this level of protection (temperatures up to 2,000-degrees Fahrenheit). The longer the test, the higher the temperature.

The temperature noted on a UL label indicates the maximum temperature allowed inside the fire protective product during the test. For example, if the temperature inside a safe exceeds 125°F with an 80% humidity restriction during the time frame, it will fail the UL test for diskettes and other flexible media.

Important: If your customer wants to store media for long periods of time in a fire safe, it is strongly recommended moisture absorption be installed as long periods of high humidity can damage computer media.

To add a bit of confusion, there are stand alone media containers designed to provide specific protection. However, when the media container is placed into a rated fire safe, the media containers’ level of protection increases.

NOTE: There are a number of testing agencies. For example, import safes that are rated can be rated in North America or usually at their country of origin. Every testing agency does not have the same tests.  In addition, not every testing agency is as competent as other agencies.

The line between commercial and residential is becoming almost impossible to identify. This is because many of the home safe purchases are as large or larger than the average commercial safe. 

safe displays

Locksmiths who have a storefront can sell safes. A few square feet of floor space is enough because it is extremely difficult to sells safes from a catalog or advertising slick.

Start small, have a couple of different size safes to make the showroom.  Start with two “B”, “C”, RSC  and fire/burglary safes. Two fire rated gun safes; one full size (approximately 60” x 30”) and one smaller. Two in-floor safes. lift-out lid and hinged lid (larger). Two inexpensive plastic fire boxes, and an RSC burglary with one hour fire safe. This way customers can get a sense of the products available. Safes can always be ordered, enabling you to sell a customer a larger or higher level of protection. Make sure the safes you have on display are not damaged or the finished is marred.

IMPORTANT: Safes must be dusted at least daily, as customers will think the safes are unsellable if they are not clean and shiny.

When you have a customer considering purchasing a safe:

• Find out exactly what your customer wants and how much they are willing to pay. Know the pricing of a few safe companies to be able to give your customer options and choices.

• A customer will usually pay more for a safe if they know a better products is available.

• Most larger safes, i. e. gun safes are kept in the garage.

• Sell higher safe protection instead of a gloss paint job.

• Educate your customer, explain what the labels and certifications mean.

• An in-floor safe offers greater protection than the same rated safe sitting on the floor.

• Your customer or you should always bolt down small safes to the floor. Small safes can be stolen by being carried off.

• A safe that weighs less than seven hundred fifty pounds is considered portable by the industry.

• Bolting down a safe adds profit.

• If your customer lives in a multi-story home, consider keeping a fire safe on the bottom level. This eliminates the possibility of the safe falling as a result of fire and opening prematurely.

Because memory capability has increased dramatically. Flash drives are available with up to sixty-four gigabytes of memory. A higher level of burglary protection in a fire/burglary safe can prove to be more economical if you sell the customer a media container that can be placed within the safe.

To become more knowledgeable about safes, contact safe manufacturers on the Internet and download brochures. Talk with your locksmith distributor. Find out the shipping costs. It may be more practical for you to purchase safes whose manufacturers are close to your location.

In addition, Underwriter’s Laboratories Standards can provide additional information on safe, combination locks and relocks. Here is a list of the Safe related standards:

• UL 72 Fire Safe Standards

• UL 687 Burglary- Resistant Safe Standards

• UL 768 Combination Lock Standards

• UL 140 Relocking Device Standards