I recently wrote an article discussing why electricians charge so much. One of the points that I made in defence of fellow electricians is that there are considerable costs, such as tool purchasing, that are not always obvious to customers. This led to a few surprising responses assuming that employers provide electricians with their tools, but is this true?
The question, do electricians buy their own tools? depends on the type of electrician, the work they are doing, and who they work for. This brief post will quickly clear the issue up (hopefully!)
Do Electricians Buy Their Own Tools?
Whether or not an electrician is responsible for buying their own tools largely depends on their employer. In my experience, large companies will provide their electricians with tools. Smaller companies expect their electricians to buy most of their own tools.
Whilst this is true in a nutshell it depends on the type of electrical work we are doing. Contracting companies (ie those that send their employees to work on building sites) generally expect their electricians to buy their own hand tools but provide heavy-duty power tools.
Hand tools are hopefully pretty self-explanatory and cover items such as VDE screwdrivers and side cutters. Power tools cover drills, transformers, wall chasers that kind of stuff. There is always a bit of grey area cross over here. For example, I’ve often had to buy my own battery-powered 18v drills but I would be provided with a mains-powered 110v drill.
I guess the easiest way to clarify is to say that it depends on how persuasive you are at arguing that the employer should provide the tool. I would always argue (sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much) that any tool I needed was a specialist tool and they should provide it.
Which Type of Electricians Buy Their Own Tools?
Typically, contracting electricians, ie those that travel between multiple sites, are expected to buy their own tools. Electricians that always go to work at the same place, such as maintenance electricians, generally have their tools and workwear provided by their employer.
Maintenance electricians will often have a tool trolley at work that they fill with all the tools they need, all at the employer’s expense. Whilst this is great at the time, in theory, the tools belong to the employer and the electrician must leave them all behind if they leave the company. In practice, I have never witnessed anyone leave all their tools behind but I guess if your boss was a real pain in the a$£e they could make you.
It may seem unfair that some electricians buy their own tools and some don’t, and I guess in a way it is, but that’s just the way the industry operates. I assume the theory is that contracting electricians earn more money and are also more likely to lose their tools on-site, so by buying their own they are more likely to look after the. Probably some truth to that in IMO.
See Also: Can Electricians Make 100K a Year
Self-employed electricians have to buy their own tools, but they can often put them down as a business expense and claim some tax relief. Now, it’s not just tools that they must buy but also equipment such as ladders and test equipment. I have never come across an employed electrician that has been expected to buy their own ladder or Meggar. If I was asked to do that I would tell them where to go!
Do Electrician Apprentices Have To Buy Their Own Tools?
Electrician apprentices generally have to buy their own tools. If they begin an apprenticeship with a large company the company will often provide a starter set of hand tools to get the apprentice going. This is seen as good etiquette within the industry.
Buying tools whilst on an apprentice wage is tricky. Electrician tools are not cheap and there are so many different ones to get it can be hard to know what to prioritize. I wrote an article giving my opinion on the 15 most essential tools to prioritise which aims to give some guidance for what it’s worth.
If you’re an apprentice starting for a small company you may be out of luck and expected to buy all your own tools from scratch. Focus on getting a few essentials to start off. Most electricians are willing to lend their tools to an apprentice, so long as they get looked after and put back after use!
Where Do Electricians Buy Tools?
I would like to say at this point that there are some special insider places where electricians buy their tools. The sort of places where the correct knock on the door will get you 90% of the price that the other less in-the-know schmucks have to pay. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Electricians typically buy their tools at the same place as everyone else. Amazon. It’s hard for electrical contractors to compete with online stores in terms of both price and delivery times. Of course, if we need a tool for a job the same day we are forced to swallow the pill and pay more to buy from a physical store.
To be fair, as I’ve gotten older, I favour shopping local whenever possible. There are a few tool shops in my hometown of Bristol which I can walk into and try the tools in my hands to see if they feel right before buying. I pay a bit more for the pleasure but save all the hassle of dealing with returns.
How Much Do Electricians Spend on Tools?
Over the last 8 years as an electrician, I would estimate that I have spent between four and five thousand pounds on tools. Some of that money is spent on tools that have been damaged, lost, or stolen and some have been special treat tools that have made my life so much easier.
One example of a treat tool is an 18v battery powered multitool. This tool comes out of the van only a few times a month, but when it does it is an absolute lifesaver. There are other much cheaper, manual alternatives, but the time and sweat factor saved by the battery-powered beauty is worth its weight in gold.
The above highlights an important point when it comes to electricians and buying tools. We can kind of spend as much as we want to on tools. Yes, there are the basic tools that we need on a daily basis. But there is also a never-ending list of special tools that just make life easier. Anyone starting out should focus on the essentials and worry about the life easier ones further down the road as the wages increase.
See Also: Why Do Electricians Charge So Much?
Do Electricians Pay Full Price for Tools?
Electrical wholesalers often give good discounts to electricians for their tools. Some physical retailers also provide trade cards that entitle tradesmen, including electricians, to discounts upon proof they are in the trade. However, even with these discounts, online retailers are often still cheaper.
The electrical firm where I worked issued all 20 of its electricians with new 12v drills. A very nice gesture and they secured a healthy discount in the process. Unfortunately, it’s not very relevant to individual electricians though. Individual electricians pay full price online the same as everyone else (unless of course everyone else knows something I don’t and are hiding the fact from me!)
Are Electricians Tools Tax Deductible?
I’ve never been self-employed so it’s difficult for me to comment if tools are tax-deductible. It obviously depends where in the world you are based and the local tax laws, but I’d like to think that majority of tools should be able to be tax deductible if they are being used for work.
As an employed electrician that has to buy their own hand tools, I do not receive any tax relief on the cost of the tools. Perhaps this is something I should look into but the cost of hiring an accountant to look into it for me would more than likely wipe out any potential savings. For my part, I get my paycheck which has had the tax deducted already via PAYE and I then buy any tools I need or want after that.
Hopefully, that has cleared up that electricians do buy their own tools unless they are lucky and work for a large company that provides them or they have a permanently based role maintenance type electrician role. Buying our own tools becomes part and parcel of the job and rather than begrudge the expense there is sort of a shared excitement to producing a new tool onsite.
Tools can range from the essential side cutters or screwdrivers, that get moderate attention from our colleagues to the extravagant battery-powered coffee machine or heated coat which makes us a king on the construction site – for a day at least until we are outdone by someone else’s newer and shinier tool.