Valuable insights of the auto
industry and service drives.

Service Business
Social Media

Prepping Technicians for Smart Automotive Tool Purchases

Tackling Customer Wait Times in Fixed Ops

Dealership marketing companies: How and if to pick just one

Automotive Marketing Services Expectations

Optimizing Parts Inventory in Fixed Ops

Service & Parts Loyalty Programs: Helpful or Headache?

Prepping Technicians for Smart Automotive Tool Purchases

A wide-eyed young guy or gal walks through your service drive door, ready for their first day as a technician. They’re excited to embark on their automotive career and make real money for the first time in their life. However, they still feel overwhelmed and lost. They are looking to you, their service department leader, to steer them in the right direction. You’ve got a detailed path for them to follow regarding their position as a tech. 


But should leaders reach a bit further to help these youngsters make wise choices when spending their hard-earned money? Too personal? Maybe. But you are asking them to purchase their own tools to do the job you hired them to do. Young, inexperienced techs need a path for when to purchase which tools. Without direction, they can easily swim in the wrong direction and find themselves in a sea of tool debt. This can cause undue stress and have them questioning their career path.

There should always be a line between employee decisions and personal decisions. However, since dealers require such a significant investment from technicians to fulfill their duties, fixed ops leaders should set clear guidelines. The goal is to prevent these impressionable employees from what many seasoned professionals describe as the “mine is bigger than yours” game. Providing clear expectations on necessary tools while lending advice on responsible spending fosters a culture of professional and personal success that could ultimately help with technician retention. 

Opportunity for Financial Success

Trade schools are stepping into the spotlight as viable options and a more prudent path than a four-year degree. Two of the greatest benefits of a trade school are cost and time. Students pay exponentially less than they would for a four-year college or university and gain marketable skills in a much shorter period. In less than two years, students should be able to start making money in their trade while continuing to gain experience that will further their careers.

Indeed reports that the average starting wage for automotive technicians nationwide is $25.52 per hour. On top of that, many techs are getting an average of $5,000 of overtime per year. Imagine having no debt and making between fifty and fifty-five thousand dollars annually. Many of these jobs even come with matching 401(k) plans. 

So, let’s add a little investment strategy to this scenario. Plugging in conservative numbers into the Dave Ramsey Retirement Calculator reveals that a technician, in this case, would have over a million dollars at retirement age. And that’s if they invest a relatively conservative amount each month and remain debt-free. They also have the option of investing outside of their 401(k) with the guidance of a financial advisor. 

If a technician ties up his or her paycheck up in unnecessary tool purchases or other types of debt, their trajectory for personal financial success diminishes greatly. Dealership leaders should recognize that when employees are debt-free, they have much less stress to interfere with their performance.

What Industry Pros Have to Say

We had a handful of automotive professionals share their thoughts. 

TVI MarketPro3 Regional Sales Manager Robert Morris says that providing your own tools is “the cost of admission” for a starting technician. However, he says technicians can acquire a toolbox valued anywhere from ten to twelve thousand dollars if they’re not careful. says starter tool sets should range anywhere from “one to four thousand dollars.” So why do technicians feel the need to spend so much more on tools? The consensus is that the culture of dealership service departments often causes tool purchases to spin out of control for a young, inexperienced technician.

TVI MarketPro3 Vice President Nick Shaffer and Regional Sales Manager Scott Kelford both describe a culture that encourages impulse buying to keep up with the other techs. Tool trucks come to a dealership lot on the same day and time each week with overpriced tools and high-interest rate financing. Former Fixed Operations Director David Lantz says that in his more than 30 years of fixed ops experience, he’s “seen a lot of good people get buried by the debt, almost as bad or worse than student loans.”

A Path to Tool Selection Success

So, what do young technicians do when required to purchase their tools? Here are three ways fixed ops leaders can steer their young technicians in the right direction.

Timeline for Tool Purchases

Create a list of the exact tools techs will need when they start and with each advancement. You can even create a subcategory of a la carte or one-off tools they might need for jobs outside the timeline. To help your technicians create a budget, you can set a price range and provide a brand recommendation for each tool listed. 

They must learn that the most expensive tools are rarely necessary to complete the job. A 2020 article by Tomorrow’s Tech provides a list of quality tools that won’t “break the bank.” This article is a good starting point for fixed ops leaders looking to create their own guide. Such a guideline removes some pressure to keep up with fellow technicians and their toolboxes.

Teach Them to Resist the Tool Truck

Our fixed ops pros all agree that steering clear of the tool truck is an excellent first step to prevent impulse purchases. Lantz encourages young techs not to “get caught up in the Snap-on/Mac tool truck hype,” and Shaffer stresses that these tools “cost about five times what they would cost if [techs] went to Sears and bought a Craftsman thing. Or went to Harbor Freight and bought a different brand. They are genuinely better, but not five times better.” 

When the tool guy whispers in their ear that they can load up their toolboxes if they’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars per month for the rest of their lives, many of these technicians fall into the trap. But the more they understand they don’t need all the tools right now, the less susceptible they are to the slick sales pitch and the shiny new tools. 

Advise Techs to Avoid Taking on Debt to Purchase Tools

Delayed gratification is a challenging concept for some to grasp, especially for young professionals making a decent wage. But as Kelford says, “Just because you can finance things from your local vendor or tool truck does not mean you need to load up on tools that you might not need for a couple of years, or at all.”  Lantz agrees and reminds technicians to “save [their] money starting out. Financing it all sounds good until [they] are paying $20 a week forever.”

Some Final Thoughts

Kelford reminds new technicians that “[they] are embarking on a pretty big financial investment, not only with essential tools but also diagnostic equipment.” He says it’s all about finding guidance and knowing the right timing. “It is not about buying cheaper tools or equipment. It is more about buying what you need when you need it. The right tools at the right time is key.” Shaffer echoes this sentiment: “The more entry-level your job is as a technician, the fewer the tools that you need.”

Techs can also look for dealerships that “have a fast start program where they might provide [techs] with [their] essential tools up front and provide a payroll deduct option for [the] tools,” says Kelford. These programs are also something more dealerships should consider offering as an incentive to combat technician turnover.

We’ll tie things up with this last bit of advice from Kelford: “Start slow, spend slow, and build slow.” If industry leaders can pass along this basic concept to the next generation of technicians, we might see increased individual success, which could lead to improved service department success overall.

Go to TVI MarketPro3 for more industry insights.

Let's get moving. Get your customized marketing plan today.

Thank You! A representative will reach out to you shortly!

View All

Follow Us

© 2024 TVI-MarketPro3 | Privacy Policy

Sign up for email updates

Thanks! You're signed up!