Study reveals the impact of tool theft on the trades sector

A thief trying to break into a tradesperson's work van.

The impact of tool theft has, for a long time, been a pain point for tradespeople. To understand the impact on the sector, we undertook research to get a better picture of how many tradespeople have been victims of tool theft, what the most stolen tools are, and the impact of the crime on their business.

We also explored which tools are most likely to be stolen. We discovered the following tools are the 10 most commonly targeted by thieves.

 A table showing the most common types of tool theft and the average price of tools, categorised by tools such as chainsaw, drills, grinders and so on.

Our data found that chainsaws were the most frequently stolen tool, with 994 reportedly taken between 2021 and 2022. Although not the most expensive tool on the list, the average cost of a chainsaw is £138 (1), meaning this is certainly not a cheap replacement for most tradespeople.

Drills and grinders were second and third on the list, respectively, each typically costing over £100.

The most expensive stolen tool on our list is a breaker, costing on average £549. This piece of equipment is not the easiest to replace, given how costly it is, and so the average tradesperson may find it difficult to buy another one quickly, possibly resulting in a loss of earnings.

If you consider how many tools may be stolen in a single act of theft, our list shows that tradespeople could be spending hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds, replacing their tools and equipment. This is why taking out suitable insurance is so important, as well as considering security measures to prevent tool theft in the first place.

The impact of tools being stolen

A graphic showing the top tools stolen among tradespeople, the value of stolen tools and the impact it has.

Our survey (2) revealed a surprising 70% of respondents said their tools weren’t insured when they were stolen.

The most common location of equipment theft was tradespeople’s vans while they were parked at home, with 41% of respondents reporting this. Another common location of thefts was tradespeople’s vans parked on-site (27%), while 19% of respondents reported having tools stolen from the actual site they were working on.

So what is the biggest issue caused by tool theft? Over half (57%) of respondents said the loss of earnings was the most significant concern, while 31% said delays in completing a job.

Our survey also found that 51% of people said the number of days affected by tool theft was three or more.

The value of stolen goods varied, but 41% of tradespeople said their stolen goods were worth over £2,500.

What are tradespeople’s views on insurance?

No matter how careful you are when protecting your equipment, there is always a risk that you could be a victim of a tool theft crime.

Tradespeople's view on insurance

Interestingly, only 42% of tradespeople said they have insurance for their tools and equipment. This means there are more tradespeople out there without insurance. These individuals run the risk of being left without the necessary tools to complete their jobs should the worst happen, or having to pay for replacement equipment out of their own pockets.

It is interesting to note that the figure for tradespeople who currently have insurance on their tools is lower than those who were insured at the time they were the victim of tool theft, potentially indicating there is a drop off in people continuing with their policy following experiencing tool theft.

Our survey found that of those who answered no to having tool insurance, the majority felt that it was too expensive (36%) while a surprising 25% of those didn’t know it was available.

We found that only 8% didn’t feel it was necessary. As part of our research, we asked tradespeople how much they would ideally pay for insurance

The majority (72%) would only pay up to £25 a month, with 22% being prepared to pay between £26- £50 and only 6% saying they would be willing to pay any higher than £50.

Precautions to take to prevent tool theft

Although it’s by no means a failsafe, taking appropriate security measures can help prevent tool theft. While you may already be careful in terms of keeping your tools locked away, there might be more you can do to protect your equipment. We asked tradespeople what precautions they take to protect their tools and equipment, with the majority choosing to remove their tools from vehicles overnight. 

A table showing the precautions tradespeople take against tool theft - in percentages.

Taking tools out of their vehicles overnight was a common precaution among our respondents, with 35% claiming to do this, while 16% said they have a specialist lock on their vehicle in addition to the standard vehicle lock.

Nearly one in four (25%) said they use alarms to protect their tools, and 23% said they mark their tools.

While these are all good strategies to take when protecting your tools, there is no guarantee that equipment will not be stolen, especially if you use a specific tool that thieves often target.

Additionally, a tradesperson can purchase specialist insurance for their tools and equipment. This can give them added peace of mind and help them to avoid difficult financial situations. Taking out insurance for your tools and equipment can be much cheaper than replacing them should the worst happen.

At Markel Direct, we offer specialist tools insurance and can tailor your policy to suit your needs. To learn more about tools insurance and how it can help you, click here.

Join the conversation

Have you experienced tool theft or know someone who has? Join the conversation on socials using #ThatsNotYourTool.



1. We took the average price of each tool from Screwfix, Wicks, and B&Q in November 2022 to work out the overall average.

2. We ran a survey with Fix Radio to get 493 tradespeople’s opinions on tool theft, as well as whether or not they choose to insure their equipment.

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