Of those who had tools stolen, 32% said they had not been financially compensated at all

An estimated £2.8bn worth of tools have been stolen from UK tradespeople, with the self-employed impacted most, according to The Tradespeople Against Tool Theft white paper published by online construction community On The Tools and insurance broker Simply Business last week (30 September 2022).

Of the surveyed UK tradespeople who had their tools stolen, 32% were not financially compensated following tool theft – either because they had not purchased cover or their policy did not cover the circumstances of the theft. 

The study additionally found that:

  • Four in five (88%) of UK tradespeople have experienced tool theft, with 37% having had their tools stolen twice.
  • One in five (17%) of tradespeople have lost over £5,000 worth of tools to theft.
  • Self-employed tradespeople were 38% more likely to be targeted compared to employed tradespeople, with 39% of respondents saying that equipment was stolen from their van parked outside of their home.
  • One in ten (9%) have experienced equipment being stolen from their home or garage.

Tool theft costs tradespeople an average of £4,470 in equipment – a figure Simply Business said it could insure for a policy costing around £200 annually. 

Of those surveyed, 11% of tradespeople said they had to take time off work or decline new work while they sourced equipment and 13% had to pay to repair their vehicles.

Simply Business UK chief executive Alan Thomas said that the “financial hit and longer-term repercussions on future business [from tool theft] can inevitably affect wellbeing”.

Wider impact

Thomas continued: “Tradespeople, like so many other business owners across the country, continue to battle rising costs, surging energy prices and material shortages, all while continuing their recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“At the very least, in the midst of a cost of living crisis, there needs to be wider recognition of the fact that tool theft is a problem for tradespeople of all types.

”Further than that, discussion should centre around how tool theft impacts everyone – when it happens, it affects the economy at large in terms of lost working days.”

James Reeve, a self-employed Midlands-based painter and decorator who recently had his tools stolen, said: “It’s not like going into a store of a multi-billion pound conglomerate to steal a packet of sweets – you’re stealing someone’s livelihood.”