Should Shops Provide Mechanic's Tools? News

Should Shops Provide Mechanic’s Tools?

As it stands, the common practice in the United States is for a mechanic to provide his own tools for the job, regardless of whether he’s self-employed or employed by a service center. Sure, some employers provide specialty tools, and sometimes, they even provide some really basic tools that can get most jobs done. But, finding a position that provides all of the tools necessary to do a thorough and efficient job is something of a rarity. Most shops require that their mechanics bring their own tools to work. With this being the case, we wonder: should shops provide a mechanic his tools?

Should Shops Provide Mechanic’s Tools? A Few Considerations

Pay Rates

should shops provide mechanics tools

For one thing, the national average salary for an entry-level auto mechanic falls somewhere around $38,000. This can change depending on your education, certifications, and experience. It’s not the worst starting salary in the world, but, when you consider that a mechanic just starting out is likely having to pay off educational loans, it can be tough to survive. Add to that the cost of financing the tools it takes to work effectively as a mechanic, and you start to understand why there’s a mechanic shortage.

Many mechanics get paid in a “flat rate” system, which means that they only get paid when there’s work to be done. A mechanic could be stuck at the shop for 10 hours, but only get paid for the two hours where he was assigned an actual task to complete. All jobs have their own pre-set number of billable hours as well, so if a job gets quoted at 4 hours of labor, but actually takes 6 hours to complete, the mechanic eats the lost time.

California, which offers more protection than most states in this regard, has tried to address these issues with laws that require service centers to both pay their mechanics for their time spent at the shop, as well as doubling the minimum wage for mechanics that supply their own tools. But, the system isn’t flawless, and unscrupulous service centers have found loopholes that help them avoid paying up.

should shops provide mechanics tools

Of course, systems like this make providing yourself quality tools a challenge. Should pay rates change? Given the mechanic shortage, it seems like common enough knowledge that working in this particular field might not be the most lucrative of career paths, and the industry is made even less appealing to potential candidates when investing in a decent set of tools will eat heavily into a pretty mediocre salary.

The Cost of Providing Tools

should shops provide mechanics tools

So, let’s just say some shops do provide tools for their mechanics (and, to be fair, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility; some shops do actually provide tools for their service techs). In an ideal world, these tools would be well-taken care of, and they’d be put back in their proper place when not in use, and they wouldn’t manage to walk out of the shop at the end of the day. Every mechanic could rest assured that, when he walked into work every day, he wouldn’t have to worry about not having the right tool for the job.

Unfortunately, idealistic scenarios don’t generally take into account that people can be sloppy, careless, lazy, and opportunistic. Those nice, new tools you just bought your team could likely get beat up, lost, or stolen within the week. And then what? You’re stuck buying another set of whatever tool is now unusable. This cuts into the shop’s ability to not only turn a profit but to also pay better wages.

Perhaps its just easier to have your techs bring their own tools. That way, if something gets beat up or disappears, it’s no skin off your back. Plus, at the end of the day, the mechanic is much more likely to take care of his tools if he spent his own money to get them.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard not to see both sides of this problem. As an employer, you’d like your employees to treat any tools you’ve provided with respect. Good tools are not inexpensive. You’d like your employees to care enough to keep them in good working order. You’d also appreciate it if your tools didn’t “walk off” the site. But, generally speaking, if you wish in one hand and take a dump in the other, it probably shouldn’t surprise you which hand fills up first. That’s to say that rarely will anyone treat your stuff as well as you do. And, unfortunate as it is, some folks don’t seem to have a problem with stealing from their employer. It can be tough to stomach the costs of doing business if you’re constantly having to replace stolen or broken tools.

However, it’s tough not to sympathize with the mechanic on this one as well. It can also be tough to stomach the costs of new tools and equipment, especially considering what some service centers pay their mechanics. And, this can be especially tough for a new mechanic just starting his career. Plus, in an industry that is presently known for its worker shortage, you kind of wonder why more service centers aren’t doing everything they can to incentivize potential employees. Attractive salary packages and tool provisions might be a good place to start.

And, because it seems lame to title an article with a question that the author is unwilling to decisively answer, I’ll throw in my two cents. Should shops provide mechanic’s tools? It seems to me that, in light of this mechanic shortage that continues to look worse and worse as the years go by, the field of automotive service seems like a bit of a seller’s market. Car sales haven’t slowed down, shop labor rates have risen while hourly wages for service technicians have stagnated, and the industry is desperately seeking new mechanics. And, shops still won’t provide tools for their workers? At this point, providing the necessary tools for the job seems like the least a shop could do, especially if they’d like to stay in business.

What are your thoughts? Should shops provide a mechanic’s tools for employees? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Jake Roberts

I’m not sure if you’re re making a series of articles on the subject, and if you aren’t, why not. It’s well worth a follow up. I’ve been reading a few articles on this very topic. By far this is the best as it’s got me to comment on how good it was.

Tim Johnson

Thank you very much for your kind words. This is a tough subject because it’s hard to find common ground. We can’t really nail down certain groups that are buying in, or not. It just seems to be dealer by dealer. It definitely seems that in the US, the German and Asian car dealerships are more apt to supply tools. We’ll definitely follow up soon with another article.

Robert Thompson

For an in-depth guide, I have to say it was light reading but full of relevant stuff. Great post and can’t wait for the next one.

Tim Johnson

Thank you. We’ll follow up soon with another article.


I think it should be a split. Even starting off there needs to be a personal investment, it shows that the new mechanic is willing to put their neck out a little. When I started (now a service manager) I had basic tools as any back yard mechanic or anyone wanting to be a mechanic would. I could go deeper into this and say if a kid is coming out of high school and hasn’t worked on cars already, its going to be tough for them to make it right away in this trade. That being said, some of the… Read more »

Tim Johnson

Sorry for such a late reply. I like your mindset on this. Both parties have “buy-in” and responsibility, this makes sense.