What is the difference between DIY and professional power tools?

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Professional power-tools can cost substantially more than DIY power-tools. Why is there a price difference? Should you buy professional power-tools when transitioning from a hobby to a business?

Essentially, commercial-grade Power-Tools cost more because their life expectancy is longer. This is largely due to their superior design and build quality. 

If you plan on turning your hobby into a business it may make sense to buy professional-grade power-tools. . This article runs through the reasons why it might be the best move even if they cost more.

The typical home DIY workshop or garage power-tool collection.

As a DIY person, hobbyist or maker, you may work from a shed or garage and have workshop full of power-tools or gardening equipment such as:

  • bench drills
  • rivet guns
  • nail guns
  • welders
  • plasma cutters
  • bench grinders and linishers
  • angle grinders
  • hand drills
  • air compressors
  • lathes or milling machines
  • lawn mower
  • chainsaw
  • brushcutter
  • blower
  • pole saw
  • rotating blades
  • router
  • jigsaw

There will usually be a commercial or professional power-tool option for each type of tool. This is the case whether they use rechargeable batteries, electrical power leads or petrol engines. 

Think back to when you bought your tools. Was there was a more expensive option that you ignored? Sometimes it can be difficult to see why there is a price difference between power tools. Often, to the untrained eye, the only obvious difference is the (often bright) colour used by the Manufacturer.

As a hobbyist, buying a DIY Power-Tool probably made sense. After all, you were probably working on one project at a time and purely for enjoyment. So it may have been hard to justify the extra money required to move up to the “pro” range.  

Image of drill for POWERTOOLS

Why are professional grade power-tools more expensive than the DIY range?

A DIY tool that spends most of its’ life sitting idle in a workshop may last many years. As such, it’s easy to be misled into believing it is more robust than it actually is.

In reality, if you add up the total number of times that a DIY tool was used, you might be surprised. It might not be many at all, even over many years. It could also be that each use was for a relatively easy and short task, in a fairly clean, dust-free atmosphere.

Professional-grade tools, however, are often used for multiple hours every day. They are built and warranted to perform in commercial conditions and environments.

In a nutshell, this is why Professional Tools are more expensive than their DIY equivalents.

What is different about the design of professional or commercial grade power-tools?

The design process for any tool will centre on things like:

  • how many times it will be used in its life
  • what the average “run-time” will be during each use
  • the conditions it will be used under

During the design of a professional power tool, the metrics used will be far higher. The estimated frequency and duration of each use, for instance, will be higher than for a DIY equivalent.

In a factory or professional work shop durability is crucial to productivity.

Additionally, allowances may be made for the atmosphere or environment the tool will operate in. In some workshops or worksites the atmosphere may be very dusty, which could cause electric motors to overheat.

Consideration may even be given to how many times an electrical lead might be wound up. The capacity and charge rate of Lithium-Ion batteries also needs to match the expected use.

All of these factors, and more, are taken into account when designing a Tool. The result is stronger and more robust components. This, in turn, allows the Manufacturer to provide longer warranty periods than they do for a DIY tool.

Why is a professional-grade Power-Tool stronger than a DIY tool?

For a commercial power-tool to last during its warranty period, a more robust build is required.

Many of the differences between Pro-Tools and their DIY equivalent are hidden. Others are a bit more obvious.

For example:

  • metal bodies or housings rather than plastic
  • larger bearings for rotating shafts 
  • the use of bearings rather than bushes
  • brushless electric motors
  • larger air filters
  • larger oil filters
  • heavy duty electrical switches
  • heavy duty electrical contacts and cables
  • sealed switches
  • heavy duty Amp hour (Ah) batteries and charger

The professional series may also come in power tool combo kits with better charging stations or storage systems.

Why professional power-tool consumable parts last longer?

The range of consumable items for Pro power tools will also include more expensive options. Consumable items, manufactured using better quality steel, alloy or abrasives will usually last longer than those made from cheaper materials.

The materials used may be upgraded for commercial or industrial use in consumable items such as:

  • drill bits
  • router heads
  • saw blades
  • grinding discs
  • sanding belts and papers
  • mower blades

Why should I pay for professional-grade powertools if I become a business owner?

Consistent and reliable performance is paramount when using a powertool for business purposes. 

When your income depends upon the reliability of your tools, then your attitude to them will change. Price may no longer be the primary factor in your purchasing decisions. Productivity, quality of job and customer service are simply more important when running a business.

Tools that break or give a poor finish will become a business liability.

Efficiency and productivity are crucial if jobs are to be completed on time and on budget. Poor quality tools can lead to higher labour costs. In business, the last thing you want is rising costs.

Importantly, using a DIY tool for commercial purposes may invalidate the tool manufacturers’ warranty. 

Using commercial or professional-grade power-tools makes perfect sense once your hobby becomes a business enterprise.

Work place health and safety laws usually require you to use powertools as directed by the manufacturer. Using a DIY-grade powertool in a commercial environment may mean you are not complying with manufacturers guidelines. There may also be a business insurance implications in the event of a claim.

When you transition from a hobby to business, your powertools may be assessed as a business expense. If that is the case, the Tools’ original purchase price may be tax deductible. In some cases, depreciation may also apply. Ask your Accountant for more information about how this relates to your particular circumstances.

Buying safe and reliable, professional powertools simply makes good business sense.

Which are the leading brands of powertools?

You can check some leading brands and their respective websites here:

https://www.powertoolinstitute.com/pti-pages/mb-member-brand-profiles.asp

What changes to your workshop might you need to transition from hobby to business?

As a hobbyist, you might work on one project at a time. To scale your business up, however, you may need to review things like:

  • the type of tools you need to make you more productive. 
  • upgrading to commercial-grade tools.
  • a bigger workshop area to cope with multiple jobs.
  • decluttering and re-organising the workshop floor to increase productivity and safety.
  • the amount of lighting. 
  • fume or dust extraction.
  • creating a fire prevention and escape plan.
  • an organised storage area for materials. 
  • is the electrical power supply in your workshop big enough?
  • your choice of material suppliers and their service agreement.
  • any new products you might offer.

How do you convert your hobby into a business? 

There is a lot to think about. But, if you get it right, turning your passion into a business can be incredibly rewarding. What a way to make a living!

To give yourself a head start, have a read of the e-book we’ve written on this very subject. It takes you through the many of the steps you’ll need to consider before you start.

Building your past-time into a business will require some systems and disciplines.

You may need to improve some systems to speed up things like:

  • design software
  • cost estimating
  • price quoting
  • purchasing materials
  • warranty terms and conditions
  • customer order acknowledgement
  • workshop job instructions
  • invoicing
  • stock management
  • bookkeeping
  • work health and safety
  • quality control and quality assurance
  • any license or certificates you may need to operate your business
  • insurances for your workshop, products and people.

Understanding The Reality of Business Ownership

The Should I Own A Business Podcast explores the reality of business ownership in plain language.

Here are some other resources you might find helpful:

Our free Entrepreneur Personality Quiz highlights areas you might need to prepare more before starting a business.

Check out our Small Business Stories and our Slightly Familiar Friends.

Written by Brendan Barrow
Brendan Barrow is the Co-Host of the Should I Own A Business Podcast. Brendan has a wealth of business experience across many different businesses and 3 continents.

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