Six in ten tradespeople have encountered suspected stolen tool sellers

Six in ten tradespeople have encountered suspected stolen tool sellers
  • Six in ten tradespeople (60 per cent) have been approached by or have seen someone trying to sell second-hand tools which they suspected were stolen, illustrating the scale of tool theft across the country.
  • The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of tradespeople immediately refused to buy the tools offered to them by the suspicious seller. Just under a quarter (24 per cent) notified a trade authority, while 23 per cent informed the police.
  • The study also revealed the strength of the second-hand tools market, with three in ten UK consumers purchasing equipment this way, and the general lack of public awareness and concern about tool theft.

Six in ten (60 per cent) tradespeople say that they have been approached by or seen someone they suspected were selling stolen second-hand tools, according to new research by Direct Line business insurance.

Suspicious sellers

Almost one in three (29 per cent) tradespeople became aware of the suspicious seller through word of mouth, while just over a quarter encountered them on a website, social media or app selling second-hand goods. Shockingly, almost one in five (18 per cent) said the person selling the tools was a friend. 

The overwhelming majority (91 per cent) immediately refused to buy the tools offered to them by the suspicious seller. Just under one quarter (24 per cent) notified a trade authority, while 23 per cent informed the police.

But a very small minority of tradespeople could be contributing to the cycle of tool theft. One in ten still bought the tools despite their suspicions and over one quarter (26 per cent) considered purchasing them but didn’t go through with it.  

These findings hammer home the scale of tool theft across the country, which can have costly consequences for tradespeople, disrupting livelihoods and hitting them hard in the pocket.

The top ten regions for tradespeople encountering suspicious sellers were as follows:

Table One: Percentage of tradespeople who were approached by or saw a suspicious tools seller by region.

City  

Percentage of tradespeople who were approached by or saw someone they suspected were selling stolen second-hand tools

 

Bristol 88 per cent
Manchester 84 per cent
Sheffield 82 per cent
Nottingham 81 per cent
Leeds 75 per cent
Belfast 74 per cent
Brighton 72 per cent
Cardiff 71 per cent
London 70 per cent
Edinburgh 63 per cent

Source: Direct Line business insurance, 2021

Tradesperson concern

The study also revealed increasing concern among tradespeople about the scale and frequency of tool theft. This is influencing their purchasing decisions and heightening stress levels.

In the event their tools were lost, damaged or stolen, one quarter of tradespeople would buy second-hand tools online as replacements. The highest number of this group (39 per cent) would do so because tool theft is so common that they would not risk buying brand new tools unless absolutely necessary.

Nearly half (46 per cent) worry frequently about the problem, and more than eight in ten (81 per cent) describe themselves as alert when it comes to protecting their equipment against theft. Despite this level of awareness and concern, one in ten do not have insurance cover in place.

Consumer attitude towards second-hand tools

The second-hand tool market, where equipment is available more cheaply and is generally much quicker to source, is helping to drive tool theft across the country.

Nearly a third of UK consumers (30 per cent) have bought tools second-hand, with 16 per cent doing so on multiple occasions, showing the strength of the market.

Nearly half of these buyers (44 per cent) have acquired tools from a car boot sale, 34 per cent have got them from a friend and almost a third (30 per cent) have bought them through an official website selling second-hand goods.

A major problem is that many consumers aren’t able to spot the signs of a suspicious seller. Only 30 per cent believe they could identify stolen tools on the market.

There is also a general lack of awareness and concern. More than three in ten (35 per cent) were not worried about the prospect of buying stolen tools. This reinforces the need for more education and the importance of tradespeople ensuring their equipment is properly protected.

Jonny McHugh, SME Business Manager at Direct Line, stated:

“Our research demonstrates how the scale and frequency of tool theft is partly fuelled by the demand for cheap second-hand tools which are quick to source. Tool theft is hugely disruptive and often has a devastating impact on tradespeople’s ability to work and livelihoods.

“Tradespeople can help to protect themselves by ensuring they lock tools away securely and take precautions when parking their vehicles. It is also important that they invest in comprehensive insurance cover to help ensure that they are not hit hard in the pocket if their equipment is stolen.

“At Direct Line business insurance, our Tools Essentials offering helps to shield tradespeople from costly setbacks caused by the theft of essential equipment. The service helps tradespeople replace their essential tools within 24 hours so that they can get back to work quickly, minimising disruption.”

Direct Line Tools Essentials service comes with Tools and Business Equipment insurance and helps to tradespeople replace their essential tools within 24 hours, with an upfront faster payment of up to £1,500, subject to a few checks. This product addresses tradespeople’s concerns that insurance claims processes can be too slow, with 27 per cent stating that this is why they turn to second-hand tools.

Tools Essentials is available to every customer who has a valid tools claim and policy with Direct Line business insurance. Claims can be reported between 8am-6pm, Monday to Friday, except Bank Holidays. Policy limits and exclusions apply.

For more information on Tools Essentials please visit: https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/public-liability-insurance/insurance-for-tools

For tips on how to keep your van and tools safe please see: https://www.directlineforbusiness.co.uk/van-insurance/knowledge-centre/your-van-and-your-business/what-van-security-improvements-can-i-make

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