The hidden cost of lending tools: 41 per cent of tradespeople say they were returned late or not at all

  • 83 per cent of tradespeople have lent their tools or equipment out to mates, family or workmates
  • Of those that have lent tools, 41 per cent say that they were either returned late or not at all
  • Over a third (39 per cent) of tradespeople who have lent out their tools had their ability to work impacted as a result
  • Workmates are the most reliable when it comes to returning borrowed tools on time

New data1 from Direct Line Business Insurance reveals that 83 per cent of tradespeople regularly lend their tools to workmates, family or friends. However, the data reveals that tradespeople are being hit in the pocket, with 41 per cent saying that they were returned late or in some cases not at all.

Over a third (39 per cent) of tradespeople who have lent out their tools to friends, family or workmates have had their ability to work negatively impacted as a result. Given the average earnings of tradespeople, this generosity could be costing them if they are unable to work as a result.  A fifth (21 per cent) say that their tools were returned two or more days late – and every day that a tradesperson is unable to work could cost them £1002 or more.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tradespeople most frequently lend tools to their workmates, with just 14 per cent refusing to do so when asked. More than a quarter (29 per cent) of workmates fail to return the tools on time, although of those who returned equipment or tools late, the vast majority (67 per cent) returned the tools less than three days late.

When it comes to lending tools to members of their family, tradespeople are slightly more reluctant to do so than they would be to workmates – with good reason. Family members are the least likely to return borrowed tools on time, with over a third (34 per cent) of tradespeople saying their borrowed equipment had been returned late.

It isn’t just family and workmates that tradespeople lend their tools to. Just 17 per cent of tradespeople have said no after a friend had asked to borrow tools or equipment. Although, 49 per cent) admitted that they would only lend their tools if they were confident their mates could use them. While slightly less reliable than workmates, 70 per cent of tradespeople said that their friends did return their tools on time. Friends are the most likely to offer to buy something in return - such as pint or a bottle of wine - after borrowing tools with 20 per cent saying this had happened to them.

Alison Traboulsi, SME Product Manager at Direct Line Business insurance: “It can be difficult to say no to friends and family when it comes to lending out tools. Especially when they might well be borrowing them for an exciting reason. However, when tools and equipment aren’t returned on time and work is impacted, this can have significant financial implications and sour relationships. Ultimately, it’s about considering who you are lending your tools to, setting ground rules and trust.”

Tips when lending tools

  • When lending tools, set some consistent ground rules and make it clear that you need the tools back by a set date for a job (giving yourself a buffer of a few days).
  • If you’re lending multiple tools at once, make sure you track them so you know who has what and never give permission for them to be lent to someone else.
  • If the deadline has passed, reach out to your friend/family member. The most likely scenario is that they’ve forgotten and when you check in, they’ll quickly return them. You could even offer to go and pick up the tools yourself.

For more information about Direct Line’s tradesperson tools cover, please visit our website:


Notes to Editors

1 Opinium survey of 500 tradespeople, conducted 4th December – 8th December 2023.

2 Office for National Statistics, Earnings and hours worked, industry by four-digit SIC: ASHE Table 16, Earnings for Electrical, plumbing and other construction installation activities

For further information please contact:

Direct Line Group

Unni Henry 

PR Manager

Email: [email protected]

About Direct Line business insurance

Launched in 2007 Direct Line business insurance now has over half a million customer policies, providing a flexible range of insurance products for the landlord, van and small business sectors.

Direct Line business insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line business insurance and U K Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

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