Tool truck purchase/rework the concept

Ward Technician Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Posted   Latest   Edited  

Hello! Last fall I almost bought an independent tool truck that is here in Saskatoon. I backed out at pretty much the last possible moment because I was concerned over the way the numbers were beginning to add up while we were doing the inventory on the truck. If I had bought it I would have taken it over on 01 Jan 2020, just over 3 months ago. Given the current state of affairs it may have been a train wreck!

That being said - I am a sucker for punishment, and more than one person has called me an idiot over the years. I have been discussing this a bit in a related topic on the "I Ain't Testin' Nuthin" network (You know who I mean) and I thought I would get the thoughts of those of you that are on here and not there.

The "stupid ideas" center in my brain keeps going back to the idea of making another attempt to buy said tool truck, and convincing more sensible portions of my brain that it's a good idea. I see the following disadvantages to the current tool truck model:

-It is a sole proprietorship. If I get sick or hurt, the business grinds to a halt, same thing to a lesser dregree when the truck gets laid up for repairs.

-The receivables! On a small truck most techs have a tab going. I will use the same example as on the other forum - not the actual number but enough to get the idea across- if 600 of your customers (by no means all of them) owe you an average of $60.00 each (not much, really) - that's $36K in receivables! note that this is not like credit with the franchise trucks, there is no interest on this.

-The emergence of online buying. I know it shouldn't, but this actually bothers me more than the receivables. I get it that it costs more to buy from the tool truck, but I appreciate that they come to me. I don't kave to run across town at dinner to get a tool. At lot of technicians no longer worry about that, after all "a buck is a buck, right"

-what to do if a person bought a tool of Amazon (say) instead of me. A couple months later it breaks. They know I sell that tool, and expect me to warrantee it. My first thought is "lets see the invoice". When I see the invoice is from Amazon I would point out That Amazon has a procedure for returns on products purchased from them, perhaps you should pursue that. I would likely said it with the sorta "A"hole type smirk that breeds ill will, not good for business - but neither is doing legwork for free to warrantee a tool that I did not make cent one on. Smarter techs would understand this - but look around where you work now - they are not all rocket scientists, are they.

All this brings me to my wonderful new stupid idea that won't work. but I want to bounce it off you guys. Maybe it's already going in some bigger cities and I just don't know. The gist of the idea is the tool inventory is at home, and stays there until ordered.

-I have a web page with all the tools I can get showing photos, specs, and pricing. If I have it in stock in town that is noted as it can be had next day VS order in.

-Technicians can look over the website and order online, email, text, or good old fashioned phone in.

-The next day all the orders fro the previous day all the tools ordered the previous day are loaded into a small efficient car instead of a lumbering great 20,000 pound truck and delivered. The remainder of the day is going around you route as usual, saying "Hi, you need any thing", the usual thing.

-If a tech has a broken wrench it is there the next day if one is in stock at home, instead of right away if the actual truck was driving around - this is one obvious down side.

-If a broken tool needs to be ordered in, or if a customer orders a tool that needs to be brought in, It gets to them the day it gets in instead of the next time the truck comes around in 2 weeks - this is an upside.

-As a person gets a customer data base built up on can post specials, sale items as they come up in the catalogue, new tools that come out - this will partially over come the obvious disadvantage of not having techs come out to the truck to buy something small, or put $50 on their account, and walk out with another $300 of tools they "had no idea they needed, until they saw it"! Yes, the "oww shiny" tool syndrome, and yes I bought a pile of the trucks that exact way!

-Payment could be online for the most part, all the new generation seem to be up to speed on that, much more so than us "old guard" guys.

-The cost of operating a smaller vehicle is an obvious advantage, even a minivan would be orders of magnitude better on fuel than a freightliner cube truck.

I would like the thoughts of the technicians on here as to what your thoughts are on this. does it seem workable or is it flawed. Something as simple as the tech picks a tool up, likes the feel of the knurl on the handle, and it's sold - can't do that online - just thought of that one. I have on more than one occasion bought a tool that very way - I liked the way it felt/fit my hand/had the right balance. Point tool truck on that one. Like I said - any thoughts/arguments/abuse as you see fit. The common sense part of my brain is telling me it's to big a gamble, the stupid portion likes it though!

ward …

Saskatoon, Sk. Canada

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Joe Owner/Technician
Gilbert, Arizona
Joe Default
 

I’m not really able to say if that will work or not but I would like to tell you about a conversation I had with my local Matco dealer last week. He is an outstanding tool guy and every tech in the area really likes him. Anyways, he mentioned that when things get really slow in shops, such as a health crisis that has sent the economy down the drain, he tends to sell more tools because techs have…

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Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Hello Joe! Yes that is definitely an advantage to an actual truck, and one I think I may be under estimating more than I should! I know I have popped out to the truck in just the last year for a $5.00 item and walked in with $300.00+ in new tools, and it all fit in my coverall pockets. And I have been at this 35years plus and am already very well tooled up (I have 3 roller cabinets, with side…

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Albin Diagnostician
Leavenworth, Washington
Albin Default
 

I have been in this business about 30 years and have never had an account on a tool truck. I have bought tools from Snapon, Matco, Cornwell & Mac, but have never had a weekly payment. For the last 6 years, I have not had a tool truck come to my shop, I get most of the tools I need from my local NAPA store, that makes daily deliveries to me. My shop is 17 miles from the parts store. This…

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Agree
Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Thanks Albin! I appreciate your input! Ward

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony Default
 

Hi Ward: What you haven't mentioned is why it is for sale. The only value to you will be the value of the hard goods. You just mentioned that you don't want to use the truck. The "business" has no value to you. Otay, maybe 1-3 pennies on the loon. (Remember pennies?) Could you make a go of it with your idea? Sure, I guess. My ex would buy me a pack of cigarettes, albeit reluctantly. If I asked…

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Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Hello Anthony! The guy has been doing it for 15 years, has had a health scare, and is just looking to get into something to wind down until retirement in a couple years. I am going to be 29 right away too, so between that and the risks involved financially I think I am less likely to do it with each reply I get. Ward

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Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Hello again Anthony! The idea of reworking it is just that - an idea, a thought experiment. If I bought the business as it stands it would come with a truck and that is how I would start out. It is an older truck so It's not like I would be throwing away $40K if a person tried to keep stock at home. The good will portion was also way more than my financial panther said I should pay. According…

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Robert Diagnostician
Fair Oaks, California
Robert Default
 

We have several tool trucks that come to the shop. Over the years the guys that struggled, were the guys that did not have enough cash on hand to float the tabs and keep the truck well stocked. If you need to borrow to restock the truck you will not make it. If you do the tool truck and put tools in techs hands, they will sell. You will work your ass off driving around and stocking the truck as…

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Timothy Diagnostician
Brampton, Ontario
Timothy Default
 

Tech pro tools does that sort of idea up here. But they have a showroom/shop that theyhave way across the city. You could check out their web site to see what I mean. When you call its usually next day and the guy shows up in a van that has a small display. Pretty simple business that appears to work well. Sad part is lots of chinesium. Good luck on the decision. Cheers

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Jon Technician
Loveland, Colorado
Jon Default
 

I have thought about this subject quite a lot over the years. I'm an older tech and I have historicaly bought most of my tools off of tool trucks. For the last 5+ years I don't even go on a tool truck. Occasionally a tool rep will inform me of a new tool or give me an idea for something that would be of benefit. However, I buy what I need when I need it and usually that ends up being from…

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Bruce Owner/Technician
New Brighton, Pennsylvania
Bruce Default
 

The common sense part of my brain is telling me it's to big a gamble is right. We opened 36 years ago and at first I though the tool truck was a bonus pulling up and having anything I needed right there. Over the years of constant spending for tools and always buying something because I always needed more I ventured out and glad I did. My inventory of tools skyrocketed and for a fraction of the…

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Anthony Technical Support Specialist
Kirkwood, Pennsylvania
Anthony Default
 

Hi Bruce: And only FNGs need a lot of stuff. People will some age have already gotten most of what they need. Aside from new specialty and replacements for lost, there really isn't much for them on the truck. Sure, there are shiny new objects but the jobber can't make a "successful" business model out of that. Guido

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Bruce Owner/Technician
New Brighton, Pennsylvania
Bruce Default
 

FNGs need a lot of stuff, yup. That's why 3 other garages near me always want to barrow tools they need and don't have and 1 common denominator is they all owe $$ to the truck drivers and can't buy everything they need. ,)

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Michael Owner/Technician
Cartersville, Georgia
Michael Default
 

Your story reminds me of a customer of mine that is (was) in the lumber business he inherited from his dad. His dad built the business up and was very successful for many years selling lumber to the construction industry. He had credit accounts all over the area and for the most part everyone paid because options were limited and if you were unable to buy from him you had to buy from a smaller…

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Stephen Educator
Bethel, Ohio
Stephen Default
 

Ward, two things come to mind. Don't compete if you don't have a competitive edge. The second if the business model works, you can be sure someone else is using it. First off you are going to run into the same problem as other tool truck owners have. The cost of doing business is high. Just the truck and the cost of operating it will eat you alive. There are too many ways for techs to buy tools…

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Mike Owner/Technician
Manteno, Illinois
Mike Default
 

I see a couple of issues first there is not a lot of people coming into the trade. They are the ones that need tools secondly with the current economy your going to have a hard time collecting. also once the online comes back you can have things delivered within a day or two not have to wait.

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Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Hello Everybody! Thanks for the input so far - it reinforces a lot of my thoughts and concerns, both for the business model ideas, and the over all future of the business. I would still love to do this but every post I read reinforces my concern that it may be a bad, possibly very bad idea. Ward

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LaMont Owner/Technician
Smithville, Ohio
LaMont Default
 

We have 3 tool trucks that stop at my shop. We have 3 technicians beside myself. One of my techs and myself, who have been in the business for a long time, rarely need anything. The other techs could use more tools but don't always buy them due to a lack of funds. I agree with Albin that impulse buying contributes to a lot of the tool sales. Quite a few of the items I have, I bought because I…

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Rudy Technician
Montebello, California
Rudy Default
 

Theres a guy I follow on Facebook(or rather Im in his FB group) His name is Nick J Morello III from New Jersey. He is an ex-Matco tool dealer. He realized he was getting hosed by that franchise and bought his own truck and stocked it with Gearwrench tools. Started driving any route he wanted because he was no longer limited to a certain route. Also started an FB group to sell tools from. He…

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Ward Technician
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Ward Default
 

Hello Rudy! That is one advantage to the truck I was looking a., It was an independent, so no franchise fees. It still looks like a risky thing to try at 59 years old. Ward

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Edwin Technician
Ogden, Utah
Edwin Default
 

You mention Amazon as a point to the inconvenience of support compared to the tool truck. The couple of times that I have needed support Amazon has been relatively painless & actually easier/quicker than the tool trucks about half the time. Overall in this day & age I would definitely not buy a tool truck. There are so many other options for guys to get the same tool in a lot of cases…

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Ken Owner/Technician
Phoenix, Arizona
Ken Default
 

I would not own a tool truck....here is an example...matco hub grappler mst6575 $819.95....this item is an otc otc6575 and I can get it from tooltopia for $469.98 with free shipping and I have a credit card..the only time I go on a tool truck is when they have a tool you can not buy anywhere else.....and here in Arizona the tool trucks are dropping like flies....no snap on...no mac....no…

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David Owner/Technician
Kitchener, Ontario
David Default
   

The problem with carrying the inventory is that usually the tool truck owner is paying interest on that inventory as operating line of credit. That is painful if the majority of it is slow turning. Otherwise from a business point of view that would be moot or not an issue provided that the items keep selling and turn rapidly which I doubt expensive high end tools do. They need to be kept for…

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David Owner/Technician
Kitchener, Ontario
David Default
 

Hello Ward, The franchise tool trucks are having a difficult time and many are dropping out. I see a few issues with things you have mentioned. First thing is if you are trying to compete with Amazon you simply cannot. You need enough customers who are willing to pay just a little bit more because you have the item in stock and can deliver the item faster or can warranty an item quicker or…

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Michael Mechanic
Montgomery, Texas
Michael Default
 

Have not walked on a tool truck in 20 years and the only time I've stuck my head in the door was to tell tech to get back to work. Listen, my 2 cents... I don't care about shiny no more... I care about functionality. If the job I'm using it on is not commonly repeated I don't even care about quality... if it works once and I'm likely to use it once or twice and see it stare back at me doing…

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