Tools & Equipment: Smart Investments

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Investing in specialty tools hinges a lot on shop billing and frequency of use. Photo: OTC

As vehicles become more complex, both the procedures and tools required to service them are becoming more specialized.

When it comes to specialty tools, understanding the types of vehicles your shop tends to service, the frequency of that service/maintenance and also having a financial and training strategy are key.

Business analysis

Rob Ingram, who owns and operates Eldon Ingram NAPA Auto Pro in Stratford, Ont., says business analysis is essential as is the type of specialty tool you’re looking to acquire and the ROI it is likely to provide.

“Let’s take a look at TPMS Service tools. If you’re able to purchase a universal TPMS tool and you know you have 1000 vehicles coming through your shop with TPMS sensors and you have got a billing program set up, you can plan for it and know that you will be getting ROI for purchasing that tool,” states Ingram.

Billing program

Ingram says he can’t stress enough the importance of having metrics to track the number of customers who own a specific type of vehicle, the types of repairs needed and having a billing program that shows repair order (R/O) history and frequency of visits.

“When you’re dealing with specialty tools, you have to know the cost of the job in order to invest in the tool, so for example, if a tool costs $1500 and the R/O is going to run you $1000, plus the tool is only applicable for a small number of vehicles that come into your shop, it doesn’t make sense to purchase it,” says Ingram.

On the other hand, if the tool is a $1000 investment and you know that through your billing program you’ll receive $2000 for the work, plus the tool can be used for 40-50% of the vehicles that come into your shop, it’s a sound purchase. “It all goes back to date and knowing your vehicle base and your billing program,” says Ingram.

Besides knowing the numbers to make an informed procurement decision, investing in specialty tools should also be part of a shop’s overall business plan.

Finance and training

Bert Gregory, Director of Operations at Speedy Auto Service, notes that when it comes to specialty tools, shops need to be prepared both from a financial and a training perspective. “Those service providers that accept change and make the right investments, will be in a better position to optimize sales and retention.”

He also notes that when it comes to purchasing specialty tools, participating in performance groups and regional trade shows (where applicable) can also help both shop owners/managers and technicians understand what prevailing trends are impacting the industry and get a good feel of the specialty tools available. “Shop owners and technicians need to be proactive when it comes to buying and incorporating advancements in technology in their own facilities,” says Gregory.


While premium branded and quality tools are preferred by many technicians, Rob Ingram says that when it comes to specialty tools, it’s important to purchase based on your requirements, not necessarily by what is the best tool on the market.

“As long as it is of decent quality and will work repeatedly, then it should be considered, regardless of the brand name.” He notes that in some cases, non-premium branded tools can often be purchased for significantly less cost and still work well, again, it factors into how much you are going to make on the job and how often you’re going to use it.

When it comes to items such as scan tools, Ingram has found that an effective strategy is to purchase new ones and keep the old ones until they are completely obsolete. “You can always use extra scan tools,” he says, “plus when that older scan tool does become obsolete, you can often trade it in for a discount on a new one.”


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