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A person trying to break into a car with a screwdriver

There are moments that really test your knowledge of the English language. One’s the old ‘hammer meets finger’ and the other’s when you discover that someone has nicked your tools.

If your gear was stolen tonight, would you be able to work tomorrow? Do you have a backup set, or some you can borrow? More importantly, would you have the cash to replace them?

As the name suggests, tool insurance covers the cost of replacing your tools if they’re stolen, lost or damaged. Most of the major insurers offer tool insurance and some include it as part of their general business insurance, so if you already have business cover, check the fine print.

Whether it’s cheaper to buy tool insurance separately or to add it to your business insurance policy will depend on the insurer and your own circumstances, so it’s worth shopping around for the best combination of price and options. Just be aware that some multi-policy deals don’t always offer the same level of cover you get with a specialised policy.

The most important thing to check for is that the policy offers ‘new for old’ replacement. Some policies only cover the depreciated value for older tools, which isn’t much use if you have to replace a lot of expensive gear. The other thing to watch out for is your excess. If it’s too high, it’s pointless to make a smaller claim. On the other hand, a higher excess can mean a lower premium, so it’s up to you to set the balance you’re comfortable with.

You can’t earn a living without your tools so the other important thing to do is to find out how long the company takes to resolve a claim – a 48-hour turnaround is pretty standard. Set a figure and review it on at least an annual basis, particularly if you upgrade any of your tools. To ensure you have the right cover for your tools, you should add up their collective value or list the particularly expensive ones individually on your policy.

Being able to provide a record of what was stolen can help get your claim through faster. The easiest way is to register your gear with the police at snap.org.nz or download Hoist, a free app that makes it easy to keep track of your gear. It’s free and it could end up saving you time and money if you get burgled.

The downside of tool insurance is that it can be expensive, mainly because tools and trade equipment are targeted so often, usually with multiple items being stolen. Policies start around $400-$500 a year, but if you’re insuring $30,000 worth of tools it could set you back around $2,000. If you’d rather keep your money, the alternative is to have an emergency fund, putting away money each month to cover the unforeseen. That takes discipline and there’s the risk that something could happen to your tools before you’ve built up enough to replace them.

Rob Moule, of Auckland’s Precision Construction, knows all about the difficulties of keeping track of gear. “We have projects all over town and stuff often gets loaned out” he says. “There was no app available to keep track of it - so we built our own.” Hoist is a free app designed for chippies, plumbers, electricians and anyone who regularly uses and lends out expensive gear. You can create an inventory of your gear, recording the type, make and model of each tool and attach photos, receipts and serial numbers. The information is backed up securely in the cloud and you can access it easily for insurance, tax records and warranty claims. Once you’re set up, you can use Hoist to keep track of any tools you loan out and get them back on time. The system even sends out overdue reminders and keeps a record of tool condition “So two months from now, you’ll know who has your drill.” Rob says.

Hoist is free to download for individuals, but Rob says the next phase is team support for organisations. “With the rate of theft and loss, it’ll save businesses a lot of money.” You can download Hoist for free on Android or iPhone.