Most mechanics own their own tools. It is my understanding that this practice arose when shop owners felt that they could not protect tools from theft by their workers.
Many mechanics use Snap-On tools. I don’t believe that they are particularly better than other tools, but they have the reputation as being the premium brand. They also heavily market their tools directly to mechanics, including on-site visits by their representatives. I believe they also offer financing to mechanics.
I don’t believe that Snap-On tools are any better than Craftsman or Stanley tools, but when people have invested thousands of dollars and are emotionally attached to that particular brand, try convincing them of that.
It’s similar to the brand prestige enjoyed by Harley-Davidson, Cadillac, or even Mercedes-Benz. Very expensive products with a great reputation, but not necessarily the best.
Snap-on built their business by going on site to repair shops with their trucks and extending easy credit to mechanics. They charged a premium price for their tools but the easy credit and on-site service won a lot of converts.
At the time that Snap-on built their business tools were very expensive.
They were produced domestically and a lot of hand finishing went into them. That’s why shop owners required workers to supply their own tools. It kept the tools from disappearing and the mechanic always locked his tool box.
Now excellent tools are produced overseas on highly automated equipment. They are actually quite a bargain compared to the “good old days”.
Yeah, they come to your garage, so you can buy some tool without leaving your job. They also have a “if it breaks we replace it without question” policy. But then, so does Craftsman, which is a not so expensive. I’ve never had a Craftsman tool break, so there’s not much reason to pay more money for Snap-on, as long as I can go to Sears. I guess Snap-on is kind of like a prestige/image thing: if you use Snap-on, you’re a real mechanic (and can afford it); if you use Craftsman, you’re a weekend do-it-yourselfer.
Don’t forget that Snap-Off has a lifetime warranty, break it and you get a replacement at no charge. I buy my tools from Canadian Tire because they have the same warranty but you don’t have to wait for thr truck to come by to get a replacement, just run down the store and you have it right away when you need it.
Snap-on also makes a lot of very specialized tools for specific tasks. And if you’re a mechanic who spends their workday sticking your hand thru a narrow passage into the innards of a specific car, having a tool that is made to fit that spot, turn easily and get the job done is worth a lot.
Also, in the early days, Snap-On did last longer than other brands. A mechanic who took time off regularly to run to Sears for replacement Craftsman tools lost productive time more often than the guy using the Snap-On that almost never failed.
“Pops” Mercotan worked for Snap-On. I’ve got an ungodly number of tools. And tool chests.
I’m a professional auto mechanic. I started out with Craftsman tools, but found I was visiting Sears fairly often for warranty replacements, and now the overwhelming majority of my stuff is from Snap-on. When it comes to all-day/every-day/stressing-it-more-than-you-should use, Snap-on holds up where other brands fail. There is a difference, and when your livelihood depends on tools the difference matters.
If I put too much oomph into turning a stubborn hex bolt with a Craftsman open-end wrench, the ends spread and stay spread; it no longer fits properly and replacement is required. If I do the same with a Snap-on wrench, the ends spread and then spring back to size; it is still a good usable tool.
Snap-on tool boxes are noticeably sturdier than the ones available at normal retail outlets. The drawer slides are smoother and stronger, the metal is thicker, the design gives more usable space and has features that make it work better (e.g., drawer pulls easier to grasp, mechanism to keep drawers from sliding open on a slant). You don’t notice this stuff in occasional use, but if you work with it day in and day out it’s something you appreciate.
For most weekend do-it-yourselfers, the extra cost is probably not justified. With less use, and less frequent use, the chance of breakage is reduced. And since no one is coming to your location with tools, if something does break you’ve got to make a trip to replace it anyway.
So yeah, cheaper stuff will serve the same function, but will not serve it as well in a professional setting.
As the brother of a ex-mechanic he started with Craftsman and slowly converted to Snap-On. One of the things not mentioned is that Craftsman’s warranty does not cover professonal use. Most stores don’t care, but the one here would refuse my brother replacements if he showed up in his work uniform. Also the specialty tools as mentioned above were a big part. He worked on Dodge, and later Freightliner, he had about a dozen tools that were specific to that make or even specific models.
The quality and ergonomics of the Snap-on brand tends to exceed that of other brands. You pay a hefty price for that though. Unless you are using the tool or tool boxes every day it would be hard to justify the value.
A a drawer on a Craftsman box might break after open and closing it a 1000 times. The drawer on a Snap-on box could take 5000 times to see the same effect.
While Craftsman and Snap-on carry a similar warranty broken tools still takes time out of your day. Most professionals would prefer the one that is less likely to break and shows up at your shop to replace the tool.
I have one set of Snap-on wrenches. I love them I use them for my job almost every day. Its a set my father bought 30 years ago.
I suspect this demonstrates the advantage of having the salespeople travel to the shops. If they hear that mechanics have a particularly tricky situation where no standard tool is appropriate, they can communicate this back to the design engineers, who can then produce something appropriate.
I was issued a nice set of Snap-On sockets and wrenches when I was a maintenance specialist in the Army. They were the best hand tools that I have ever used. They included precision torque wrenches and torque screwdrivers that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
I was at an auction about a year ago: A shop that worked mostly on farm equipment was going out of business, and all sorts of tools were included.
Among them was a decent smattering of Snap-On tools. These went for ferocious prices - very little under (and in one case definitely over) the new price. By contrast, most of the others - essentially all of decent quality - fetched typical auction prices (i.e. something like 30% to 50% of new).
I was puzzled by this until I asked a friend who was there, and who knows everyone in the area. He said: “See that guy there? [pointing to a man who’d been the most active Snap-On bidder, and the high bidder about 40% of the time] - he’s the local Snap-On rep.”
He explained that it was normal for such guys to attend these auctions to ensure that Snap-On tools retained their reputation as the most desirable tools around.
ETA: I tend to endorse GaryT’s view here. They are the best tools, but the price increment is typically justified only for professional users.
Everyone at the auction goes home believing that Snap-On tools reliably fetch much more money than any other brand. They tell their friends “Man, you shoulda seen the money folks were paying for those tools.” No one resists buying new in future on the basis that the same tool might be obtainable at some upcoming auction for a bargain price.
I have no idea if this is some sort of corporate policy. But it’s easy to believe that the local rep could refurbish what he bought and then offer it at a small discount to guys who can’t quite make the new price, but who understand that used tools with a lifetime guarantee are essentially equivalent to new.
The part that confused me was that, you, who I’m assuming is not affiliated with the Snap On representative, saw exactly what was happening. It’s not a stretch to imagine that a lot of people go home and tell their friends, “Man, you shoulda seen that dick fart Snap On representative, driving up the amount of money honest decent folks have to pay for those tools.”
I can see that being done as a marketing tool to gain brand loyalty.
Snap On Tools fit a ones hand better and Craftsman; if you compare them side by side, the Snap On tools are slimmer and thinner so they fit much better in tight places. In quite a few cases, Snap On provides specialized tools for the more popular model cars, or at least for the components that most often fail. I’ve never heard of Craftsman doing that. Snap On tools are simply the best, IMHO.