Automatic vs. Manual tools: A True Cost Comparison

Automatic vs. Manual tools: A True Cost Comparison
Blog Automatic vs. Manual tools: A True Cost Comparison

Automatic vs. Manual tools: A True Cost Comparison

28th July 2020

Whether you’re on the lookout for a crimping tool or in need of a new cable stripper, buying electrical tools leads to an inevitable quandary: is an automatic tool worth the investment, or should I stick with manual?

The marketplace for electrical tools can be overwhelming; with a dizzying variety of options boasting different specs and features, trying to make an informed decision is daunting.

To simplify the process and help overcome buyers anxiety, we’ve put together a detailed comparison - to help you better understand the costs and benefits each offers, and hopefully help you feel empowered to make the right choice.

It can be easy to think too narrowly when comparing products – simply comparing upfront costs or features – and we hope this article will help you conceptualise and consider the numerous nuances involved in choosing between the two.

These tools can be used for a wide variety of projects, and the specifics of your needs – from budget and time constraints to technical capacities and long term goals – will all play a role in determining what is ultimately best for you.

Cost is relative

Automatic tools tend to cost at least twice as much as their manual counterparts, and for many this makes them appear prohibitively expensive. However, it is important to understand how this initial cost disparity plays out over time.

Automatic tools are much more powerful and can do more work quicker. If we assume – conservatively – that an automatic tool saves up to an hour’s work per project, there are big long term savings to be had through increased efficiency.

Eventually, these savings will ultimately compensate for the initial investment; if you use the tool frequently enough, the automatic can actually become the cheaper option rather quickly.

This does not describe every use case - for many DIY and non-professional users, the up-front saving manual tools provide will never be overtaken – but it is important to understand.

Consistency is key

Consistency is difficult to undervalue in electrical engineering: human error, even relatively small, can cause huge failures and difficult-to-detect problems.

Automatic tools don’t only produce efficiencies of speed – they also prevent any such human errors or inconsistency, producing extremely high volumes of completely identical actions.

While it is difficult to put an exact value on this level of consistency, it is worth noting that – at least for commercial and industrial engineers – there is likely to be a marked improvement in performance quality using automatic equipment.

Manual wins maintenance

One of the benefits of manual tools is they don’t require anything to run; automatic tools need some form of power supply, and for that reason are higher maintenance. The cost of having automatic tools repaired is also likely to be greater than manual tools, and if your tool breaks, it is far cheaper to replace manual tools.

It’s also worth noting that transporting manual tools is often much easier – they tend to take up less space, require fewer auxiliary parts and are less bulky. For some, there is clear value in this ease of access – especially when you consider that many manual tools also serve as combination tools.

But… Automatic offers special features

Automatic tools are more likely to offer special features – from sensor displays that indicate performance to automatic adjustment mechanisms. This can make them more user friendly and easier to operate, but the value of such features is ultimately relative: while some will find great use in them, others may seem them as irrelevant to their needs.

Perhaps more importantly, automatic tools are often easier to use. Though getting used to the settings and functionality may take a while, most users find that automatic tools eventually repay that extra effort with a very easy, fast and comfortable experience.

The Bottom Line

Whether manual or automatic tools are right for you depends primarily on your needs: are you likely to reap the benefits of improved efficiency, or would you prefer to save yourself the expensive down payment? Do you prioritise ease of maintenance or quality of performance? Are tools an investment for you, or just a practical necessity?

The choice is a difficult one, and it ultimately must lie with you - we’re just here to help make the rest of it as easy as possible.

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