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However, there are two legitimate reasons. First, the batteries ARE the most expensive part of the tools. The tools are just metal and plastic, and they are just modified or upgraded designs of designs that have been around for over a hundred years: not much research and development costs. Batteries capable of producing heavy amperage in small packages, on the other hand, are the product of immense ongoing research. They are also fairly new to the scene (past ten to twenty years) compared to the tools, themselves: drills have been around for centuries, power drills for at least a century.
Batteries also involve chemical manufacturing with liquid, not solid, parts, which is more hazardous, toxic, and thus more costly to handle.
The second part pertains to the economies of scale. Most people do not use ther tools to the extent that they wear out the batteries. In fact, very few do. (Think of all the unused Christmas gifts that lie around idle across the country, not just your well-used tool sets.) Most who expereince battery failure just replace the set when the batteries go out because it is, say, ten years old by then and they just want the fancy new ones. Thus, the economies of scale that allow volume discounts on the original tools, themselves, do not exist for replacement battery parts.
To explain a bit further, I'll simplify the math and use wildly-conservative estimates. Suppose it costs $1,000,000 in fixed costs to set up the manufacturing facility and business infrastructure to manufacture the tools, and an additional $100,000 to manufacture, package and distribute the extra batteries individually, including the costs to the retailers for handling an extra product. Seems like the replacement batteries should be cheaper because the costs are 10% of the costs of the tool sets. However, because they sell, say, 1,000,000 tool sets a year, they can spread the fixed costs of the tool sets over a million sales: or $1 per sale. At the same time, suppose 100,000 (10%) or so of those 1,000,000 tool sets experience battery failure. Suppose half those people just buy new sets, leaving, say, only 50,000 bothering to research, seek out and buy replacement batteries. That requires the manufacturer to spread the extra $100,000 over only 50,000 sales, or $20 per sale: TWENTY times more as the per-unit fixed-cost of the ENTIRE tool set. Although the costs are lower, the cost per unit (in fixed costs) ends up being higher.
These are obviously fictitious numbers, and I'm not submitting them as actual justification but merely as a simplified example of how a much less-expensive part (90% less expensive) can end up costing 20 times more than the more-expensive tool if the volume discount and economies of scale are not there.
The batteries probably are more like 40-60% of the cost of the tools sets--they are where the research, materials, and manufacturing costs are--so the costs of manufacturing, packaging, listing, and selling them individually would go up to 50-70% of the cost of the tool sets. Moreover, 10% of batteries do not fail; it is probably more like less than 5%. Both of those changes would significantly increase the per-unit costs, but would make the math more complicated.
[This message has been edited by Lawrence (edited September 13, 2002).]
I have been using cordless tools for many years and I have had to replace very few batteries. And I use them all the time.
I say "our" because I recently experienced the same thing -- in my case, it was two cordless drills (reconditioned 12v DeWalts) and FOUR batteries...all petering out about the same time. Do I replace those batteries, at $62 apiece, or buy new drills: $99 each, with 2 batteries included? It's a conundrum, to be sure.
I'm a full-time contractor, and part-time personal home remodeler. I bought the DeWalts as my home drill/drivers, so I wouldn't have to drag my regular set home every time I needed to drill a few holes or drive some screws. For work, I have two 14.4v Porter Cables. I paid about $180 each for them, a good 4 years ago, and their batteries are still running strong and holding a charge for quite a while. I'm sure you can see where I'm heading: though I have no definitive proof, my own experience is telling me that the more expensive, professional-grade drills have batteries to match.
My solution: I'm gonna chuck the ones I have, spend the big bucks, and replace them with 18v pro-grade models. Perhaps this would be your best bet, as well.
I'm open for recommendations on a good combo pack and place to purchase? The Dewalt products seem to come highly recommended?
[This message has been edited by PlaneBuilder (edited October 20, 2002).]