In a recent thread about tool recommendations for a new shop, I made a comment that a SawStop saw is the cheapest health insurance you can buy. Most people don’t plan on cutting off their fingers on their table saws, and many woodworkers are quick to point out that the likelihood of any individual woodworker being seriously injured by a table saw on any given day is pretty slim. Frankly, I agree with both those comments and don’t intend to argue against them, but I do want to clarify my comment likening SawStop to insurance.
The cheapest health insurance I’ve ever had was something like $120/mo., back when I was in college and for more than a year after college. That’s $1440/yr. With rising healthcare costs and the healthcare reform’s new prohibition against age discrimination, I’m sure the same level of coverage would be at least double or triple that today. Not once during that time did I need to use the health insurance. That’s a lot of money down the drain, right? Well, for a while I didn’t have health insurance, and even though I was young and healthy and almost broke, I thought a hundred bucks a month was worth the peace of mind knowing I wouldn’t be completely screwed if something did happen.
You typically don’t buy any major insurance expecting to use it for a worst-case scenario. You don’t have homeowner’s insurance because you expect your house to burn down, or car insurance because you expect to injure someone else or damage someone else’s property while operating your car. Although you might expect to use your health insurance for routine check-ups and medication, most people don’t expect to have to use it for surgery or an emergency room visit. Most types of insurance exist “just in case” something unexpected happens.
And that brings me to the idea of SawStop as cheap insurance. How long do you plan to live? Even if you think you might meet your maker in only 5 years and if the SawStop saw costs $2000 more than a used but similar-quality competing saw, that’s less than $34/month for finger insurance. Ugh…now I’m starting to sound like one of those annoying real-life salesmen: “Show your fingers you care, for only about a dollar a day!”
The nice thing is, once it’s paid for, you never have to pay another premium. Just like insurance, you generally only have to pay your “deductible” if an accident actually happens. But even if you have an occasional non-flesh activation, it’s still not that expensive in the long run.
Here is a comparison of the deductibles:
Health insurance: minimum $100-$300 out-of-pocket ER charge (with insurance), plus follow-up visits
SawStop: typically $100-$200 (cartridge+blade+Band-Aid), depending on the quality of the blade and whether you repair or replace it
Unfortunately, it’s possible you’ll still have to visit the ER even with a SawStop if your hand was moving faster than a hot dog when you made contact with the blade. But the hope is that the damage won’t be as severe.
In the end, whether or not to drink the SawStop Kool-Aid is a personal decision that only you can make. My purpose here was to maybe give you a different perspective from which you can mull over your decision.