SawStop or not? #3: The cheapest health insurance you can buy?

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Blog entry by Rob posted 07-03-2014 10:00 PM 1716 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Do you really want to trust your fingers to electronics that might fail? Part 3 of SawStop or not? series Part 4: Ugh--Evil SawStop, and an industry that you think loves you (but they really hate your fingers) »

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.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

5 comments so far

View amt's profile


49 posts in 1771 days

#1 posted 07-03-2014 11:19 PM

I think you make a good point. IMO, it could also be applied to other woodworking tools with safety features, and even other table saw like the sliding table variety. Also for really good dust collection as that problem may not be obvious until further down the road when it’s too late.

-- -Andrew

View Don W's profile

Don W

18789 posts in 2620 days

#2 posted 07-03-2014 11:27 PM

I think saw stop did more to hurt their sales by try to force it on everybody then anything else. It’s sad but whether to buy a saw stop or not has become a political issue for a lot of people.

I won’t buy one because of their attitude not their technology.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3123 days

#3 posted 07-03-2014 11:47 PM

amt, you also make a good point that this analogy is really applicable to any safety feature. I’m beginning to see a $1/day dust collection system in my future.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View English's profile


659 posts in 1529 days

#4 posted 07-04-2014 01:07 AM

I have friends that have lost fingers to table saw, that’s friends plural!! You can be the safest woodworker in the world for 40 years then one day your are distracted and boom no finger. I’m reaching that point where the odds are against me.

So I don’t care about politics, I don’t wish to lose a finger, I bought a Saw Stop and retired my 1970’s Craftsman 113 saw. If the technology was available for all my tools I would buy it. I love woodworking and don’t want to give it up due to my own carelessness.

I agree it is cheap insurance, the total cost of the saw is less that one trip to the emergency room, even if the trip is just for a few stitches and you don’t lose your finger.

-- John, Suffolk Virgina

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3123 days

#5 posted 07-04-2014 01:12 AM

Don, I was really wrapped up in the lobbying issue, too, which is part of the reason I waited so long to buy one. I waited more than 5 years and nobody else came to market with a competing technology and the lobbying effort failed, so we’re still all free to use saws without high-tech safety systems. To be honest, I didn’t really want to get into the political discussion with this blog post which is why I made a point not to even mention it here.

However, because it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the side of the discussion that you mentioned when talking about SawStop, I’ve decided to create another blog post which focuses directly on the political debate and issues surrounding it. I would encourage anyone to post comments about the political side of the SawStop discussion to that post instead, or to one of the many other threads on the forum.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

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