Preventive versus preventative: How do you name your proactive style of maintenance

3 minutes

If you manage assets in any capacity, chances are you have learned a few maintenance tricks to help keep your assets functioning smoothly—no one likes a machine that goes down and stops the flow of business.

Many of these maintenance activities fall into one of two categories. Well, really, they fall into the same category, it just has a different name depending on who you ask. 

Preventive maintenance and preventative maintenance are both concepts that refer to the same practice of maintaining equipment or machinery to prevent breakdowns and ensure reliable performance.

Preventive maintenance prevents problems

Preventive maintenance typically involves regularly scheduled maintenance activities designed to prevent potential problems before they occur. This may include tasks such as:

  • Oil changes
  • Inspections
  • Cleaning
  • Part replacements at predetermined intervals

The goal of preventive maintenance is to catch small issues before they turn into major problems that can lead to equipment failure, downtime, and costly repairs.

Preventative maintenance prevents problems, also

Preventative maintenance refers to maintenance activities that are taken to prevent the occurrence of a particular problem. It is a proactive approach that addresses a known issue or potential problem before it can cause any harm. For example:

  • Installing a lightning rod on a building to prevent lightning damage
  • Applying a protective coating to the exterior of a building to prevent damage from weather, corrosion, and other environmental factors, and extend the life of the building's exterior surfaces.
  • Lining a sewer pipe with a protective layer to prevent corrosion

In practice, the terms preventive and preventative are used interchangeably, and there is no significant difference in meaning between them—even if some beg to differ.

What is the backstory on preventive vs preventative?

The history of the terms preventive and preventative is rooted in the evolution of maintenance practices. The concept of preventive maintenance emerged in the early 20th century when industrialization led to the need for systematic maintenance strategies.

Over time, the term "preventative maintenance" gained usage alongside "preventive maintenance," essentially referring to the same concept. The variation in terminology likely emerged due to linguistic preferences or regional differences. Some individuals and industries prefer one term over the other, but both are widely used today.

Preventative or preventive? We asked some “experts”

At Brightly, we defer to the term “preventive” as it’s shorter, easier to say, and it’s good to be consistent. But, we asked a few experts if they preferred preventative or preventive, and here's some of what they had to say:

What are the benefits of preventive (or preventative, if you will) maintenance?

Both preventive and preventative maintenance are beneficial for asset managers for several reasons:

Cost savings

Regularly scheduled maintenance can help prevent equipment breakdowns and reduce the need for costly repairs or replacements to lower maintenance expenses over time, as well as reduce downtime and lost productivity.

Improved reliability

Regular maintenance can help ensure that equipment is functioning properly and can prevent unexpected breakdowns, which can lead to disruptions in operations and impact revenue.

Extended equipment life 

Preventive maintenance can help extend the life of equipment and reduce the need for premature replacement to help asset managers get more value out of their assets over time.


Some industries are subject to regulations that require regular maintenance of certain types of equipment. Preventive maintenance can help ensure that assets are in compliance with these regulations and avoid costly penalties.

Overall, preventive maintenance is an effective strategy for managing assets, as it helps ensure that equipment is reliable, cost-effective, and compliant with industry standards.

No matter how you say it, Brightly gets it

While we might prefer the term “preventive,” one thing is clear: using your data to be proactive about your maintenance can make your life much easier—and everyone deserves a little boost to make life less complicated. With a full suite of powerful cloud-based solutions, Brightly helps maintenance and operations professionals improve efficiency, prolong asset life, and cut costs.

Want to learn more? Schedule a call with an expert today.