The Power of Second Opinions

piggy bankWhile I consider myself an optimist who likes to think the best in people, I thank my Mom for raising me with a healthy degree of skepticism to keep things in balance.

If she didn’t, I think it would be safe to say that the Pollyanna in me might have fallen off the turnip truck, not seen the forest for the trees and may have gotten into financial hot water.

One life lesson that has proven invaluable has been the idea of getting a second opinion (…and sometimes a third.)

I don’t think a second opinion is needed when making small, routine purchases. Let’s face it, despite being starved for conversation after the pandemic lockdowns, we probably won’t make friends while canvassing for second opinions about long-lasting breath mints at the express check-out counter.

But to me, there are times when a second opinion makes sense to validate the necessity of an expensive transaction and that the associated costs are justified. Also, having a few moments to just take a deep breath and to absorb what we are being told without freaking out is an added bonus.

I recall a situation many years ago, where I took my car in for servicing. My plan was simply a regular oil change and to swap my winter tires for the all-season tires.

When the mechanic had completed the complimentary inspection, they found that my four tires needed to be replaced and my rear brakes needed significant work. Total value of the estimate: a lot!

Earlier that morning, when I loaded the tires into the car, I had indeed noticed that the treading on the tires was starting to get low. I did not dispute that maybe it was time to buy new ones. But given the amount I had driven and my typical driving conditions, the extensive brake job seemed a little early to me.

When I shared the verdict with a couple of friends who knew cars better than me, they agreed that contextually it seemed early for that magnitude of a brake job. I decided to go for a second opinion.

The $34 brake inspection at a different garage was the best $34 I spent. The mechanic at the second garage said the rotors were fine, the rear brake pads looked new and that there was a safe amount of brake pad left on the front ones. His verdict concluded with, “How about if we look at them again in the fall when you come in for your snow tire appointment?”

It took every ounce of willpower to hold back my nervous giggle in recognition that this appointment saved me some serious money. Nonetheless I couldn’t contain a big toothy smile and my enthusiastic agreement to revisit in the fall.

How can two automotive professionals have such different opinions? Either way, I liked the verdict from the second opinion and dodged an expensive bullet… for a while. The brake work did have to get done eventually, just not on the ambitious time table of the first mechanic.

Similarly, just after the warranty expired on my central air conditioning system, my service provider came for the annual maintenance appointment and in doing so, found something broken in the unit which would cost over $600 to fix.

I told them to let me think about it as that was a lot of money.

In seeking a second opinion, a family member recommended a friend who was in the heating and cooling business. I made an appointment for him to have a look at it.

The verdict: the piece in question was not broken, it was just loose. For the house call and the minor fix: $125. The air conditioner ran perfectly for several years after that. Needless to say, I changed service providers.

In some cases, a second opinion might not yield savings, but might add up to peace of mind and convenience.

Shortly after my last car purchase, I received 4 estimates for snow tires. To my great surprise, the price difference on comparable sets of tires was rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

That being the case, I chose to go with the dealer that was across the street from my office. I could drop off the car in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon with the new tires installed. What could be easier? And because the prices were so similar, I could sleep well at night knowing that I probably wouldn’t have gotten a better deal elsewhere.

While I like to think of myself as a fairly smart and knowledgeable fellow, I know and admit that I am not a specialist in everything. I have to trust professionals to give me an honest opinion, to do the work competently and at a fair price.

To me, the second opinion is that insurance policy, providing information from an independent source that should help me make a confident, informed decision on how to manage a situation.

Also, with two opinions (or more) in my back pocket, it doesn’t leave me wondering “what if”.

Even though a second opinion might cost a little in time, effort and sometimes money, it can often be worth it.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,

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