When a second opinion can save you money

Sadly, there are always people waiting in the wings to rip us off. Even the professionals who don't intend to can leave us feeling cheated purely because of the disparity between what they charge compared to their rivals.

This is why a second opinion could mean shelling out less and will help ensure you get the best job done at the right price.

#1 Car repairs
It's more convenient and less time consuming to dump your car at the nearest repair garage and accept whatever verdict the mechanic gives. But taking your car to a second or third garage for a quote before work is carried out could help you save a packet.

When I needed to take my car to a garage for repairs, I naively hoped the mechanic would identify the problem instead of trying to con me. After I complained about an unusual noise when the car was in motion, the mechanic drove the car slowly around the corner and instantly prescribed a completely new gearbox, which would cost "the best part of £1,000" for parts and labour.

My husband and I negotiated between ourselves: "We spend way too much fixing this car and I refuse to believe he knew it was the gearbox without properly checking", versus: "you're burying your head in the sand; cars break and you need to pay for their upkeep". After which we both concluded that we shouldn't ignore all that Rogue Traders had taught us over time. There's value to be found in a second opinion.

The second mechanic seemed interested in investigating the problem. He discovered a broken bracket and offered a temporary repair for £40. I was furious that I had nearly parted with £1,000 for something that wouldn't have even fixed the problem.

When I need an entirely new bracket it's likely to cost a couple of hundred pounds – still much better than the first diagnosis. I don't pretend to be any sort of car expert so it's hard to know what's right when two opinions are wildly different but for the time being the noise has gone, so I'm happy.

#2 Home renovations
If you're having work done to improve your home, don't settle for the first builder's quote. Last year I had a bathroom and kitchen renovation with some serious building work needed. Two quotes produced a difference of nearly £10,000. The cheaper of the two had come from a builder already recommended by my neighbours.

On this point, reputation and quality of work is arguably more important than price but if the cheaper option also comes with a trustworthy, personal recommendation then go for it.

#3 Property valuations
If at any stage you wish to sell your home you're likely to need a property valuation – but you don't have to rest on the subjective opinion of one estate agent. A second agent might conjure a different figure.

This doesn't mean you should straightaway opt for the agent telling you the highest price – if it's inflated it will only lead to disappointment when you try to sell your home.

Your own research and opinion could prove valuable too. Investigate house prices in your area using Land Registry figures and websites like Mouseprice or Zoopla, and look at the asking prices for similar properties near yours. Then, taking into consideration any updates you have made to your home, you may find that one agent has been too conservative or another has overblown it.

You might also find that the sale percentage fee differs between agents, giving you the chance to save a lot of money.

#4 Boiler checks
It's not unheard of for an old boiler to be condemned by one engineer, with a quote for a brand new one reaching up to around £3,000 – only for a plumber to then find a fault that's easily repaired for a relatively small sum.

If a boiler is ready for the scrapheap then for your own safety you should get a new one. But do you simply trust the first person that condemns it? Ask yourself whether they have a vested interest in you scrapping your boiler (i.e. do they also sell boilers?). If they do, consider getting a second opinion, since it could be a small fault that's relatively easy and cheap to fix.

In my case, a second opinion fixed a problem with my boiler after the first gas engineer declared there to be no problem. I found it hard to believe there wasn't a problem. I'd never heard a boiler make frequent banging noises like a car backfiring, loud enough to wake you from slumber. But he was quite happy to make off with his fee, having done very little to earn it.

A contact I made through my builder saw the problem fixed for less than £100. No more banging. Despite the original engineer being on the Gas Safe Register, I didn't invite him back for this year's boiler service, preferring to pay another, more reliable engineer instead.

#5 New products and services
If you're splashing out on a big ticket item, try reading product reviews before you rush out to buy. This kind of second opinion could prevent disappointment and the ultimate feeling of having wasted money.

Take tablet computers as an example. You might know of cheaper alternatives to the iPad but do you know how they stack up when it comes to performance?

#6 Insurance
When it comes to insurance, whether it's car, travel or home insurance, a second, third or multiple opinions can save you money time and time again.

In other words, don't opt for the first renewal quote your current insurer gives you. Take it away and compare it with offers from other insurers. If you want to stick with your existing insurer, tell them about the cheaper deals you found elsewhere and ask them to make a better offer.

10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs

10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs

More stories