I have lived in the same Chicago suburb for going on twenty-five years. For the first twenty of those years, I never had a car mechanic that I really trusted. I would ask friends who they used but when I had to have a car fixed, I was never sure whether I was getting taken. I could compare prices, but the problem was that I had no way to be sure whether the mechanic was finding extra things wrong just to run up the bill. It's not that I am particularly ignorant about cars either. Back in the 1970's I used to help my brother with the various $200 clunkers he liked to buy. Engines were much less complicated in those days.
A few years back, however, I got lucky. One of my son's friend's father is a mechanic and he recommended a mechanic I had never heard of before. I have been thrilled ever since. He does the work I ask him to do without coming up with a list of things that need to be fixed every time I bring a car in. As both my wife and I have cars that are over ten years old, I am sure that he has saved me a lot of money. The couple times he has advised me to have something fixed other than the problem for which I brought the car in, I have been reasonably confident that it was something that truly needed to be done.
I was thinking about this today when I was considering the absurdity of the notion that health care costs could be brought down by free market forces if people shopped more wisely. It took me twenty years to find a mechanic I trust because I lack the expertise to challenge a mechanic's judgment. How could I ever decide whether a doctor was ordering unnecessary tests to line his own pockets?