The 10 Best Car Apps for Smartphones

Got a Car? There's an App for That


  • Smartphone Apps Picture

    Smartphone Apps Picture

    Automotive apps are abundant. Here are some of our favorites. | November 01, 2013

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Smartphones are changing our lives: the way we think, the way we plan (or don't) and certainly the way we use our cars. At the intersection of the smartphone and the automobile lies a vast opportunity for increases in speed, efficiency and entertainment. That's where the car apps come in.

Whether you want to find your car, your destination or the cheapest gas in the area, it can all be accomplished on your phone. Performance testing, of course, is easy with the right app. And now you can use your phone to diagnose problems or pacify the kids on a long trip. Of course, if you're car shopping, Edmunds.com has a free app to help you find the best car for your particular needs, along with pricing and dealer inventory. But humility precludes us from including it on the list.

Otherwise, our favorite automotive apps are below. The list isn't comprehensive or all-inclusive, but it's a solid collection of the most useful and entertaining car apps available today.

10 Best Car Apps

GasBuddy — Free
Available for: iOS, Android and Blackberry
Why pay more for gas when you don't have to? Driving around comparing pump prices certainly doesn't make much sense, so that's where gasbuddy.com comes in. The Web site posts local gas prices in an easy-to-use format and in the different grades, including diesel.

Rather than navigate to the site, you can now get all that information in a smartphone app. As an added bonus, you can even get driving directions.

10 Best Car Apps

Dynolicious Classic — $8.99
Available for: iOS
Here at Edmunds, we use some pretty serious equipment in our instrumented testing. But you don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get performance data. Dynolicious uses the iPhone's built-in accelerometers to gauge lateral and longitudinal acceleration and horsepower. The results are 0-60 and quarter-mile numbers. You can graph, save and compare the results, too. There's also Dynolicious Fusion ($12.99) that allows you to share your results online.

We ran the app against our $20,000 Racelogic Vbox and Dynolicious proved close enough. In both 0-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration, the app was optimistic by between 0.1 and 0.3 second. Lateral acceleration seemed to be acceptably close, too.

10 Best Car Apps

Repair Pal — Free
Available for: iOS and Android
Auto mechanics don't have the best reputation for trustworthiness. Calling different mechanics around town for repair quotes can be a real pain. With Repair Pal, that legwork is done for you.

Just select your car and the type of repair needed, and it'll spit out what you might expect to pay in your area. It's based on the repairpal.com Web site and functions the same. We found Repair Pal's estimates were slightly higher than the final price we paid for various repairs, but well within an acceptable margin.

10 Best Car Apps

Witness Driving — $0.99
Available for: iOS and Android
Why should the Russians have all the fun? Dash cams are a great way to protect yourself from insurance fraudsters, bad drivers and perhaps even an undeserved ticket. Rather than shell out $50-$300 for a dedicated dash cam, you can simply convert your smartphone for a measly $0.99.

Besides the looping record function, Witness Driving also logs time, date, speed, location and acceleration in gs. There's even an accident detection feature that can send a notification e-mail. Controls are simple and create little distraction. Of course, you'll need a windshield mount for your phone, but we found a wide selection online for under $10.

10 Best Car Apps

Waze — Free
Available for: iOS and Android
How good is Waze? Good enough for Google to shell out more than a billion dollars to buy it. And that's because Waze is more than a navigation app. It's community driven, using user data to pinpoint traffic jams, accidents and gas prices in real time. It even warns you if law enforcement is right around the corner.

When heavy delays are shown, Waze will also route you around it as best it can. Traffic isn't limited to highways and major arteries, either. Side streets can be included, too. Not only is Waze the best free navigation app, it is better than many pay apps, too.

10 Best Car Apps

Honk — $0.99
Available for: iOS
Where'd I park? How much time do I have on the meter? How do I get back to that space? What's around the area? There was a time when you'd have to open up several apps to answer these questions. Oh, the horror!

With Honk, you can mark where you parked with a GPS pin. Even if you parked deep within the bowels of a subterranean structure, you can move the pin, take a photo and make notes (including voice) of where you left the car. The app can also track how much time you have left on the meter, alerting you when time is about up.

While you're out you can also locate the nearest coffee house, ATM or gas station. When you need to get back, there's a breadcrumb trail feature to help you find your way. Take that, municipal revenue hounds.

10 Best Car Apps

Car Minder Plus — $2.99
Available for: iOS
Let's face it: For most of us, car maintenance isn't something over which we'll lose sleep. But we can all agree that maintenance is an important part of ownership, right? Car Minder makes it easy.

Car Minder Plus is like having your own personal fleet manager in your pocket. This app will remind you when it's time for scheduled maintenance as well as logging all of the service and repairs. You'll have to input the maintenance schedule yourself from the owner's manual, but it's worth it. Car Minder also tracks your fuel economy and can distill all of that data into an easy-to-read graph. On top of it all, you can manage multiple vehicles.

10 Best Car Apps

Real Racing 3 — Free
Available for: iOS and Android
And now for a little fun. Good racing games are rare. Good mobile racing games are even rarer. Somehow, Real Racing 3 squeezes great graphics, stunning sound and entertaining gameplay into your smartphone. It's a heavy one, though, eating up more than a gig of memory, but hey, it's free!

Tracks include Laguna Seca (minus the oak tree in the corkscrew), Spa, Bathurst, Silverstone, Suzuka and the Hockenheimring. There are also quite a few variants of these tracks, too. Car highlights include the Audi R8, Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg CCXR, Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren F1, Pagani Zonda R, Porsche 918 Spyder and SRT Viper GTS.

10 Best Car Apps

PlugShare — Free
Available for: iOS and Android
Whether you have a plug-in hybrid or full-blown EV, finding a nearby charging station is a critical part of ownership. The PlugShare app makes it easy by showing you the closest charge station and breaking them down by which ones are home, public, quick-charge and in use.

You can also filter those results and further refine them by adding or deleting free stations, Tesla superchargers and access-restricted chargers. The app mirrors the plugshare.com site and offers driving directions, contact information and direct messaging with charger owners.

10 Best Car Apps

Augmented Driving — $2.99
Available for: iOS
Let's say you own an older car. Perhaps it's something that predates front collision and lane departure warnings, and you think you're missing out. Augmented Driving provides those features along with programmable speed warnings.

Augmented Driving relies heavily on visual data coming from the camera, and it's surprisingly accurate. Some alerts, like the lane departure warning can be tiresome since the app doesn't recognize when you're signaling, but you can disable its audible alarms. We found the front collision warnings functioned well, as they could be user-adjusted to the driver's preference. As with the Witness Driving app, you'll need to purchase a windshield mount separately. Setup instructions were well illustrated and we were up and running in a matter of minutes.

iOnRoad is similar and is available for Android devices.

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