RepairPal: Auto Repair Expert carries a steep price ($4.99) compared to most apps on the market. But it could be considered a bargain the next time you're doling dollars for a car repair — or, even worse, stranded and wondering if there's a better deal nearby.
RepairPal promises to give you fair and accurate estimates for auto repairs and services and find reputable local mechanics. It will also track your car's maintenance and give you one-tap access to roadside assistance when you're stranded. It's available for iPhone and Android, and the app covers the entire U.S and all automobiles sold in the U.S. from 1990 to present.
After downloading the app, you can tap the "Get Started" tab for a quick tour. The main screen includes three circular buttons: Find a Shop, Get Estimate and My Car. Below these is a blue rectangular "Get Roadside Assistance" tab.
The "Find a Shop" feature uses a smartphone's GPS capability and combines it with a proprietary database of mechanics across the U.S. The "Get Estimate" feature prepares you to negotiate on repair and service pricing by providing information on how much they should cost. And the app also gives you a list of questions you can ask your mechanic so you're better informed.
The "My Car" feature provides a convenient way to track your car's service, and the app can keep tabs on more than one car. The "Roadside Assistance" feature provides help when you need it and only charges you when you actually use the service instead of a yearly or monthly fee. At the top of the main screen you'll find a "Select Your Car" section where you can tab through easy-to-follow prompts to input the year, make and model of your vehicles.
Find Top Shops
To locate local mechanics and repair shops, tap on the "Find a Shop" button and input your preferred distance in mileage to find a mechanic. You can filter the listings by All, Specialists or Dealership. A list of mechanics appears with the addresses of each, their distance from your location and the shop's rating.
The developers of RepairPal claim that facilities listed as a "Top Shop" have been assessed in terms of training and experience of the technicians on staff. RepairPal says it also confirms that each Top Shop uses quality parts, provides an appropriate warranty and has the proper tools and equipment on hand. You can tap on a shop's listing to get additional details, such as phone number, certifications and the shop's hours. You can also read reviews from past customers.
If your car needs a specific repair, tap on the "Get Estimate" icon at the bottom of the screen (or from the main screen) to see a list of services. We tapped on brake booster replacement and received a quote customized for our location — with prices that varied by as much as $300. The estimate included a breakdown of the cost by parts and labor.
You can scroll down for more information on a specific service, including best practices, common symptoms to look for when a repair is needed and frequent misdiagnoses to be aware of when troubleshooting a problem with your car. You can share information from the app on Facebook, Twitter or through a private e-mail, and save it in your My Car folder.
In order to activate the My Car feature of the app, you first need to register on the RepairPal Web site by entering your e-mail address and choosing a screen name and password. After you register and sign in, a checklist tab for your car appears on the screen along with a repair history. You can tap on the plus sign on the upper right side of the blue bar to add a note to either tab.
The Price of Peace of Mind
Besides the cost-saving features and convenience of RepairPal, the app also provides peace of mind by ensuring you won't be stranded the next time your car breaks down. If you already have roadside assistance, you can use RepairPal to call for service directly from the app. If you want to purchase RepairPal's à la carte roadside assistance, the charges are $66.75 for gas delivery, $88.25 for towing up to 5 miles, $68.25 for lock-out assistance and $66.75 for a jump-start or changing a flat tire.
Smartphone apps allow drivers to stay connected so that information and services are just a few taps away. RepairPal harnesses that connectivity so you can be confident you'll get reliable and fairly priced auto repair service anywhere in the U.S. So $4.99 may be a small price to pay that kind of peace of mind.
To find a dealership that knows how to treat shoppers right, please visit Edmunds.com's Dealer Ratings and Reviews.