• Dec 29th 2010 at 2:00PM
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These smart apps and websites take the worry out of aut... These smart apps and websites take the worry out of auto repair. (debaird, Flickr)

No matter how smart you are or how hard you try, you have the feeling you're get taken for a ride, don't you?

For decades, car shoppers had that sinking feeling in their stomachs when they approached the dealership. Even the coolest hostage negotiator felt squeezed by the grip of the car salesman, who either wrangled more money out of the buyer or handed him off to the finance manager for further cash extraction.

In fact, whenever we've run articles here on AOL Autos about how to negotiate the price of a new car, we invariably see comments from buyers who say, "I don't trust 'em."

But the internet changed all that. Now you're able to research beyond the MSRP, finding the exact invoice pricing the dealer paid and even letting the various dealers work against each other as they try to email you their best offers. For new car shopping, the internet has been incredibly helpful to buyers.

The Next Frontier

But one aspect of the automotive experience still leaves people feeling uneasy: car repair. With an inability to know exactly what's wrong (and furthermore, without the proper computer and wires, the ineptitude to actually fix anything), haziness surrounds most transactions. Internal monologues travel from "$600 for a new alternator? Really?" to "I guess this guy knows more than me -- he's wearing a uniform and a nametag."

But finally it seems that the long arm of the internet is catching up with car repair. Now, if you have to get your car fixed, you have real knowledge with which to arm yourself.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to sort out car repair pricing so that you can get the edge, not the repair shop:


RepairPal launched just three years ago but has already had a significant impact on the car repair scene. The company provides a price estimator for parts and labor so that you know what's a good deal and what's not.

The 100 or so most common repairs are listed for every car going back for the last 20 years. What's great is that the prices are specific to your location (yep, that alternator that goes for $400 might actually run $600 in other parts of the country). Once you find the estimate for the repair you're looking for, you can see local shops and get reviews on the work they've done. Tech blog TechCrunch calls RepairPal the "Google Health For Cars."

RepairPal's estimator can be found right on AOL Autos, too. Just follow this link and you can search for an estimate on your car.

If you want to take the info with you on the go, we recommend RepairPal's excellent mobile app. It's iPhone only at this point but the people at RepairPal tell us that a version for the Android is on the way.

If you don't know exactly what's wrong with your car, RepairPal's community will likely be able to answer your question. The website's Encyclopedia section is useful and comes packed with simple answers.


AutoMD is a little older than RepairPal (it started in 2004) but it's one we're continuing to keep our eyes on. The site offers repair estimates so buyers can get the inside scoop.

One interesting part about AutoMD is that it provides not only repair estimates for work done by a shop, but it also gives a pure parts estimate if you're a "shadetree" mechanic. Many common repairs also have how-to guides with photos to walk you through the process.

Because of its attractiveness to do-it-yourselfers, it was no surprise to us when AutoMD was acquired by online parts company US Auto Parts a little over a year ago.

AutoMD says that its data goes back to 1980, so if you have an older vehicle it might be a good place for you to start. Unlike RepairPal, however, you have to use the AutoMD site -- there's no mobile app at this point.

One of the best parts about AutoMD's experience is that they start with some very common language in order to help you diagnose your problem.

"If you're not sure what the problem is, start by describing the symptoms," the site reads, with everyday phrasing like "Ugh! It Won't Start" and "Hear -- I hear it (i.e. a rattle, a knock, or a squeal)." If you know specifically what you need fixed, it also offers clear direction on parts and labor pricing without the diagnostic steps.


DriverSide covers a little more ground than RepairPal and AutoMD, although it still provides valuable info in order for you in your battle against the car repair shop.

The site (there's no mobile app at this point, although our friends at DriverSide tell us they're working on them) focuses on your specific car, going all the way back to 1946. Once you register your vehicle, you can find a wealth of information, including recall notices, what accessories you might want to think about and tips on servicing. The site has become popular, especially in light of the recession.

"Our research shows that 82% of car owners are holding onto their cars longer due to the recession, while 41% of those surveyed don't do even the basic maintenance on their cars," said Jon Alain Guzik, Editor in Chief of DriverSide. "We think that 2009 was the year of maintenance – oil changes, tires, tune ups – while all these services have stayed steady in terms of price, we've been seeing a lot more of these types of service done."

One of the things we like a lot about DriverSide is that they have expert mechanics on the site (you'll note them by the badge next to their name), so if you ask specific questions about your car you will get an expert to provide his or her feedback. We've seen response times by mechanics as quickly as within the hour.

Whichever app or site you choose, the message is clear: now you have the ability to get the kind of pricing info on car repairs that was previously hidden. The transparency expected in new car shopping has been brought to bear in car repair and maintenance.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      you too mustang 86 lx 15-20 right great language what school did u go to?
      • 8 Months Ago
      Autos are made all over the world now as are the parts that are in them. There are few vehicles that are made, designed and built, incl parts here in the U.S.A. Ford expedition may be one and there might be others. Unions count cars that are union shops as "American" so therefore you might find the Toyota Tundra made in the SW on the "made in America" list but not the Toyota Sienna that comes out of Indianna, apparently not a union shop. As far as American businesses go, there's only one - Ford. So long as Gov't Motors and Chrysler are gov't funded enterprises, they won't get my business.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Is it right for a mechanic to charge for labor again if he replaced a starter that was under warranty? Had starter relpaced, it failed 2 days later, faulty. Mechanic charged me another $150 to put another one in. Bad starter had a warranty.
      • 8 Months Ago
      now is not the to buy a toyota death trap vehicle they lied and hide evidence while people got killed they should be tried in a court of law for murder all they can say is ( we are sorrey ) no i will not put my famley in a death trap toyota vehicle!!!! toyota sucks!!!!!
      • 8 Months Ago
      I am a ASE Tech at a Jaguar Volvo Dealer. If the customer chooses to have it fixed at a cheaper place that is fine. When that shop screws it up, or does not have the OBD 2 software, than that is the big problem. The price of software, or re-configuring is not in any book, nor is it negotiable. If the customer does not want to pay, they can leave. Freedom of choice. Sad but true. Advanced network software will never be availabe to the public. Period. Snap On and Mac cant sell our ford Software. Just wait till Hybrid cars are out of Warranty.
      • 8 Months Ago
      It amazes me how Many Many shops charge so much for Labor. One of the Worst I have seen is MONROE. I took a F-150 in to get checked out. It needed Four Ball Joints. The cost to repair was at $950. I got a breakdown of the cost of parts. They were gonna charge me $125 for Each Ball joint. I went to the Local Advance Auto Parts and the Exact same Ball Joint including Part number was only $40. I went back to MONROE and showed them the receipt for what I paid and they got pissed. I said well, that's why MONROE is never busy, you charge too much. I bought the ball joints and had a small shop replace them. Total repair job including parts was $375.
      BOJO 7974
      • 8 Months Ago
      After over sixty years in the repair business I still get tired of all the complaints that the public has with the techs trying to make a fair living in a very competetive field.Although I will agree that there are crooks in every business . Any doubts just try to find someone to invest your money with.The major complaint I find is the fact that the factory will gladly pay anyone with the ability to attach part A to part B (nut on the bolt) well over twenty dollars an hour plus benefits but the public gets upset if the tech wants to charge half that amt. to correct their mistakes. BOB retired tech and proud of it
      • 8 Months Ago
      RepairPal is full of garbage. It just quoted me a price of NTE 750 dollars for a timing belt on a PT Cruiser. Of the 7 shops I got quotes from, 3 would not touch a PT timing belt and the ones who would wanted anywhere from "we should be able to do it for less than a grand" to 2500.00 at the GO dealership in town. The repair shops recommended by RepairPal were among the ones I talked to and their quotes were double what RepairPal says they should be. As with most expert opinions rendered on the internet, take this article with a grain of salt.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Bmw dealer 05 325 I new windshild motor $280 + 160 in labor Didn't think I would look under the hood not smart enough to wipe old one off When I showed them You sould have heard that story
      • 8 Months Ago
      I have a Volvo XC90, I have replaced the original air filter with a K&M . You will never have to replace the filter again. The dealer called me at work to tell me my air filter needs replace and it will cost me $108. dollars to replace it. I said that was impossible because I have a K&M air filter. He said Oh did you replace that filter yourself, I said yes. he was surprised. So the dealers are rip-off artists.
      • 8 Months Ago
      TECH 427 I have been driving and working on cars for over 25 years and have driven everything from a 71 hemicharger to a 08 Maxima and a bunch of CRX-Si in between and have forgotten more than you will ever learn. One thing I will always know DEALERS ARE A RIPOFF.
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