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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
      • 5 Months Ago
      basically business in america is all about less work more profit so you have everyone trying to pad prices and over charge its why everything is over priced here what is need is fair market not one where you can say well in north america this is harder to get so we charge you more bs.....companies need to stop makeing excuses to over charge!
      Andy Bellizzi
      • 5 Months Ago
      Help: I am still having problem starting my 1997 Blazer when is cold any suggestion? I am having a hard time to find a Car repair place that is able to find out why my 1997 Chevy Blazer doesn't start when is cold 32 F and below. I am spraying Starting fluid to make it start
      • 5 Months Ago
      First off the only reason Jap cars are made here is to beat the tax that the Government put in place to try to keep that Jap Crap out of this country, but really American cars at least are made in North America, yea it might be Mexcio or Canada but most of them are still made here, heck Lansing Michigan has a Delta Plant that is turning out a really good quality car and really Michigan is car country from where I come from, Dearborn Michigan is still making great quality Ford Trucks there are a ton of American plants making American cars, keeping an American in a job that is really the bottom the line we all need jobs to live, eat and pay our taxes
      • 5 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.
      • 5 Months Ago
      hey rocket Ill put my 2006 acura Tl against any gm car for reliability smoothness, and comfort ( car for car )
      • 5 Months Ago
      • 5 Months Ago
      very well said drogers912 i guess i was just to pissed off to say that as well as you did.i take my car to your shop any time
      • 5 Months Ago
      they are all,all,all, crooks,and I know it for sure. a car is only worth about $9000, to $10,000 but look at all the fools that pay $20,000 to $45,000. all they want to know is how much a month and don,t care how long because people all are dumb.I mean everyone. the old cars cost less and were safer without all the **** like airbags belts and at about 5 miles an hour you can total the junk cars they make today. o what fools we are. phil white
      • 5 Months Ago
      My daughter took her car to a dealer, Warm air coming out of a/c, under warranty. They told her she had to pay to recharge system, freon was four years old and not covered by warranty. bull freon does not get old. I took my car to a dealer, transmission not shifting properly, was told it needed service. change oil they had just overhauled it two months before. under warranty, Little did they know i was a retired mechanic.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I guess I shouldn't be so thin skinned and it really isn't anything all that new, *********** frosted my cookies tonight to read AOL AUTOS Editor-in-Chief Reilly Brennan's headline, "Car Repair Prices Finally Exposed through Web Apps!" While listing the three most popular apps (RepairPal, AutoMD, & DriverSide), Brennan wrote that such repair sites will "provide valuable info for you in your battle against the repair shop." For the record Mr. Brennan, on the rare occasion when I sense that someone feels the need to "do battle" with my shop, I promptly advise them that life is too short to endure the agony of having someone you don't trust work on your car and that they should search for a new home for car service most ricky-tick. You also reveal your thinly disguised disdain for auto repair professionals by stating that "The long arm of the Internet (read "the law") is catching up with car repair." We all know that an informed, knowledgable customer who asks questions is far preferable to someone who THINKS he/she know it all and proceeds to tell you that you are essentially nothing more than a common thief because you make a living (God forbid, a profit!) repairing automobiles. Pray tell, Mr. Brennan, *********** your vehicle when the need arrives and are you as sarcastic at the service counter as you are in your columns? .
      • 5 Months Ago
      I have been a Mechanic for over 30 years. I chose to go into government fleet services because I could not rip people off. Several repair shops I worked for in my younger days required you to UP SELL the customer or you were out the door. Lately if I go buy tires I get the up sell telling my my suspention is bad or the shocks are failing. I find that Many mechanics today lack any mechanical skills. They are parts changers that all. Often they don't intend to rip you off they are just not skilled. Sometimes all it requires is a 50 cent part to repair a $500. unit. Also parts new and rebuilt are trash and require trying 2or 3 to find one that works, Parts are coming from China where there is no quality control. Also ASE is just a sales tool, they passed a test. Doesn't mean they are smarter. In my profession ASE means ANOTHER STUPID EXCUSE. I have 3 ASE Certs and they mean nothing, I saw some of the monkeys taking the class when I did and I was not impressed, seem to make them think they were better than the rest of us.
      • 5 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
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