6 Sites Every Car Owner Needs to Bookmark Now

by Carlos Portocarrero on 16 June 2011 4 comments
Photo: Melissa Gray

Owning a car is very convenient. From buying groceries to making weekend trips to IKEA, when you own a car, it’s a lot easier to get it all done.

One thing that does suck is when your car breaks down. Unless you’re a car nut, how do you know if you’re being scammed? Does a busted Johnson Rod really cost $1,400 to repair? Who knows. That’s why so many car owners are at the mercy of unscrupulous mechanics around the country.

But if you use these six sites, you’ll be able to find someone you can trust and save some money in repairing and maintaining your car. (See also: Disguise Your Stuff to Prevent Car Break-ins)

Facebook

The first thing car owners need is a shop they can trust. You can’t stay on top of maintenance and repairs if you don’t have a mechanic to take the car to.

What better place to start than Facebook? Ask your friends and family who they trust and where they’ve had good experiences.

If a couple people mention the same place, then that’s a great place to try.

Yelp

Facebook is a great starting point, but unless you have a million friends (sad trombone noise), the odds are you won’t get a ton of feedback on a whole bunch of shops. What Yelp does is bring some scale into the equation.

Look up each place that’s near you or was recommended on Facebook, and see what the rest of the world thinks of it. It’s a lot easier to decide between a few places when one has an average of two stars and some horror stories versus another with solid reviews.

Angie’s List

I’ve never used Angie’s List because they charge a membership fee, but I’ve heard good things about them. They’re kind of like Yelp in that they compile user reviews on different contractor services (including mechanics).

If you want to be really thorough or if you’re already a member, definitely check out all the shops you’re considering on this site.

Repairpal

Repairpal will take your make, model, zip code, and specific type of repair and spit out a range of what it might cost to get the repair done. They also break it down by parts and labor.

It’s like getting a second opinion in two minutes, and it’s awesome.

Granted, these are estimates. But they do take your location into account, so they shouldn’t be too far off. The way they compile their data is pretty thorough, so this is a really good resource.

If a shop’s estimate is way off, ask them why and mention you’ve gotten a second opinion...they may have a valid answer. And they may not...

Another cool feature is that you can create an account and save all the information on your car. You can keep track of when your next oil change is due, any work done to the car, etc. Staying on top of your regular maintenance is HUGE if you want to save money by preventing bigger problems from developing.

You can also try AutoMD and DriverSide to get additional estimates on a repair.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Carmaker’s Website

For one reason only — they’ll usually have the car’s manual available online. I know people don’t like reading manuals, but I recently discovered something pretty interesting when it comes to cars — everything you need to know is in the manual.

I was trying to figure out if some of the repairs the dealership had quoted me were B.S. or not, and everything I read pointed to one source — the manual.

  • How often should I change the oil?
  • Do I really need to change the air filter?
  • What maintenance should I do at 90,000 miles?

All this stuff is in the manual. Forget about what the “experts” say — don’t you think the people that actually built the thing would know better?

iTunes/Android Market

Apps are cool. We love apps. So what better way to stay on top of your repairs and checkups?

No one likes spending the time and money to get a car checked out when nothing obvious is wrong, but regular maintenance can keep your car running longer and better. So why not get all your car’s information loaded up into an iPhone or Android app? That way the app can tell you when to get the tires rotated, the oil changed, and all that good stuff.

For the iPhone, I like Car Minder Plus, and for Android aCar is a good free one — although I use Car Maintenance Reminder Pro ($1.99).

These six sites should help you find a place you can trust and stay on top of your regular maintenance. That alone should save you a fair amount of money and stress. For more ways to save, check out these six tools to save money on car repairs.

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Guest

NPR's Cartalk guys also have a great listing provided by listeners.

http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/find.html

Guest's picture
Guest

One thing you DON'T want to do is order from USAutoparts.com. They are horrible. They will send you the wrong part, charge you to ship it back, charge you a 're-stocking fee', and then double ship/double charge you for the right part. They did it to me! Find ANY other car parts web site if you are going to buy parts online.

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PurchaseWisely

If you own a Miata, you HAVE to bookmark Miata.net. Serious car enthusiasts and experts have pretty much every question you might need to ask already answered on that site, and it's free! Anything from the gap for spark plugs for a 1997 (I looked it up last week) to step by step instructions for re-covering the seats (with pictures and tool lists!), it's there. With the huge resource of the Net out there, I wouldn't be surprised if there are similar sites for just about any make and model.

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Jerry

These are great tips... also, if the car was in an accident, make sure that you are in regular contact with the insurance company regarding the repairs. Failing to do so can lead to headaches galore. I totally agree with soliciting suggestions from family and friends in the area! A good mechanic is a complete lifesaver.
Jerry