Auto apps you should know about
One of the best things about the onslaught of the smartphone era is the plethora of cool apps that can make life a little easier.
With a couple swipes and a tap, you can make dinner reservations, "chat" with friends and hail a taxi - all without uttering a single word.
We've recently encountered some automotive apps that every phone should have. They help you find everything from cheap parking spots to a trustworthy mechanic. Here are just a few of our new faves:
I don't know about you, but I hate taking my car in for service. I always feel like someone is trying to overcharge me or take advantage of the fact that I need the work done now. Openbay, however, makes it easy for you to find the best quote for the specific repair that you need. Simply enter your service request on the app, and you'll get four binding quotes. The user can then select the mechanic based on price, location and shop rating - all of which are easily found in the app. Once the user selects the repair shop, he or she will set up the appointment and even pay through app. The app is free, and the only cost to the user is the cost of the repair. One downside: Right now the app is only available in the iTunes store. Google users aren't completely left in the cold, though, because you can request service through the website, too.
This app is specifically for electric car owners. PlugShare is a must-have if you ever think you might need to charge your car in public because, unlike some other apps, it shows all publicly available charging stations near you. What's more, it tells you if it's a fast-charge station or not, and it will even let you know if the charging station is currently in use. Depending on your needs, you can even break the chargers down by CHAdeMO, SAE Combo CSS or Tesla SuperCharger. Another nice feature: You can plan a trip, mapping out chargers along the way. This is a free app, and it is available in both Google Play and iTunes stores. Or you can just use the website.
This app has saved me a mint in terms of parking prices in Chicago over the past couple months. SpotHero is super easy to use, and it lets you choose what's most important: price or convenience. If you're lucky, they're the same thing! All you do is type in the address you're driving to plus the time you'll be parking there, and it'll give parking spots that are available nearby with pricing info. Then you can select the spot you want and pay for it via the app. It'll give you specific instructions on how to enter the location and whether you take a ticket or scan a QR code at the entrance. And even if you mess it up, a quick tweet or email to SpotHero usually sorts it all out - as I discovered on my first usage. Every time I've used this app, I've saved around 50 percent off the parking price. The downside: It's only available in major cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC (and a few more). So, check the website to see if it's in your city - or a city that you're visiting. This is a free app, and it is available in both Google Play and iTunes stores.
If you've ever used Uber, Urgent.ly will probably seem a bit familiar. You start by stating the kind of service you need: a tow, locked out of car, jump start, out of gas or flat tire. After you tap in your contact and car information, it'll show you the closest truck available to help you and give you an ETA. Then you can watch your help on a map in real time as it makes its way to your location. While this app isn't available in small towns just yet, it is available in a lot of major cities. The best thing about this app: No more roadside assistance membership fees. You simply pay as you go and keep peace of mind in your pocket at all times. This is a free app, and it is available in both Google Play and iTunes stores.
How do I love thee? Let me count the Waze. OK, that was cheesy. But I do love this app. It's a crowd-sourced navigation system that works anywhere -- but it works better the more people who are using it. In addition to giving you directions, Waze can give you shortcuts and re-route you around traffic. This is especially helpful in bigger cities, but it's also great in smaller towns and can warn you of crashes or obstacles. Even better, it'll tell you if a cop has been spotted on your route. Again, this is only as good as the people who are also using the app because it works best when people are constantly reporting traffic, construction problems and, yes, cops. Of course, only passengers should be reporting via the app - drivers should use it purely as a navigation tool. This is a free app, and it is available in both Google Play and iTunes stores.
Have an auto app that you love and we missed it? Send us a tweet to @automatters and tell us what it is. We always love finding - and sharing - new apps that make life a little easier!