Save Money / Consumer News

Got a problem with your car? Go online

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Car sales have dropped considerably as many people try to get the most mileage out of the cars they have. And that means more trips to the repair shop to keep the old ride running.

Ebony Hawkins is counting on her 8-year-old Bonneville to keep on rolling.

"Taking on any kind of new cost is just unreasonable right now," said Hawkins.

But Ebony feels she's been overcharged in the past for repairs and doesn't really know what to look for when it comes to a fair price. So she hit the Web and stumbled upon RepairPal.com.

"I was like, this is great. It tells you how much you should expect to pay for parts and services and it tells you what is all included in the service," said Hawkins.

"Our goal has been to inform the consumer and educate them before they get the service done and answer any questions that they might have," said David Sturtz, RepairPal.com.

The site is one of a handful designed to be a one-stop-shop for information about your car. The sites vary, offering everything from recall alerts and service reminders to customer reviews of repair shops.

Others let you ask a certified mechanic for advice. And all give estimates for what a repair should cost in your area.

"I hear everyday from DriverSide users how much they appreciate finally knowing what a repair should really cost," said Trevor Traina, DriverSide.

The sites take your make, model year or VIN number, the repair needed, and calculate your cost based on databases for your zip code.

How do the sites rate with the pros? The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence or ASE is a non-profit organization that certifies technicians.

"I think the information is useful just to give you an idea of what you should be spending or what something might cost," said Tony Molla, Automotive Service Excellence.

The ASE stresses, though, to get the best estimate possible, a professional needs to see your specific problem. But when Ebony Hawkins walked into the repair shop, this time she felt like a smart consumer.

"It made me feel more prepared. It gave me some esteem about going into the car repair place myself," said Hawkins.

There is no charge to use DriverSide and RepairPal. FairRepair charges a fee of $9.99 for estimates, which can be refunded in certain cases.


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