Getting your car repaired can be a frustrating ordeal. Mechanics hold all the power. They know what’s broken. They know how much the repair will cost. And they know that you’re probably clueless when it comes to either of those.
David Strutz says this “extreme informational disadvantage” is why he started RepairPal.com, which launched this week. The site strives to be that trusty friend who can tell you how much things actually cost and stop you from getting ripped off.
The site’s free estimates are based off where you live and the make, model, and mileage of your car. RepairPal’s data come from “a number of sources, including one of the super-secret labor cost estimator tables that's been available exclusively to mechanics up until now. (RepairPal has a five-year exclusive on this data),” according to WebWare.
RepairPal will keep a running record of past repairs, in case you’re thinking, “Wait a second! Wasn’t my serpentine belt replaced last time I was here?” And if it seems as though they are trying to pull a fast one on you, you can report it. The website tracks user ratings and pricing on 286,000 auto-body shops across the country.
And there's good reason to be prudent, Mr. Sturtz told Wired's Autopia blog. Early on, the company ran an informal study: They placed 50 calls to auto shops and asked for quotes on basic repairs. "The estimates were all over the map, even within the same city, with no rhyme or reason to it," reports Wired. "Then he had women make the same calls to the same shops – and found the quotes they got averaged 17 percent more than the ones he got." Sturtz hopes his site will bring a little transparency to the industry – and help both women and men save some money.
If successful, RepairPal plans to roll out a mobile version of the site designed for cellphones or maybe a dial-in service – perfect for when you’re stuck in the shop or trapped on the side of the road.