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Get a free estimate on car repairs

Online service checks costs in your area

By Teresa Mears Sep 14, 2009 5:49PM

Do you ever wonder if your auto mechanic is charging too much?


You can get a second opinion for free. RepairPal provides free price quotes on repairs to most cars, customized by ZIP code. The quotes are created using a complex database that draws from a number of sources, including expert mechanics hired by RepairPal to analyze the data. You can access RepairPal on your computer or get the freeiPhone app.


Even if you're lucky enough to find a neighborhood mechanic you trust, it never hurts to double-check the price quote. And, if you want to work non-urgent repairs into your budget, you can research the cost ahead of time. For example, the new timing belt I'm going to need soon for my 1999 Honda CR-V should cost $285 to $368 in my area, according to RepairPal. 


Cars are one of the largest expenses, after housing, for many people. If you're not careful, you can easily waste money on your car. Keeping your cars as long as you can is one good way to save money, and the last thing you want to do is overpay for repairs.


RepairPal joins several similar services: DriverSide, which is also free (and says the timing belt replacement will cost $337.33) and FairRepair, which charges $9.99 for an estimate once you enter your VIN number but gives you that cost back as a rebate if you use one of their participating mechanics, who have promised to honor the estimates.


David Sturtz, the co-founder and CEO of RepairPal, said he came up with the idea for the service in the mid-‘90s, while studying for his doctorate in international political economics at Stanford University. He told the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal that, even though he knew more about cars than 90 percent of drives, he still couldn't figure out when a repair was a good deal.


RepairPal launched last year and has partnerships with, AutoNation and AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah. In addition to providing repair estimates, it provides information on recalls, explains the various repairs and answers questions. If you want to register your car data, you can keep your service records online. The website also lists repair shops with customer reviews, but that list is still a work in progress.


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