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Overview
Low-tech alternatives

Smart-phone apps for motorists

Last reviewed: August 2010
August issue cover This article appeared in
August 2010 Consumer Reports Magazine.
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Here are some useful applications for motorists that we've tested for the major smart-phone platforms. Apps with similar functions—and sometimes even the same name—can be found for platforms other than those noted here. Do not handle your phone while driving, because that creates a distraction that jeopardizes safety for you and others.

Car Finder
Price: 99 cents

Car Finder smart-phone app icon
Car Finder

Car Finder uses your phone's compass and GPS capability to mark the position of your car when you park and then guide you back to it later. It works in a parking lot or on city streets, but because it relies on the phone's GPS signal, it won't work in an indoor garage.

Phone

iPhone.

 

GreenMeter
Price: $5.99

GreenMeter smart-phone app icon
GreenMeter

Using the iPhone's built-in accelerometer, GreenMeter monitors your driving and displays your car's mpg, fuel cost, and carbon emissions. But you'll have to add a mounting device for hands-free use.

Phone

iPhone.

 

aCar
Price: Free

aCar smart-phone app icon
aCar

Once you set it up by entering maintenance-schedule information from the car owner's manual, aCar reminds you when your car is due in the shop. It even reminds you when it's time for your car's annual inspection, and tracks fuel mileage and costs.

Phone

Android.

 

DriveSafe.ly
Price: Free or $13.95 for premium version

DriveSafe.ly smart-phone app icon
DriveSafe.ly

DriveSafe.ly reads e-mail and text messages aloud while you drive and can send a response message saying you're unavailable. The free version has a limit of 25 words per message. The premium version can handle messages of 500 words.

Phones

BlackBerry and Android; coming for iPhone, Palm webOS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile.

 

iWrecked
Price: Free

iWrecked smart-phone app icon
iWrecked

This simple program takes you through a list of what to do after a car crash, including taking photos of the scene and getting contact and insurance information from other drivers. It will also dial 911 and locate the nearest police station, taxi, or tow-truck service to assist you.

Phone

iPhone.

 

RepairPal
Price: Free

RepairPal smart-phone app icon
RepairPal

RepairPal helps you find a repair shop and get estimates. If you break down, it will locate a tow truck. After you enter your car's make, model, and other details, it will give a range of estimates in seconds. It also helps keep records and gives service reminders.

Phones

iPhone, coming soon for Android.

 

Magellan RoadMate
Navigon Mobile Navigator
TomTom
Price: $70-$80

Of the navigation apps we've tested, these stand out. All are easy to use and have features found on better portable GPS navigators. And all let you route to an address from your phone's contact list. But they're relatively expensive and require a separate mount, and most new smart phones already come with free navigation capability.

Phones

Magellan and TomTom: iPhone; Navigon: iPhone and Windows Mobile.

Magellan RoadMate, Navigon Mobile Navigator, and TomTom smart-phone app icons
Magellan RoadMate, Navigon Mobile Navigator, & TomTom