Smartphone apps make traveling easier

Courtesy of Richard Perry
Richard Perry, The Hemet Car Guy.

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,

My smartphone has made me more efficient and these mini computers are changing lives: the way we think, the way we plan (or don’t) and certainly the way we use our cars. Now, I’m not giving you permission to play on your phone while driving…that’s against the law and very unsafe at any speed.

However, many people want to find their next car, destination or the cheapest gas in the area, and all these queries can be answered right on your phone. And now you can use your phone to diagnose engine problems and a lot more. You can even use your smartphone to pacify the kids on a long trip! There a lot of great apps out there, but some are quite pricey.

I’ve listed my favorite free automotive apps below. That’s right – free. While this list isn’t comprehensive or all-inclusive, it is a solid collection of useful and free apps. Did I mention they were free?

Gas Buddy
Platform: iOS, Android and Blackberry
Why pay more for gas when you don’t have to? Driving around comparing pump prices certainly doesn’t make much sense, and that’s where gasbuddy.com comes in. The website posts local gas prices in an easy-to-use format and lists the different grades, including diesel. But rather than navigate to the website, you can get all that information in a smartphone app. As an added bonus, it even provides an option for driving directions.

RepairPal
Platform: iOS and Android
Auto mechanics don’t always have the best reputation for trustworthiness, and calling different mechanics around town for repair quotes can be a real pain. So use RepairPal to do that legwork for you.

Just select your car and the type of repair needed, and it’ll spit out what you might expect to pay in your area. It’s based on the repairpal.com website and functions the same. We found RepairPal estimates were slightly higher than the final price we paid for various repairs, but well within an acceptable margin.

Waze
Platform: iOS and Android
How good is Waze? Good enough for Google to shell out more than a billion dollars to buy it. And that’s because Waze is more than a navigation app. It’s interactive and community driven, with users entering data to pinpoint traffic jams, accidents and gas prices in real time. It even warns you if law enforcement is right around the corner.
When heavy delays are shown, Waze will also reroute you around it as best it can. Traffic isn’t limited to highways and major arteries, either – side streets can be included, too. Not only is Waze the best free navigation app, it is a lot better than many pay apps, too.

Photo source: www.google.com
Many free apps on your smartphone (legally mounted of course) makes for easier and more economic driving.

Real Racing 3
Platform: iOS and Android
And now for a little fun. Good racing games are rare. Good mobile racing games are even rarer. Somehow, Real Racing 3 squeezes great graphics, stunning sound and entertaining gameplay into your Smartphone. It’s a heavy one, though, and eats up more than a gig of memory, but hey, it’s free!

Tracks include Laguna Seca (minus the oak tree in the corkscrew), Spa, Bathurst, Silverstone, Suzuka Circuit and the Hockenheimring. There are also quite a few variants of these tracks, too. Car highlights include the Audi R8, Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg CCXR, Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren F1, Pagani Zonda R, Porsche 918 Spyder and SRT Viper GTS.

PlugShare
Platform: iOS and Android
Whether you have a plug-in hybrid or full-blown EV, finding a nearby charging station is a critical part of ownership. The PlugShare app shows you the closest charging stations and breaks them down by which ones are residential, public, quick-charge and in use.

You can also filter those results and further refine them by adding or deleting free stations, Tesla superchargers and access-restricted chargers. The app mirrors the plugshare.com site and offers driving directions, contact information and direct messaging with charger owners.

If you have any favorite free apps, feel free to share them with me.

Good Driving,
The Hemet Car Guy

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