Upgrade Your Car, Just Add iPhone: 20 Apps for Motorists
There’s a way to make your driving experience easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable – all it takes is your iPhone and a combination of handy apps.
Whether you’re commuting back and forth to work, taking a road trip for a family vacation, or moving across the country, these apps will help you maintain your motor, find your way to your destination quickly and safely, and that plenty of fun will be had along the way.
Apps for Car Maintenance
You’re not going to get far if your car isn’t running well, or if you’re constantly having to pay for preventable repairs. These apps will help you to remember routine maintenance, keep repair costs down, or even remove them completely by teaching you how to do some of the work yourself.
Note: When it comes to serious repairs you should always get a trusted, qualified professional to conduct the work (and keep your log books up to date on any services).
Repair Pal [No Longer Available]
Taking your car in for repairs often results in sticker shock – especially if you have to take your car to an unfamiliar garage. With the touch of a button, Repair Pal helps you locate roadside help, locate nearby garages, and can offer you an estimate for the cost of the repair you need. Repair Pal also stores basic information about your car so that you have all the information at your fingertips when talking to the mechanic.
Road Trip Lite (Free; Full Version $6.99)
Owning a car comes with a lot of very important, very forgettable responsibilities. Track your car’s oil changes, tire changes, and registration deadlines using the Road Trip Lite app to make sure that you never forget to book a maintenance appointment for your car again. Road Trip Lite is also a great way to track the money you spend on your car and fuel, track your mileage, and understand your car’s fuel economy.
Automatic (Free app; Bluetooth Adaptor $99.95)
Automatic is the app that driving enthusiasts (and drivers who don’t entirely trust their mechanics) have been waiting for. A Bluetooth adaptor attaches to your car’s standard diagnostic port (available in most cars made after 1996), where it accesses all of the information available to your service centre and sends it directly to your iPhone.
This information grants you access to all kinds of features – decoding what your check engine light means, real-time suggestions for improving your fuel efficiency, automated IFTTT recipes , locating your parked car, and all of the data you could ever want.
Auto Upkeep (Free)
If you’re someone who prefers to get your own hands dirty instead of calling a mechanic for basic tune-ups and repairs, consider downloading the Auto Upkeep app. This app has a simple interface, but offers plenty of well-worded instructions for completing basic vehicle maintenance tasks such as changing flat tires, performing an oil change, and locating a tire leak.
Apps for Navigation
Until self-driving cars are available to the general public, navigation is still a nasty reality of driving. These apps will make sure that you get to your final destination with as few frustrations as possible.
Highway rest stops tend to be very hit-or-miss when it comes to the services that they offer. iExit makes it easy to know what restaurants, gas stations, attractions, and more are available at each exit along your route. Using your iPhone’s GPS functionality, you can search for a specific store or restaurant or browse everything available at upcoming exits.
Gas Buddy (Free)
Nothing is more frustrating than filling up your tank only to pas a gas station that’s six cents cheaper a few miles further down the road. The GasBuddy app guarantees you will never experience this problem again. Using your GPS location GasBuddy quickly locates and displays the gas prices (submitted by other drivers) at all of the gas stations near your current location, ensuring that you pay the best price every time.
Beat the Traffic [No Longer Available]
Beat the Traffic gives you a great insight into what traffic conditions are currently like on your preferred routes, and offers you alternate routes that might be able to shave some time off of your commute. You can also sign up for push notifications in real-time if traffic conditions change over the course of your drive. Be aware that the ads are sometimes data-heavy, so this app may not be the best choice for you if you don’t have an unlimited data plan!
Apps for Safety
As we all know far too well, there are many legitimate dangers inherent to driving. Remove as much of the risk as possible by using these driving safety apps.
iOnRoad [No Longer Available]
Driving is a complicated process – there’s a lot to be aware of at once, and it is all too easy to miss the car ahead of you slowing down when you’re looking for an exit sign. iOnRoad uses your iPhone’s camera as an extra pair of eyes and alerts you when you are in danger of hitting the car in front of you or drifting off the road. The app also keeps you aware of your speed, distance traveled, and fuel cost.
CarCamera DVR ($3.99)
Dashcams are becoming a commonplace car accessory. They’re a great way to record your adventures, act as evidence in case of a collision, and sometimes catch unbelievable events. The Car Camera app is a great alternative to buying dashcam hardware and means that your videos will be instantly available for you to use.
DMV Genius (Free, $0.99-$3.99 for state-specific materials)
Whether you are frantically studying for your learner’s permit or have been driving for years and just want to review the rules of the road, the DMV’s official app is a great place to start. The app uses targeted information from your home state and presents it in both study mode and practice test mode, where several of the questions are very close (if not identical) to the ones that you will see on the official test.
DMV Genius isn’t just a glorified textbook on your iPhone, but is instead an interactive learning method – the test mode offers hints if you are stuck, and if you get a wrong answer the test will not only correct you but also explain why your answer is incorrect.
I can’t do a section on safety apps and not include your iPhone’s virtual assistant. Distracted driving is a huge safety issue , and is actually now illegal in several countries around the world. Siri can help you place phone calls and read and respond to texts on the road without you having to move a single finger off of the steering wheel – keeping you and your passengers safe.
Apps for the Journey
No matter where you’re driving or what the purpose is, these apps work as invaluable tools to keep your travel experience as smooth as possible!
Waze is the ultimate GPS because it combines social media and travel into an app that makes use of real people’s knowledge while planning your route. The app features real-time updates on traffic and collisions, an feature that updates friends on your travel progress and ETA, and offers information from other users on local businesses and attractions. The app will also learn your preferred routes and favourite destinations over time, offering you a personalized navigation service like no other.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, but there are some bathrooms en-route that are so gross they’re unusable. Save yourself from these bathrooms by using Charmin’s Sit or Squat app – an app that lets you view bathroom ratings from other users using your GPS location so that you can avoid the gross ones (“squats”), and only visit bathrooms that are clean (“sits”).
Nothing is more frustrating than getting a parking ticket because you forgot to check the time the last time you fed the meter. Honk tracks the time for you, and sounds an alarm when your time is almost up, ensuring you’ll never face another meter-related parking ticket again.
Carrr Matey [No Longer Available]
You know what’s great? An app that tells you where you parked your car and helps you find your way back to it.
You know what’s even better? An app that tells you where you parked your car and helps you find your way back to it while giving you directions like a pirate. “Dock” your car and set a GPS location, then navigate your way back using Carrr Matey’s amusing directions or the compass feature!
Looptivity [No Longer Available]
Looptivity is a productivity app that can be integrated into almost every aspect of your life. The purpose of Looptivity is to keep everyone “in the loop” without having to dig through emails, texts and Facebook messages to do so. One of its most innovative purposes is as a carpool planning tool – set up a task group with your coworkers, friends, and/or other parents for easy communication and clarification about pickup times, attendance, and changes in your route.
Apps for When Things Go Wrong
No matter how good of a driver you are, batteries go dead, tires go flat, and engine lights come on. When this happens, there’s no need to panic – these apps have got you covered!
AAA Mobile (Free)
If you have an AAA membership, using the AAA app (also available for Apple Watch) can save you a lot of time the next time you need roadside service. Instead of placing a call, use the app to quickly send in your service request and get battery replacement quotes. The app also offers a trip-planning feature that provides plenty of information about AAA’s hotel and restaurant partners and membership discounts.
Urgent.ly [No Longer Available]
If you’re a driver who doesn’t pay for a roadside assistance service like AAA, Urgent.ly should definitely be on your phone. The app offers 24/7 access to information about nearby tow trucks and service stations, can help you place a call for help, and gives you realtime updates as assistance comes to your service.
A “Family View” setting allows you to link multiple phones so that you can quickly contact family members if you are in a collision, pay for your teenager’s tow truck, and monitor help as it arrives even if you’re across the country.
If you find yourself dealing with the aftermath of a collision (whether a fender-bender or a large-scale accident) it can be hard to remember all of the details that your insurance company is going to want. AxiKit walks you through an accident report template that you can complete on-site so that you don’t forget details or lose the other driver’s information.
The first steps have to do with ensuring the safety of you and your passengers, while later steps ensure that you get witnesses, take photos, record everything, and notify your insurance company.
Apps for Adventures
Any car trip can quickly become an adventure with these apps giving you advice on places to go, restaurants to eat at, and the background on nearby historical sites.
The best part of a road trip are the unexpected gems that you find along the way. Gogobot is an app that can make finding those gems a little bit more easily, whether you’re looking for a great new restaurant, a fun way to spend your afternoon, or beautiful look-off point. The app pulls from other users’ experiences and suggestions, to help you find activities and meals along your route.
History is everywhere around us , and GeoReader can make sure that you don’t miss any of it. GeoReader gathers historical information about an area from users, and will read these tips to you aloud as you walk or drive past their GPS coordinates. This is a great way to get your history fix while driving across the country, or to learn new historical facts about your own hometown!
Take these Apps for a Test Drive
These 20 apps are a great place to start when it comes to apps that can make your driving experience easier, but it’s also worth checking out car companion apps that may have been designed for your car’s make or model, or driving and parking apps designed for your local area.
Of course, please use caution when using driving apps . Operating these apps should only be done while parked (or by a passenger!) unless they have hands-free accessibility. It doesn’t matter how cool an app is, or what features it offers – it’s not worth risking your life or the lives of others to try it out while driving!
Are there any driving apps you use regularly? Let me know about any I’ve missed in the comments!