There seems to be a smart phone app for just about anything nowadays. In the August issue, Consumer Reports names some useful apps for drivers, which were tested for major smart phone platforms. Best of all, some of these are free. But CR editors stress that motorists should not handle their phones while driving, because that creates a distraction that jeopardizes safety for themselves and for others. Using a mobile phone while driving may have legal consequences as well. Times staff writer
Car Finder. Price: 99 cents. Phone: iPhone. 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 parking lots or city streets, but because it relies on the phone's GPS signal, it won't work in an indoor garage.
iWrecked. Price: free Phone: iPhone. 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.
aCar. Price: free. Phone: Android. 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.
DriveSafe.ly. Price: free or $13.95. Phones: BlackBerry and Android; coming for iPhone, Palm webOS. With the premium version 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.
RepairPal. Price: free. Phones: iPhone, coming soon for Android. 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.
Magellan RoadMate, Navigon Mobile Navigator, TomTom. Price: $70-$80. Phones: Magellan and TomTom, iPhone, Navigon and Windows Mobile. Of the navigation apps CR 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
The full list is available in the August issue of Consumer Reports. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org has the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information.