Auto Apps 101: Navigating the roads with your smartphone

With the thousands of smart phone apps now available, there are plenty of useful ones for drivers. There are apps to help you find your car in a parking lot, to give you turn-by turn directions to your next stop once you've found your car, and to help make you a more economical driver along the way.

If you have the unfortunate luck to have a fender bender, there's an app that'll give you step by step to instructions of what to do. Other apps can help you find a good mechanic, and send maintenance reminders to your phone when it's time for a tire rotation or an oil change. And to keep you from getting too involved with those apps while you're behind the wheel, there are even apps to prevent you from using your phone in the car.

While the iPhone leads the way for sheer number of apps, all these are available for Android and Blackberry devices too. Check the app store for whatever device you have.

In the meantime, here are some cool apps I like:

1. Repair Pal: Offers estimates for car repairs, a directory of local mechanics, and advice from automobile experts. It's available for iPhone and Android - free for both.

2. Navigon Mobile Navigator: provides information on route distance, time of arrival, gas stations and speed limits. For iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile, and priced at $44.99.

3. iWrecked: It takes you through what to do after a crash. Available for free for the iPhone only.

4. Car Finder: This app uses Augmented Reality technology to help you find your car if you can't remember where you parked it. For iPhone only, and priced at $0.99.

5. Green Meter: Monitors your driving performance. This app is available only for the iPhone, and costs $5.99.

Jim Travers is an Associate Editor and Gearhead at Consumer Reports. Read more of his auto coverage online at ConsumerReports.org.

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