At first glance, dealers might groan at the new website RepairPal.com. It's promising to do for the service shop what the Internet did to new-vehicle pricing — that is, bring transparency to service and repair process.
Smart dealers are going to see the site as another tool to provide enhanced customer service and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
The website has been operational less than a year and already AutoNation Inc. is using it to drive customers to its service departments.
The site provides impartial pricing information for service and repair work. The data it uses is comprehensive. RepairPal licensed labor time guides from manufacturers to develop a statistical model for labor rates across the board. It also developed a forecast pricing guide for all 42,000 zip codes and more than 30 vehicle brands. The pricing guide is updated continuously.
When CEO and founder David Sturtz began the project more than two years ago, he figured the site would have about 10 million pricing estimates. He was just a tad off — RepairPal now has more than 23 billion (you read that right — 23 billion) pricing estimates that encompasses more than 800 vehicle models dating back to 1990. That covers 98% of the vehicles on the road.
The website also provides parts pricing and connects specific parts to specific vehicles and repairs.
On the site, customers can find fairly accurate estimates for specific repairs, numerous articles providing repair and service advice and lists of independent shops and dealership service departments complete with maps and contact information. The listings also allow customers to provide reviews of their experience at the service shop.
The site also has an i-Phone application which as of March had been downloaded more than 425,000 times. A Blackberry application will be ready soon also.
RepairPal has partnerships with Cars.com, Gabriels Edmunds.com and Belo InterActive Corp. and has access to more than 200 newspapers and their websites. So it's not going away.
Dealers can use RepairPal to become more competitive in pricing with independent shops. They also can use the site to ease customer concerns regarding pricing. And dealers can advertise on the site to people in their zip code.