8 apps to keep your car rolling

These mobile apps can help you maintain your car, save money on gas, avoid an accident -- or help if you have one.

Mobile technology is changing the way we approach all aspects of our lives, including our vehicles. Today's apps have the ability to streamline and simplify much of what we do in our car, from where we get gas and how much we pay for it to which route we take to work every day. There are even apps that can warn you of a potential collision or analyze your car's computer and help you complete simple fixes on your own.

In this article, I have rolled up eight apps that can make life on the road easier.

I scoured the iOS and Android apps stores to single out apps that were reviewed by 1,000 or more users (one even had more than 500,000 reviews) and which received an average user rating of 3.5 or higher. I then tested the apps out myself. In a couple of cases, I tested out a few different apps before settling on the one I thought was the best, based on ease of use, effectiveness and interface.

In most cases, I've also included alternative apps, in case the app I've reviewed isn't available for your OS -- or if you just want to try something different.

Three important issues before getting started: First, many of these apps require that your phone's GPS be turned on, which can quickly drain your battery. If you are out and about all day it is a good idea to bring a car charger or keep a portable battery charger handy.

Second, for apps that you plan on using while driving, I strongly encourage you to invest in a dashboard or windshield mount (so you won't need to use the accident reporting app).

Finally, keep in mind that several of these apps pull GPS data from a community of users to present you with real-time information such as road conditions and gas prices. While that method typically works great in dense urban areas, it can result in a thin data set for people who often drive in less populated areas.

However, if used correctly, these apps can save you time and money -- and keep you safe on the road.

aCar

ZoneWalker

Price: Free; Pro version: $5.99

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes: BlackBerry

aCar is a straightforward and easy-to-use app that helps you manage all things having to do with your car by means of an appealing user interface.

aCar

aCar

Click to view larger image.

To start, you enter information about your automobile's make, model, year, etc.; if you want, you can track more than one car.

Once aCar has the necessary data about your vehicle, it can conduct some really useful calculations for you. For instance, put in your mileage and the price of gas every time you fill up, and aCar will calculate the cost of running your car per day and per mile. It will also tell you how far you are driving each day, predict when your next fill-up should be, calculate your fuel efficiency and chart it all for you.

Record each time you bring your car in for maintenance or repair, include the cost, and you will find out how much your car is costing you. The app will also remind you when your next maintenance check is due. And while a few things have to be entered manually in the beginning, once you enter info such as your mechanic, charge card or gas station, aCar remembers it for you.

Do you travel for work, charitable activities, to the doctor or because you are moving? Enter your trips into aCar and the app will calculate what kind of tax deductions you are eligible for.

There is a $5.99 Pro edition available that adds features such as other languages, manual data restore from an SD card, data import and export, etc. However, I found the free version fit my needs nicely.

The bottom line: aCar is a great way to keep track of all things car-related.

Alternatives: Both My Cars (for Android ) and myCarfax (for iOS and Android ) are free apps that let you track your car's maintenance records. My Cars is highly customizable and lets you sync your info with Dropbox, while myCarfax also lets you see up the service schedule recommended by your car's manufacturer.

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