Websites help give car repair estimates

It is frustrating. We generally know what we should pay for the items we buy, but when it comes to car repairs we are often totally in the dark.

This is the good part of car ownership for Amorena Cervantes, driving around town. The bad part is getting it fixed.

"We got in there, expected it to be $299 and left the car, they said they would give us a call when it's done," said Cervantes. "When we got back they presented a bill for $500."

You may have a story like that. So how do you protect yourself?

Jared Stivers is with the auto ownership website said they have a repair cost calculator. The calculator offers an online tool to keep your car repair shop honest.

"Let's say you need to get your brakes replaced or you need to get your started motor replaced. What we'll do is allow you to quickly and easily to select the kind of car you have, what's wrong with it and tell you how much it is going to cost in parts and how much it is going to cost you in labor," said Stivers.

And those prices aren't generalization, they are for your neighborhood. He walked me through a repair cost estimate.

"We need to replace our front brake pads. So we click here where it says 'brake pads replacement front,' I already have my zip code in here. Then you see here on this first screen: 'calculate estimate: break pad replacement estimate,'" said Stivers.

And there's the estimate -- $168.39, but is it accurate? We went to the highly-rated Cowden Automotive in San Francisco. We are asking for repair estimates. Shop manager William Brambila is estimating the cost of parts and labor and putting it together.

Finney: Front brake pads for a two thousand one Volkswagen. Brambila: Say $90. It is $80 here, so the difference of about $10.

Price comes in higher by about $10. We check out a couple other repairs and all of the estimates are pretty close.

"It gives you an idea of what you can expect to pay," said Brambila.

Other websites offer similar services. Shane Evangelist is president of

"The fundamental issue is transparency, you just don't know. I fundamentally don't know how much it should cost to get my car repaired," said Evangelist.

There are other websites offering similar services and all of them are free that we know of.

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