Have you ever wished there was a way to compare, book, and pay for auto mechanic services online or from your phone? Software entrepreneur Rob Infantino had that very wish when he was presented with an outrageous estimate at his local dealer. He walked out and then had to face the arduous task of making individual calls to a variety of shops in search of high-quality service at a more reasonable price. “There’s got to be a better way,” thought Infantino, and he set out to create Openbay, an online marketplace for auto repair.
Launched last October, Openbay has quickly grown from a local Boston enterprise with 400 auto service providers to a national database of 220,000 providers and counting. The free service, which you can find at Openbay.com, has a clean, uncluttered look and is delightfully devoid of any advertising because it charges a ten percent fee to the service provider/garage, which is built into the final invoice for each repair.
Openbay is very simple to use. It has a dashboard to access all your account activities and even offers the ability to sign into your account via Facebook.
The first step is to establish your account, during which time you list your vehicles, enter billing information, and complete a few other profile details. When you need a repair, select Request Service for a particular car and state preferences: for instance, you not only enter that you need a wheel alignment but also use a dropdown menu to say how soon you want the repair. Additionally, you can select what kind of amenities you desire from a list that includes loaner car, early dropoff, shuttle service, wait on site, even Wi-Fi. If you don’t exactly know what is wrong with your car, you can submit a Custom Service Request or select General Diagnosis and provide a detailed description in the Notes box.
Once you submit your request. Openbay will contact providers on your behalf. You’ll receive a list of nearby mechanics, who will respond to you with offers. You can compare their prices, locations, and amenities as well as user ratings and reviews before booking your service appointment. When the repair is complete, you pay via Openbay, which will then keep a record of services received. Provider offers are valid for six months, but Openbay will check in with you at thirty days to request a decision. You can withdraw or modify a request at any time.
What if you take your car in and the mechanic says you need additional repairs? Infantino recommends asking the mechanic to demonstrate to you exactly why the additional repair is needed. That service provider will have to resubmit the new price to you via Openbay, and you will then have the option to accept it or not. You can also submit a request for the newly proposed repair via Openbay for comparison to decide if you are comfortable with the price you are being quoted for those additional repairs.
Rating and reviewing the service you receive is encouraged, in order to strengthen the local community of users and providers. Infantino also points out that Openbay provides a maintenance schedule based on the make, model, and mileage of your vehicle. There are also financial incentives: for every dollar you spend on the site, you earn Openbay Rewards that can be applied to your next repair cost.
“We’ve had repeat customers who’ve brought all the cars in their household, and sometimes they’re getting free services.” said Infantino, “It’s cool for the consumers.”
Openbay began in Boston and started its spread via major metro markets, including Atlanta. At present the company has providers in forty-four states, but there may be times when services are not yet available in your area. Infantino stresses to keep trying: the network is adding new providers every day. It is also being built systematically as the company works to create a density of service providers over the coming year.
So, next time you hear a mysterious clunk, whine, or rattle coming from your car, consider signing on to Openbay.com. They may just help you find the right mechanic for the job.