RoadTab Automates Car Repairs

RoadTab Automates Car Repairs

Are car repairs the next old-school business waiting to be revolutionized by the Internet?

When Jacob Phillips ran a used car dealership, he routinely purchased fixer-uppers. Problem was, the estimates he received from auto-repair shops often varied by hundreds of dollars—and he spent hours on the phone to determine the most cost-effective option.

The experience prompted Phillips to dream up RoadTab, launched in June 2011.

The Chanhassen-based company’s web platform allows customers to obtain bids from auto repair shops. Users input their vehicle’s info and problem, and the information is distributed to RoadTab’s network. The customer receives the estimates via email.

“People don’t often feel like they’re getting the best deals for their auto repair, and I don’t feel like they are,” says Phillips, RoadTab’s CEO and a lawyer by day. “It’s definitely worth shopping for.”

Phillips co-founded RoadTab with Andrew Selvig, who owns Burnsville-based web and mobile app developer Tiny Mission, which built RoadTab’s platform.

RoadTab is free to consumers, with two membership options for repair shops—a free one that allows them three repair queries per month or a $199-per-year level that provides unlimited queries.

RoadTab currently operates in the Twin Cities, Atlanta, and Seattle, with Chicago and Milwaukee on the way. There were 40 mechanics in the Twin Cities network as of summer, and Phillips aims to grow that figure in the coming months.

FirstGear Garage in Eden Prairie is part of RoadTab’s network. Owner Erik Dieterle points out a limitation in the RoadTab business model: It’s difficult for mechanics to come up with reliable estimates without having actually seen a vehicle—and customers don’t always know exactly what’s wrong with their car, so the estimate can change after the mechanic sees the car.

Despite that obstacle, Dieterle hopes RoadTab gains a footing in the market. “There is some need for more transparency in this business,” he says.

Phillips is working to secure funds from angel investors. He projects $6,000 in revenue for 2012, $20,000 over the next year, and more than $100,000 within two years.