Must-have driving apps
- The apps that drivers should download
- From parking to 'black box' data recorders
- Manufacturers' in-car apps, too
Here's our pick of some of the best motoring-related apps for Android and Apple devices.
The AA Parking app eases the relentless hassle of parking. The search bar uses your current location or you can type in an address, and it'll find the closest bays together with charges and opening hours.
You can select the car park based on convenience or best value for money, and the app also checks for space availability in real time (where data is provided by the car park).
A hit with fans of performance cars, Dynolicious measures your car's acceleration, G-force and horsepower with clever algorithms combining the iPhone's accelerometer, gyro, compass and GPS. It's one of the pricier apps, but results are surprisingly accurate, as long as the phone is steadily secured. The biggest drawback is that you'll need to visit a test track to get the most from it.
JamCam Traffic Cameras
Despite allowing you to look through the 'eyes' of traffic cameras around the country, this app is entirely legal and will help you avoid snarl-ups. Browse for a camera by road and junction number to view still images that are updated every five minutes. You can also keep a list of favourite cameras, and view them on a map or in gallery mode for an overview of your journey route.
Following on from the book Near the Motorways: Affordable Alternatives to Service Stations, Just Off is designed to help drivers save money and enjoy more pleasant surroundings at facilities 'just off' the motorway. Use it on the move or search before setting off for places to eat and drink, accommodation, shops, fuel and car repairs en route. You can also 'favourite' them for quick retrieval.
Forgetful people will relish this app, which helps you find your car. It works by storing the location of the vehicle using GPS and then guiding you back to it using a map. Or go for the cooler option: step-by-step directions using the camera on your iPhone. You can also store your parking ticket expiry time and set an alarm, trouncing the wardens every time.
Price £2.99 (annually)
Users of PetrolPrices Pro will quickly recoup their £2.99 by making savvy choices on where to refuel. The app has more than 11,000 petrol stations, so you'll never be far from value fuel. Updated daily from Monday to Friday, the app will find your current location and then display stations and prices in a five-, 10-, 15- or 20-mile radius. It offers a two-mile range in major towns and cities.
Free from digital radio creator Pure, this app turns your smartphone into a portable device, offering more than 19,000 internet radio stations. Either play through your car's stereo via Bluetooth or connect via the aux input. You'll need a strong signal and generous data allowance, but that's all it takes to enjoy instant, free access to music and podcasts from around the world.
SMS my Car and me
A shocking one in five drivers has admitted to texting at the wheel. This safer – and legal – text-to-voice app reads out messages as they arrive, letting you reply by voice. If you can cope with them, it can deliver Facebook and WhatsApp alerts, too. It also automatically answers calls and reads out caller ID, so you don't have to take your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.
TomTom UK & Ireland
Want sat-nav but don't want another piece of hardware – or the cost? This TomTom app could be the perfect compromise. Currently, the UK and Ireland version costs £27.49, compared with the cheapest version at £79.99 in-store. You'll need to invest in a phone holder for safety reasons, but it's still a notable saving. It also works offline, banishing signal worries, unlike other apps.
You can now access Britain's best buying guide wherever you are. The free What Car? magazine app gives you access to the latest issues in an easy-to-read format, with all the usual new and used model reviews, comparison tests and advice you need to start your car buying journey and save cash running your motor. Three, six and 12-month subscriptions are available.
What Car? car valuations
Our valuations app puts everything you need to sell your current car and buy your next one in the palm of your hand. Any car under the age of 12 years and with fewer than 100,000 miles can be instantly valued with dealer, private, part-exchange and trade prices. You can also get Target Prices for every new car, as well as a handy dealer locator.
Described as a 'dash cam for pennies', this app is the perfect way to help prove who's at fault in an accident or protect against crash-for-cash insurance scams. With your phone suitably mounted, the app records the view through the windscreen along with speed, position and G-forces for up to an hour, and doubles as an accident-management system.
See the Witness Driving app in action.
Your other route to in-car apps
Manufacturers are increasingly adding their own apps and built-in app-driven set-ups to in-car entertainment systems. You won't get many for free, though, so are they worth investing in?
Remote control from Nissan, Renault and Volvo
With the electric and hybrid car market revving up, smartphone apps are providing convenience for owners of models such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid. Nissan's Carwings app, for example, lets you remotely check the charge level of the Leaf, start charging, turn climate control on and off remotely, and check the estimated driving range. Rival apps offer similar benefits, and all are free (apart from on some entry-level trims), but you'll pay a premium for an EV or hybrid before you get started.
Remote locking and car maintenance
OnCall by Volvo
Price £550 for the system; free for the app
Volvo's OnCall was designed to prompt the car to call emergency services if you crash. Now with an added smartphone app, it lets owners check basic maintenance data, such as fuel, coolant and washer fluid levels. You can also check whether the car is locked, and lock or unlock remotely via your phone. The app is free, but the OnCall system needed to run it costs £550.
Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes and Mini
Ford will soon provide access to millions of music tracks. You'll need a Spotify subscription, but using the app through Ford's Sync voice-activated system is free. Audi will also launch technology in the A3 and A3 Sportback delivering Google Maps, social media sites, fuel stations and voice-delivered text messages. Meanwhile, Mercedes' Digital DriveStyle app, which works with its £548 Drive Kit Plus system, has similar features. Then there's BMW Connected and Mini Connected, although the media pack for the Mini Connected costs £1035.
By Rachel Burgess
Used cars for sale
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