We all have a horror story: you picked a mechanic from the phone book, made an appointment, took the car in for a minor repair, and got it back with three wheels missing and the roof on fire. That’s why John Formento, Jr. and his dad created OnlineMechanix, a scheduling system and discovery engine for local mechanics.
The site currently serves 700 repair shops and allows users to find shops in their area and schedule appointments online. Sadly, consumers have been slow to adopt the service (but that could change as the company begins a marketing push with some viral videos). They’re experiencing 100% growth in mechanic sign-ups, however, which suggests they may be on to something.
Because car owners usually only make appointments one or two times a year, where you get your car fixed is quite important. Shop turnaround could send your favorite mechanic down the street and you may not visit the same place twice. OnlineMechanix makes this experience a bit easier and quite a bit more convenient.
“Currently there is no available way for consumers to search for an auto repair shop, schedule an online appointment with that shop and automatically keep track of their vehicle service history all on one site,” said Formento. “Our site is flexible in that the consumer can have their brakes done at one shop, inspection at another shop and transmission at yet another shop, but if they make their appointments from onlinemechanix.com they can track all their service history with all those shops automatically.”
“I came up with the idea for Onlinemechanix.com when I was trying to schedule an appointment to get my car inspected. When I called the shop I was greeted by a busy signal and after couple more tries I was finally able to get through and schedule my appointment. This experience got me thinking about two things. The first was that it would be so much easier to schedule my inspection if there was a website, like OpenTable, where I could easily find a local auto repair shop and schedule my appointment. The second was that mechanics must be interrupted continuously throughout the day by phone appointments.”
Formento and his father, John Formento Senior, are the two founders of the site and they live and work in Philadelphia. Their programmer, T. Ray Humphrey, worked on Microsoft platforms for 20 years. We met the Formentos in Philly during our meet-up and they were a charming pair, a sort of mini Click and Clack with Pennsylvania accents. They launched the site on April 25.
“We want our independently owned auto repair shops to feel as though they are part of a bigger organization that will help them compete effectively in a tough environment,” said Formento.
In the dog-eat-dog world of auto servicing, it’s nice these guys are looking out for the two most important people in the equation: the small mechanic and, more important, the consumer.