At some point in your adult life, you begin to see red flags -- flags that shout, "Achtung, baby! This thing ain't all it's cracked up to be."
Common red flags include, "I would like to share my Nigerian fortune with you!", or "Apple will give you a free iPad for evaluation!", or "It generates more power than it consumes!"
Eventually, we start to see red flags everywhere. We become so cynical that we can't tell the difference between a scam and a truly game-changing innovation.
Case in point: YourMechanic. At first glance, it seems like trouble. Mechanics who come to you? Pfft. Do they hand out free iPads, too?
But flip through the website, and it starts to make sense. YourMechanic cobbled together a network of licensed mechanics and created a website to connect those mechanics with car owners. Visitors punch in a ZIP code, and YourMechanic.com finds nearby matches. Users can check each mechanic's reviews to see what others have said about his/her work.
When you hire someone through the site, the mechanic comes to you, whether you're at home, the office, or somewhere in-between. The mechanic offers quotes before starting work, and that work is guaranteed.
YourMechanic hasn't reinvented the wheel. There are countless review sites on the web, from Yelp to Angie's List, all of which allow consumers to see what their peers have said about a particular contractor or store. The difference is, YourMechanic has created a company from its loose network of certified mechanics, then used the power of the web to pair users with service providers.
That's pretty smart -- not to mention, convenient for motorists. (After all, the only thing worse than having car trouble is having to take your car in for service.)
YourMechanic probably wouldn't have been possible just a few years ago. True, the company could've created a searchable network of mechanics, but those mechanics would've been hamstrung without access to typical garage equipment. Now that diagnostics tools can fit in your pocket, though, many of those problems have disappeared.
Of course, we don't want to oversell it. There are some car problems that YourMechanic will have a hard time fixing on the go. Replacing engines or transmissions will probably still require a trip to the shop. But for many, many other things, this service could make car repair much simpler, cheaper, and more convenient. Having a guarantee on top of that is icing on the cake.
At the moment, YourMechanic appears limited to the San Francisco area, but the potential for widespread rollout is huge. We wouldn't be surprised to see it -- or a competing service -- go nationwide in the near future.