I have more ideas than I can use, so I’m starting to share them. They might be BAD ideas (also, a lot of my ideas are more about a problem than a solution) … I’m just hoping that my thoughts can help you think of a genuinely good idea.
I just got my wife’s 2001 Subaru Forester fixed, and I noticed there is no easy way to find out how much I should really be paying for a specific repair (front brakes on a 2001 Forester in Grand Rapids, MI for example). Why not? This seems like a very solvable problem.
A solution should take into account geographic differences – I suspect it costs more to repair a car in San Francisco than it does in Grand Rapids. It should consider specific makes/models/years with specific quality of parts. A solution should probably use social media to “shame” companies that give bad service or over charge.
Angie’s list does something similar for service businesses, but I don’t think that’s the appropriate model for car repair. If you solved this problem really well, then your site would be the starting place for people looking to get their cars repaired … if you can reach that point, then you should be able to get money from reputable repair shops who want to advertise on your site. That seems simpler than trying to charge “members” and it should make it easier to get the critical mass of reviews needed to get people to come the site if it’s free and easy to get their repair data onto the site.
That’s a key point – it has to be really easy to get data into the site. Try to do something like tripit.com does with itineraries … perhaps let people send copies of their receipts to the site (snail mail even) and have the data anonymously added to the database of what a given repair should cost. This is NOT a trivial problem to solve, but it would ROCK. Such a feature could even force car repair companies to email receipts as a competitive advantage, making it even easier to add data into the system.
Once you corner the market on good car repair data, then it’s easy to add mobile apps using that data or even open that data up to third parties for limitless uses (http://www.microsoft.com/dallas is a great way to open up data for third party consumption).
Good luck, and if this idea helps you create a new business, please let me know!