— Here at headquarters in Chicago, we know that commuting into cities can be as nightmarish as trying to find a parking spot once you've arrived. But it's 2017, and there's no problem an app can't fix, right? Our editors offer their favorite driving-related apps to help you avoid traffic, find and pay for a prime parking spot, and more.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bring a selection of smartphone apps to your car's built-in display, but if your model doesn't have those systems, fear not: Your smartphone can still enhance your driving experience through commuter-friendly apps. For our editors, SpotHero is a favorite. The parking app works in most major American cities and allows users to find spots near their destination and feed the meter cash-free.
"I live in the suburbs with multiple routes to get downtown, so I use Waze almost every day." — Kelsey Mays, senior consumer affairs editor
"I prefer Waze for directions. It's community-based, so users can chime in real-time about accidents, detours, etc. It also seems to provide more alternate routes than Google Maps or Apple Maps would." — Melissa Klauda, assistant managing editor, video
"I use this app at the beginning and end of my day to check out traffic conditions on the two main routes I have to and from work. The live traffic conditions and estimated travel times help me decide which route to take." — Mike Hanley, senior research editor
"I rely on Google Maps for its ability to route me around congestion. I find it's particularly useful during construction season because obstructions — be they road, utility or tree crews — pop up virtually anywhere, without warning." — Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor
"Downtown parking can cost $30 or more for just a few hours, so SpotHero — a sort of Groupon for parking spots — is terrific. Every garage has a slightly different implementation, though, so patience is key." — Kelsey Mays
"This one's pretty helpful to pay for downtown Chicago garage parking ahead of time at a significant discount from posted rates. It can be a bit of a hassle trying to scan barcodes on your phone when entering and leaving a garage, and the process isn't the same from place to place, but the parking savings make up for it." — Mike Hanley
"With SpotHero, I can pull over and find parking near me in seconds. Even better, the cost is usually cheaper than you'd pay just pulling into a garage. Everything is done through your phone, too, so no need to mess with payments when exiting." — Melissa Klauda
"SpotHero is my favorite app for finding parking in Chicago. I've found all sorts of new, affordable parking spots around the city, and I don't have to worry about cash-only lots for games or concerts. Actually, I don't do games or concerts, but I did find a smokin' deal on a parking space under the L next to my dentist in Lakeview." — Joe Bruzek, managing editor
"This app lets you pay for parking at curbside meters using your phone. Most importantly, it reminds you when the meter is about to expire and lets you add time to the meter from your phone so you don't have to go back to your car and put quarters in. It also won't let you pay when parking is free — like in the evenings and on Sundays — so if you misread the times when the meter is active or those times aren't listed, it'll keep you from paying when you don't need to." — Mike Hanley
For pickup truck drivers, CAT Scale is helpful. "You never know when you need to know how much your truck and its junk weighs so you're not overloading your pickup bed." — Mark Williams, PickupTrucks.com editor
"Engine Link is an app I use on my iPhone that links with a $15 Wi-Fi OBD-II adapter to read trouble codes and Used Engine data. It's not as capable as an Android app (Torque Pro) I previously used when I had a Samsung Galaxy phone, but it does the basics and can reset a check- Used Engine light and read diagnostic trouble codes." — Joe Bruzek
For long-distance drivers, iHeartRadio scores. "No matter where I'm driving around the country, I can still listen to my favorite L.A. talk-radio station." — Mark Williams