CarCheckup – A New Way to Keep My Teen Safe.

GeekMom Travel

carcheckup-300x296When we had our first two children just over a year apart, we knew that it might make some stages of life tricky. Potty training, times two. Science fairs, times two. And then, eventually, teen drivers, times two. So when products started coming on the market that could track a teen driver, I sat up and paid attention. When one of those products became available for review, I practically raced to the front of the line, screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!”.

At this moment, we have two and a half teen drivers living in this house. The nineteen year old has been driving for a couple of years now. Her eighteen year old brother has a permit but has stalled on getting his official license. Coming up the ranks is their fourteen year old brother, who will be eligible for a driving permit later this year, according to the laws of the state we’re moving to. If we survive all of those driving adventures, we have one more son, who is five years away from taking the wheel. I am definitely the person to try out a teen driver tracking device.

The product we’ve had in our house for the past few months is called the CarCheckup. Their slogan is “Connect. Drive. Know.” I was surprised to find it’s a handy little device that can be used for much more than just monitoring teens. The more I thought about it, the more I wished we’d had this thing when my grandmother was on the edge of needing to hand over her driving privilege (she was legally blind and still driving). CarCheckup can also be used to track business miles and, one of my favorite features, it monitors the car’s check engine light.

To break it down, let’s start with the teen application. The device plugs into the OBDII plug in your vehicle. If you’re like me, and have no idea what that means, the website has very specific instructions (and a handy video). In most cars newer than 1996, it’s located along the bottom edge of the dashboard, near the brake and gas pedal.

(This was the only real drawback I found in the device, that it was almost ‘in the way’ of the driver’s leg, although not to the point of affecting safety. You wouldn’t be able to ‘hide’ the device from your teen, it’s very obvious when it’s plugged in. I can see that as a good thing though…they know they’re being ‘watched’, so they make better driving decisions).DevicePlugInAnimationSmall

Once plugged in, the device records information about all the trips the vehicle takes. When you’re ready to read the results, you pop it out of the car, and plug in into the USB port on your computer. It could not be any simpler. The data uploads to the CarCheckup website and the analyzing begins. You can view your results in basic trip summary form or opt for graphs and charts. For each trip the car takes, you can view what time they occurred, what the highest speed was (helpful!), how long the car spent going different speeds, how many times the driver had hard braking or accelerations, and if any car trouble codes had activated.

I had kind of expected a feature that told me exactly where the car had been, using GPS, but it was not an option. When I asked the company rep about this he said, “Many parents are reluctant to use GPS info because of privacy reasons.” This made perfect sense to me, but personally I’d like to have the feature, especially if I were using the device to track a grandmother who often got lost and drove around the neighborhood before finding her way home.

The option to see how many times the driver had had a hard acceleration or extreme braking was very helpful though. Trusting three different teen boys with our vehicles, I’m a bit nervous about the wear and tear on my engine, and having them know someone’s keeping an eye on their driving, but more specifically their pattern of driving, does ease my mind quite a bit.

Side note: There’s also a really great teen contract that is free to download, that spells out exactly what you expect out of your teen when he or she is behind the wheel.  I love the idea of teens signing a contract of expectation with their parents, even if just for the fact it brings up the discussion in a straight forward way, not in the heat of the moment.

Another person who could benefit from this product would be the business traveler. Not only does the device keep track of miles, it prints out customizable reports. There’s no longer a need to have a notebook in the glove box (and remember to use it).

Now here’s the bonus I didn’t expect. The CarCheckup also reads the trouble codes in your car’s computer, the same codes the mechanic gets. The website translates the codes and explains them in a way even I understood.  It even picks up on pending codes, and lets you know if there’s a quick fix, or if you should call your mechanic.

We drive older vehicles and I was intrigued by this feature. Last year I drove around with a check engine light on, that was caused by a gas cap not being fully locked. Fortunately I have an honest (patient) mechanic, who ‘diagnosed’ by problem in the parking lot of his garage, after I dropped in on him without an appointment. If I’d had the CarCheckup plugged in, I could have spared him the favor.

Because of this feature, it would be a handy device to plug into a car you’re test driving. If you buy older vehicles, like we do, it would be nice to know what trouble lies unseen and undetected by a simple test drive. Granted, you have to buy a separate $25.00 subscription for each car you add to the device, but if it saves you thousands by preventing you from buying a lemon, I have to think it would be worth it. And if a vehicle suddenly has problems just months after you’ve bought it, the CarCheckup would be your reassurance that there were no problems waiting to happen when you bought the car.

So, here’s the low down on price: To get the device, and service for one car, for one year, it will set you back $149.97. For each additional car, it costs $25.00 (the one device can be used in many cars, each having their own registration online). For the information it provides, and the ease with which I could access it, I’d say this product is definitely worth the price. That said, I would be thrilled if there were a version of it that included GPS, so I could know exactly where my son went on that Friday night when he stayed out an hour past his curfew. For now, I’m pleased to know he was not driving like a crazy man, and was on the road just about the exact amount of time he’d need, to get to where he said he was going, his friend John’s house.

Disclosure: We were allowed to try out the review copy for several weeks, free of charge.

 

 

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!

6 thoughts on “CarCheckup – A New Way to Keep My Teen Safe.

  1. Ok sounds good but does it indicate how many times it’s been plugged & unplugged between downloads? If not you may be seeing what they want you to see.

    1. Hi John! Great Question! My name is Jennifer Funkhouser and I am the Co-Founder of CarCheckup.
      CarCheckup does take into account the chance that your teen may unplug the device to hide driving, but we have come up with a way to let you know if that happens! When you download the data to the website, you will know right off the bat if the device has been unplugged! Every time the device is plugged into the vehicle, it records the date and time.
      So if your teen has unplugged the device you will have multiple plugin occurrences!
      So let’s say that your teen leaves for the night at 6:00 and plugs the device in then drives five places here and there to the movies, dinner, etc. Let’s say at 9:15pm he decides to unplug the device and go for some joyriding. Then before he comes home he plugs the device back in at 10:00pm and comes home. When you go and download his data, you will see that it was plugged in at 6pm and had 5 trips with the last trip ending at 9:15, then the next plugin view would be at 10:00pm showing his final trip home. Well, now you know that there is a 45 minute gap, which gives you the chance to have him explain where he was and what he was doing! I bet after getting busted once, that would be enough of a deterrent knowing that Dad will know!
      Please visit http://www.carcheckup.com/teen for more info on the easy system! And make sure to download our comprehensive teen driving contract to get your teen off on the right foot!

  2. This is just a hunch, but I’m guessing there are other OBD II devices that aren’t specifically marketed towards parents/teens, but do all the same things for a more reasonable price and no subscription.

    I do know you can get an OBD II scanner for under $50 that will give you the error codes that you can then look up online.

    1. Hi Shawn! Good comment. My name is Jennifer Funkhouser and I am the Co-Founder of CarCheckup.
      Your right, there are many OBD II scanners out there! You can plug them in and it will tell you trouble code P0444. But we take code reading a step further than that and give you an explanation of why the check engine light is on and what you or your mechanic may need to do to fix it! Sometimes it can be as simple as a loose gas cap like Judy said!
      But CarCheckup is much more than just a scanner! CarCheckup is actually considered a data logger because not only does it record any trouble codes you may have, but it also records telemetry from your car! As you drive, the device records speed, rpm, and up to 23 other parameters! This data can then be downloaded to the website and you can view all kinds of graphs and charts on your driving performance. Also, you can easily take the frustration out of tracking business mileage because CarCheckup can figure all your mileage up for you and you can print of reports as you need them!
      So yes, there are other code scanners out there, but with CarCheckup, trouble codes explanation is only a small part of what the system can do!

  3. While there are many features of interest (i.e., diagnostics) and business and elderly monitoring seems reasonable, our need to track kids and teenagers seems a bit controlling and, at times, creepy.

    The word “trust” is used, but isn’t monitoring showing a lack of trust? If your concern is only about hard breaking, fine, but the devices I’ve seen let mom and dad do much more. Add this to the phone-GPS tracking functions and it all seems like a child is never going to be trusted or allowed to grow up.

    I was a good kid and drove safely, but I would have resented this from my parents.

    1. Hi Tom! Thank you for your comment. My name is Jennifer Funkhouser and I am the Co-Founder of CarCheckup.

      We completely agree that GPS monitoring can be overly-intrusive or just plain creepy when it comes to monitoring a teen driver, which is why we did not include a GPS tracking function in CarCheckup.

      In regards to ‘trust’, we consider CarCheckup a learning tool that helps parents keep an eye on their young driver’s skills. Similar to how a parent would check his or her child’s report card to monitor academic performance, CarCheckup allows parents to review a teen’s driving habits and then coach them if there appears to be a problem. If while reviewing their driving, you noticed a pattern of hard accelerations or braking, it provides a great opportunity to go out with your teen again and review the proper techniques. The goal is to give parents a chance to go over a hard braking problem before their teen’s dangerous driving habits lead to an accident during an icy winter.

      The CarCheckup isn’t meant to invade your teen’s privacy or serve as a punishment. Rather, it helps parents make sure that their teen is being a responsible driver so they can make it through their teen years safely.

      Thanks again,
      Jen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *