Gas Buddy

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When our family vacations, we tend to drive. One reason is that there’s not a lot of direct flight options from our small Southwestern Virginia town. Another is money; so far, it’s still cheaper to drive than it would be to fly us all someplace and pay for a rental.

But driving places is getting more expensive, even if you keep your tires inflated properly. So when I first got my iPhone, I searched for an app to help me find the cheapest gas I could on our route. (Hey, there’s an app for almost everything! There’s even one for rest areas!)

Enter Gas Buddy!

Gas Buddy is a free app that makes use of members’ inputs of gas prices in their local area. They boast over 20 million users in the US and Canada, and it’s probably one of the best tools you can have when you’re trying to make every dollar count as you fill up your Mom-mobile.

Are you across town at soccer and need to fill up before you dash back to your own side of town for dropping off Twinkle Toes at ballet? Open Gas Buddy, touch once to find gas near you, then sort via distance or price – or even just look at a map of nearby gas stations. You can even sort by octane levels, if you’re in need of mid-grade gas.

I’ve found this especially good when we’re on vacation and I need to find the least expensive gas in an unfamiliar place – including while cruising down the highway at 65 mph. (Yes, I’m talking about my husband driving while I check, or my kids checking if I’m driving. Be safe, folks!)

Being a member and reporting prices to Gas Buddy also allows you to earn points, which can be traded for tickets to enter a weekly drawing for a $250 gas card (who wouldn’t like that – and if you said you wouldn’t, send it to me if you win). But really, this isn’t the only motivation to update prices regularly. Everyone pitches in to keep things up to date (even reporting new stations if they pop up) because everyone wants to know that when they check prices in an unfamiliar town, they’ll get good results.

There are also badges you can earn for doing things like reporting in every state on a road trip, reporting early & late each day, being a Sunday driver & reporting prices then, etc., but what really makes this app worthwhile is the ability to get those prices and find the best one as you navigate around town.

Shortly after I got this app, I was driving back from Florida, where I’d been visiting my grandmother after she’d been ill. I had my older daughter check prices as we neared a town, and she discovered that there was a gas station a mile off the highway that had a price per gallon about 40¢ lower than anything near the interstate!

Gas Buddy even has an online site where you can set up things like favorite gas stations (like the one connected to a local grocery store that allows for discounts when you spend a certain amount), make reports on new (or closed) stations, calculate what a trip will cost in gas, look up maps of prices from around the country, and even keep a fuel log book online. (I haven’t ever used that, since I love my Gas Cubby app so much.)

Gas Buddy can not only can assist with finding gas at a good price, in these days of clean-up after Hurricane Sandy (or any other major storm), the app and website can help us find gas, period.

My aunt and uncle live in Point Pleasant, NJ, which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy last week. Because of power outages across NJ and NY, many gas stations are closed, and the ones that are able to open are often  running out of gas before day’s end.

However, if people are using Gas Buddy and reporting (and I’ve never found a town where NO gas is being reported), you’ll be able to see which gas stations have been updated recently. Every update is time stamped relative to now; if you see a station that hasn’t been updated for two days, in a case like NJ and NY find themselves in, assume the station is out of gas or closed.

If the price has been updated in the last hour or two, there’s a higher chance that station will be open and have gas. It’s not going to be a perfect indicator – with lines reminiscent of the 1970’s gas crunch, it’s hard to say how long the station will have gas – but it’s at least a start. And because Gas Buddy works as a mobile website and a desktop site, you have opportunities to check even if you don’t have a smart phone.

So if you travel, or even if you don’t and you are watching your budget, or if you’re simply looking for gas, it’s hard to go wrong with a free app that tells you where to buy cheap gas!

Gas Buddy isn’t just for Apple people, either. It’s available for Android, Blackberry, and Windows phones as well, and even is accessible as a mobile website (if you only have internet access on your phone, as opposed to one that uses apps). Head to the Gas Buddy site and see what they have for you and your device.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2012 Christine Johnson

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About Author

Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and has two daughters whom she homeschools. They live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, homeschooler, and Lay Dominican.

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