The gasoline shortages in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic have thousands of drivers looking for stations that still have fuel and reasonable prices. Your mobile phone, of course, can help.
Here are some details on a few of the better free gas-finder apps for iPhones and Android devices. Most of them offer a phone number for each station, which can be handy for determining whether the station still has fuel.
As with anything you do on a mobile phone while driving, use these safely, and not while moving in traffic.
It’s perhaps the most-used app for finding the cheapest gasoline. GasBuddy uses crowdsourcing – users report the price data, which helps other users, building a community of price warriors.
On launch, GasBuddy will tell you the average reported price for your area, the lowest reported price and the recent trend – handy for making comparisons. Stations are listed or plotted on a map; you can get directions and phone numbers and also rate the stations. Like many of these apps, GasBuddy also tells you how long ago the price was reported – and using your intuition, you can make an educated guess on how popular the station is, or whether it might have run out of fuel. Users earn points and are entered in a daily drawing for $100 in gasoline when they report a price.
This one has the advantage of a very simple interface, which is important if you’re consulting it quickly at a stoplight. Like most gas-finder apps, it gives you either a list of best prices nearby, or plots them on a map, whichever you prefer. There’s a “best nearby” button that will simply give you the best price it can find in your area. The prices are color-coded, which makes them easy to sort – yellow for good, green for best (and gray for not so great).
You can get directions to any station on either Google Maps or Apple Maps. And as with most of these apps, you can see prices near your current location, or choose a location if you want to check prices at your destination.
MapQuest Gas Prices
The days when “mapquest” was a verb are pretty much gone, but MapQuest’s fuel-finder app is still a good one. It also lists the best nearby prices or plots them on a map, lets you sort the display by price or by distance and can search any location.
The MapQuest app has some other nice features. Like Gas Guru, it lets you search specifically for different types of fuel, but it also includes E85 and diesel, which is handy if you use something other than standard gasoline. It offers directions (yes, on MapQuest), and lets you build a list of favorite stations that you can check quickly in the future.
It’s similar to GasBuddy; there are daily contests, and you earn points toward rewards by reporting prices (and leaving comments). Those rewards, which include discounts on fuel, are mostly the standard retailer come-ons, but they’re still nice to have available.
You also can track your gasoline usage on Fuelzee (a fine feature for people who want to claim a tax deduction), and you can get notifications of special deals nearby, which is either useful or annoying (and if it’s the latter, you can turn them off).
It’s similar in the important ways to the others, and simple to use, with data reported by users.
One distinctive function is the “cyborg” tool, which allows you to hold up your phone and see gas prices in the direction you’re looking. (A sort of augmented-reality function, but more commercially mundane.) If you want to use this function, please let a passenger do it for you.
You may be using Waze already for navigation and crowdsourced traffic information. Its motto is “Outsmarting Traffic, Together.” It’s great for avoiding tie-ups, getting estimated travel times and finding out from other drivers where the troopers are hiding.
But it also gives you gas price information, if you’re willing to work a little to find it – the process is not intuitive. Its data also tend to be a little old – many stations’ prices are from four days ago or more. If you have Waze already, you can use the gas finder function by tapping the search button and figuring it out from there, but Waze is better for navigating traffic.
Frederick: 919-829-8956. On Twitter: @Eric_Frederick