Outraged by high gas prices? There are several apps for that.
The average price for a gallon of gas is again approaching $4. But this time, drivers can cope by using their smartphones.
Free applications let users compare prices at local gas stations, anticipate traffic jams and keep cars operating at peak performance. These apps will be particularly useful in the months ahead, when gas prices are expected to climb higher as summer vacations start.
The national average price for a gallon of gas is $3.84. That’s up 29 cents from a month ago and nearly a dollar from a year ago. The average price has already passed $4 a gallon in a handful of states and several others are on the brink of joining the list.
The steady increases recall the summer of 2008, when prices reached $4.11 per gallon before the economy sank further into recession. To keep fuel costs in check this summer, here are five free apps for the road:
For: iPhone; a Droid app should be available by mid-May
Available at http://tinyurl.com/2fc2sfu .
How It Works: You’re on the road and need to fill up on gas. As you near a station, you wonder if the place a couple blocks away has better prices.
TripTik lets users search for local gas prices and sort results by distance. Search preferences can also be set to scan prices for a particular grade of gas. AAA says it refreshes prices seven times a day, but not every listing is updated each time. The app tracks prices at more than 130,000 gas stations.
You don’t need be an AAA member to use TripTik. But the company also has an AAA Discounts app that lets users see nearby locations that offer member discounts.
For: Droid, iPhone, Windows
Available at http://tinyurl.com/4xxswd5 .
How It Works: GasBuddy relies on its 5 million users to post gas prices in their area, according to Jason Toews, who co-founded GasBuddy.com in 2000.
Since it’s user-generated, GasBuddy’s price listings tend to be more exhaustive and up-to-date for major cities. Each price listing is time stamped so users can see how current it is.
The site also raffles a $250 prepaid card to a gas station each week.
Available at http://tinyurl.com/yf5h2ab .
How It Works: GasCubby tips users off to possible problems with a vehicle by analyzing its fuel economy. Users enter a few numbers at each fill up: the odometer reading, the number of gallons pumped and the price per gallon. If your fuel economy starts lagging, it could mean you need to check the car’s tire pressure or other maintenance issues that affect gas mileage.
Users can also enter the brand of gas they’re using or whether they took highways or local roads. That will let them see how their choices affect their fuel economy.
“There are times when you think something would be more advantageous, but it’s hard to know for sure unless you track it,” said David Barnard, who created the app.
For: Droid, iPhone
Available at http://wireless.mapquest.com/ .
How It Works: Another way to save on gas is to avoid sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The MapQuest app helps drivers do just that by giving them the option to see traffic conditions on their planned routes. The routes are highlighted in green, yellow or red, depending on how bad the congestion is. If the route is black, it means the road is closed.
MapQuest says the traffic function is updated every five minutes. And if users see traffic conditions are poor and decide to take another route, the app will automatically recalculate their new routes. Users also have the option to select directions by the shortest distance, shortest time or to exclude highways or tolls.
Available at http://tinyurl.com/3snkwlj .
How It Works: This app specializes in mapping out routes for multiple stops. So if you want to check out several garage sales or open houses in an unfamiliar neighborhood, Route4Me could map out a game plan so you don’t waste gas zigzagging across town.
The app gives directions based on the shortest distance, but users can go to www.route4me.com to see alternative routes that minimize or avoid tolls and highways.
The app could be particularly helpful for small business owners who regularly make multiple deliveries in a single trip. To map out routes that have more than 10 stops, however, the app costs $15 a month.
For: Select BlackBerries, Droid, iPhone, Nokia, Windows
Available at http://www.waze.com/download/ .
How It Works: Waze collects traffic information through its users. The app gauges driving current conditions by measuring how far users have recently traveled on routes within set times.
Routes are highlighted in green, yellow and red to indicate traffic flow. The typing function is disabled when the car is in motion. But users can report incidents or upload photos of traffic jams when the car is stopped.
The app also has social media settings. For example, users can turn on a function before they start driving to Tweet their estimated time of arrival at a particular destination.
Source: The Associated Press.