Smartphones are supposed to make our lives easier, right? I can recall carrying around a flip phone and PDA, thinking it would be nice to have a converged device that I could get email on anywhere, anytime. Now, people complain that their smartphones don't have enough cores, or megapixels; they demand more and more processing power and bigger screens, and then root their devices so they can underclock to get better battery life (ok, got sidetracked there!)
But the point remains that smartphones should make our lives easier. So with that in mind, I've got a few apps here that can help you find better prices on fuel, help you plan your end of summer road trip, and more.
If you aren't already using Gas Buddy, or haven't heard of it, allow me to hold your rock up while you crawl out from under it! Gas Buddy is a cross-platform app - it's even on BlackBerry for crying out loud. It allows you to find cheapest gas prices around you, and navigate to the nearest, cheapest station.
If you feel like signing up for an account, you can even update the price while your car is sucking up your paycheck (i.e., filling up the tank). I hadn't had a desire to do this, until the other day I went to a station that Gas Buddy purported to have the lowest price. To my chagrin, it was 20 cents a gallon more than Gas Buddy said. When I paid attention, I found the price was 9 hours old. A quick account sign up and log in, and I updated the price in Gas Buddy.
As gas prices continue to rise, saving even 5 cents a gallon can pay off in the long run, and that's where Gas Buddy can save you a few minutes and a few dollars. Gas Buddy is free in the Google Play store.
(Download Gas Buddy from Google Play)
Recently I pulled a 40ft trailer down to Florida from the Chicago area. Needless to say, with a rig that was as long as a semi, there was no way I was pulling into the local gas station to fill up. Truck stops were a necessity, and on my trip down I was sweating a couple times hoping there would be a Pilot or Loves coming up. While on vacation down there, I had the genius idea of looking for an app to figure this out. Never mind that every time I walked into a Pilot store to pay, there were big signs saying "Download our Android app"; kinda just slipped past my eyeballs somehow (hey, no one ever accused me of being smart!)
The MyPilot app was wonderful for the trip back. It allows you to sign in with your My Pilot rewards card and earn points on things like beverages. Depending on your Rewards card, you can also get fuel discounts. The feature I used most was the trip planner.
Trip planner allows you to enter your starting and stopping points, and it will show you all the Pilot/Flying J stations along your route. For me, this was a lifesaver. It allowed me to figure out ahead of time where I was going to stop for fuel, and gave me peace of mind that a fuel station would be where I thought it was.
Keep in mind that Pilot/Flying J is not just truck stops, they have regular fuel islands and (most of the time) fast food offerings such as Arbys, McDonalds, or Subway. This kind of info can be found in the station listings. This is a great app for a road trip, and I wish I'd have had it the whole time. Maybe next time I'll pay attention to the signs!
(Download MY Pilot from Google Play)
Not all US Cellular customers will be familiar with Thorntons; they operate in some of USCC's coverage areas. Locally, they usually have the best prices. For my family, we use them because more often than not they have the best prices on E85; plus, 69 cents for a 32oz beverage? Can't beat it! (Makes an easy and inexpensive treat for the kids too: "OK, slushies for everyone!")
The Thorntons fuel app allows you to find stations near you, check in via foursquare, and see deals for local stations. Most of the time they have giveaways or free items that require a coupon, which you can scan right from your phone. One perk is that you can log your Thorntons Rewards card into the app, and scan the barcode to get every 7th drink free. I think it's a geek thing, but I find it to be cool.
I do have one negative about the Thorntons app; you can't view the station prices from it. It seems to me that Thorntons has a company policy about giving out their current prices; I once called a station to see what their E85 price was, and she refused to tell me. So you can always resort to Gas Buddy for something like that.
Overall, this app is handy for the Rewards barcode function, and locating stations around you. But outside of the deal coupons and Rewards bar code, it doesn't do anything that Gas Buddy won't tell you. But those two functions earn this app a place in my "Automotive" folder on my homescreen.
(Download Thorntons from Google Play)
How about you? I know there's tons of apps out there. Maybe you've got a regional fuel company that you use, or another price finder app that you prefer. Let us know in the comments!