Can smart phone apps help you find cheap gas?

March 3, 2011 3:35:21 PM PST
It's getting more and more painful to your pocketbook to fill up at the gas station and it's probably going to get worse. There are a couple of gas pricing applications that use GPS technology to track the price of gas wherever you are. But before you head out with your smart phone, we put it to the test to see if it's a waste of time and more importantly gas.

Rather than drive all over town to find the cheapest gas, Robert Williams knows wholesale club prices are usually the best deal.

He said, "You can run all over town to find a cheaper price and you are still going to be in trouble."

Tetiana Motruk prefers the gas at Costco for the price even though the location is a little more of a destination than a convenience.

"Any money I can save is money in my bank so I will drive a little extra mile to come and get the gas here," she said.

But there may be no need to drive for a better deal. Websites and smart phone applications have gas trackers where you simply input your zip code to find gas stations in your area. The information is updated by your fellow drivers.

The first application we test is called Gas Buddy. It's both a smart phone app and a website. To test this app, we simply tap the 'find gas near me' icon and instantly all the gas stations in our area pop up on our screen.

So with a Gas Buddy application, we know a gallon of gas at the Chevron at Bissonnet and Kirby is $3.29. But we know by looking at the sign, that price is wrong. Today's price is $3.35.

The reason why the price is not accurate is because the information had not been updated since Monday afternoon. We instantly update the price and move on.

Our next stop was the Citgo gas station on Kirby and Richmond. Our Cheap Gas app indicated the price is $3.27.

At the station, that price is correct -- $3.27 a gallon. But that's the cash card price. You will have to pay more if you use a credit card. So if you had driven to this Citgo and weren't prepared to pay cash, you may have been disappointed.

We check out four other gas stations and compare the accuracy with the apps and website information and in all four cases the information was accurate.

The bottom line is the information on the smart phone apps and websites are only as good as the people who update them. That's why before your make any trip, check the date and time of the last update.