This was originally posted on Drive By Towns as part of a 31-day road trip from Chicago to San Diego and back. "Two Lane Gems, Vol. 1", set for publication Fall of 2017, is the upcoming book about that journey.
One of the biggest expenses of any road trip is gas. Unless you’re driving a hybrid or an electric vehicle, it’s one of those evil necessities that’ll drain your wallet faster than a visit to Wrigley Field. When I was planning the Two Lane Gems Tour I used RoadTrippers and one of its features is an estimated fuel cost calculator. Each time I’d add a destination I’d watch that number rise and I’d cringe, but that was the cost of doing business. I was on a mission and certainly wasn’t going to plan a trip of this magnitude based on how much gas was going to cost. That’s just silly talk.
Another huge frustration is pulling off to fill your tank and then passing a station at the next exit or town that’s twenty cents cheaper. When you’re driving hundreds, and in our case, thousands of miles, those cents add up to big dollars.
To the rescue: GasBuddy.
GasBuddy shows gas prices near you that have been input and verified by users. It began as a website in 2000 and iPhone and Android apps were added in 2009. Over the years it’s become an increasingly useful and accurate way to find the best gas prices. You can use the website to calculate your trip fuel costs, see how prices compare across the country, and see historical data. My husband and I swear by the app to help us find the cheapest gas stations and it’s saved us gallons of money, both on the road and at home.
Here’s a quick tutorial on the GasBuddy app and how you can use it to find the best gas prices near you, whether you're at home or on your next road trip.
All screen captures are from the Android app
Overview: What is GasBuddy?
GasBuddy is a website and an app for both iPhone and Android that lets you find gas prices in nearly real time. The prices are updated by users and each listing will tell you how long ago it was updated. In urban areas it's often within a few hours. Rural areas aren't going to be updated as frequently. While you can create an account and update prices yourself, you don't have to if all you want to do is use the app. With GasBuddy you can:
- Find the cheapest gas price
- Search by type of fuel
- Find the closest gas station
- Search for specific brands
- Find stations that sell beer and wine
- See which ones have air
- Include stations that require membership (Costco, Sam's Club)
- Find propane
- Find restrooms
- Find restaurants
- Locate stations with convenience stores
How to use GasBuddy
In recent years GasBuddy has become increasingly easier to use. Previously you could only visit the website. Then you could use an app, but it just gave you a list of nearby gas stations with distances. Now you can view them all on a map, filter by a number of criteria, and get directions. You can even earn points when you contribute by leaving reviews or updating prices. It's really a well-rounded tool that can make this road trip necessity easier.
Note: This should really go without saying, but ALWAYS have your navigator use GasBuddy while you're driving. If you don't have a navigator, pull over if you need to use the app.
Pinpoint your location
When you first open GasBuddy you can tap "Find Gas Near You" and it will bring up a list that's closest to your current location. If you'd like to plan ahead, you can enter a location in the search field at the top of the screen.
Switch to Map View
On the top right corner of the screen is a map icon. When you tap on that, you'll swtich to a map view. Your location will be a blue dot and you'l lbe able to see prices at stations near you. This is really handy when you're in an unfamiliar area.
Choose your fuel type
Do you need a specific type of fuel? You can filter for Regular, Midgrade, Premium Diesel, and E85.
Choose your brand
This filter comes in handy if you want to fuel up at a specific brand of station. We've got rewards cards at a few different brands, and sometimes we prefer one over the other depending on how many points or cents-off we've accrued.
Choose any amenities
Need to use the bathroom? Want to pick up some beer or wine for the room? Hungry? Use the amenities filter to find stations with the amenities you need.
Check station details
If you want more information about a particular station, you can tap through to its detail page. This is also where you can leave a review if you'd like.
As you can see GasBuddy is a pretty intuitive app that makes it very easy to find the cheapest gas prices. You don't have to wait to go on a road trip to use this app; it comes in handy no matter where you are.