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Road Test of 4 Fuel-Finder Smartphone Apps

Use Your Smartphone To Discover the Best Deals on Fuel

As gas prices rise, fall and rise again, it's good to know there's a way to fight back — or at least there's a smartphone app that lets you make the smartest decision possible at the pump. We recently road-tested the following apps designed to help you find the best deal when refueling.

Fuel Finder
Grade: B+
Price: $2.99
Pros: Highly customizable, deep feature set
Cons: Price freshness bug
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

This app, formerly known as Gas Buddy and still associated with the popular site by that name, has more bells and whistles than its competitors, which for the most part justifies the fact that it's the most expensive in the category. The main screen lets you search by price or distance, giving you a list or map-view option, plus the ability to search other locations by ZIP code. Tapping a selected station from either view serves up a load of info, including a quick visual of distance in miles and minutes, prices for all grades, a static map, address and details about the location, such as the availability of a convenience store, pay-at-pump options and grades on sale.

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It also has some smart features you won't find in other apps, including color-coded (green, yellow, red) prices in list view so you can immediately scan lowest to highest prices, a "citizen gas reporter" interface that allows users to easily upload all fuel-grade prices at a particular station and an "on fumes" icon that lets you find the closest station with one tap. With another tap, the app lists the roadside assistance numbers of virtually every automaker from Alfa Romeo to Volvo.

Tech geeks will also appreciate the app's extensive settings menu that includes the ability to set the tank size of your vehicle, miles driven per year and fuel grade preference so you can monitor your driving habits. You can also set the search criteria according to distance from stations, choose to opt in to the community and set price aging to let you know when the price was last updated. Unfortunately, price aging is one glaring monkey wrench in the works of the Fuel Finder API: All results displayed "0 hours."

Grade: A-
Price: Free
Pros: Fuel Log function keeps track of costs; intuitive reporting feature
Cons: Free version features ads
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

We were interested to see what you could get from a free app and came away impressed with GasBook. The main search function works like most other fuel apps, toggling between a list view and map view that lets you filter your searches by price or distance.

Tapping on the list view gives you a detailed screen featuring a station's fuel grades and prices, the ability to bookmark, report, get directions and even add the purchase to a personal fuel log. An impressive feature is that with a tap of the "report" icon, you get a screen that lets you manually update fuel prices for various grades at stations in your search results area. And if you're on an expense account or track auto costs for tax purposes, the fuel log feature gives a detailed snapshot of your fuel usage and expenses, including total expenditures, gallons used and average cost per mile and day over customizable time periods.

The fuel log works in tandem with the settings menu, which lets you add your vehicle and set options such as distance and fuel grade, including diesel. And the bookmark feature does more than just add a station to your bookmarks: With a tap it also lets you report a new price, add a purchase at the location to your fuel log, call the station or send an e-mail to tip off a friend.

Grade: B
Price: $0.99
Pros: Uses regularly updated Oil Price Information Service data
Cons: Minimal customization options; license good for only one year
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad

For 99 cents, you can download the iGasUp app to access regularly updated fuel prices that can be filtered for either the nearest or cheapest results. There's basically no learning curve here and everything in the simple interface makes sense — just toggle between a Google Maps view or list view and get 10 results from the category you are interested in. Then tap the yardstick icon for the nearest gas or the dollar sign for the cheapest.

One thing we didn't like about the app was not having one-touch access to an active map view (where the blue-dot map marker moves as you do). Instead, you are given a map with pins identifying your location and the 10 stations in your chosen category. To get an active map view, you need to first select a station — which you can then also set as a favorite — then tap "get directions."

The fuel prices are updated using the gold-standard Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) data. And when we checked, the prices were just hours old. iGasUp is also comprehensive: All the go-to stations in our L.A. neighborhood showed up. A higher level of customization, such as tracking monthly fuel consumption, would be optimal, but where the app really disappointed was in the search function. Entering various ZIP codes and cities to locate stations outside our immediate area only occasionally returned results.

Grade: B+
Price: Free
Pros: Maps locations directly to Google Maps or BlackBerry Maps; filters by fuel type
Cons: Ad-supported; does not filter by brand
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone 7

Poynt is most notable for being the app with something for everyone. It provides listings and directions for everything from restaurants and movies to the cheapest E85 fuel. It also stands out as one of the few apps with versions available for virtually all major smartphone platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and Windows Phone 7.

Tested on a BlackBerry Bold, we found the user interface intuitive and easy to use. Once launched, you have the option of searching the gas prices feature to find the nearest gas station or best fuel prices within a specified radius (default is 5 miles). A big plus here is that you can filter not only for fuel types and not just standard grades, but also for harder-to-find fuels like E85 and diesel.

Poynt also gives you the option to map a station's location via either Google Maps or BlackBerry Maps. And if you discover a great location and want to tip off friends, the app provides the option of alerting your contacts via e-mail or Twitter. (However, there is no automatic gas-price reporting feature.)

On the downside, the app is supported by ads and users will see ads before any results are displayed. And if you're aiming to rack up rewards points with your preferred station's card, you'll probably be disappointed to learn there is also no way to filter by brand. Overall, though, it's definitely worth a quick spin for anyone who wants to make the best use of their mobile device.