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Keeping Costs Down While Gassing Up

Use Tech Tools to Find the Lowest Prices

 Bonnie  Biafore As if the lockdown on mortgage lending isn’t enough, now folks have to take out a home equity loan just to fill up their gas tanks. If you absolutely, positively have to get somewhere by car, you’ll want to find the cheapest gas around.

More than $4 a gallon is agonizing, but the websites (and text-message and e-mail services) in this month’s column can ease the pain by showing you where to save as much as 30 cents per gallon. Most of these services search by ZIP code, so you might want to keep a list handy of those through which you drive frequently. Driving well out of your way to save a few dollars when you fill up usually isn’t worthwhile.

You’ll get the most flexibility for finding gas prices at GasBuddy. Here you can search by city, state or ZIP code, and you can seek a specific grade of gasoline or station (see screen capture, top). GasBuddy also has a leaner webpage for searching from Internet-capable mobile phones. And people who prefer messaging can send a text message or e-mail and receive one with prices in return (see the “Gas Prices From the Road” section).
Here’s how to find GasBuddy prices:

•    In the Search box, type a ZIP code or a city and state.
•    Click Search Now. A local version of the website with gas price information will appear.
•    Midway down the left side of the page, under Search for Gas Prices, select Regular, Mid, Premium or Diesel to search for the lowest prices for the gas grade you use.
•    To narrow your search to an area or type of station, below the gas grades choose the area (Denver, Boulder or Wheat Ridge, Colo., for example) and station (such as Safeway, Conoco or Sunoco). To choose more than one entry in a list, hold down the Ctrl key on a PC or the Apple/Command key on a Mac while clicking each choice.
•    Click Search Now to repeat your search with the additional criteria. A table will list stations from lowest to highest prices.
•    To see the stations on a map, click Map Gas Prices at the top of the page. The map shows prices but not stations; that’s why searching by type of station is so helpful.
You can also tell GasBuddy about the prices you see. On the top left side of the local webpage, below the Report a Price Here heading, fill in the information and click Submit.
Note: Google Maps can include GasBuddy prices, but it isn’t that helpful. On Google Maps, click the My Maps tab, then click Gas Prices From GasBuddy.com. After you enter your ZIP code, pointers will appear at each station location, but you have to click a pointer to see the station information and its prices.

Do a Simple Search on MSN Auto

MSN Auto (see screen capture, bottom) searches only by ZIP code, but its results are very easy to read:

•    Click the My Car tab.
•    In the navigation bar on the left, click Gas Prices.
•    To see what gas prices are in an area, type the ZIP code in the Change ZIP box and click Go.
The map shows the gas stations in the area. The green gas pump icon indicates the lowest-priced gas, and the red gas pump icon is the highest. Below the map is a list of all the gas stations, their addresses and their prices for unleaded, plus, premium and diesel. Stations appear in order of price, from lowest to highest.

Get Prices From the Road

Most people don’t think to look up gas prices before they leave home. If you have a mobile phone, you can receive a text message containing current prices. These services usually search by ZIP code, which is great if you’ve memorized (or made a list of) all the ZIP code boundaries where you live.
For GasBuddy, send a text message or e-mail to gas@gasbuddy.com. In the body of the message, type the city and state or the ZIP code. Text or send an e-mail to diesel@gasbuddy.com for diesel prices. GasBuddy returns your text message or e-mail with the five lowest prices in that area.
Other options are mobGas (send a text message or e-mail to sms@mobgas.com) and 411sync (send a text to sms@411sync.com containing the keyword “gas” followed by a ZIP code). You should receive a response within a few seconds, but heavy online traffic could mean longer wait times.
If your mobile phone (and wireless plan) supports Web browsing, you can retrieve results faster with a webpage specifically designed for mobile phones; navigate to GasBuddy’s or mobGas’ mobile site.

Link of the Month

Is your gas-guzzling 1975 Chrysler Cordoba on its last rims? Then you’re probably thinking about getting a more fuel-efficient car. To learn what you need to know before buying, check out “Shopping for a Fuel-Efficient Car” at Edmunds.com. The article details which type of gas engine is the most efficient and gives the scoop on hybrids, electric cars and even natural-gas cars. And it includes links to a list of top fuel-efficient cars if you’re ready to drive one off the lot. The Toyota Prius seems to take the prize on most lists, but the sporty Mini Cooper can get 40 miles to the gallon in highway driving.

Websites of Interest


Google Maps   

Shopping for a Fuel-Efficient Car”    

Bonnie Biafore is the author of 24 books about investing, personal finance, project management, software (such as QuickBooks and Project) and the recently published novel, Fresh Squeezed. Go to BonnieBiafore.com to learn more.

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