Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Fuel is a significant part of any vehicle’s overall cost to own. In some cases, money spent on gas can make up over half of your monthly car-related expenses. Even people who don’t drive often can easily spend over $1,000 a year on gas.
Most drivers can use a few tactics to reduce their fuel costs without switching to a more efficient vehicle, and there are free tools available on smartphones that help. They’ll help you save money without driving less or switching cars.
Before you can seriously approach saving money and obtaining better gas mileage, you need to know your current fuel economy. Although many modern vehicles have built-in fuel economy gauges, they are not always accurate. The most precise way to track your economy is via your fuel receipts.
Fuelly can help you with this. Simply input the gallons you put into your car, the price, the mileage since your last fill-up, and Fuelly will calculate your economy and the money you spent on gas. Now that you have this information, you can see how well your efforts to improve your mileage are working. Your information is shared with others using the service, creating a catalog of vehicles. This is also handy, because it provides a reference against which you can compare your car and your driving habits.
Fuelly is a website, and available on any device with Internet access. It’s also possible to add fuel-up data via SMS.
Garmin Mechanic [Android 2.1+]
Although two vehicles may be the same, their gas mileage may vary wildly. The driver behind the wheel is a massive variable. While some drivers are soft and easy with the gas pedal, others scream about as if a velociraptor is sitting in the passenger seat.
Each of these approaches to driving, and everything between, will give different fuel economy results. Garmin Mechanic can help you investigate your own tendencies by monitoring your speed (via GPS) as well as your acceleration and braking. You can then examine the results to see if you could have been driving a bit slower, or you could have been easier on gas pedal. You’ll also have access to a real-time fuel economy monitor.
All of these functions are enhanced by using the Garmin ecoRoute HD adapter. Using this, it’s possible to plug your car directly into your phone, resulting in precise data rather than guesses based off your phone’s sensors. You’ll also gain access to the app’s engine diagnostics section. However, the adapter is almost $100, so not everyone may find it worthwhile.
The app is free and available for Android 2.1 and up.
BestRoute / Route4Me [Android 2.0 + iOS]
One of the best ways to save fuel is to drive less, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go where you want. By better planning your routes, you can make the same stops but drive fewer miles, which should save you money at the pump.
BestRoute for Android 2.0 and better, as well as Route4Me for iOS, can accomplish this. These apps allow users to input an address and then “optimize” them, resulting in a route that is as short as possible.
Both apps can be obtained for free, but Route4Me requires an in-app purchase of a “100 address pack” for $4.99. BestRoute is ad-supported and limited to 10-stop routes. An ad-free version is available for a buck, and a Pro version with support for routes with up to 50 stops is $4.99.
How do you save money and obtain better gas mileage with your smartphone? Do you use a favorite navigation app to find better routes, or do you use an app that encourages more efficient driving? As always, readers are encouraged to let us know in the comments! I also recommend that readers check out our recent article about auto and gas related iPhone apps.
Image Credit: CNET