Though gas prices have dropped off from their peak -- with averages slipping from near $4 a gallon for regular to about $3.65 -- it still hurts to see that total when you fill up. You can't do anything about gas prices, but a few new smartphone apps can help you to save money by boosting the mileage in the car you are driving.
There are two types of information that really matter here. To really increase your mileage -- and as a result, make fewer trips to the gas station -- you probably need to understand (and change) your driving style. You also need to know for sure what mileage your car is getting. We will look at downloadable apps that help you with both.
How you drive can have a major impact on your gas mileage. In a set of careful comparisons, test drivers from Edmunds.com found that mileage increased more than 30% in a variety of vehicles by simply slowing down and driving less aggressively.
Of course, your potential for increasing your mileage depends on what kind of driving you do. If you drive mostly on open highway, just slowing down and driving at a steady speed will give you a boost. But for commuters and other city and suburban drivers, how you react at lower speeds can make a big difference.
Here's a look at three apps that either help you become a more mileage-friendly driver or keep track of your mileage and maintenance records.
MyMPG: The most interesting of these new technologies, MyMPG tells you when you are driving too aggressively. Once your iPhone is positioned correctly in your car and the app turned on, it will sound an alarm when it senses jackrabbit starts or hard braking. It does this using the iPhone accelerometer technology -- the same technology that supports phone functions like car-racing games.
Of course, driving less aggressively and avoiding tailgating -- which often forces quick stops -- not only saves gas but is safer. That behavior is rewarded by auto insurance discounts from some companies.
My MPG also has a record-keeping function for your mileage. Downloadable from iTunes for free, MyMPG works with recent iPod Touch models as well as the iPhone and iPad, but is not available for devices from other manufacturers.
Accufuel: If you rebel at being scolded for your driving habits, but still need a better way to track your car's performance, consider AccuFuel, which has earned top marks from reviewers for its straight record-keeping functionality. The app lets you keep data for more than one vehicle, and for newer cars (1998 model and later), it will show you the original EPA mileage rating. Then, after two complete fill-ups, it will calculate your MPG and provide a graph showing how you are progressing.
AccuFuel is downloadable for 99 cents for the iPhone, iPad and Android.
Car Care: This app also has mileage record-keeping, but reviewers liked Car Care in particular for its maintenance record-keeping and reminders. You can set it to give you a reminder when you are due for items like an oil change, based on either mileage or time -- say, in six months.
Drivers who have been keeping records all along found this app the easiest for importing previous data from programs like Excel. Car Care is downloadable for $2.99 and is available for iPhone.
Whether you want to try to improve your mileage or just keep track of it, downloading one of these should get you on the right road.
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