9 Must-Download Apps for Drivers, Commuters and Buyers of High-Priced Gas

Gas prices are rising. It’s impossible to escape traffic. And suddenly your car feels like a prison cell instead of the liberating vehicle it was when you first sat in a driver’s seat.

Yes, driving can be a pain when you have to deal with all the challenges and injustices of car ownership and commuting. But with the help of some mobile apps, it doesn’t have to be all that bad.
Here are nine useful apps* that will help you find cheap gas, beat traffic congestion, keep your car in top shape, and maintain your behind-the-wheel sanity. We start with the Waze traffic app pictured above. Just remember not to fidget with these apps while actually driving. Safety first is a Gadget Lab credo.
*Unfortunately, there are no apps to banish rude drivers from the road.


Imagine working with other local drivers to make your commute shorter and easier. You might even be able to stave off the road rage you feel every time you’re behind the wheel.
With Waze, you’re immediately connected to a network of local drivers who contribute to traffic information and road reports on obstacles such as construction zones, police traps, accidents, and more. You can also join Waze groups and connect with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. The more people who use Waze, the more information it provides to its network of drivers. And, luckily, Waze already has a strong and growing community, making it a truly useful app.
You can also use Waze to receive turn-by-turn driving directions on a live map. In fact, the app automatically checks for the latest traffic information and will re-route directions based on traffic conditions to provide the quickest commute. And while you’re moving along your route, you’ll see nearby Waze drivers and road reports on your custom map.
The magic in Waze is that it collects users’ GPS locations while they are driving, and adds that data to its traffic logs. In order for Waze to collect the data, however, the app needs to be active in the foreground of a device.
Waze also adds an element of fun -- driving doesn’t need to be a drag -- with its scoreboard and cute mood icons. You earn points for how many miles you drive, and you can choose your own mood icon -- from “speedy” to “LOL” -- for other drivers to see.
Free; available on the App Store and Google Play

Inrix Traffic

Inrix Traffic provides a map of live traffic similar to what you’ll find in Google Maps or the iOS Maps app. Inrix, however, goes several steps further with options like comparative traffic, predicted traffic, and an incidents report.
Inrix gathers all of its traffic information from its Smart Driver Network, which aggregates data from more than 3 million GPS-enabled cars and mobile devices (with the Inrix app installed). This network also taps into traditional road sensors, partnerships with regional traffic providers, and hundreds of other sources.
Comparative traffic gives you a look at current conditions compared to normal conditions, and predicted traffic provides snapshots of how traffic should be flowing at various times in the future (all based on previously collected traffic data; see screenshot above). An Incidents tab reveals a list of reported traffic snags -- Inrix Traffic users can contribute to this list using the app’s One Touch Reporting button.
The app’s most useful features require upgrading to Inrix Traffic Premium, for $25. Once you upgrade, you’ll be able to save your commuting routes, and receive personalized directions and travel time recommendations. Inrix also offers premium users access to traffic cameras along certain roads, so you can check live video before heading out.
One warning: The app keeps location tracking on in the background at all times, so it will suck a ton of your phone’s battery life if you don’t turn off GPS when the app isn’t in use.
Free; available on the App Store and Google Play

Car Minder Plus

There are plenty of devices and apps to track your health, sleep, and fitness -- so why not be as obsessive about the vehicle you rely on to get from point A to point B? Car Minder Plus makes logging all of the minute details of your car’s needs and health easy.
The app’s interface is colorful and intuitive. You can manage multiple cars, as well as multiple services for each car. You can also keep gas and repair logs, and more. Car Minder Plus offers cool little perks, such as being able to edit a car’s icon to be a photo of that car, and the ability to email your records to others.
To help you better understand your driving habits and needs, Car Minder Plus offers charts showing fuel economy and mileage, and will remind you when your car’s due for servicing. Indeed: You’ll never forget to change your oil with this app in your pocket.
$2.99; available on theApp Store

MotionX GPS Drive

With MotionX GPS Drive, you don’t need to spend a wad of cash on a dedicated GPS device. In addition to providing driving and walking directions on 3D maps, MotionX GPS Drive also grants access to Inrix traffic data, Wikipedia, a magnetic compass, your iPod music, and more. You can even look through your Contacts and place a call from within the app.
Once you download the app, you get a free 30-day trial of the turn-by-turn navigation and voice guidance features. Once the free period is over, you’ll have to pay either $2.99 per month or $9.99 per year for the advanced services -- but for what you get, it is worth the price.
Because MotionX GPS Drive is so jam-packed with features, most of which are really useful, it does take some time to understand how to navigate the app itself.
Free; available on the App Store


Gas prices are soaring like crazy, and for those who have to commute, there are few options other than to just suck it up and pay. But you don’t always have to concede defeat to the very first gas station in sight. GasBuddy can show you nearby gas prices, helping ensure you pay the very lowest prices for each fill-up.
The app lets you search for gas prices in direct proximity to your current location, or by city. You can view gas stations on a map or list format. In list format, you can go through tabs for Regular, Midgrade, Premium, and Diesel prices.
When I did a search for stations near the Wired office, I found that the Shell a block south had regular gas at $4.59, but the Shell a block east has regular gas for $4.43. I could also see, however, that the latter station’s prices hadn’t been updated for 11 hours (and so might have been outdated), while the former station’s prices had been updated just one hour ago.
The app updates its prices through user reports. To give people an incentive to update gas prices, GasBuddy gives away a $250 gas gift card each week to those who have reported prices. This perk seems to work, as most of the downtown and SOMA-district San Francisco stations had update times within the last half day.
Free; available on the App Store and Google Play

AAA TripTik

AAA’s TripTik app is made for road trip travels, but it’s also useful for day-to-day driving, especially for AAA members. The app offers a hodgepodge of features from nearby hotel information to driving directions.
The app is a bit scattered, but if you’re a AAA member, or you just care about AAA approval, you’ll be able to locate office locations and AAA-approved attractions such as restaurants, hotels, and campsites. You can also contact AAA’s roadside assistance from within the app, in case you find yourself stranded on the highway.
AAA TripTik’s gas station prices are not always live, but with this feature, you’ll at least be able to locate the nearest station. And though you won’t get turn-by-turn directions, pressing a Co-Pilot button does activate a voice guidance feature that will read your next move aloud.
Free; available on the App Store and Google Play

Scout by Telenav

Telenav’s Scout offers similar features -- driving directions, estimated driving time, and nearby business searching -- as other navigation apps in this roundup. What makes Scout stand out is its good-looking and organized interface.
When you launch the app you’ll see a dashboard with your current location, the weather, a Places bar, and a Drive bar. Scout uses two-dimensional maps for overviews, and 3D maps for when turn-by-turn directions. You can also access your iPod music from the in-app Music button.
While Scout isn’t the strongest navigation app available, Telenav also offers an online companion site called Scout.me. With Scout.me you can find things to do, places to eat, events, and accommodations by city, then sync all of it to your Scout app -- a good option for long-distance or vacation driving.
The team at Telenav have also made an HTML 5, browser-based navigation system, dubbed Scout for Apps. The feature lets developers incorporate Scout’s turn-by-turn navigation into their apps or mobile websites.
Free; available on the App Store

Gas Cubby

Taking care of cars is time-consuming and expensive. You have to check your engine oil, inspect tire pressure, replace fuel filters, worry about timing belts, and so much more. Paying for gas alone is already a hefty financial commitment, so you don’t want to suffer a huge repair charge that could have easily been a small maintenance charge.
Gas Cubby helps you keep track of all your car-related expenses in one streamlined app. You can manage multiple vehicles and easily enter in service dates, costs, locations, and more. To track your gas usage, just enter in the date, odometer reading, and gas cost and amount in the New Fill Up form. You can even include the location where you filled up, gas brand, type of gas -- 87, 89, 90+, or diesel -- and more, depending on how much information you want to track.
You can view all of your purchases in a list format, or in a chart that shows your expenses and stats over time. Gas Cubby offers charts for miles per gallon, gas price, gas stats, gas expenses, and service expenses.
Gas Cubby is a powerful app to track everything about your car -- as long as you remember that it's only useful if you're diligent about data entry. Because, no, the logs won’t enter themselves.
Free; available on the App Store


If you’re not trying to conserve gas and aren’t afraid of speeding tickets, then Dynolicious is for you. The app uses the iPhone’s built-in accelerometer to measure your car’s 0-60 acceleration, your quarter-mile times, horsepower, and more.
This obviously isn’t for the frugal or practical driver. But it’s an excellent app for tracking your car’s key performance metrics. The app collects data as much as one hundred times per second, and once you’re done driving a testing run, Dynolicious presents your averages and trends on glowing charts.
You can track more than one car with the app, and enter extra information such as your car’s weight and any performance-oriented modifications you’ve made to the vehicle (hint: aftermarket exhausts rarely yield extra horsepower, but ECU and cold air-intake tweaks can improve performance). According to BunsenTech, the app developer, Dynolicious has been track-tested and proven accurate compared to regulation timing equipment.
$12.99; available on the App Store