Spring is finally upon us, bringing with it the urge to pack up your car, grab your friends and take a weekend road trip. But with gas prices climbing as high as $3 a gallon in some states, this annual tradition for many college-aged kids may be a thing of the past.
To help the average consumer pinch a few pennies, some Web sites have set up networks to track current gas prices across the country. With a little bit of planning, these sites make sure that driving your car is not a bank-breaking event.
gaspricewatch.com – This site, self-billed as “the world’s largest consumer advocacy site for gas prices,” was created in 1999 to give consumers the tools they need to make cost-effective purchases.
Through research, GasPriceWatch has determined that gas prices can vary up to 20 cents per gallon in some towns. Because competition and availability cause gas prices to fluctuate, GasPriceWatch felt up-to-date information should be accessible to consumers.
The Web makes finding gasoline prices across the country as easy as checking the weather forecast. On the home page, consumers can provide a zip code and radius they wish to search, and instantaneously receive the best rates for gas within that range.
The home page also lists the current high and low gas prices across the country. It may come as a surprise to New Jersey consumers that our own McAfee has the lowest current price at $1.75 per gallon, 38 cents below the national average.
The site depends completely on volunteers for its pricing information. Currently, it has 116,106 volunteers monitoring 128,542 U.S. gas stations. Updates usually come in weekly, but market watch groups stress checking the posting date before you hit the road.
gasbuddy.com – GasBuddy is more of a search engine, connecting visitors to a network of 170 gas price Web sites across the country. In New Jersey, GasBuddy links to trentongasprices.com, a site that monitors gas stations in the Trenton area. Trenton Gas Prices also depends on consumer reporting for its information and stresses that prices are not guaranteed to be accurate.
One of the most helpful features of GasBuddy is its list of “Top 10 Fuel Saving Tips,” which include obvious points like “avoid high speeds,” and “purchase a fuel efficient vehicle,” but also lesser known tips. For example, GasBuddy explains keeping windows closed increases fuel efficiency, as open windows increase drag and can lower fuel economy by up to ten percent.
fueleconomy.gov – For those taking a long or short journey along Interstate-95, which runs through Ewing on its route from Maine to Miami, can find valuable information on this site, which provides a link to Interstate-95’s gas price Web site, usastar.com/i95/gas/gas-nj.htm. The site lists gas stations within a halfmile of an I-95 exit, meaning road trippers won’t have to veer far from their course to get good deals.
While they provide a great resource for consumers, the main problem with using the gas price Web sites seems to be exposure.
Students, for the most part, are not aware of the Web sites, which have only been featured sparingly in consumer reports or tip lists.
“I didn’t know that a Web site for gas prices existed,” Jenn Kaplan, sophomore math secondary education major, said. “I would probably use it. I’m always trying to find cheaper gas.”
Other students who didn’t realize such sites existed reiterated Kaplan’s point.
“I think if it were made available enough (I would use it),” Chris Canik, freshman math secondary education major, said.
With greater exposure, these sites could help save hard earned money for college students, who are already strapped for cash. With the future of gas prices looking grim, it is helpful to have an opportunity to bargain shop for fuel. So get on the Web, fill up your tank and enjoy the rest of your semester.