8 iPhone Apps for Your Car, Fuel, Service, Expenses, Carpooling, Speed Traps, Buying

CarApps

Check out our list of 9 iPhone apps for your car-related needs. Each app links to a full review, so you can get more information on the features and cost of each app. Enjoy!

Fuel Consumption / Efficiency: AccuFuel
Maybe you’re into hypermiling, or maybe you’re just looking to see if your car needs a tune up, but if you’re looking for an app to track fuel consumption and efficiency, then I really like AccuFuel. The interface is simple and doesn’t get in the way of entering information quickly. AccuFuel produces graphs of your fuel efficiency over time for multiple vehicles.I used to always fill up my car completely so I could do a quick MPG check against my trip meter, but with the price of gas lately I’ve been reluctant to spend $60 or $70 at the pump.
I needed a tracking log so I could figure out my MPG across several partial fill ups. Some of you may also be interested in maximizing fuel efficiency or even hypermiling. AccuFuel (formerly named MPG) stands out among the various mileage tracking choices in the iTunes App Store. “Polished” is a word that gets used frequently in iPhone app reviews (at least for the good apps) but it certainly applies to AccuFuel.
Using the app is simple. You click on the “+” button on the gas pump on the main screen each time you fill up. Then you enter in the odometer reading, gallons, and price per gallon. You can also specify if this is a full or partial fill up so AccuFuel won’t get confused if you only decide to drop five bucks in the tank and top off the tank later in the week. After at least two complete fill ups, AccuFuel will calculate your fuel efficiency and present a graph along the bottom of the home screen.

AccuFuel can track your fuel usage for multiple vehicles. When adding a new car, AccuFuel will let you select from a list of vehicles to automatically display the expected fuel efficiency, but only from 1998 and newer. For older cars, you can enter the details manually so you have a baseline against which to compare your actual mpg.

You can export your entries as comma separated values in an email message and send them to yourself for backup or use in another application like Excel or Numbers. One cool feature is that these email messages contain a link that will push the .csv entries directly into AccuFuel.

One thing I’d like to see in the next version is a graph of gas purchase prices over time. That data is already in AccuFuel along with the fuel efficiency data and it seems like it would be easy to tap to toggle between different graphs for MPG and $/gallon.

I tried several fuel efficiency apps, and AccuFuel definitely stands out as the easiest and best looking app. There are apps that include fuel efficiency along with other features, but AccuFuel is the best for a straight efficiency tracking app.

AccuFuel is available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99.

Service Tracking: Car Care
Care Care gives you a way to track service expenses on multiple vehicles. The tracking reports might be too simple for some, but the fuel consumption tracking features that are also included might make it a good buy for the person looking for an app that will do both.
In addition to fuel costs, some people are religious in tracking their automobile repairs as well. I keep a file of service receipts, but I hardly ever do any analysis of this information to try and figure out how much I’m spending on repairs or how often.
Now that one of my cars is getting a little long in the tooth, I decided I might want to take a closer look and see what it actually takes to keep the old lady of the garage running.Care Care ($4.99) is an iPhone app that lets you track automobile expenses and fuel costs for multiple vehicles. It essentially takes a fuel cost tracking app and adds a separate entry item for service costs.

 

The setup is fairly straightforward. Select your vehicle from a list of popular makes and models and then you can begin entering your fillups at the gas station along with other service items. When you add a new service entry, you can select from a list of common repairs and services like oil changes, radiator service, etc. or “other” and then enter the odometer reading and cost. You can enter some brief notes as well.

The service tracking is pretty limited and I’m not sure that I personally need an iPhone app to do this for me. My paper file folder with service receipts works pretty well for my limited needs. If you want to track this info on your mobile device, and also need something to track fuel consumption, then Car Care may be a good choice for you.

The categories and notes are basic, but cover the most common issues. I like some of the features of the fuel consumption as Car Care provides graphs of MPG and fuel costs over time and also gives a “Carbon Footprint” number, which I haven’t seen in other fuel tracking apps. In fuel tracking, Car Care also tells you how your mileage varies by the grade of gasoline that you use (you have to provide this info when you fillup, of course).

I continue to prefer AccuFuel for pure fuel consumption because of its simpler user interface, but these little extras in Car Care are tempting and may be just the thing for some of you that really want to track both fuel and service in one place.

Cheap Gas: iGasUp
Everyone needs help finding cheaper gas these days. iGasUp has the most accurate and the most current data available. Read the full post to see some free options as well.
While the price of gas has been dropping from $4.00 down towards $3.00 in recent weeks, I still pay attention to which stations offer lower prices when I go to fillup. I’ve found differences of up to 20 cents per gallon between stations that are just within a mile or two of my home in Colorado. That savings can add up quickly if you’re careful about where you buy gas.
There are a couple of iPhone apps that attempt to help you find the cheapest gas, wherever you happen to be, by combining pricing information from the internet with the location services of the iPhone. I looked at GasBag, iGasUp, and Where to see which one would help me find cheap gas, particularly when I was in an unfamiliar part of town. In my usage for a week, I found iGasUp to have the most complete and the most current pricing info, even if it was a little glitchy in map mode. It had more stations in my area (Denver, CO) and the pricing was consistently more accurate than the other apps.

The difference is found in the source of the pricing data. iGasUp uses OPIS data, which is compiled automatically from actual credit card transactions. GasBag and Where both rely on user submissions to their web sites (Where uses the data from gasbuddy.com). The data in these two apps was inconsistent and sometimes out-of-date, as you might expect when you are relying on volunteers to take the time to record what they paid. Both apps were also missing a fair number of stations in my part of town, which was frustrating at times.

iGasUp did show some glitches with occassional bad data, which would show up as a outlier in the data with a price drastically below the next lowest station. Usually this was limited to one bad entry and it was fairly obvious that there wasn’t really a station offering gas a full 20 or 30 cents under the lowest price to be found elsewhere. iGasUp was also buggy in map view (the default view is a list of stations sorted by lowest price). I couldn’t get the map to stay at a certain zoom level. I just stayed in the list view to avoid this situation. You can still click on the address of a particular station in list view to get to a map with directions to that location.

iGasUp is available in the iTunes App Store for $2.99. Because the underlying data is not free, iGasUp includes price updates for one year. You’ll have to rebuy sometime next year. Still, you’ll save the $3 pretty quickly if you take the time to check prices when you need to fill up.

If you’re looking for an alternative, Where is a free download, but the underlying gasbuddy.com data may not be as complete or up-to-date.

Expense Reporting for Mileage: MileBug
In my job, I need a way to track mileage for work trips around town. MileBug does a great job of providing a really simple (and IRS friendly) method of tracking my trip logs. I really like how I can export the reports to email for reimbursement and reporting.
For my day job, I do a fair amount of driving around town. For tax purposes, it’s really important that I track the miles I drive for work, and to do it right I need to record the odometer readings. In the past, I’ve used a simple written log book, but this last week I’ve been using a few trip log apps for the iPhone to see if I could make this whole process easier for myself.
The trip log that I liked best is MileBug from Izatt International. This is a nice little app that does a good job of making the process relatively painless. The biggest obstacle to using any app like this is the time required to enter the details for your trip. The simplest measure would be, “Does it take more or less time than it would to write it down on paper?” I think MileBug passes this critical litmus test.

You can track odometer readings for the start and end of each trip, and you can do so for multiple vehicles. MileBug lets you track trips by Business, Destination, and Purpose and set presets for each of those items for quick entry. You can setup reimbursement rates for each business if you need to track rates for the standard federal tax deduction for some trips and a corporate reimbursement that may have another rate for other trips.

MileBug will automatically start the next trip from the last known odometer reading to save a little time. I appreciate how the odometer dials roll over, instead of just running from 0 to 9 like in some other apps. It makes it a little simpler to update your mileage when you roll past 9 on one or more of the digits.

To get the data out of MileBug, you can email reports. This sends a table of text with a summary and detailed entries. The email feature integrates with the built-in Mail app on the iPhone which makes it easy to use your address book to make that process easy too.

There are a couple of things that I think could stand improving. Adding a new destination always adds that new entry to your preset list which could become quite long. I chose to use generic entries like “client”, “HQ” and “home” for destinations and used purpose to denote if it was billable or not. Because I wasn’t entering the individual destinations, I just put the details in the “notes” field.

There’s also no way to import data back into MileBug if you were to lose it, in say an app update gone bad, or after restoring your iPhone without a backup. I can live without the import, but I have to remember to email the reports regularly.

If you need more detailed records, you might look into Trip Cubby which offers some additional options, but at a much higher price. I particularly like that you can use a keypad to enter odometer readings in Trip Cubby instead of spinning little dials. Still, I prefer MileBug for its simplicity and it works perfectly for my needs.

MileBug is available in the iTunes App Store. The app is priced at $2.99 for a limited time.

Carpooling: Carticipate
Carticipate isn’t quite there yet as the community continues to grow. But if you’re looking for ride-sharing info in an iPhone app, this free download is where it’s at.
As we pointed out last month, Carticipate offers some simple hope for those that are looking for ways to reduce their car usage and spending on gasoline. The promise of Carticipate is to bring people together that are looking for ridesharing by helping you identify other riders or drivers that are headed to the same destination from your local area. The problem is that 2 months after release, there still don’t appear to be any people posting potential rides in the community.

 

There aren’t any other iPhone apps for ridesharing at the time this review was written, but there are some good web sites like PickupPal, ZimRide, 511.org, Ridester, vpsiinc.com, and others that work quite well from an iPhone. From the comments on our earlier article, it looks like PickupPal is working on an iPhone app, so we’ll keep you posted as options develop.

Carticipate is a free download in the iTunes App Store, so it won’t cost anything to try and find ridesharing opportunities in your area. Your might fare a lot better if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area (where iPhone concentration and eco-awareness are higher). While the community is being developed, take a look at the web sites listed above to share rides. We hope to be able to report on more options for iPhone users in the near future.

Parking: Parking Meter
Parking Meter is a simple app to track where you parked your car and/or how much time is left on that meter. I don’t always need the GPS location of my parking spot, but I like the ability to send myself SMS reminders before time expires on the meter if a meeting goes long and I forget to run out and drop a few more quarters in the slot.
Every now and then, I walk out into a parking lot and totally blank on where I left my car. Far more often, I head out to visit a client in the downtown area and find that I have to run out to the meter to put more change in because something came up and the visit ran long. Parking Meter addresses both of these situations and helps you find your car and reminds you to extend your meter if you need to do so.
For parking, the app will record your location using GPS (if available) and allows you to take notes on where you parked (eg, section B3) and take a photo with the built-in camera of your iPhone. When you are done with your trip, you can pull up this info to remind yourself of where the car is located. There’s a link back to the built-in Maps application so you can get directions back to the car if you need them.

When you set your parking location, you can also set a reminder for the expiration time of your meter. Parking Meter can set off an audible or vibration alert a certain number of minutes before time expires, but this only works if the app is running.

What I really liked is that you can set Parking Meter to send an email alert, either to a regular email account or to an SMS gateway so you get a text message before time runs out on the meter. There’s a handy little list provided to get the most common SMS email gateway addresses. Just don’t make a small typo as you enter your address — Parking Meter will delete your entire entry when you click back on the field to edit it.

There are other apps, like Park’n Find, that offer more detailed info about your parking location but I like the combination of GPS location and email/SMS reminders for meters. Sound off with your preferences in the comments.

Parking Meter is available in the iTunes App Store for $1.99.

Speed Traps: Trapster
Trapster helps you avoid speed traps and traffic cameras as you drive. The audible voice warnings are driver-friendly and help remind you to check your speed and drive safe.
One of my first tickets ever was on a road trip in college to visit friends in another state. A highway patrol car was parked behind an obstruction right where the speed limit on the interstate dropped from 70 to 55.
While I didn’t slow down fast enough, the officer was clearly positioned to take advantage of the speed change and hand out tickets. Nowadays, I’m not much of a speedster but I do drive around town quite a bit and the last thing I can afford is a speeding ticket. There are a couple iPhone apps that try to help you be mindful of safe driving and avoid speed traps and the one that I’ve been using this last week is Trapster.
Trapster uses the built-in location services of the iPhone to display where you are on a map and shows user-reported speed traps, red-light cameras, and speed cameras (the ones that actually issue tickets) that are nearby. Users can improve the system by reporting new locations to trapster.com right through the iPhone app. The advantage of this system is that the updates are much closer to real-time than they would be with a web-based system where users report when they get back to a computer.

The app is designed to be used while driving…or at least while you’re in your car. Being at a complete stop when using this is probably a good idea.

Trapster will announce the type of locations within your search area (this can be set by the user) and give you an audio warning as you approach new speed traps. The only thing I found annoying is that Trapster would continue to announce these alerts over and over again as long as they were in my search radius.

I was able to control this a little by tuning the search radius and the frequency of announcements, but I never found a setting that worked just the way I wanted. I was also disappointed that Trapster would move my current location on the map and then redraw after I reached the edge. I would prefer that it just kept my location centered (like you can setup in the built-in Maps application).

A recent update to the app also allows it to work reliably in European countries with localized settings. Trapster is a free download in the iTunes app store.

Car Buying: iLeaseMyCar
If you’re looking to buy a new car, iLeaseMyCar (and now iLeaseMyCar Pro) is a great tool to carry with as you look at financing costs. This app lets you calculate your payments by changing your down payment, interest rate, and so on. Another app to check out is Auto Fuel Economics, which gives you a very simple run down on the fuel costs for two different cars with different MPG ratings.
There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect car, negotiating a fair price, and then getting totally worked over by the finance manager when you go to get a lease or a loan. To help you compare financing options, iLeaseMyCar provides a simple iPhone loan calculator. There are web calculators, but an iPhone app provides some advantages for use when a network connection isn’t available or is too slow, particularly for iPod touch owners that may not have access to WiFi
at a dealer’s showroom.

 

The app is well designed and attention to detail sets it apart from some of the other choices in the app store. The layout includes 4 buttons across the “dock” at the bottom that let you choose between a loan calculator, lease calculator, advice on negotiating loan options and terms, and program help. The advice is simple, but straightforward, and the help covers all the options available in the program.

Setting the loan details is straightforward. Just tap on the value that you want to adjust and type in the new value. I actually prefer the slider mechanism used in the Auto Loan / Lease Calculator because it gives you immediate feedback on adjusting loan values, but iLeaseMyCar remembers what you’ve entered so you can quit to check email and return to where you were without losing anything.

I’d love to see some additional features like saved loans, a payment schedule with principal and interest, compare two loans, and so on. There’s certainly room for improvement with all of these apps, but my sense is that the good folks at Not Too Shabby Software have a solid base on which to build.

iLeaseMyCar is available in the iTunes App Store for $0.99.

Update: For a limited time, the best deal appears to be the brand-new iLeaseMyCar Pro which has special introductory pricing of $1.99. iLeaseMyCar Pro adds reverse loan and lease calculations to calculate other factors from the payment and also allows you to add taxable and non-taxable fees.

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32 Responses to “8 iPhone Apps for Your Car, Fuel, Service, Expenses, Carpooling, Speed Traps, Buying”

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