/ Motoring, Technology

Your smartphone can help keep fuel costs down

Three petrol pumps on a green background

Like many people, the festive season involves once-yearly trips around the country to visit relatives.  I’m always on the look out for ways to cut my motoring costs, so I’ve given fuel apps a quick test drive…

One way of keeping driving costs down is to use a smartphone app to locate the cheapest fuel. At Which?, we’ve tested three of them to find out if they are accurate and can save motorists money.

Even though the most expensive of the three apps we tested cost £2.99, our quick test proved that it’s possible to save more than that on the first fill-up, so they may be a worthwhile investment.

Being frugal with fuel

To work out if I could cut my Christmas motoring costs, I checked the price of unleaded petrol on a couple of fuel price apps using Fuelsmart UK, Petrol Finder and Petrol Prices Pro.

The Fuelsmart app cost 69p to download and was good at showing the cheapest local stations. However, the prices stated weren’t always accurate, probably because it relies on users to input the price of fuel at service stations.

In contrast, Petrol Prices Pro was fairly good at giving the right prices – it got 27 out of 41 petrol and diesel prices correct. However, it only shows the five cheapest filling stations, so the nearest to your home may not be listed.

Petrol Finder was the least useful app, as it simply provides a long list of service stations ordered randomly, many of which were more than 20 miles from the testers’ locations.

With the cheapest unleaded petrol costing 128.9p per litre near my south London home, I filled up before I headed down to see relatives in Basingstoke. The cheapest unleaded there is 131.9p, so I saved £1.50 filling up my car’s 50-litre tank.

Cheapest place to fill up

As a one-off, this may not sound like a massive saving. But by working out the cheapest place to fill up before trips to Bristol, Norfolk and Hertford, as well as short local trips, I reckon I’ll save more than £20.That’s not too bad for a few minutes’ work.

You could save even more cash by checking prices online rather than paying for an app. But I travel a lot, and like the flexibility of being able to check prices wherever I am.

So this year I managed to save money by checking pump prices before I set off. What measures have you taken to save on motoring costs over Christmas?

How do you find the lowest fuel prices?

I look out for fuel prices when I'm driving (53%, 92 Votes)

I check fuel prices online (32%, 56 Votes)

Other (10%, 17 Votes)

I check fuel prices with a smartphone app (5%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 173

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Comments
Member

Being probably the only person on the planet who still doesn’t have a mobile, I have to make do with my Mark 1 eyeball. It’s certainly cheaper than a mobile phone to run.

Petrol near me last time I checked ( last week was 133.9 ) at my parents 129.9. Its odd how the prices can fluctuate that much.

Member
Peter says:
28 December 2012

Petrol Prices.com comes to me weekly in an email and is also available as a ‘phone app.
You tailor it to your choice of fuel, and search by post code, so it will always show the nearest fuel stations to your chosen code. And it’s free.

Member

I use PetrolPrices.com too. On average, we save between 4p or 5p per litre at every fill up. We get the regular emails showing the lowest prices for our area and then pop in for a fillup when convenient. We never make a special trip just for fuel. It’s a significant saving over the year.

Member

I cannot be bothered to chase around looking for cheaper fuel.

Not using the car or combining journeys saves a lot more. I don’t need a smartphone to tell me that.

Member

No one suggested that using the car less and combing journeys doesn’t save money. We are discussing Apps that find the cheapest convenient fuel price that saves money even on ‘combined journeys’.

We know you are a techno luddite so we do not need constant reminders. Please limit your posts to sensible contributions rather than constantly attacking the technology.

Member

As someone who has taken a laptop and a tablet away for the Christmas break and spent time sorting out various problems for my nieces, nephews, etc I certainly don’t avoid technology. I just can’t be bothered to shop around. The fuel prices are all very similar near where I live.

Member

Hi Terfar, just a little reminder of our commenting guidelines – discussion and strong views are very welcome but please be kind to one another when having a healthy debate.

Member

Exactly, wavechange. I do everything wrong – wait until nearly empty then fill up, use more expensive diesel (Shell) because the additives are recommended for engine longevity, and as the prices in my area differ by around 2 p a litre, what’s the point in driving round to save £1.40 – or less. Does the app tell you how much extra fuel you’ll use getting to the cheapest station? But I do drive fairly carefully to make the fuel go a bit further. I do miss the days when someone filled your car up for you – when did progress kill that off? Fuel stations can be very cold wet and draughty in winter.

Member

I think you’re missing the point. The purpose of the Apps is to provide you with a list of the cheapest refuelling point in your LOCAL area, not to encourage you to drive miles out of your way to find the cheapest fuel. And if you are away from home, the GPS receiver will see your current location and the App will list the nearest garages with prices.