8 apps to keep your car rolling

These mobile apps can help you maintain your car, save money on gas, avoid an accident -- or help if you have one.

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Car Locator

Edward Kim

Price: $3.99 (free trial of 10 uses)

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes: None

Car Locator does exactly what it says it does: It records where your car is parked and helps you find your way back to it.

Car Locator

Car Locator

Click to view larger image.

The app has two modes: Map and Details. Details lets you know how long you have been parked (a useful tool for city dwellers who have to watch the meter), the distance to your car and the direction in which your car is located. Map simply shows you a map of where you are and where your car is.

Car Locator has a few extra features, such as letting you save locations, take a picture of where your car is parked or enter notes to yourself. The two most useful features, however, are the ability to set an alarm to go off after you have been parked for a certain amount of time and being able, from within the app, to email or text the location of your car.

The only real drawback I found with Car Locator was that the GPS sometimes took a long time to work. This problem was easily fixable, however, by manually inputting my location with a tap on the map, which is useful in a pinch.

In short, if all you need is a car locator, this is a good app. However, there are other apps, like Waze and iOnRoad, which combine this feature with other helpful tools like real-time traffic reports and augmented reality driving. Try out the free trial for this app before you decide to buy it; you get 10 uses free.

Alternative: MyCar Locator Free for Android and Honk for iOS (99 cents) both work much the same way that Car Locator does, except that Honk will also help you find garages, gas stations, ATMs and cafes in your vicinity.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy Organization

Price: Free

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes: iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Last October, a small mobile app called GasBuddy helped frantic New Yorkers find functioning gas stations after Hurricane Sandy. When not dealing with giant storms, GasBuddy makes the process of finding the lowest gas prices around fast and easy.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy

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Gas prices are reported throughout the day by users, who are offered incentives such as a weekly draw to win $250 towards gas, so prices tend to be up-to-date.

The potential savings gained by using GasBuddy can be significant. One time when I checked the app, the lowest cost for regular gas at a station near me was $3.27; the most expensive was $3.75. Filling up a 16-gallon tank, the overall price difference was $7.68. Assuming I fill up my tank once a week, that is a savings of almost $400 a year.

GasBuddy is not very customizable, aside from setting your preferred gas type. You have the option of a list view or a map view for perusing gas stations and prices; both have their advantages, and it is easy to switch back and forth between them. It's also simple to report a price from the map view or tap to navigate to a gas station.

Note that GasBuddy doesn't navigate to the nearest gas station from within the app, but instead bounces you to an outside navigation app.

In short, GasBuddy serves its purpose well. For frugal gas shoppers, this is a useful app to have in your arsenal.

Alternatives: AAA Mobile for iOS and Android. In addition to providing you with updated gas prices, this free app will also help you find local AAA offices, hotels, restaurants and repair locations. AAA members can also request roadside assistance from the app.

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