Consumers who are feeling the pinch in gas prices at the pump may be able to turn to online tools like GasBuddy.com. Visitors to the site can find the cheapest gas in their neighborhood by ZIP code, based on data collected and reported by its users. Users also can earn points and win prizes, such as a weekly $250 gas card, by reporting local pump prices.
Drivers on the go can use their mobile device to find the closest and cheapest gas. GasBuddy released a mobile app for iPhones in December and is hoping to release a version for Blackberry devices by the second quarter this year. The free app uses GPS and cellular triangulation technology to provide listings for gas stations. GasBuddy also has an app for Android devices and Windows phones.
"It's a pivotal time to use the GasBuddy app to distinguish stations that have and haven't raised prices," said Patrick DeHaan, petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.
DeHaan said there are currently 79 million users between those who have downloaded the app and used the Internet to report gas prices.
DeHaan said the majority of gas prices are reported voluntarily by users, but GasBuddy also has a program for gas stations to report their prices directly.
When asked about the dependability of volunteer-reported data, DeHaan said they check each price posting for reliability. He said their system checks pricing patterns, a station's past history and its neighborhood competition.
"If someone accidentally presses wrong button, data integrity will test that," said DeHaan. "Most of the time our system is very reliable. We do on occasion independently confirm data."
Matt Gutman, Erin Keohane and Zunaira Zaki contributed to this report.