Google Maps became the most popular iPhone app almost immediately after its release in December 2012, The Guardian reports, and it has remained the most popular smartphone app across all platforms. It’s safe to say map apps which provide accurate driving directions are widely in demand, but drivers may not realize the wide range of apps available to assist them in all areas of driving. From buying vehicles and gas to staying under the speed limit and keeping safe on the road, here are our favorite picks:
Buy a Car
When you’re shopping for a used car, apps can make it easier to check a prospective purchase’s vehicle identification number. This information is available through website tools such as Ford Fleet’s VIN Decoder and CheckThatVin.com. The latter offers a free iPhone app to provide you with VIN information on the go.
Let’s say you go to the website for Drivetime.com and use their vehicle locator tool to find a hybrid model. You’re considering buying it, but you want to know if the gas savings justifies the extra cost. The Buy a Hybrid? app will figure this out for you, calculating the annual cost difference between a hybrid and non-hybrid vehicle, and determine how long it will take you to break even on your extra up-front investment. Buy a Hybrid? is free and available for iOS.
Save on Gas
Finding the lowest gas prices can be hit-and-miss, and the GasBuddy app removes the guesswork by providing a comprehensive database of U.S. gas stations and their current prices. Spotters, gas stations and credit card partners supply the data, and users who report prices receive points for contests to win prizes such as prepaid gas cards. Because the app is supported this way, it can be downloaded free. Visitors to the full GasBuddy site can use additional tools that compare national gas prices, calculate trip costs and log fuel usage.
Watch Your Speed
Staying under the speed limit can keep you from wasting money on tickets, and if you’re a parent with driving teens, it can help keep your kids out of trouble. Many speedometer apps can assist with these tasks. One of the best is Fast, a Speedometer. For $3.99, Fast provides gauge and digital displays of your current speed, along with a record of your top speed and a heads-up display you can project onto your windshield for nighttime driving.
Texting while driving now kills more teens than drunken driving, claiming 3,000 lives annually, according to a study released this year by by Cohen Children’s Medical Center. Developers have created a variety of apps to address this issue. Some provide hands-free texting by using speech-to-text recognition, such as DriveSafe.ly, which offers single-user plans for $13.95 a year and family plans for $34.95. Other developers are asking Apple to support an automated notification system similar to that available on other smartphone brands.