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With gasoline prices averaging close to $4.00 per gallon nationwide, a free app promising the best fuel prices wherever you are would seem like a valued travel aid. And that's just what GasBuddy is.

Using your smart phone's built-in GPS capability, GasBuddy pinpoints your location and pulls up area fuel prices at stations in your area, displaying major brands and independents by name. The app even lists prices for regular, mid-grade, and premium, as well as diesel fuel where available, and indicates how recently displayed prices have been updated.

Once you choose a station, GasBuddy will provide turn-by-turn directions via Google. Some listings even include a photo of the station.

What we like: GasBuddy is a cinch to use, and it quickly delivers local prices. Graphics and the interface are simple and clear, and the use of gas company logos speeds browsing by brand. The option of searching for prices by city or zip code is handy for trip planning. Preferences include sorting by price or distance.

Options include updating prices yourself if the listed prices are incorrect or absent, and this, too, is quick and easy. We found most prices in our greater New York City area to be accurate and recently updated, even though that doesn't ease the pain of $4.30 a gallon for regular near CR's headquarters.

What we don't like: There is nothing preventing GasBuddy from being used when driving, a fix that would presumably be easy for developers to make given the app's dependency on GPS. And because the app works so quickly, there really is no reason not to pull over and stop to use it. Another concern is that because the information is user supplied, the accuracy and currency of prices may vary depending on where you live. Expect to see some ads in exchange for GasBuddy's help. We found the ads only popped up occasionally and were generally unobtrusive, but that may vary by region and increase as word of GasBuddy gets out. In fairness, this is a free app, and revenue has to come from someplace.

What could be improved: GasBuddy doesn't have fields to separate cash from credit prices, which we've seen vary by as much as 10 cents per gallon in our area.

Compatibility: GasBuddy is a free download, and is compatible with Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Windows devices. Gas prices and more information can also be found on their web site, www.gasbuddy.com.



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