Looking for Relief at the Gas Pump? Don’t Assume GasBuddy is Your Friend.

Gasbuddy App Screenshot
GasBuddy App Screenshot

Apps help us with a lot of things, but use caution when considering GasBuddy.

With the current rise in gas prices, you may be considering an app to find the cheapest prices at gas pumps close to you, if you don’t have one already. From all the choices out there, an app that employs crowdsourcing would seem to be the best, most up-to-date option to select. 

One of the apps that topped my search is GasBuddy. Furthermore, it has a five-star rating as of today. But not so fast, says this article from Wirecutter. While the crowdsourcing aspect of the app may provide the most accurate, immediate relief from prices at the pump, there may be hidden costs within the GasBuddy app, including significant loss of your privacy. 

If you choose to investigate the privacy policy, you’ll learn that GasBuddy can collect and sell your information to data companies like Foursquare and Cuebiq. A 2017 lawsuit discussed in this article by Car and Driver revealed that GasBuddy was selling location data for $9.50 per 1000 users. If you opt into using the “Drive” feature, GasBuddy will monitor your driving habits and send that information along to insurance companies. Your driving behaviors could then be turned into a score by those insurance companies to determine your riskiness. 

To be clear, you can opt out of the Drive feature altogether. You can also opt out of location sharing while in the GasBuddy app. Additionally, you can disable the location tracking from your device’s settings. However, it is not just the location tracking. Wirecutter makes the scale of GasBuddy’s data collection clear:

“But the app appears to collect such an abundance of other data—including your name, address, email, phone number, IP address, and more—that restricting your location data will likely make only a small dent in what GasBuddy shares with data brokers and advertisers.”

So what is a driver to do? 

Related: Do You Really Need Premium Gas? Here’s How To Know

A Girls Guide To Cars | Looking For Relief At The Gas Pump? Don’t Assume Gasbuddy Is Your Friend. - Kirkland Gas

Kirkland Gas Screenshot. Photo: Sara Lacey

Research Using Your Browser Instead of the GasBuddy App

A Google search of “cheap gas near me” (in Colorado) found $3.89/gallon of regular at the Murphy express nearby. A Phillips 66 had regular for $3.96/gallon, and Conoco was $4.00/gallon. The Phillips 66 at the busiest intersection closest to me had regular at $4.10.

Using Wirecutter’s recommendation of the Gieco browser, I found regular for $3.79/gallon and $3.75 at Costco, for members. That reminds me, you can also get gas at Sam’s Club at a discount. Speaking of memberships and discounts…

Related: Do You Know What Octane Fuel to Use at the Gas Pump?

Geico Gas Finder. Photo: Sara Lacey

Geico Gas Finder. Photo: Sara Lacey

Look For a Nearby Station That Has a Loyalty or Rewards Discount Program

It’s a good idea to take advantage of any loyalty or rewards programs if you have a station near you that provides one. Murphy stations have a program. My local grocery store (part of the Kroger chain) offers fuel points tied to how much you spend in the store. The King Soopers grocery store near me has a station selling regular gas for $3.99/gallon. I usually have a $0.10-$0.30/gallon discount to apply, so that’s a nice perk. But then you’re allowing the grocery store to track your spending, so…

Related: Pumping Gas: How to Stay Safe

Murphy Gas Rewards. Photo: Sara Lacey

Murphy Gas Rewards. Photo: Sara Lacey

Know the Cost of Loyalty Before Signing Up for GasBuddy

Love’s has a partnership with GasBuddy that offers a $0.05/gallon discount when you use the GasBuddy debit card. What they don’t want you to know is that there was a class-action lawsuit filed on March 2, 2022 alleging that use of GasBuddy’s debit card can incur large numbers of NSF fees because of how they batch process transactions and approve charges. This is one story we’ll be watching as it plays out.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Better Gas Mileage In Any Car

Or There’s Always “Don’t Drive Like a Maniac”

Driving fast, hard accelerations, sustained high RPMs…these are all behaviors you can change to use less gas. Driving less, not letting your car idle and bundling errands also helps. Also, if you’re buying a car, buy a more fuel-efficient one. There are even fuel-efficient SUVs on the market now. If you’re wrapped up in your bad-boy image on the road, these changes may not be what you’re looking for. However, they will be easier on your wallet, and you can use that money to buy a leather jacket or something.

It may seem clunky, but create your own crowdsourcing. Ask your friends to post prices near their homes in a group text. Some friends and I did this during the last gas spike, in the pre-app era. It seems a better strategy to ask your actual buddies than using the GasBuddy app.

Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey