10 Free Navigation and Gas Apps for Summer Road Trips
With free navigation and gas apps guiding your way, say sayonara to getting lost, wasting gas, and spending too much to power your buggy. Regardless what kind of smartphone you have, at least one of the apps featured here should meet your needs on a summer road trip. In many situations, a navigation app beats out a GPS while a gas app identifies the lowest prices nearby. Each app comes with pros and cons, but all are free and highly rated.
Reviews of the Google Maps app cite standout features such as accurate routing, sharp street views, and truthful arrival time estimates. Weak spots, in the opinion of PC Mag, include the absence of a speed limit display and lane assist, and some users grumble about the app's memory-hogging and battery-draining appetite. This multipurpose navigation platform gives turn-by-turn voice prompts and draws on user reviews of restaurants, bars, retailers, etc., to clue in drivers about where to stop. The app also provides live traffic reports and switches easily to satellite or terrain imagery, as needed. The iPhone version lets users sign in to their Google account to sync searches, directions, and favorite places on multiple devices. Available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone.
Waze's claim to fame is its social nature. Some 50 million users help update road conditions (accidents, hazards, police activity, and current traffic). There's also the fun inherent in tracking and sharing locations with friends as everyone navigates to the same destination, as well as the safety aspect of others knowing where you are. Waze automatically reroutes drivers based on user-reported traffic data, learns from users' daily patterns to anticipate routes, and pinpoints the cheapest nearby gas stations. User-submitted traffic information attracts lots of positive strokes in user and expert reviews while dings are directed at a cluttered interface and direction accuracy. Reviewers also report that the latest Android version stumbles on voice commands and crashes on some devices. Available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone.
The Scout navigation app by Telenav provides commute times, up-to-date traffic information, and voice turn-by-turn directions. PC Mag assigns it a "good" rating and lauds the timely voice prompts, clear visual cues, and easy-to-understand interface. Demerits reflect the absence of aids such as 3D lane assist, as well as choppy voice prompts. User reviews are enthusiastic, deeming Scout a driver-friendly tool that makes traveling more fun. A new Meet Up feature turns off users who assert it makes the app seem more social media than GPS, and some gripe about poor navigation and route recommendations on the latest update. The app is loaded with plenty of points of interest. Drivers can choose routes without tolls or highways and stay focused on the road by asking the app to display saved maps or directions. Available for iOS, Android.
Download this navigation app, formerly known as Navfree, if you're going abroad for a summer road trip -- it helps you find your way without a data connection. Maps are stored on your device, although real-time features such as live traffic updates and road hazards are not available in offline mode. Navmii pulls a solid 8 out of 10 rating from Wired for its intuitive design and "minimalist aesthetic" (i.e., few distractions or clutter along routes; points of interest remain hidden unless requested specifically). Android users can download the all-encompassing Navmii GPS World while Apple users can download regional maps. Navmii supports voice navigation and integrates with Google Street View. Users can navigate easily among points of interest and choose the best routes. An ad-free version of the app costs $2. Available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone.
MapQuest GPS is a navigation app with voice directions, live traffic updates, and automatic rerouting. PC Mag awards it 3 stars on the strength of accurate navigation and voice commands and grouses about distracting ads and blurred resolution of certain map areas when zoomed in. The navigation app also takes heat in some reviews for less-than-crisp graphics and the absence of 3D maps. MapQuest GPS includes the usual functions, such as bookmarking locations, sharing an ETA, and searching for nearby establishments. Extra features, including the option to customize the app's appearance with sports team colors and logos, compare gas prices at nearby stations with a tap, book hotel stays directly, and select multi-stop routes, make this a good alternative to the ubiquitous Google Maps. Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Amazon Fire OS.
GasBuddy garners nearly all positive reviews from users, who applaud its user-friendliness, including the very smooth navigation feature, and accurate prices that deliver bottom-line savings on gas. The app helps drivers locate nearby gas stations and supplies both directions and real-time gas prices. How does it manage to provide up-to-date information? GasBuddy motivates the community of users to update prices with weekly opportunities to win a $100 gift card. Some reviewers would like to see the addition of closing times for gas stations and fewer ads. The app does offer price-hike alerts so users can fill up before prices rise. Available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry.
YP Mobile from the Yellow Pages is an all-encompassing app that searches for the lowest gas prices and also for local businesses. Users can search more than 20 million listings, such as bars, restaurants, hotels, and doctors. YP Mobile garners mostly positive reviews despite a few grumbles about running a tad slow and occasionally showing businesses that have moved or shut down. This free gas app incorporates a feature that shows pump prices at nearby stations on a map view. Alternatively, for users in a hurry, the "quick search" feature pulls up prices at the nearest station. The app also provides directions to the chosen spot. Available for iOS, Android.
Gas Guru, another Yellow Pages app, is largely about finding cheap gas. It wins a big nod of approval from Appolicious, a mobile app directory and review site, for enabling drivers to plan an entire outing based on the cheapest fuel stops. Most users commend the accuracy of displayed prices, although some say they have proved too good to be true at times. The app identifies the cheapest nearby gas stations and labels them "best" (top 20 percent with the cheapest prices) and "good" (those with prices in the top half of the distribution). Users can save their favorites and get directions and also search for nearby businesses, such as restaurants, auto-repair shops, banks, and more. Available for iOS, Android.
This straightforward app from MapQuest shows cheap gas prices near the user's location. Plenty of reviews of the Android version rave about its accuracy and efficiency, noting that it saves both money and time. The iOS version, however, doesn't fare nearly as well. Unhappy users report frequent crashes, incomplete loading, and inaccurate results. Features include up-to-date gas prices, fuel-type search, gas stations sorted by distance or price, and quick launch of the MapQuest navigation app for directions. Available for iOS, Android.
Pure Gas locates gas stations that dispense ethanol-free gasoline, which promises better gas mileage. Users give this app positive ratings for accurately locating the nearest ethanol-free gas pumps and for providing details about gasoline grades. One reviewer considers the app superior to the Pure Gas website from which data is pulled. This gas app provides directions by sending the location of the chosen gas station to a mapping app (such as Google Maps). Prices are not displayed, however, and the developers haven't refreshed the app in almost two years, making the graphics seem dated. Available for iOS, Android.
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Olivia Lin is a born and raised New Yorker who learned about bargaining and shopping with a keen eye from her very wise mother. Olivia runs Operations at Touch Lab, New York's premier Android development shop, and owns a kitten named Patticake.