Chris Leporini is a former REALTOR® Magazine assistant editor.
Web Reviews: Find Gas Bargains
On the Road Again: A site helps users hunt for the lowest gas prices in their area.
August 1, 2002
With the amount of time that real estate professionals spend checking out listings and showing homes to buyers, bargains on gasoline can add up. But when it comes time to fill up, will you get a better deal at that gas station near the showing or at your downtown Gas ‘n Go? GasPriceWatch.com offers an interesting solution to this problem; the site posts reports from volunteer “spotters” on current gas prices, searchable by zip code.
Of course, you can get the same information chatting around the water cooler, but GasPriceWatch.com allows you to call up this information on demand. If you have Internet browsing capability on your PDA, you might even be able to check prices while you’re on the road.
Users can search for a specific station by name or address, or look for the best deal in their zip code--the site claims to have contact information for over 120,000 stations. Separate listings are available for the United States and Canada.
GasPriceWatch.com provides stations’ addresses, phone numbers, and, when available, the most recent price quote for regular, plus, and premium gasoline. Each price quote includes a clock that users can mouse over to see when the listing was last updated. Users can also sort results in order of the most recently updated listings. And each listing comes with an online map, so you can actually find that cheaper station from where you are.
Anybody can become a volunteer “spotter” for the site. All you have to do is fill out a brief registration, including a login name, e-mail, and zip code. There are also fields for name, address, and other information, but these entries are optional. The site then assigns you a password that you can use to log onto the site. You don't need a password to check prices, although registered members can create their own personalized gas station listing, using the “My Page”feature. This allows you to keep track of prices for several gas stations that might fall along your everyday route.
In addition to listing gasoline prices, the site also provides listings for heating oil. Once again, it maintains separate listings for Canadian and American service providers. These sections are organized in the same way as the gasoline listings, allowing you to pull up results according to the most recently updated listings. You might find that this section functions better as a directory to search out heating oil companies to recommend to customers than a price guide. After checking several zip codes, I was unable to find an active price quote for this feature.
This points up the one flaw of the site. While it’s a sound idea in theory, it relies on drawing a regular group of motivated posters to make sure that its information is current. Otherwise, the site isn’t much more useful than your local Yellow Pages. GasPriceWatch.com acts as a resource for users to post their observations, but the site don’t verify this information. It does, however, recommend that you write in if you are consistently receiving incorrect prices, so that it can nix any rogue spotters.
The site also provides a couple of notable extras. An interesting feature on the homepage lists the highest, lowest, and average reported gas prices for the nation as a whole. The “Links” section provides access to sites that can help users research fuel economy for different car models, compare local prices on new or used cars, and read gas industry news.
The concept behind GasPriceWatch.com has a great deal of appeal--allowing you to find gasoline bargains on demand. The site says that its research has shown that prices in the same town can vary as much as $.20 per gallon. This adds up when you’re constantly traveling to showings and open houses. However, the site’s dependence on reader-generated reports can undermine its usefulness. Call GasPriceWatch.com an interesting idea that hasn’t quite arrived.
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