While everyone is talking about the bigger iPad these days, the iPhone is perfectly suited for a few tasks — namely, killing time while you wait in line somewhere. And where is one place you just can’t avoid a wait? The gas pump. Mileage applications actually make those fill-up stops productive by tracking your mileage and, as we discovered, quite a bit more.
Having bought five of the top-rated iPhone mileage apps to see how well they work, I was surprised. Surprised at all the thinking I had to do to set them up. It occurred to me that I paid a lot of money for a device to think for me, and here I was thinking.
OK, I'm over it. Let's look at these app stars to see if they're worth the effort and money.
Gas Cubby ($6.99)
This app has the most straightforward page for entering mileage data. It's all there: odometer, gas cost/amount/grade/brand, location, payment type and tire pressure. You can assign tags to each fill-up to help you better understand your gas habits. Tags can be labeled "business" or anything that you can search for and use in a database (for really ambitious drivers). This captures enough information (and on multiple cars) to make a fleet manager smile, or a family with a big garage.
Score: 8 out of 10
Car Minder ($2.99)
This is a good middle ground when it comes to mileage apps. You won't become exhausted from submitting information that you will never use (such as your car's vehicle identification number). And – bonus! – not only does the app sport an attractive design, but navigation is fairly simple. The gas log breaks mileage down according to lifetime, past year and past three months. You can use Car Minder to track services and repairs, too.
Score: 7 out of 10
Not to be confused with MPG Calcu-Saver, MPG is a robust application for true road warriors. It helps you record mileage and everything else about your vehicle use except for accidents, tickets and hitchhiker data. Navigation is its drawback. It's easy to get lost or hit dead ends while using the software. You can, however, record information on multiple cars.
Score: 6 out of 10
MPG Calcu-Saver (99 cents)
This is not your millennial co-worker’s traditional mileage app. You enter EPA mileage information and the miles you drive on a given route, as well as differentiating city miles and highway miles. The app will then gladly tell you stats such as how many gallons you burned on city streets versus highway streets. It'll also tell you how much time you might save by driving 65 mph instead of 55 mph. I guess it's interesting to see how little time you would save by driving 10 mph faster, but this app asks a lot of me just so I could get that unique information. You can get most of the rest of Calcu-Saver's info using an ordinary calculator, with about as much effort.
Score: 5 out of 10
Out of the five, greenMeter is easily the best app if you are after real-time monitoring. After giving a moderate amount of information about my car, I was on the road. The app uses the iPhone's accelerometer to measure vehicle acceleration, which is then translated into fuel use. The results are displayed in your choice of obvious and colorful graphs, telling you in real time how green your driving is. This is more of what I want: instant information that I can use. Without thinking.
Score: 8 out of 10