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Current Fuel Prices On Your GPS


With the rising costs of fuel in the USA, more drivers are asking about GPS devices that offer live fuel prices. Being able to locate the nearest fuel stations that have the cheapest gas might save you a few bucks… and having your GPS create a route directly to the station doesn’t hurt either. Here are the most popular services available now to get you updated fuel prices on your GPS.

Where Does the Data Come From?

TomTom Cheapest Fuel PricesThe data that both TomTom and Garmin are using ultimately comes from the same company, OPIS. With Garmin and TomTom there is a different “middle-man” in the picture, but both services rely on OPIS. So where does OPIS get the data from? OPIS monitors credit card receipts from a variety of commercial fleet operations. They take the data and can figure out which store the gas was purchased at, the date and time of the purchase, the grade of fuel, and the cost of the fuel. From that data they build up a database of current fuel prices around the country.

Because fleet operators are used, the majority of the gas purchased is Regular Unleaded. Not as much data is collected for Mid and Premium grade gasoline nor Diesel. The Garmin devices that rely on MSN Direct only have data for Regular available to them. The TomTom devices can also receive reports for Mid, Premium, and Diesel (there is a preference setting you can switch) however there isn’t as much data for those grades so the data might not be available for as many stations or slightly older. About 70,000 gas stations are tracked daily. This generally amounts to about 85% of gas stations in a typical POI list.

TomTom says that “60% of Stations will report Regular Fuel price updates every 48 hours”.

Where do I subscribe?

From TomTom, owners of the 920 and 920T can subscribe through TomTom HOME, the cost is $14.95 per year. Currently it is only available on those two devices, however we expect that will change before too long.

MSN Direct Fuel PricesFor Garmin owners, the service comes through MSN Direct and also includes the live traffic reports, weather, local movie times, etc. The service costs either $49.95 per year or $129.95 for “lifetime”. If you don’t already have the receiver, you will need to purchase the MSN direct receiver ($100 – $125) from Garmin. The service is available on the Nuvi 680, StreetPilot c580, Nuvi 700 series, Nuvi 800 series, and the Nuvi 5000.

The TomTom Fuel prices product can be delivered “over the air” if you happen to have a phone compatible with TomTom PLUS services. Otherwise you can download the updates through the TomTom HOME program. The MSN Direct service receives its updates through the MSN Direct receiver “over the air”.

The Economics

TomTom Nearby Fuel PricesIt is a bit hard to break out the price of the MSN Direct service to see if the fuel prices service is worth it to you. But it might be worth it to scratch out a little math to see if the service will break even for you.

Let’s say I put 15 gallons of gas into my car each week. That comes to 780 gallons of fuel per year. If the service saved me $0.03 every time I fueled my car, and I didn’t waste any gas driving extra distance to save on that fuel, the service would save me $23.40 per year. Subtract $14.95 for the cost of the service and it will have saved me $8.45 in the year. If you drive more often than that, or drive something that is a bit more of a gas hog, you could save more.

8 Responses

  1. I signed up for TomTom fuel prices at a cost of $14.95 per year. We went on a 45 min road trip and stopped at two gas stations that TomTom reported as the lowest price. One was a Citgo station that TomTom reported as $3.52 (regular), which was incredible since our local Murphy gas station was going for $3.72. When we hit the Citgo it was actually $3.79 – 27 cents more than TomTom stated! Also, it wasn’t even the cheapest. We saw an Exxon priced at $3.71 as we were driving. We gave it another shot and we ended up at a RaceWay that TomTom stated was going to $3.60. It was $3.74. Overall, the TomTom fuel prices service does not scan and report the gas station prices anywhere near fast enough to make this service work correctly. I would not recommend it.

    Jeff Blume - May 24th, 2008
  2. I just got off the phone with TomTom. The support tech says that the fuel prices are only updated every 14 days, which essentially makes the service useless. I’ve asked for my money back.

    Mike - May 30th, 2008
  3. TomTom’s FAQ (here) says this:

    60% of Stations will report Regular Fuel price updates every 48 hours.

    I can confirm through data analysis that the prices are updated much more often than 14 days, however it is possible for some stations to not be updated for up to 14 days. The stations on my road for example are often updated more than once per day.

    I’m not suggesting by any means you should keep the service, but my experience with the service has been quite good.

    Tim - May 30th, 2008
  4. I went to website http://opisnet.com/retail/pricelink.asp to understand how do they collect the data. Looks like they have free service where a gas station can freely update thier gas prices. I am wondering if the gas prices are reported by the gas stations, there are chances they will report a lower price so that they get more customers. Again, if they do not do that, if there is a raise in price, they may avoid to publish that and keep the older data. Does OPIS make sure that the gas station do not report wrong data?

    There is other site http://www.gasbuddy.com/ which works on the basis of the price reported by the consumers. The best will be a mechanishm on OPIS site where both consumer and gas station can keep updating data and they average out the data and display. If OPIS has not option to receive data from consumers, they may need some kind of link with Gas Buddy site. If we are averaging the data received from many sources, then even one or few erroneous entry will not have much result.

    Neal Pressley - September 12th, 2008
  5. Neal, you saw where a station can sign up for inclusion, but the gas stations don’t report their own prices. Instead, OPIS is taking data from live credit card transactions from fleet management companies. So when a commercial vehicle (think companies like UPS, FedEx, etc) purchases gas and uses their corporate card, the date/time, grade, and $/gal information gets transmitted to OPIS. So the service is automatic, and doesn’t allow the station owner to cheat. The station owners need to sign up for inclusion– but they are not reporting the data themselves.

    Tim - September 12th, 2008
  6. Have same problem in UK making this an almost useless service. Much better to use the websites (petrolprices.com in the UK) which seem to have accurate and up to date prices.

    chris_glos - July 2nd, 2009
  7. Too bad we don’t have this feature available for Australian GPS units. In Western Australia (where I’m from)The State Government introduced a program called Fuel watch. The State provides a free Website http://www.fuelwatch.wa.gov.au/
    Where Fuel stations Submit Their pricing data no later than 4pm the day before the prices take effect. once the prices have been updated, the stations have to maintain that price for the entire day. It’s a great service, offering email and on demand sms updates if you set up your own profile. The best part is, before you leave for home at the end of the day, you know who is cheaper & wether to fill up today or tommorrow.

    Stephen - August 10th, 2009
    • That is really interesting, Stephen. I didn’t know that.

      Tim - August 11th, 2009

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