Students find ways to save on gas money while traveling for spring break

When Brookelyn Winters travels out of state for spring break, she likes to bring a buddy along with her to help save cash.

Rising gas prices and travel expenses have helped popularize GasBuddy, a smartphone application which displays up-to-date gas prices throughout the country. Users update gas stations’ prices electronically, searching through the list of stations based on their selected city or location.

Winters used GasBuddy while traveling to Kentucky last year to visit family.

“I was trying to find the lowest gas prices since I’m not from around the area,” Winters said.

Using the app to find the cheapest gas price in the area saved her 10 cents a gallon.

For students like Winters, every penny counts, especially in Ohio, which ranks 36th in the nation among state gas price averages, according to GasBuddy’s website.

The app is used widely enough that as of 6 p.m. on Thursday, 12 of the 15 gas stations in the Bowling Green area had been updated within the past hour.

What harbors a user base that goes out of its way to number crunch gas stations is, predictably, money. The app features a $250 gas card weekly lottery for entrants who’ve racked up points from recording prices.

Living in a city with an average gas price hovering above $3.80, being able to save money is important when it seems like prices keep being raised, Winters said.

Peter VanderHart, a professor of economy, said that while gas prices fluctuate on a local level, they can be influenced by a much greater force.

“Gas prices are highly correlated with the price of crude oil,” VanderHart said in an email. “Crude oil prices are really determined in the world market … so it is also sensitive to exchange rates.”

Gas prices vary among different regions of the country, the cheapest states located primarily in the West. Popular spring break destinations for students such as Florida and Washington, D.C. are some of the most expensive areas in the U.S., with average prices above $3.83, over a dime higher than the nation average of $3.73, according to GasBuddy’s website. The GasBuddy app also capitalizes on an awards section, enticing users to reach toward newer and higher profile merits. For instance, users who report gas prices for five consecutive days are given the “Iron Man” prize.

For those traveling around the country during spring break, reporting a gas price in multiple cities wins them the “Adventurer” award.

The GasBuddy website also lets users calculate a trip cost, entering in vehicle information and giving the destination and starting city.

Tracking the gas mileage of a given car, the website will calculate which specific gas station to fill up at along the way.

Winters encourages other students like her to download the app in preparation for their upcoming trips.

“Definitely around spring break when people are going back home or out of state,” she said. “They can save quite a bit.”