Phillips: Service pinpoints gas price changes near you

Phillips: Service pinpoints gas price changes near you

October 31st, 2009 by Ellen Phillips in Businessellenphillips

As promised, this week's column begins the expanded versions of BillShrink's (www.billshrink.com) free offerings to consumers.

Let's start with gas stations.

The BillShrink application enables you to discover the best gas station for your individual profile, because it provides insight into the lowest-cost gas station that's based upon your home location and/or typical commute.

In either case, the application automatically computes the real dollar cost of going out of your way to visit any particular gas station, thereby arriving at the "true cost" of gas for each alternative. It also provides a real-time set of recommendations and is able to continue monitoring changing gas prices for you via e-mail alerts. Please let me know what you think when you try each or all four BillShrink offerings.

Because so few people walk to work, school or activities anymore, gas truly is a staple. As such, drivers find varying prices, from as little as a couple of cents to, perhaps, a dime or more a gallon. Depending on your vehicle, how much it guzzles, and its mileage measurements, gasoline prices can chomp up your wallet pretty quickly in some cases. BillShrink's capabilities enable it to track all these changes and repeatedly pick the best station in your area for the lowest prices at any point in time.

So how can this service track the prices at each station? Using GasBuddy & OPIS to provide gas pricing data, BillShrink updates gas prices several times a day.

Additionally, it selects the source with the most recent update at any given time to make certain consumers see an accurate price. If we should occasionally see a price that differs at the station from BillShrink's, all we need to do is fill in that price directly into the application for an immediate update.

Case in point: The application pointed me to a station on a road I seldom drive on my daily travels. At least for the time being, I'll save 3 cents a gallon by driving this road that's no more than 45 seconds out of my way. Money saved and no real time spent.

The company makes available other gas station goodies, too. For example, most of us have a favorite station at which we trade (always a good idea since familiarity doesn't always breed contempt in the case of consumer spending). As readers may recall, past columns zeroed in on the idea of "service" stations as opposed to simply gas stations.

Or perhaps stations also provide mechanical overhauls, car washes and the like. Indeed, each of BillShrink's recommended stations might be able to save you more money than where you normally gas up.

Based upon many factors, recommendations may often change but e-mail brings updates when you actively monitor any changes on your account. Even better, our fingers don't have to do the walking: BillShrink sends e-mails to let us know the lowest current price/station for our travels.

Aren't you glad I'm offering this Halloween consumer treat?

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com