Technology has infiltrated every aspect of our lives—including our driving. And while there's a lot to be said about the distractions of our devices, there's also a host of apps that can make your drive easier, more productive, or more fun. Here's some we recommend downloading.
You might already have navigation in your daily driver or an aftermarket navigation unit you use on road trips. Waze is much more than just a nav app. Rather than just a bird's-eye view of the road like most nav systems, Waze is constantly updated by its users with active and passive data logging, so you have actual, real-time traffic data and road hazard alerts. This means accurate info on traffic jams, which allows you to select a faster alternate route before setting out. You can also see lane closures due to construction, vehicle accidents, and temporary road closures. Its feature packed, looks great, and totally free. If you're going someplace new and unsure of the exact location, download Waze before heading out.
A standard code reader is an excellent tool, but some users may find it too bulky for an everyday carry. Since you already have your phone with you, turn it into a diagnostic tool with Torque. When searching your app store, you'll find two versions. Torque Lite is free but contains ads and is slightly limited on features. Torque Pro is only $5 but removes the ads and offers extra features and customizable displays. Attach your phone or tablet to your dash and Torque acts as an additional gauge cluster, with RPM, speed and boost shown in real time. There's also coolant temp, throttle, and acceleration forces in the basic dash layout. Like with a code reader, you can view and clear check-engine codes. Additional plugins can add whatever feature you need, like fuel-economy info, knock detection, and a track recorder. And, yes, like its name suggests, it can give you a good estimate of your vehicle's horsepower and torque. Note: You will need an OBD2 Bluetooth communicator.
Sure, traditional aftermarket gauges are cool, but they're also kinda retro. In a digital-age vehicle, you want digital gauges. AutoMeter is well known for its race-quality gauges with a huge variety of functions and designs. The DashLink is different in that it's a scan tool, virtual dashboard, performance gauge system, data recorder, and GPS mapper. You'll want a big screen here, to see the many gauge options that update in real time. It's kind of weird watching a digital screen project analog gauges, but it works quickly and reliably and looks awesome. For about the price of one or two of their cheaper gauges, you can have a dozen gauges from this one purchase. While Torque does some of the same stuff, DashLink is heavier on info, giving you specifics on how fast you were going in Turn 4 on track days. Torque is for the enthusiast who wants to know; DashLink is for the weekend racer.
Don't you hate gassing up and then finding it's 10 cents a gallon cheaper right down the road? Never fall into that trap again. GasBuddy is a free app will let you know the price of all the fuel in a given area. It's so much more than just the prices, as you can sort by fuel type. Got a high-compression big block needing 93 octane, or a turbo Supra running 3 bar of boost? Search by premium or E85 so you never waste time at a station that doesn't have the fuel you need. The app used to just display gas prices but now it's become the Yelp of gas stations, where you can find reviews on everything from the overcooked hot dogs to the cleanliness of the restrooms.
Do you drive a lot for work? If so, you should keep track of your miles for a potentially huge savings at tax time. Download a mile-tracking app like MileIQ, which is basically a FitBit for your car. It passively tracks your mileage when you're driving for business purposes. Just let it run in the background, and after you arrive swipe to let it know if it was a business or personal trip. That's it. The app records the date, time, distance driven, and an estimate of what that trip cost you. Come tax time, your CPA will thank you for the detailed reports.
Tech is great, but remember to keep your eyes on the road while driving. A cell phone holder or windshield mount can help you out there. Any other apps you would recommend? Let us know what you use in the comments below.