Spring is a terrible time to buy gas. The closer we get to May 1 -- the day that every fuel station in the country has to switch to summer-blend gasoline -- the higher prices typically go.
That's because the supply of "regular" gas gets scarcer as refineries ratchet down production in advance of the changeover. After May 1, prices usually fall again, as production returns to its regular pace. Then, we hit another crunch at the end of summer, before refineries switch back to "regular" gas around September 15.
In other words, the next couple of months could be a little rough, especially if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a not-so-efficient ride. With regular unleaded gasoline currently hovering around $3.43 per gallon, it's likely that we'll be flirting with $4 prices before long.
Thankfully, there are plenty of tools for drivers who want to save a little at the pump, and now, there's another one: Fuelcaster, an online app from Esurance.
Using Fuelcaster is simple. On the homepage, allow the app use your current location or plug in your ZIP code. Fuelcaster will then run some numbers and estimate whether fuel prices in your area will go up or down tomorrow, letting you know whether to dash to the gas station today or cool your jets. Thanks to its partnership with GasBuddy, Fuelcaster also tells you where to find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood.
How does Fuelcaster make its calculations? According to the website: "Fuelcaster uses data from gas stations across the country along with a mix of pricing signals to estimate whether the price of gas will rise or fall tomorrow in your area. That is to say it's our own secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, mathematically speaking. But we're confident in every prediction we make."
Fuelcaster claims an accuracy rate in the 80-90 percent range, meaning that eight or nine times out of ten, it's predictions for fuel-price fluctuations are correct. We can't vouch for that, but it can't be any worse than flipping coins or reading tea leaves. Give it a shot, and share your impressions in the comments below.