5 Free iPhone Apps Every Road Warrior Needs

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

You should never use your phone while driving. That said, if you find yourself on the road quite a bit, there are a couple apps for the iPhone that aren’t your everyday navigation app but are worth it to check before hitting the road. They will help you reserve a parking spot, steer clear of speed traps, or even find the best gas prices nearby. Here are our favorite apps to make car travel a little less stressful.

1. Parking Panda

Source: ParkingPanda.com

Source: Parking Panda

I recently got the opportunity to test out a new app, called Parking Panda, that allows you to reserve parking ahead of time. The company behind the app works with parking garages in select cities to allow you to easily search for the best deal. As of the writing of this article, the service works in 40 cities nationwide. All you need to do is find where you want to park and pay for it right through the app, and in some cases at a discounted rate.

You’ll just have to show the app’s confirmation page to the parking attendant and you’re set to go at most locations. If you’re lucky though, you may live in or near a city that accepts Parking Panda’s QR codes. All you have to do is scan the code at the gate, and a ticket is printed out. I had one nearby and tested it out.

While I witnessed some folks having issues with other services, Parking Panda was completely flawless for me. Talking to the attendant, he said, of the services they accept, Parking Panda is usually one of the few that consistently works.

2. Waze

Source: Waze.com

Source: Waze

No list of apps for drivers would be complete without Waze. While it can be used as a navigation app, the real strengths of Waze are in its crowd-sourced hazard reporting system. App users act as spotters, reporting the locations of various hazards and road conditions, including the location of police. As other users drive by these incidents, Waze asks users to confirm the hazard is still there to keep data current.

You can even chat with other users on the road or directly on the map, which might be useful if Waze’s stock hazards aren’t descriptive enough.

The result of Waze’s social nature is a surprisingly accurate traffic report that is often way ahead of the traffic reporters. Even some broadcasters recognize the value of Waze and have incorporated it into their on-air traffic reports. My own experience with Waze has never let me down — especially when it comes to speed traps. With this app, who really needs a radar detector anymore?

3. GasBuddy

Source: GasBuddy

Source: GasBuddy

With gas prices changing so rapidly, differences in gas prices from station to station are becoming more pronounced. My favorite app to scope out the best gas prices is GasBuddy.

Like Waze, GasBuddy works by opening up its reporting platform to the public. Users report gas prices in their local area, and app users are asked to confirm or change reported prices on nearby gas stations to make sure it’s as accurate as possible. In my experience, reports are rarely older than 12 hours, and I’ve infrequently found prices to be incorrect.

You can also choose to show plus or premium gas, important if you’re driving a turbo, sports, or luxury car that shouldn’t run regular unleaded gas. Diesel owners, fear not — users report prices for diesel gas, too.

4. Zomato

Source: Zomato.com

Source: Zomato

If you have no clue where you are, you’re certainly not going to have any better idea where to eat. Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) is the answer, and has reviews for about 1 million restaurants in 10,000 cities across 23 countries.

Zomato users and professional reviewers are asked to review restaurants, and you can scroll through the highest rated ones in a variety of cuisine types to find exactly what you’re hungry for. In some cases, the restaurants have provided Zomato with menus, so you’ll know exactly what to order when you get there.

The app also offers a bookmarking feature, which I find useful when planning out a trip. I can just search through restaurant listings for locations along the way, and skip having to decide at the last minute where I’d like to eat while I’m on the road.

5. Viator

Source: Viator.com

Source: Viator

Not sure what to do when you get to your destination? Download Viator, an app that lists attractions and tours available in about 1,500 locations worldwide. The app allows you to book tickets, and all you’ll need to do is show your phone when you arrive.

It’s even useful to spot nearby attractions: The app uses your location to show you the nearest ones, and you can book tickets instantly. Some attractions upload videos to the service, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into before you get there.

We’ve found a few deals through Viator that were cheaper than the ticket window or their own discounted website price. If you own an Apple Watch, Viator allows you to use your watch to show tickets so you don’t need to pull your phone out. Pretty cool stuff.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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