For the past few years, I have avoided driving as much as possible. After accepting an offer for a 9-5 job in 2010, I decided to move into an apartment in downtown Seattle, barely a mile from the office. Thanks to the safe location of both my apartment and the office, the availability of easy transit and the lack of need to ever venture outside downtown unless I was traveling with someone else, I didn’t need a car — so it stayed at my parent’s house. While I didn’t save money on car payments (which I continued to make), the lack of related expenses — such as parking and gas — helped me save and afford other things.

That was two years ago, and while I made the decision to “abandon” my car based on the associated cost of owning a car, I’m now driving regularly after moving back to the suburbs — and I’ll be the first to say that I slightly regret it. While I now work from home and don’t have to bear the brunt of a daily commute, I still feel the pain at the pump. A simple trip across town just to grab lunch can take two to three gallons of gas round-trip. If you live in the US, you’ve likely seen the skyrocketing prices at the pump, and know this pain, too. Last Friday night I paid almost $4.30 per gallon, and yesterday Jason Calacanis tweeted that in California, prices were nearly $5.

Local news sources have reported that gas prices have risen here in the Seattle area an average of 46 cents in just a month, and last week a Gallup poll announced that if gas prices creep higher than $5.30 gallon, Americans would be forced to make “major life changes.” These changes include altering spending habits.

However, just driving across town, it’s easy to spot a huge variance in gas prices; while I paid nearly $4.30 for gas last week, it was easy to find a gas station offering gas nearly 50 cents less just down the street. While you might not always have the option to drive an extra mile, knowing a cheaper option is close enough before you start running on fumes could help prevent you from reaching what Gallup calls the “tipping point” where you must cut back spending on other areas of your life just to buy gas.

Luckily for iPhone owners, several apps exist in the App Store that can help you find the cheapest gas nearby.

Local Gas Prices

This free app is a simple way to find a list of the gas stations nearby and sort nearby gas stations according to price or location. If you want help getting to the gas station, you can tap on your choice, which will open up Maps to help get you there. You can download Local Gas Prices from the App Store for free.

Cheap Gas!

Another free app, Cheap Gas! is powered by and automatically detects your location as soon as you open the app. You’ll be presented with a list of stations and prices, along with the last time these prices were updated. This app also allows you to tap on a station to open up Maps to help get you there. You can download Cheap Gas! from the App Store for free.

Gas Buddy

GasBuddy also has its own app for the iPhone, but unlike Cheap Gas!, it features many more options for helping you find cheap gas. Not only does it allow you to automatically find the cheapest gas from your location, but you can find cheap gas anywhere in the US — which is convenient when planning a trip or helping your sister in college across the country. Once you decide where to find the cheapest gas, you can sort by regular, midgrade, premium, and diesel — a feature nifty for those who are specific about the grade of gas they put into their car, or otherwise don’t have a choice. It also shows you when the price was last updated, and you can sort by distance if you’re running a little low. Tapping on a gas station will show you more details, including the option to report prices or just get directions. This app, like the others, is free, but much more comprehensive. You can download it from the App Store, too.

Fuel Finder

While the previously mentioned apps are exceptionally helpful in finding the cheapest gas nearby, you can also splurge for Fuel Finder, a $2.99 app from the App Store that is notably well designed and comes loaded with all the features you need to find cheap gas — and more. This app allows users to find gas by US ZIP Code as well as by your location, find gas based on the category of gas (such as regular, midgrade, or premium), and view gas stations nearby on a map. You can also view complete gas station information including extra services such as car wash, ATM, food mart, and more, which is an exclusive feature of this app, but not necessarily helpful in finding cheap gas. You can also upload your own gas prices, get directions to nearby stations, and get customized “savings calculations” based on your car’s MPG, tank size, and miles per year. One feature I did find particularly neat about this app is the ability to email a friend a good gas price find, though I’m not sure that’s worth the cost of the app, which is really about the same as the cost of a gallon of gas. If you’re a fan of bells and whistles, however, you can download Fuel Finder from the App Store for $2.99.

Have you made any life changes as the cost of gas is increasing? How do you save money on gas? Share your thoughts in the comments.