The car insurance powerhouse Esurance has found another way to reach potential customers: Develop an easy-to-use app that gets its brand name in front of drivers' faces every day. How can you do that? By tying its brand name to the search for good gas prices.
Esurance's free app Fuelcaster, new this winter, sucks up data from the long-established gas price finder GasBuddy.com and digests its price fluctuation prediction feature into a much prettier and easier-to-use format.
It's easy, and it works both online and as an app. Plug in your desired ZIP code or use the GPS locator and Fuelcaster shows you a green screen, indicating prices are predicted to rise tomorrow so you should buy gas right now, or a red screen, indicating you can do better later when prices will probably fall. Then there's a list of the nearest and/or cheapest gas stations nearby, along with their current per-gallon rates.
The interface is a lot easier to navigate and eyeball than GasBuddy's chunky look, and you don't have to be an Esurance customer—or indeed buy a thing—to take advantage of it.
Remember when Farecast offered a similar prediction service for airfare? That was super cool. Then it sold out to Microsoft, which folded it into Bing Travel, and today that tool is pretty much buried. I guess it isn't in the interest of some travel sellers to tell you when you could buy something for a better price. (Kayak has an airfare price prediction graph, but it lacks that catchy name.)
But a car insurance company? Not a conflict at all, especially for one that wants to be known as the economical and easy choice. So here's hoping Fuelcaster and GasBuddy's connection sticks around, so it can serve vacationers and road trippers for a while.