Automatic: Will this app save you money on gas?

Josh Monen

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American household spent nearly 4 percent of their pretax income ($2,912) on gas for their cars in 2012. That's the highest percentage of household income spent on gas in the past 30 years.

save money on gas appIf you're interested in saving money on gas, there's a new device that connects your car to your smartphone to help you save money at the pump. The device is called the Automatic Link ("Automatic" is the app and the "Link" is the device).

How an app can save you money on gas

Since 1996, every car that's been sold in the U.S. has been equipped with an on-board diagnostics (OBD2) port. These installations were a result of the Environmental Protection Agency's and California Air Resources Board's mandate that vehicles be equipped with better emissions equipment and diagnostics systems to monitor that equipment.

The Link is a small device that plugs into these OBD2 ports and uses Bluetooth wireless technology to connect your smartphone (supports iPhone and Android) with your car's onboard computer. Once connected, the Link will monitor your driving behavior and send data to the Automatic app on your phone. Automatic translates this data into a weekly driving score to help you improve your driving habits so you can save money on gas.

In addition to scoring your trips, Automatic also provides audio alerts when you engage in gas-wasting activities like rough braking, speeding or rapid acceleration. The speeding alert (your phone makes three chirps) is triggered anytime you drive over 70 mph.

Crash Alert

Another feature of Automatic is the ability to detect if you get in an accident, a feature called Crash Alert detects many types of serious crashes using the Link's built in accelerometer. According to the company's website, "agents from Automatic report the situation to local authorities to get you help in an emergency. An agent will also call your loved ones to let them know the details of the crash and that emergency responders are on the way."

Check engine diagnostic and car finder features

Automatic also alerts your phone when your ‘check engine' light comes on. It reads the Engine Trouble Code and tells you what that code means and in many cases offers possible solutions. If the issue is complex then Automatic will give you a list of local mechanics that have good online reviews. You can call, or get directions, to one of these mechanics right from the app.

You can also use Automatic to find your vehicle if you forget where you parked it using GPS technology. Automatic also offers multi-driver support for people who use car sharing programs. This means drivers of the same car can grant each other access to its parked location for seamless car sharing.

The cost and customer reviews

The Automatic Link cost $99.95. But the company claims it's worth it because you can, "save hundreds on gas every year," by improving your driving score.


Customers have typically commented that the Automatic Link is easy to install and start using. One customer said it took him less than 2 minutes to install the device.

Another positive feature seems to be the money people are saving by avoiding diagnostic fees. Some customers believe this alone is worth the price of the device. Several others mentioned that they really enjoyed the car finder feature.


Some customers voiced complaints about what they perceived as unnecessary, and annoying, beeping from the device. For example, some customers complain that Automatic beeps every time they accelerated to get on the freeway and that it beeped every time they went over 70 mph.

Is Automatic Link right for you?

Thejo Kote, Automatic's CEO, says that the person who stands to benefit the most from this app:

  • Wants to know how you can drive differently to save money on gas.
  • Has ever forgotten where you or a family member parked the car.
  • Has ever felt that sinking feeling when the "check engine" light came on and wanted to know what was wrong.
  • Would like automatic emergency assistance in a crash but don't want to pay an expensive subscription fee.
  • Likes new technology.

Alternatives to Automatic

While Automatic is really the first device of its kind, there is a cheaper way to get the main features Automatic offers. If you don't want to pay $99.95 for Automatic you can buy an OBD2 scanner online for under $30 and an app for your Android or iPhone for under $10. But make sure the OBD2 scanner is compatible with your smartphone and has Bluetooth technology.

If you're an Android user you may want to check out the popular Torque app (cost is $4.95) or the DashCommand app if you're an iPhone user.

If you decide to buy your own OBD2 scanner and use one of these apps you can expect to save around $50.

See how much you could save today on your car insurance. Get your free auto insurance quotes today!