My Secret Weapon Against High Gas Prices

With the price of fuel soaring through the roof, every appraiser is looking for ways to economize and save money, especially when it comes to gas. Today I'll share my "secret weapon" for fuel savings; a way to save gas each and every time you head out to the field for an inspection. It's CoPilot® from ALK Technologies.

CoPilot is different from standalone GPS units you may have seen. Unlike other dedicated devices that may or may not be easy to use, CoPilot is a very well designed software solution that you can install on your own laptop, tablet, Blackberry®, or Pocket PC. Unless your device has GPS built-in you'll also need to carry a small GPS receiver, which you can get bundled with the software.

Many appraisers use some sort of GPS system. But few of the inexpensive GPS units available on the market today allow for multiple destination routing. This is where CoPilot shines. You can enter multiple addresses and destinations, and then hit "Optimize", and in seconds, the most efficient trip route is automatically calculated for you. No more guessing which route is best and which will save you the most time. CoPilot does all the work for you. Needless to say, if your trip is set up efficiently, you'll save time. And just as important, you'll save money at the gas pump.

It's important to note that you need a device to load the software on, but you may already own the right hardware. All you need is a compatible laptop, tablet, Blackberry, or Pocket PC. Also, few devices on the market today have built-in GPS, so you may need to get a separate GPS receiver, which is about the size of a deck of cards, can be left in your car, and is inexpensive.

There are three versions of CoPilot: CoPilot Live 7 for Pocket PCs, CoPilot Live Blackberry Edition, and CoPilot Live 11 for laptops and tablets. Because of the memory limitations in a Pocket PC, CoPilot 7 will only allow you to enter and optimize 10 properties at one time. CoPilot 11 is more robust and will allow you to enter up to 50 properties at a time. I own and have used the PocketPC and laptop/tablet versions. Because of its more extensive capabilities, I recommend CoPilot 11, the laptop/tablet version, for appraisers.

CoPilot even comes with a Live Traffic system. If you have a data plan on your mobile device, CoPilot can detect and warn you about congestion along your route and you can manually or automatically reroute around it. CoPilot also offers live location tracking via the Internet. If you choose to use this service, CoPilot sends your location via the Internet back to your home or office. Your loved ones will know exactly where you are. If you have a large appraisal shop, you can also track your appraisers in the field. CoPilot also includes an extensive database of "points of interest". Whether it's the nearest gas station, fast food outlet, retail store, or government building, CoPilot can help you find it.

Also, you can save the routes you've travelled, which is handy for two reasons. First, let's say you get back to the office, download your photos and two days later you can't figure out which photo is which. Compare them to the route you saved to see which order you took them in. Second, saved routes become your automatic travel log for tracking your IRS deductions!

The various CoPilot products range from $99 to $249, depending on the version of the software you need and whether your device already supports GPS. More information, including detailed pricing, system requirements, and a list of compatible devices can be found at www.alk.com/copilot.