Tech Guide

Only amateurs use Google Maps to avoid traffic — here's how to use Google Waze like the serious commuters

Key Points
  • Google Maps is good for lots of things, like finding walking or public transit directions.
  • But if you sit in traffic and commute in a car every day, you should use Waze.
  • Here are some of the best features of Waze and how to get started.

Google Maps has become the gold standard for finding your way around strange areas, particularly if you're on foot or using public transit. But if you're sitting in traffic on your way to work every day, it's time to quit Google Maps and move over to Waze.

Waze, which is owned by Google, has some of the same traffic information that you find on Google Maps, but it's provided in real time by other nearby drivers using the app. In my area, for example, it has data from more than 50,000 other drivers on nearby roads.

It's super useful because drivers ahead of you can tell you about road closures, traffic, police officers, accidents and more. And, if you have a passenger in your car, they can alert other drivers to what's going on.

Waze takes all this data to provide you the best route possible. It also has other benefits, like showing you the cheapest gas prices along your route so you can save money on longer trips.

Here's how to get started with Waze.

Download Waze

The Waze home screen.
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Download Waze for your iPhone or for your Android phone. Once you set up an account and log in, you'll see a home screen like the one above.

I'll show you how to use it.

How to navigate somewhere with Waze

Speak your directions.
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There are two ways to navigate somewhere. First, you can speak your destination by tapping the red microphone at the top of the screen. This is also where you can quickly tap an icon to find parking, gas stations, food, coffee and more.

Second, you can view saved favorite places, like your home address or work, by tapping the search button at the bottom of the screen.

Waze will analyze information that it pulls in from other drivers around you and then give you the fastest route possible to a location.

But that's just part of what you can do with Waze.

How to find an alternate route once you've started driving

See incidents along your drive or choose different routes.
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Waze can show you what it thinks is the fastest way to get somewhere, but sometimes there might be better routes. Here's how to find alternative routes to your destination:

  • Tap the clock that shows your ETA at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap Routes.
  • Waze will show you other options, including any traffic or incidents along the way. Tap the route you prefer to switch to those directions.

How to find the cheapest gas with Waze

Find the cheapest gas nearby in Waze.
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  • Tap the search bar at the top of the home screen, where the app says "Where to?"
  • Tap the gas pump icon.
  • Waze will show the cheapest gas stations nearby with the latest gas price update.
  • Tap a gas station to navigate to it in Waze.

How to report an accident or other incident while using Waze

Submit a report along your route.
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You can alert other drivers to police activity, accidents, road closures and more. I recommend having a passenger do this, as it takes a little time and might distract you fom driving. To report something:

  • Tap the orange marker icon at the bottom right of the Waze app.
  • Tap the alert type: traffic, police, crash, a traffic camera, a hazard, a map issue or a road closure. You can even record a gas price at a gas station.
  • Tap "Send."
  • As you do this more, other drivers can confirm your reports and you'll receive points and unlock achievements. It's fun to compete against other drivers, but you can only unlock unique icons for your car and earn bragging rights.

How to share your ETA with someone while driving

Share your ETA with someone.
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You can share your estimated time of arrival with anyone, right from inside the Waze app. To do this:

  • Tap the clock on the bottom of the screen that shows your ETA.
  • Tap Send ETA.
  • Verify your phone number (you only need to do this the first time.)
  • Allow Waze to access your contacts (again, you only need to do this the first time.)
  • Search for the person you'd like to send your ETA to.
  • Tap send.

How to link Spotify with Waze

Control Spotify inside Waze
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You might use Spotify for listening to podcasts or a playlist while driving. Now you can start, pause and skip through those right from Waze, without switching apps. Here's how:

  • Tap the Spotify icon on the home screen.
  • Waze will launch Spotify on your phone.
  • Agree to let Spotify sync with Waze.
  • Now tap the icon again to control music.

Note that this feature only lets you change playlists and skip or stop a song or podcast inside Waze. For full controls, like searching for songs, you'll still need to open the Spotify app.

How to mute Waze from speaking each direction

Choose your Waze alerts.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I like to have visual directions, especially to know about issues along my route, but I don't always need a voice telling me each turn to make. Here's how to limit when Waze speaks out directions once you've started driving:

  • Tap the ETA clock at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap the speaker icon.
  • Choose "Alerts Only" or "Sound Off." I recommend "Alerts Only" since they can be really useful.

How to change the language in Waze

Change the language in Waze.
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You can easily change the spoken language from English to one of dozens of other options. To change the language in Waze:

  • Tap the search button at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap the settings icon on the top-left of the screen.
  • Select "Voice Directions."
  • Choose your preferred language and voice.

Keep exploring

That's just a taste of what you can do with Waze. It's a really useful app for drivers, and one that lots of people rely on for getting places without sitting in too much traffic. Plus, if you have kids in the car, they might have fun reporting incidents as you drive.

New Jersey mayor wages war with Waze
New Jersey mayor wages war with Waze