Drivers cashing in on ads-for-gasoline deal

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 30, 2007 at 10:49 p.m.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Will work for gas. It works for Nathan Fetty.

The 32-year-old Californian drives his 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup more than 1,200 miles a week among his three jobs. That's a lot of miles, but he's getting some payback since signing up for

In an era where drivers are feeling accelerating pain at the pump, Irvine, Calif.-based promises free gasoline for motorists willing to turn their cars or trucks into rolling billboards for local businesses. An advertiser gets plenty of on-the-road exposure; drivers get gasoline.

In exchange for slapping a magnetized advertisement on his white truck, Fetty gets a monthly prepaid gasoline card, typically worth about $33.

For a gas-gulping vehicle that slurps up about $180 a week, "$33 is not much of a difference, but it's something,'' said Fetty, who works as a mobile notary, a real estate sign installer and for a title company. "I'm already out and about. I might as well help somebody else.''

FreeGasHelp is the brainchild of Mel Jacob, an Oceanside, Calif., e-commerce entrepreneur who was promoting his own business with car magnets, then figured he could easily sell ad space on other people's vehicles in exchange for gas.

Started in 2005, FreeGasHelp has 17 locations in 10 states. Most are operated as online businesses, lining up advertisers and drivers through online listings on Web sites like

Some 2,000 motorists are signed up nationwide, according to company officials.

In Sacramento, where the company launched in January, there are two drivers and one advertiser.

"It's like a dating service. You've got to find a good match,'' said Sandra Norton, who owns the Sacramento branch, as well as seven other FreeGasHelp sites in California and Washington.

Drivers are compensated depending on how much advertising they're willing to plaster on their vehicle. lists the possibilities: $5 a month for a license plate frame, $30 a month for two 12-by-24-inch door magnets, $50 a month for a rear window decal, $200 a month for a full-vehicle body wrap. Separate rates are available for commercial fleets.

The typical arrangement is two door magnets for a pre-paid monthly gas card worth about $33 that can be redeemed at most service stations. To qualify, a motorist must drive at least 1,000 miles a month, have a good driving record, valid auto insurance and a vehicle that's free of dings and dents.

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