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5 Ways to Beat Rising Gas Prices

Ah, Spring. The sun shines, the flowers emerge, and gasoline prices launch their annual upswing. The AAA national average price at the pump rose above $2.75 a gallon for regular this week, up 81 cents from a year ago. And government analysts predict it will hit $3.00 by summer. So it's time to start thinking of ways to boost your gas mileage and cut payments at the pump.

MoneyWatch offered some tips last year in 6 Myths About Gas Mileage and Save on Gas: 9 Ways to Drive Smarter. Here are five more ideas:
Use cruise control. Out on the expressway, drive at a steady speed instead of faster, then slower, then faster again. Setting cruise control to go with the traffic flow on an interstate where the limit was 70 mph, test drivers at the auto information site boosted fuel efficiency 15 percent compared with what they got when changing lanes aggressively.

Think aerodynamics. Rails on roof racks and oversize side mirrors can increase drag and cut mileage. Remove any exterior equipment you aren't using.

Avoid Idling. If you have to sit outside a store or mall, turn off the engine. Otherwise, you are in effect getting zero miles per gallon.

Check your tires. Under-inflated tires are not only unsafe, they dent fuel economy. Tires inflated one-fourth below the recommended level result in using 3 percent to 5 percent more gas.
Buy a gas sipper. If you're shopping for a new car and crave mileage ratings topping 40 mpg, think hybrids like the Ford Fusion or diesels such as the Volkswagen Jetta TDI . But with gas mileage improvement pushed by tougher federal standards (see What You'll be Driving in 2016), you can also find fun or functional choices that don't guzzle gas. A few examples:
Chevrolet Equinox.(22 mpg city, 32 highway). With a 2010 makeover and GM's fuel-efficient Ecotec engine, Equinox gets the best highway score among family-hauling crossovers.
Mini Cooper (28 city, 37 highway). Sure, it's tiny, but it's also quick and responsive. Inside, good design makes the most of small space. These are big EPA numbers for a car this that's so fun to drive.
Audi A4 (23 city, 30 highway) Good looking and agile (see photo), its turbocharged four-cylinder engine gives plenty of boost. The A4 also comes as a station wagon with almost as good EPA ratings.

Audi A4
More on MoneyWatch:
6 Myths About Gas Mileage
Save On Gas: 9 Ways To Drive Smarter
Low-Cost Car Leasing: It's Back
Car Rankings: Who Can You Trust?
Uncovering Secret Warranties on Cars