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Gas Prices Spiking Early

If you've bought gas recently, this may be old news to you: Gas prices are on the rise.

MSN Autos writes, "Gas prices have reached a four-month high after surging all February in what may be a reaction to increased crude-oil prices at the end of last year, according to the latest report from the Energy Information Administration."

The average price of gas in the U.S. has increased by $.45 per gallon since Jan. 1, and though gas prices typically rise in late winter, the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that "this year's price increases have come faster and quicker than last year's."

The bad news isn't over for consumers, however. United Press International reports, "The U.S. Energy Department said some factors contributing to retail gasoline prices spikes aren't yet felt by consumers at the pump."

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says the price bump is due to "planned and unplanned maintenance at several refineries," leading to less gasoline production.

However, other gasoline price watchers are feeling a bit more optimistic. Gasbuddy.com says, "GasBuddy data showed the national average rising for 32 consecutive days- starting January 20 at $3.265/gal, and ending February 21 at $3.733/gal. The tide has now turned and the national average has dropped two days straight." Still, they warn that drivers shouldn't "get overly thrilled as prices may linger near these levels for some time."

The EIA reports that drivers on the West Coast are paying the most for gas, with an average price of $4.053 per gallon for regular gas in that region. The Rocky Mountain region has the cheapest average price for gas at $3.471.  

There are some steps you can take to maximize your fuel economy and save on gas. Keep extra weight out of your car, and don't leave accessories, like ski or bike racks on your car when they're not in use, as they add wind resistance, which forces your car to use more fuel. Avoid hard accelerating and braking to preserve you car's momentum in slow-moving traffic. Combine trips when possible. Of course, you can also save some money at the pump by going for a hybrid or electric car.

In the market for a hybrid car? Check out the U.S. News rankings of this year's best cars. Then, look for a great deal on a new car by checking out this month’s best car deals. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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