By: LISA WILSON

Although the economy is taking a lot out of us lately, one of the biggest financial hits is the rising cost of gas. But, pain at the pump shouldn’t deter you from experiencing a wonderful summer—the season is here and it’s time to get your travel on! If you are one of the masses who currently owns a vehicle that is sucking the fun (and cost efficiency) out of your summer driving plans, it might be a good idea to downgrade—or upgrade, depending on how you look at it—to a more gas-friendly ride. After all, the object is not necessarily to drive shorter, but to drive smarter.

The following list makes up the top 10 fuel-efficient vehicles. And if you are not in the market to actually purchase a car, worry not—the majority of these vehicles can be rented from car rental companies across the nation.

1. Toyota Prius Base—Highway MPG: 50, City MPG: 35
2. Toyota Prius Touring—HMPG: 47, CMPG: 34
3. Honda Civic Hybrid—HMPG: 47, CMPG: 26
4. Toyota Camry Hybrid—HMPG: 41, CMPG: 28
5. Toyota Yaris Base (manual)—HMPG: 42, CMPG: 26
6. Honda Fit Sport (manual)—HMPG: 39, CMPG: 26
7. Toyota Yaris Base—HMPG: 44, CMPG: 23
8. Nissan Altima Hybrid—HMPG: 36, CMPG: 27
9. Toyota Corolla LE—HMPG: 40, CMPG 23
10. Honda Fit Base—HPMG: 43, CMPG 22

However—if you are planning a summer commute and still insist on taking the gas guzzler with you, here are 10 fuel-saving tips that can help you improve your car's fuel economy.

1. Slow down: One of the best ways to save gas is by simply reducing your speed. As speed increases, fuel economy decreases drastically.

2. Check your tire pressure: Under-inflated tires are one of the most common causes of poor MPG. They have more rolling resistance, meaning you need to burn more gas to keep your car moving. It is recommended to check your tire pressure at least once a month.

3. Check your air filter: A dirty air filter restricts the flow of air into the engine. This reduces engine performance, which in turn burns more fuel.

4. Accelerate gently: Quick starts are an obvious fuel-waster. Accelerate moderately—your transmission (and gas tank) will thank you.

5. Learn from the trucks: Commercial trucks generally stay at a constant, slower speed on the freeway. This keeps shifting to a minimum and also aids fuel economy, as it takes less fuel to keep a vehicle moving at a steady pace than to make it accelerate or slow-down. Take a lesson from the semi's and try to maintain a steady speed.

6. Take a little heat: Even during the summertime, try shutting off the air conditioner and rolling down the windows (except in extreme heat). This saves fuel.

7. Don’t pimp out your ride: Wider tires and wheels may look great, and they can certainly improve handling, but they typically create more rolling resistance and decrease fuel economy.

8. Clean out your car: Periodically go through your car and throw out what you don’t need. It doesn't take much to acquire 30 lbs. worth of stuff, and the more weight your car has to carry, the more fuel it burns.

9. Don't idle too long: If your car is running and you’re not moving, your gas mileage has hit zero MPG. So, if you get stuck in traffic (where you know it's going to be a few minutes before you get moving again), turn off your engine. It takes about ten seconds of idling to use as much gasoline as it does to restart your car.

And finally…

10. Don't drive: Although this may sound incredibly simple, don’t drive when you don’t need to. Take a moment to ask yourself: "Do I really need to make this trip?" And if you are within walking distance, go for it! You will make your wallet and your belly proud.

Here’s to a summer of fun and fuel efficiency!

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