The good news: Retail gas prices in the United States have dropped nearly 22 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, reports the Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations. The bad news: At an average $2.65 per gallon the price is still high by U.S. standards.

But there are ways you can save. When prices are low or declining (and supplies are adequate), buy your gas at independent gas stations, advises the Government's Energy Information Administration. Big independents or "hypermarketers" such as Costco can usually afford to market gas for little profit and many convenience-store gas independents make most of their money on coffee and cigarettes, not gas.

But when prices are high and supply is tight, your best bet will be the brand-name gas stations. Their parent companies are usually able to get gasoline supplies under long-term contracts, protecting themselves a bit from the price hikes.

It's also wise to scour the Internet for the best deals in your area. Several Web sites help you quickly compare gas prices in your neighborhood: AAA Gas Price Finder, GasBuddy.com, Automotivec.com/gas-prices, and GasPriceWatch.com. It may even be worthwhile to buy out of state if you live near one with lower prices.

Whatever you do, don't fill up near an airport. Prices are almost always highest there, propelled by rental-car customers who must fill up before returning their vehicles.

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