If Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the best shopping days leading up to Christmas, then the last month of the year, particularly the last week of December, is the best time to make a move on a new (and sometimes a pre-owned) vehicle. Last month, automakers reported their strongest sales month in nearly five years, according to The Detroit News. So, with that being the case, automakers and dealers are on a roll to continue the sales streak, closing out 2012 with a bang. Here are 6 secrets we’re letting you in on, so you can get your best car deal for the new year.

December is when most automakers are vying for the sales crown. For instance, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes are in a race to become America’s luxury leader. In order to accomplish this, the automakers are pumping out extra incentives to close the deal. In November, BMW began offering discounts in some regions of the country known as “holiday credits”, ranging from $2,000 up to $3,500 on 2012 and 2013 models. As opposed to diminishing the value of the snobbish brand, its politically correct to use the term “holiday credit”, as opposed to the word “rebate”, which is what is really equates to. Just think: these holiday credits are on top of whatever deal you negotiate between the MSRP and the invoice, which is the cost the dealer pays for the vehicle.

Dealers have year-end sales quotas to meet. Near the last week of the month, don’t be surprised if automakers pile-on an additional $500 or more on the hood of a vehicle, helping to meet year-end sales objectives. Check each automakers website for savings.

Look for 2012 models. With 2013 just a few weeks away, no dealer wants to have last year’s inventory on their lot. For example, Honda is phasing out the 2012 Civic for a slightly modified 2013 model. Dealers are in a better position to offer sweet deals at invoice, less any discounts to help clear out their lots, making room for the 2013 models arriving.

Pick-up trucks have huge discounts.  GM is introducing a fresh slate of 2014 new trucks in 2013. With that said, there is a pricing war in the light truck market. GM has added an extra $1,000 in incentives this month, 0 percent interest and low lease rates, helping clear out their lots and to combat slow sales in November. Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Ram are willing to make a deal, too.

Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids could use a jolt.  If you’re ready to go green and save on gas, consider a Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, a Prius Plug-In or a Toyota RAV4. The Leafs and other electric vehicles aren’t lighting a fire these days.  No pun intended. While some automakers are ready for you to go green, most of us aren’t due to the high costs of the “eco friendly” vehicles, and the current, relatively affordable, gas prices. In addition to dealer discounts, you may be able to qualify for tax incentives available from your local municipality or the federal government, which is offering tax credits ranging from $2,500 to $7,500.

Donate to a charity. If you plan on upgrading your ride, consider donating your vehicle to a charity. This is a great way of showing your humanitarian side, while at the same time receiving a tax deduction.

Get Pre-Approved. Most car buyers spend more time attempting to negotiate the price of the vehicle, as opposed to securing competitive financing. Financing could be the key to securing a great deal, in case there isn’t much mark-up in the vehicle you’re pursuing. Check with bankrate.com and your local credit union for pre-approval. Also, if you’re credit challenged, consider bringing a sizable down-payment to the table. This will usually put you in a position to negotiate a better interest rate. For a car-payment calculator, visit my website, JeffCars.com.

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to JeffCars.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/JeffCars.