Jan. 8, 2009 -- Consumers across the country are tightening their belts in tough economic times, which means one belt they are not tightening is seat belts on new cars.
U.S. auto sales have declined 18 percent this year and, in November, sales hit a 26-year low.
But now dealerships are fighting back by slashing prices and offering never-before-seen incentives to help get cars off the lot -- creating what some experts say is a golden opportunity for car buyers.
"This is the best time to buy a car we've seen in the last 25 years," Chris Denove of J.D. Power and Associates told "Good Morning America." "Every manufacturer is offering amazing deals. They've got to move the metal to keep the factories running so they will do whatever it takes to get rid of cars."
In Arizona, one dealer is offering two-for-one specials -- buy one car, get the other for 99 cents. That gimmick spiked sales 25 percent.
To boost its sales, General Motors is offering new financing deals, looser lending standards through GMAC and zero percent financing on certain models.
Auto Nation, the largest chain of U.S. dealerships, has encouraged its GM dealers to reach out to customers who had sought GMAC financing but had been rejected.
Dealers are going to approach "customers who are stuck in the credit crisis to see if this helps them," said Auto Nation spokesman Marc Cannon.
U.S. dealerships are not the only ones feeling the pinch and making deals to quell the pain. Automaker Hyundai made a deal with customers to let them return cars for up to a year if they lose their jobs and can't make a payment.
Additionally, customers are not just limited to the deals advertised by the automakers and dealers. As Denove found out, the timeless art of negotiation can still save consumers thousands.
After visiting the Kelly Blue Book Web site, a popular auto sales site, "Good Morning America's" financial contributor Bianna Golodryga submitted a search for various cars and was flooded with e-mails and phone calls. That's when she found the real deals.
After a few minutes on the phone Golodryga was able to negotiate a 2009 Nissan Sentra, listed price $18,000, down to $15,864. She got nearly $3,000 knocked off a Chrysler P.T. Cruiser.
The biggest coup was a $7,000 savings on a Ford Taurus, down to $26,000 from $33,000.
As good as the deals are now, however, Denove told "GMA" he does not expect them to stay that way.
"This is not like Christmas sales with consumer electronics," he said. "It's not one of those things where the prices are going to get lower and lower. I would be very surprised if the much better deals occur over the next couple months. I think you're in the window right now."
And many experts do not expect the deals alone to save the industry.
"What the industry needs is for people to start shopping again," market analyst Jack Nerad told ABC News. "It'll raise all boats a little bit."
Alice Gomstyn contributed to this report.