Woman and Man Car Shopping (© MSN)

Bargain-hunting season is open at your local car dealer. Old models must be moved to make room for new ones. Everything is on sale and the incentives are attractive.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, an incentive is "something that incites or has a tendency to incite a person to determination or action." Automakers offer incentives in the form of cash rebates or attractive financing rates, for instance, to motivate people to buy or lease their products, especially at this time of the year, when they must rid dealer lots of old models in order to bring in the new.

But incentives for autos are much more than just enticements — or bait, if you will — to get people to sign on the bottom line. They can also be used as leverage by the consumer.

As with any research, a quick analysis of the national incentives landscape can provide a buyer with ammunition when negotiating with dealers for a new automobile.

MSN Autos: Autos Rebates & Incentives Center

For instance, the size and type of enticements offered by the automaker can reveal anything from how desperate that company is to sell its wares to how confident it is in the quality of its product. Chrysler and General Motors are offering a variety of attractive financing and cash-back offers on the bulk of their fleets, showing that they are under a lot of pressure to move sheet metal this holiday season. Toyota, on the other hand, is pushing its new, no-cost Care Maintenance Plan, a sort of mea culpa for the industry leader's recent recall gaffes.

Incentives can also be used to help negotiate price. If two car dealers are offering the same low financing rates, you can play them off each other when it comes to price.

And that's not all.

To help you haggle this holiday season, here's a snapshot of the best manufacturer's incentives being offered through the end of 2010.

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Best Annual Percentage Rate

Click to enlarge pictureChevrolet Corvette Grand Sport (© General Motors)

With a 430-horsepower V8 and a sticker of only $55K, the new Corvette Grand Sport may be the best sports-car bargain on the planet. With zero percent financing, it's even more of a bargain.

Winner: Chevrolet
It is not exactly a fire sale, but Chevy's sweet financing deals have the faint ring of change rattling in a cup. A wide variety of 2010 models can be financed this holiday season at an annual percentage rate of zero for up to 72 months. The APR is different from the actual interest rate of a loan, as it estimates what you'll pay over an entire year, not month by month. Qualifying 2010 offerings range from the sporty Corvette to sturdy utility vehicles such as the Avalanche, Suburban and Tahoe, to family-friendly sedans, such as the Impala and Malibu. Financing deals on Chevy's 2011 model-year rides are less attractive, however. But you can finance a new Malibu or Traverse with a zero percent APR for up to 60 months. (Note: All rates are for "qualified buyers" only, an intentionally vague term for customers with good credit; minimum credit scores vary from dealer to dealer.)

Runners-Up: Volkswagen, Dodge
Volkswagen is also wheeling and dealing this year, with APR offerings of zero percent on the 2010 Jetta sedan and SportWagen, CC, Golf, Passat sedan and wagon, and Touareg for up to 60 months. Dodge also is offering zero percent financing on most of its 2010 lineup.

Video: 2010 Chevrolet Corvette

Best Cash Back

Click to enlarge pictureDodge Charger (© Chrysler Group LLC)

The 2010 Dodge Charger is a bold-looking family sedan. When equipped with a HEMI V8, it's a powerful muscle car too. And three grand cash back can buy lots of gas to fuel the fun.

Winner: Dodge
Detroit's loss is your gain, by way of cash-back offers, factory-to-dealer cash, and even complicated credit-based discounts, which kick in only when you finance with specific banks. But Dodge leads the pack with cash allowance offers on its entire 2010 lineup, except for the Viper, ranging from $1,000 for the Challenger to $3,000 on the Charger and Nitro.

Runners-Up: Chevrolet, Kia, Hyundai
All of those zero percent APR deals from Chevrolet can be swapped for cash allowances, with anywhere from $3,500 back on a 2010 Malibu to $5,000 for a 2010 Avalanche. While they can't match the sheer number of Detroit models being discounted, Hyundai and Kia are offering $2,500 back on 2010 Sonatas, and $3,000 on 2010 Optimas and select Sedona models.

Compare: Dodge Charger vs. Ford Taurus vs. Chevrolet Impala