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DETROIT — If you do your homework, now is the time to practically steal a new sedan from your car dealer.

For more than a year, sales of cars have been tanking because Americans have gone nuts over SUVs and trucks. As stockpiles of sedans such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Chrysler 200 stretch across car lots, automakers are forced to offer big discounts to move them.

There are a few steps to finding the best bargain, but it boils down to this: Figure out which cars aren’t selling, research discounts and don’t buy until the end of the month, when dealers are more desperate to sell.

Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, such as $69 per month payments. Earl Stewart, a North Palm Beach, Florida, Toyota dealer who is critical of other dealers’ sales tactics, advises people to ignore dealer advertising. “Probably 99 percent of it is misleading,” he says. The low-price deals often are on stripped-down models that the dealer may not even have.

But armed with the right information, you can navigate the sales maze and get 20 percent or more off a car’s sticker price.

Target: For more than a year, many compact, midsize and large cars, gas-electric hybrids and many lower-level luxury cars haven’t sold well. So dealers have big supplies. Because they’re paying interest on the cars, they’re eager to sell. So figure out the size of car you want.

Then look for auto­maker monthly sales news

releases on the internet and find models with big year-over-year declines.

Incentives: Many websites, including those from the auto companies as well as kbb.com, truecar.com and Edmunds.com, list publicly available discounts called incentives. Say you decide on a midsize car. Sales of the Nissan Altima were off nearly

15 percent in January, so incentives are likely. On

its website, Nissan was offering $4,550 off a nicely equipped $25,460 Altima Midnight edition. That’s nearly 18 percent off the sticker without haggling.

You’ll get an even better price by waiting until the last few days of a month or quarter.

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