If you're about to buy a car and are anxious about having to deal with a salesperson, read on.

Begin with the proper perspective. Remember that you buy a car only once every few years, but these folks negotiate sales all day long, every day, for years. Who's more skilled at this game? You're clearly at a disadvantage.

Some tips:

  • Remember that you have the upper hand. You're the one whose business the salesperson wants.

  • Think about this old adage from the world of negotiations: "Whoever speaks next, loses."

  • Don't offer any more information about yourself than you have to. The more a salesperson knows, the more that person can tailor a strategy to you.

  • Rein in any enthusiasm. No drooling in the showroom. Don't let the salesperson see your hand trembling in excitement as you caress a fender. If you must buy a car this day or this week, don't reveal that. Any urgency on your part transfers some bargaining power to the salesperson.

  • Understand that, if you're talking to a salesperson on the phone, he or she desperately wants to get you into the showroom. If you're in the showroom, that salesperson desperately wants to sell you a car right then and there. If you're ready to buy a particular car, he or she desperately wants to switch you to a more expensive car, or at least get you to pay as much as possible for whatever car you buy.

  • Be prepared. Do a lot of reading and researching so you're not thrown for a loop if you're suddenly offered an extended warranty or some feature you don't know much about. Better still, by doing a lot of reading, you'll be prepared for the many ways that salespeople will try to manipulate you into buying something you don't want or paying more than you need to.

  • Don't negotiate alone. Take some friends or relatives with you.

For some shocking revelations about what goes on at dealerships, check out a special collection of articles we ran online a few years ago -- "Confessions of a Former Car Salesman."

For much more scoop on the ins and outs of the car-buying process, check out the Fool's "Buying a Car" area and ask any questions on our "Buying and Maintaining a Car" discussion board.