Walk the Auto Show Like A Pro
Auto shows are great places to see new models and futuristic concept versions of your favorite vehicles. But if you’ve never attended one before, it can be a bit intimidating. The show floor is large, featuring lots of cars, oversized exhibits and big interactive displays. Where do you start? How do you get in? Where should you go once you get there? Is it super crowded? Will my kids enjoy it? Can I buy a car there? Questions like these are common and understandable, and we’re here to help. Below, we’ll walk you through the entire process, from buying tickets to the show to heading home afterward.
Typically, auto shows are big, glitzy, high-profile events that can generate a significant amount of money and attention for the host city. For example, the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit brought in more than 800,000 visitors, hosted more than 5,000 journalists from 60 countries and generated $430 million for the local economy.
Full price tickets to auto shows cost approximately $10-$15 ($13 at the NAIAS and $12 at the Chicago Auto Show, for example), but discounts may be easy to find. Discounted tickets can often be found at local car dealerships, gas stations, auto parts stores and other participating sponsors, and usually apply to weekday attendance. Some shows also offer discounted tickets on special days, like “Family Day” or “Women’s Day” at the Chicago Auto Show.
The early afternoon is generally the busiest time, while early morning and very late evenings allow the crowds to thin out a bit. Weekends are generally the busiest days and discounts can be harder to find, so check the show’s website for schedules and locations where discounted tickets can be purchased.
Maps and Planning
Before attending the auto show, you can familiarize yourself with the layout of the show floor and see the scheduled events for each day by downloading the auto show’s app onto your smartphone, if such a tool is offered by your local show. The auto show app may allow you to view schedules, maps and get up-to-date information to aid you in planning your visit. In addition, an auto show app may provide photos, video and information about specific vehicles and even offer contest entries exclusive to app users. Consult the website for your local auto show for more information or to download the corresponding app.
In the Market
If you’re in the market to buy a new car, or are browsing for a purchase down the road, an auto show is a perfect opportunity to begin your search for the right vehicle.
Many of the major car and truck manufacturers are there, showcasing some of their vehicles currently (or soon to be) for sale. Instead of spending the better part of a weekend traveling from dealership to dealership to see and touch many different models, you can spend one afternoon at the auto show and compare all the vehicles you might be considering.
Before you get to the show, make a list of the types of vehicles or specific models you want to see, along with questions you have about each. Most shows group similar car types together so you can easily shop competing models in one area.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the staff at auto shows may be more informed than sales representatives at the dealerships. Feel free to ask them questions about the vehicles you’re interested in, because auto show staffers are there to help educate people. In addition, some auto shows even let visitors do actual test drives of some of the vehicles outside of the venue. For example, at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Ride and Drive program provided nearly 100 of the latest vehicle models for outdoor test drives.
Walking the Floor
The average length of time for an auto show visit is approximately 3.5 hours, according to U.S. News and World Report, so plan accordingly. If you’re comparing vehicles and trying to decide between three or four models or are torn between a sport utility vehicle (SUV) and a truck, for example, then plan to spend some extra time at the show. Consider taking photos of some of the vehicles or features you really like so you can look back at them later or bring them with you to the dealership when shopping.
Obviously, an auto show takes place in a large venue and requires lots of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and expect plenty of crowds. For those needing extra assistance, ask for wheelchair availability or rental at the ticket counter.
Games and Interactive Displays
One of the surprising aspects of an auto show is that it’s not only filled with parked cars on display. Many auto makers set up games, interactive displays and other activities to entertain crowds of all ages.
Some SUV manufacturers set up test drives on obstacle courses inside the venue to showcase the rugged maneuverability and versatility of their vehicles. Other car makers create miniature road courses highlighting acceleration and braking.
Video games and immersive 3-D technologies can attract visitors and help them experience some of the more exciting aspects of driving these new cars. Still other booths may offer brief activities, contests and give away free merchandise to passersby.
To maximize your experience at an auto show, consider participating in both the large and small interactive displays, which can help you feel like an active participant in the event as opposed to someone who is just walking through it.
Auto shows can be an invaluable tool if you’re interested in buying a new car, but it’s also a unique experience that anyone can enjoy. Despite all of the crowds and the sheer size of the event, if you prepare properly, even auto show newbies can have a fun time while learning a bit about the new cars and trucks that will be hitting the roads this year and in the future.