Car shows are an excellent event to visit if you’re thinking about buying a new car in the following year. There are hundreds of car shows held every year in the US alone, so you’re bound to be conveniently close to at least a few. (1)
When you visit such a show, you can expect to see many major carmakers in attendance and presenting their newest vehicles that are already on sale or will be very soon. Visiting a car show is much better than spending multiple days at different dealers. A big auto show will let you check out many different affordable family cars, crossovers, SUVs, etc., in one location and in just one afternoon.
However, while the size of such events has many benefits, it also means that you have to prepare beforehand to get the most out of them. That’s why we have six tips ready for anyone that intends to visit an auto show. Read on to find out more.
1. Make Plans Ahead of Time
Just as an example, there were 750 different cars at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit (NAIAS). (2) While this might entice you even further into going, once there, seeing everything that interests you might turn into a daunting task if you don’t have a plan.
With that in mind, we recommend that you come up with a list of things you want to see and some questions about each model before you arrive. Many such events will group similar car categories and brands together and close by which makes cross-shopping models from competitors easy. If nothing else, you can get a map when you come through the front door, but it’s also a good idea to save them off the show website so you can plan your route. When it comes to some events like the Chicago Auto Show, they also offer a smartphone app so that you can navigate the floor in real-time. (3)
2. Give Yourself Enough Time
Those who come to their first big auto show are often stunned by the sheer size of the event, according to Max Muncey, the public relations manager for the NAIAS. The exhibits can be huge in size, sometimes even requiring elevators to bring visitors up to a second level.
Overall, you should aim to spend 3-4 hours on a visit to your average auto show. This should be sufficient enough if you want to check out a couple of vehicles and see them in person. However, if you can’t decide between cars from different categories, like a truck and SUV, then you will need to set aside more time to narrow down your search.
3. Be Prepared
Getting into and out of dozens of vehicles, checking the exterior and interior, as well as walking for hours can be quite tiring, so it’s best that you put on comfortable shoes and clothes that won’t restrict you during the auto show. Besides choosing the correct attire, we recommend that you bring a camera to snap photos of interesting cars and details so it’s easier to compare and shop for vehicles in the future.
4. You Can Bring Your Kids
You might think that kids are a bad idea at an auto show, but carmakers know there’s not always someone ready to babysit. It’s now common for auto shows to offer family-friendly exhibits that appeal to various age groups. Thus, if you have kids, you should think about bringing them along. They can check out cars with you and different exhibits, but also play various games, have fun with interactive displays, and enjoy other activities.
5. Don’t Forget the Extras
Auto shows can be great fun, according to the Washington Auto Show  organizer John O’Donnell. Besides viewing cars, visitors can attend nights for young professionals, listen to live music and enjoy many additional activities. One more thing to keep in mind is that auto shows are often the ideal place to debut a new vehicle. For instance, at the Detroit Auto Show in 2015, as much as 50 new cars were first displayed in public. If you’re interested in these special exhibits and events, make sure to visit the auto show’s website.
6. Ask Everything You Want to Know
A car show is the perfect place to ask about everything that you want to know about a particular car. After all, you’ll be speaking to many industry experts who are much more knowledgeable about their products than sales personnel at your local dealership. Also, consider that these experts aren’t under no pressure to sell anything.