Many auto shows are making a comeback in 2021 following cancellations in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their return is good news for car shoppers since it can help really help narrow down choices, since there are so many makes and models in one place. At the same time, auto shows can be a bit daunting, depending on their size.
There are currently five large auto shows coming up this fall in CarProUSA Radio markets, unless, there are additional postponements due to the evolving pandemic. If an auto show is on your to-do list, here are some tips on how to tackle them to make the most of your time there.
Time Your Visit
Go early to avoid the biggest crowds. You'll have more time with the vehicles and trained product specialists. Opening weekends are also generally the most crowded and sometimes that's your only choice for smaller shows. If the show is going on longer, try a weekday instead. (The LA Auto Show has previously said that average attendees spend up to 5 hours at the show. Auto Shows of North America puts the overall average time spent at auto shows at 3.5 hours.)
Prioritize But Be Open-Minded
A fairly recent study found that 2 out of 3 attendees at auto shows were in the market to purchase a new vehicle in the next year, and that 12 month intenders added an average of 1 brand per household to their consideration list. With that in mind, start with your favorite brands or certain models on your must-see list, but be open-minded to other unexplored options that might pique your interest. Get a map of the layout and pinpoint where your favorites are and try to avoid zigzagging back and forth (your feet will thank you, too.) Note, not all brands attend all shows.
Assess Your Specific Needs
If you have special needs of any kind, an auto show can be your friend. You generally have fantastic access to vehicles and most models are open for you to explore, except if it is a production or concept model. I hear from people all the time who are short, tall, large, and small, wanting to know what car will fit them best. Although I drive well over 100 cars a year, I cannot relate to someone who is drastically different in size to me. I hear from people who have back problems, hip problems, etc. and I would have to have the same problem to know what will best fit them. Getting into and out of every vehicle made, all under one roof, can be a savior. If you have specific needs for cargo area, take a tape measure with you to the auto show, that will help you get a vehicle perfect for your needs.
Take Notes, Photos and Compare
Take the opportunity at an auto show to compare multiple vehicles in one spot. Jot down notes about the vehicles you are comparing because after a couple of hours, they tend to run together. A list of pros and cons is also helpful. Take your own photos and use them to compare models later.
Talk to a Product Specialist
Don't rush things. Spend some time with the cars and ask product specialists questions about ones that catch your eye. They are walking encyclopedias of information about the vehicles they are representing. You can't actually buy cars at an auto show so the lack of pressure is refreshing. Their goal is to woo you with information, make a friend and a future customer.
Ask about Safety and Driver Assist Technology
Safety features and advanced driver assist technologies (ADAS) are important factors for many car buyers. Make sure you ask what features a specific make and model offers, and importantly what is standard and what is not. While some lineups are offering more standard safety features, others are still reserved for upper trim levels. At larger shows, some automakers have demonstration displays highlighting their systems like Subaru EyeSight.
Ask About Extra Manufacturer Rebates
While automakers can't sell vehicles at auto shows, oftentimes, they offer extra manufacturer rebates to attendees. I have seen incentives of $500 or more for people who visit an auto show, then buy in the next month or so, so be sure to ask about those. They are especially prevalent at the auto shows in major metro areas.
Take On-Site Test Drives
Many automakers offer "Ride and Drives" at these shows and it's a great opportunity to take one without any hassle, provided you meet the manufacturer's driving requirements and have a valid driver's license.
At the end of your auto show visit, your feet may be tired, but hopefully you are leaving better prepared to make a car buying decision than when you arrived. The next step is to connect with a Certified CarPro and receive your VIP Certificate to schedule a longer test drive.
This post was updated and republished on August 31, 2021.
2020 Houston Auto Show.