By Cars.com EditorsNovember 10, 2017
About the video
Headed to the auto show to look for your next car? Use these tips to make the most of your day at the show.
(rock music) While test drives are an important way to narrow down that list of potential new cars. They aren't necessarily the most efficient way because all those competing cars are seldom at the same dealership.
That's where auto shows come in as an invaluable resource for shoppers, because they really allow you to compare an entire class of cars under one roof without any pressure of having to sign papers. Let's check it out. Now, a couple of tips before you go, first of all, be prepared. Auto shows can be a little overwhelming, so make a list, so you know which cars are in the same price range. That way you won't be comparing apples to well candy apples. Second, go early or go late. Smaller crowds make for easier access, and easier access makes for better comparisons. Head room and leg room measurements don't necessarily reflect how space works in real life. And the only way to do that, is to actually sit in the chairs. Now, most cars at auto shows will have just enough battery power to maybe operate the seats and some basic controls. So get in, get comfortable and adjust those seats and steering column like you were about to drive away. Check the tilt and telescoping range of the steering column to make sure you can find a safe and comfortable distance from that airbag. Make sure the controls for the stereo, heating and air conditioning systems can be easily reached. Finally, what if you're tall, but your significant other is short? Make sure everybody in the family who is going to drive the car can fit comfortably. Look for memory seating positions. Those can save a relationship. Now after you've adjusted the front seat to your liking, jump into the backseat fast, before someone else jumps up front and fusses with those settings, because the amount of leg room your rear passengers get depends on where you're gonna sit. Now, when you're doing this, judge how easy it is to get in and out of the car. And if there's a third row, how easy it is to get back there. See how wide the rear doors open for you to load cargo or put kids into child seats. In SUVs or minivans, see if the back seat slides or reclines for additional leg room and comfort. In any car with a third row, a sliding second row is an important feature 'cause it helps second and third row occupants forge a compromise where both sides have enough room. And make sure to look for that intrusive floor hump in back. Cars without a hump give passengers more leg room and easier access. A cargo area that starts to high off the ground can make it really difficult to load heavy objects, or even dogs in any car, truck, or SUV. So open up the hatchback, see how high this is. Is it knee-high? Is it thigh high? Is it even all the way up to hip height? Some cars have a nice low load floor, but have a big lip that you have to lift things over. That can also be a pain. For an SUV or minivan, make sure the tailgate is low enough that you can reach it, but not so low that you're gonna clock your head on it. Many of them are now powered as well. On a sedan, check out the opening width of the trunk. Big volume numbers are useless if the trunk is too small or narrow to really lift something substantial and put it inside. Look at the hinges here, see if they're actually gonna intrude on cargo space when you shut the trunk. And finally check out if the backseats fold, and how easy they are to do that, and bring back up. Chances are, if you have kids, they're coming with you to the auto show. If you don't need child safety seats, you can see how easily they can jump into the back seats and buckle themselves up, and how comfortably those seatbelts fit across their bodies. Now if your kids do need car seats, assuming you didn't lug them all the way with you to the auto show, look for latch anchors, which are easiest to use if they're clearly visible. Now if you brought a big bulky stroller, fold it up and throw it into the trunk or cargo area to see how easy it is to get in there, and how well it fits once it's in. Third row access can be difficult for some kids because automakers have various ways of doing stuff, from tumbling seats to sliding walk-in access. Make sure your kids check that out. On the flip side, if you have teenagers who are already old enough to drive, make sure they go through all the steps of evaluation the same way you do. So now you've seen enough at the auto show to really identify your top three to five cars you're considering. What's next? Well, you can still network while you're at the show, and before you test drive any of your finalists. First, have a list of details and questions that you still need answering. That way, when you go to the dealer, you'll know exactly what you need to find out. When you find a car you like, see if there's a regional representative from the brand with whom you can make initial contact, that'll smooth the way later on and make you a known entity to your local dealer. Finally, make sure you don't make any actual deals at the auto show itself. You always want to test drive a car, see how it accelerates, brakes, rides and handles before you make any decision. Auto shows can be a hugely helpful part of the process though, so make sure you take advantage of them. (rock music)