Auto shows can be overwhelming. They are large, they are loud, they are shiny. Car manufacturers want your attention and your business, and they will fight to get it. The beauty of the Canadian International Auto Show for consumers is the opportunity to learn a great deal under one roof, and come away farther along the car knowledge continuum. There’s no better way to start narrowing the choices, and to discover all the changes taking place in an industry undergoing an unprecedented transformation.
Running Feb. 17-26, the show is located at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Be warned: it sprawls. Housed in two buildings (North and South) and covering six levels, head to the website first to plan your attack. With that in mind, here are some tips for some first-timers, and some reminders for the veterans:
- Tell them you’re five: Kids six and under are free with an adult; you can order online in advance (check show website for details) and save a few bucks, but at the booth, adults tickets are $20, children 7-12 are $7, though a family pass (2 adults, 2 aged 7-12 kids) is just $40.
- These boots were made for walking: You may be greeted with acres of red carpet, but it’s only hiding the concrete floors beneath. Hard on the feet, hard on the back. While there is a shuttle to help you get back and forth between buildings (there is a wheelchair accessible shuttle, too), you will walk. A lot. Wear comfortable shoes and consider strollers for the little ones.
- Take a weight off your shoulders: Ditch your coat. Leave it in the car, or take it to the coat check. Empty your pockets. The same way I find my car when I can’t remember where I’ve left it (walking around a parking lot hitting my remote) is the same way a thief could find yours.
- Go left, young man: Most people head right when they enter a building. It’s human nature, so exercise your individuality and go left. You’ll be rewarded with thinner crowds and fewer bottlenecks.
- Stop and smell the Triumphs: At some point you’ll probably need a break from the thumping music and the salmon-like migration of the crowds. The CIAS always offers many alternatives to the mainstream. This year, The Toronto Triumph Club will showcase a terrific display of these classics. Also make sure to check out Auto Exotica, some of the most exotic cars in the world. It’s always a treat when private collectors loan their cars for these events; remember these are owned by ‘real’ people, keep an eye on your little ones around the exhibits.
- They paved paradise...: Transit is a pain-free way to get to this downtown destination, but if you drive, expect to pay event rates for parking. Hide valuables, lock up, and remember where you parked.
- I thought the kids were with you: Volkswagen hosts a terrific professional – and free – play care centre. Kids will have a variety of things to do, from face-painting to watching DVDs. Security is tight; you register your child with pictures and passwords, and you both get computer-generated wristbands. Keep in touch via cell phone.
- A picture is worth a thousand words: Literally. Use your cell phone or camera to take shots instead of burying yourself in brochures. To avoid confusion, get a photo of the car’s badge or information sheet first, followed by details. You’ll end up with an ordered history and avoid confusion.
- Be a Boy Scout: Come prepared. If you’re in the market to buy a car this year, assemble a list of questions. There will be sales people manning displays, and making clear what information you are looking for will reduce some of the chaos. Most manufacturers understandably display their best cars: if you are looking for fewer bells and whistles, ask about packages or trim levels you don’t see.
- If you have to ask how much it is: ...you’re smart. If you’re getting important information about pricing or rebates, note it on the back of the business card of the individual you’re speaking to.
- Mom was right: You should be a good guest. There are garbage bins and recycling containers all over. Food and drink are not allowed in the display areas, so head to the food court if you need to recharge.