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How to Host a Car Show

Updated on November 22, 2012

Tips for Hosting a Car Show

So you want to host a car show? I can tell your first hand that hosting a car show can be very fun and rewarding. However, to be successful there are a few things you will need to know about hosting a car show.

Here you will find everything you need to know on how to host a car show. Keep in mind, as you begin your new journey in planning car shows, you will find what works best for you and your organization and can tweak these tips and ideas to fit the needs of your own event.

Image Credit

how to host a car show
how to host a car show

Decide What Kind of Car Show You Want to Host

All car shows are not created equal! I can tell you that from experience. The first step to hosting a car show is to decide what type of car show you want to host and come up with a solid plan.

Here are a few things you will need to consider when planning a car show:

What is the date of your car show?

What type of cars will your show exhibit?

What is the purpose of your car show?

Where will your car show be held?

Who will come to your car show?

What will your car show benefit?

We will go over each of these below.

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When to Host a Car Show

When hosting a car show, one of the most important factors is when to hold the event. Consider the time of the year and what the weather will be like. If you live far north you don’t want to host a car show in the middle of January and risk cancelling due to a blizzard.

When planning to host a car show, do some research to make sure there are no other car shows or major events in the general area on that same day. The last thing you want to do is limit yourself to participants by holding your car show on a day as another major event.

Expect to See Some Odd Stuff at Your Car Show

Be prepared to see some of the oldest, oddest and most unique vehicles you have ever seen. There is no clue what may show up. I once had a car show up to one of my shows that was decked out with the University of Alabama theme. It brought a whole new meaning to Roll Tide Roll! Image Credit

What is the Purpose for Your Car Show?

Are you hosting a car show to have a good time, get the car clubs together and make a few bucks or are you hosting a car show to raise funds for a specific reason? Both are acceptable but take slightly different paths in the planning department.

If you are hosting a car show for a benefit, charity o community organization then you will need to take that into consideration. We will refer to that as your ‘cause’.

When hosting car shows for a cause it helps to pull in viewers, exhibitors, sponsors, volunteers, and other resources that you may not get with just a standard, for profit car show. When an event is hosted to help someone or something, the community tends to pitch in and work together. Make sure that you ALWAYS state your cause on your advertisement.

Eugene, Oregon Classic Car Show

car show
car show

Finding the Perfect Venue for Your Car Show

Finding a venue for your car show can be simple depending on the city, local resources available and local ordinances. In general, choose a spot with plenty of outdoor space such as fairgrounds, parks, and areas with large parks spaces. I have seen car shows held at the local Wal-Mart, the mall parking lot, and at large hotels.

Living in a small, historical town I tend to use the fairgrounds or the city hall. I have chosen those two venues due to plenty of outdoor space for the exhibition as well as spectator parking in conjunction with, having indoor space to entertain, feed, and have the award ceremony and well… just to help people stay out of the hot, Florida sun.

When your exhibitors and spectators are happy then everyone is happy. When everyone is happy they return to your next event, which is the key to continue having successful events.

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What Type of Car Show Do You Want to Host?

Once you have decided on when, where and why you want to host a car show you will then need to determine what type of car show you want to host.

Do you want to have a car show that only exhibits a certain make, a certain model or a combination? I have been to car shows that only allowed a certain make and model. While it was fun, there is still only so much excitement one can exhibit after seeing their 314th Dodge Charger of the day.

Keep in mind that the more divisions you have, the more exhibitors you will have. I have also found that adding a ‘specialty’ division brings in more exhibitors and adds to the uniqueness of the event.

The specialty division can include anything that is not car, truck, or SUV related. I have had tricked out wagons, antique scooters, tractors and even kids Power Wheel toys that had been modified entered into that division. Again, this is your car show and you should do what suites you best.

Vintage Car Show

Notice how they held there are show in a grassy corner lot. No need to have asphalt- just a safe place to park the vehicles so that they can be viewed easily.

car show awards
car show awards

Car Show Awards

Many car exhibitors will enter their cars solely for the chance to win the prestige 'Best of Show' award. Choosing the type of awards you will present will be determined by your budget unless you can obtain sponsorships. We will go over sponsorships in a minute.

The most common car show awards are trophies and plaques. After talking to some of my car exhibitors in the past, I have learned that some enjoy plaques over trophies so they are easier to transport and to leave in their trunks for bragging rights. I have had several tell me that they also enjoy the trophies because… it's a trophy. I honestly believe that they are happy as long as it is an award.

You can purchase trophies and other awards at local trophy shops or online. Shop around to find the best deal. Typically, the online shops have more of a variety, but some local shops will offer you a better deal.

Call around to local trophy shops including shops in neighboring cities. It's worth a 30 minute drive if you can save a few hundred bucks.

Tell the trophy shop about your car show and the cause you are supporting. Ask them if they can help you out by sponsoring your event with either trophies or even a discount. Shop around and compare prices before making any decisions.

Remember that while you have to be budget friendly, going the cheapest route is not always the best. Let your exhibitors know that you appreciate them by getting decent awards. I have never bought the most expensive awards but I have never got the bottom dollar awards either.

* The picture the right are of the trophies I used for my last car show. They are different sizes and very nice. I got them $85 from a local Trophy shop who cut me a HUGE deal since it was for a benefit.

Pismo Beach Cruise Classic Car Show

This car show was more like a parade. Guests lined up on the corner as the cars drove by.

Sponsorships for Your Auto Show

Whether you are hosting a profit or non-profit car show, you can still find sponsorships. Sponsors will be the key to increasing your budget, getting goodie bags, door prizes, and more. Sponsorships can range from something as simple as a magnet to hand out to viewers, all the way up to certain cash amounts to supply the budget.

Contact local businesses, especially auto parts stores, car detailing companies, window tinting companies, large car dealerships and anything else you can think of that is car related.

Use the Internet to find corporate companies to sponsor your event. You know the ones that people talk so highly of. Some are pretty good at helping out, while others will not be.

You can usually tell what to expect from corporate sponsors by checking on their website under their FAQS, Sponsorship or Contact Us page. I always check to see if their policies are listed. If not, I email them, tell them what I have, and ask for their policy. Expect a response within 3 to 5 days. - I never contact a business who states that they do not do sponsorships or if my event does not meet their requirements.

Some corporate companies require a request 6 to 12 months in advance. Be sure to ask for sponsors as soon as you come up with a solid plan for your car show.

Learn How to Plan Events and Make Your Car Show a Hit

Aside from resources on the Internet, you can also learn more about hosting car shows by learning the whole process of event planning. Car shows are just one type of event that you could use to make a career out of event planning. Here is a great book to learn how to make your event successful.

Car Show Sponsors I Would Highly Recommend

I can tell you there are a few car show sponsors that enjoy taking part in car shows because it helps them to advertise their business. I have been able to find a few companies that you can actually build a relationship with and will sponsor you every time….

Mothers - Polishes, Wax and Cleaners

K&N Filters

Be sure to contact these three. I usually get bags for goodies, magnets, banners, gift certificates, and car products from these three. There are others but these three I can almost guarantee will help you.

2011 Lubbock Mustang Car Show

This car show was specifically held for Ford Mustangs. Mustangs where the only type of car allowed but they could be any year, trim, design or custom. Whether or not you limit your car show to a specific make and model is up to you.

Advertise the Your Car Show

Advertise and they will come! The only way anyone will know that you are hosting a car show is if you advertise it. You will want to advertise to get both car exhibitors and spectators. Start advertising well in advance and then really push it two weeks before the show.

Advertising Ideas:



Press Releases to any media contact you can find with in a 200 mile radius

Local Radio Station

Create a Website

Submit it online at car show websites (one the best to get car exhibitors).

Create a Facebook Page and start sharing it.

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Custom Dash Plaques

Encourage more participation and excite your car exhibitors with dash plaques. When you advertise make sure you let them know you will be giving out dash plaques. These are highly collectible and customized for your event.

I usually put it on on my fliers and websites that there will be dash plaques for the first 50 or 100 participants. Works really well and gets them to register quickly!~

Registration Fees for Your Car Show

Another important factor to your car show is the registration fee. I have seen registration fees for local car shows range from $5-50 depending on the size, venue, and cause.

Registration fees will really depend on what you are trying to achieve with your car show. This will also be the main source for your budget. If you want to make this a profitable event then you will need to charge enough to cover your expenses and make a profit.

If you are hosting a car show for a charity or cause then consider that sometimes more is less. The more you charge, the less people you have participating and the less you will make in the end.

For example, I recently hosted a car show for a co-worker whose adult son died unexpectedly and left behind 3 children. The car show included an auction (items that I got donated from local businesses) and BBQ dinner. I charged $20 for registration. Many car exhibitors paid much more than that to enter their car as a donation to the benefit.

On the other hand I have charged $20 plus 5 canned foods during a car show that I was holding to raise canned foods for a local food pantry. Admission for spectators was one canned food and I also gave an award to the car exhibitor and the car club that brought the most canned foods. That pushed everyone to go above and beyond to collect more canned foods.

Choose a Comfortable Time of the Year to Host an Auto Show

Car shows do best when during the spring and fall and when summers are not blistering. People will not be happy standing in 105 degree weather for hours. Plan your event when the weather is favorable for your area. Image Credit

car show tips
car show tips

5 Tips to Make Your Car Show Successful

In addition to the basics provided above, there are a few tips I would like to share from what I have learned that may help you in hosting your car show.

1. Create a schedule.

The schedule will help you to stay on track and make sure everything goes as planned and give your car exhibitors know what to expect. It would help if you give them a copy, too. Some exhibitors will drop off their cars and return shortly before the award ceremony.

2. Have a 'Staff'

Whether you pay someone to help you or have volunteers from the organization you are benefiting, I would highly advise you to have someone to help you. I am one of those type of people who like to be in control (which is why I plan my own events) but I can quickly tell you it is almost impossible to be everywhere at every moment. You will need someone to help at the gates for those coming to see the cars, someone to help line up the cars, someone to help with the award ceremony, and any other activities you may be having.

3. Advertise, Advertise and then Advertise Some More!

You can never advertise enough. I start advertising my event as soon as I have the basics planned. When I have my location, my date, and type of car show I start posting it on my website, creating my Facebook page, and posting to forums, sending it out to car shows and more.

I always send out press releases 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time and another one about a week before the event. Don't send them out to early or people will forget. The more advertising you have the more car exhibitors and spectators you will have.

4. Find A Cause to Support

Even if you are hosting a car show to have fun and make a profit for yourself you can still turn it into a community event with a cause. When I decide to host a car show for my own profit I still contact the local food pantry and see if they would like to take part. I charge canned foods in the registration fee and as admission. This way I can help the community while also hosting a self-profiting event.

5. Plan Ahead

I cannot stress this enough. When hosting a car show you need to plan ahead to have plenty of time to advertise, find sponsors, and attract car exhibitors.

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Did You Find this Site Helpful?

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Share your tips, ideas, thoughts and questions for others to see. If you have questions about hosting a car show post them here and we will get them answered quickly!

How to Host a Car Show

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    • profile image


      21 months ago

      Thanks Stephanie... for the info.

    • WerewolfCustoms1 profile image


      6 years ago

      I've been playing with the thought of hosting a car show for a while now... :)

      I just might give it a go! Thanks for the useful tips, I'll probably print them out, like some sort of a check-list if I try organizing an event. Blessed!

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for linking to my Woodward Cruise Lens.


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