Why Pay $10 to Look at New Cars?

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While lots of eyes are on the LA Auto Show this week, I’m still digesting my visit to the Arizona International Auto Show in Phoenix over the Thanksgiving holidays.

2012 Arizona International Auto Show
Luxury Cars Like the Ferrari FF Greet You at the Door

Unlike the LA Auto Show where manufacturers debut lots of new stuff, the Arizona version is simply a place to shop for cars. In fact, I’m constantly amused that thousands of people are willing to pay $10 for the chance to see the same cars they could see any weekend at a car dealer.

Ah, but that’s the rub. Step into the dealership and there will be a sales person glued to your hip. At the auto show, you’re free to wander. There’s no one desperately clawing at you if you decide to ditch the Hyundai for the Honda just a few feet away.

2012 Arizona International Auto Show
Checking Out the Scion IQ

If you’re in the market for a new car it’s the quickest and easiest way to comparison shop. You can jump from one car to the next giving you a direct comparison of how the seats feel or whether the steering wheel on a particular model has a better grip. Some of the car makers even have test drives available, although that’s something that might be best left for the dealership after you’ve scoped out the cars that interest you.

2012 Arizona International Auto Show
Taking Notes is a Critical Part of Automotive Research

I love to watch people with their pads of paper taking notes on everything from prices to their own impressions. I’m also impressed with the staff from the various carmakers on hand who have plenty of answers for everyone’s questions.

2012 Arizona International Auto Show
What Staff Members Don't Know They Quickly Look Up

Of course then there are people like me. I’ve always enjoyed going to just to see what’s out there. Sure, it won’t belong before that new and improved 2013 model will be parked next to me at a traffic light, but this is my first chance to get a close-up view.

2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Surprised Me

My favorite car of the show was a surprise to even me. The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid was on a rotating stage. It looked surprisingly cool with white paint with blue and black trim. I’ve never been very impressed with Avalon styling, but this one got my attention. I’m actually looking forward for the chance to drive it.

The big auto shows (Detroit, LA, New York) will have concepts and debuts. There will be press briefings and lots of information to be digested. The Arizona International Auto Show is much simpler. It’s just a place to look at new cars. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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