How Not To Be A Jerk: The 10 Commandments of Car Show Etiquette

You know what’s fun? Pointing out the flaws in other people. Sure, we aren’t “supposed” to do it, but we all do. Just take a look at how popular our 5 (Un)written Rules For Car Show Attendees post was!

Camaro & Bel Air Collision

Know what isn’t as fun, though? Looking in the mirror and pointing out our own flaws. Many of us have been in or around the car show scene for a long time now, and we believe we know how to act. However, just this past weekend Alex and I bore witness to just what can happen when things get out of hand.

Guys, it’s time for a dose of our own medicine; Following these rules at the next local get-together will help make the event more enjoyable for everyone:

1. Thou Shalt Not Burn Out Before Leaving

dont do burnouts at car shows

Look, everyone loves a good burn out – especially us! It delights every sense; the sound of a roaring engine, the acrid smell of rubber, the exciting sight of a barely-restrained 2-ton missile…and therein lies the problem. The only thing keeping your car from rocketing into a classic Bel-Air – or worse, a spectator – are your front brakes.

Please keep the showing-off contained in a controlled environment, with nothing but open space in front of you. Those 20 seconds of attention aren’t worth the lifetime label of “Certified Jackass” should something go wrong.

2. Thou Shalt Arrive On Time

dont show up late to a car show

So you ran a little late while polishing your wheels. Maybe your wife couldn’t find the perfect shoes to match her outfit, or you got stuck behind a parade of semis on the highway. Things happen that can throw you off schedule – but there’s a simple fix: Wake up and get going earlier. Plan for it.

Arriving 30 minutes after the gates have opened to the public and expecting a premier spot for your car will only entitle you to one thing; being “That Guy.” If the lot is already filled by those polite enough to arrive on time, save your temper tantrum. Be grateful for any spot you’re given, and direct that anger to the person that really deserves it – the one behind the wheel.

3. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Parking Spot

dont be jealous of your neighbor's parking spot

We know that your car is a special little snowflake. You’ve dumped endless amounts of money into it, wasted many a night lying awake thinking up next steps, and scoured junkyards and swap meets from around the country looking for a pre-production ashtray.

…Just like everyone else. At every show you’ll see some cars being featured – sometimes taking up more than one parking spot. You may think your ride is better than those; but that doesn’t mean you deserve extra room as well! The guy up front parked diagonally across 2 or 3 spaces might be a sponsor who paid big-bucks for the privilege. So unless you’re willing to pony up some cash, park your snowflake straight like the rest of us.

4. Thou Shalt Notify Event Staff Of Thou’s Early Departure

dont leave early unexpectedly

Hey, things come up – we get that. But if you show up to an event at 10:00 AM, nab one of the prime spaces right in the middle of the show, knowing full well you have to leave by 1:00, you’re a jerk. Leaving a car show as it is packed with spectators looks bad – and it certainly isn’t an easy process. Not to mention it’s dangerous, particularly with children or pets running about unpredictably.

If you know you’ll need to leave early, let the staff know to keep you near an exit. It might not be the perfect place to show your ride, but it’ll help keep you from running late, or inconveniencing the rest of the attendees.

5.  Thou Shalt Heed Event Staff Directions

listen to the staff at the car show


The staff that man your favorite event are usually volunteers who enjoy being around cars, and perform these duties for little or no pay. They’re thankless jobs can sometimes get a little hectic, especially at a large venue. Don’t lose your head or give them a hard time if they point you to a space that you think isn’t good enough. They’re just doing their jobs as they’re told – you certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if the roles were reversed.

If you think you’re in the wrong spot, park there anyway and then go find the show director to hash it out. Laying into the guys or girls directing traffic probably won’t end up in your favor. You’ll most likely eventually meet the show director – but instead of him or her lending a hand, they’ll probably be asking you to leave.

6. Thou Shalt Not Drag Race On Public Roads

dont drag race right outside the car show

We can all agree that none of us are criminal masterminds…I hope. And that’s a good thing. But this can mean that when we DO decide to fudge the line of the law a little bit, we aren’t very good at it. The increased traffic that a car show brings is noted by local police. That guy is the loud Hemi might be asking for it, but racing on the surrounding streets before, during, or after an event brings all the wrong kinds of attention down on your fellow enthusiasts; not to mention the show organizers! It’s a quick way to get what should be a celebration of our passion nixed, and yourself a big, fat ticket.

If you want to race, PBIR – or almost any other track across the U.S. – sets aside specific nights for street-driven vehicles to come show each other up. Don’t turn yourself into a statistic, and ruin it for all the rest of us.

7. Thou Shalt Not Kill The Guy Who Touched Thou’s Ride

dont kill the guy who touched your ride

We are all in agreement that spectators should keep their grubby little hands to themselves, yes? Just like we all agree that our kids should eat their vegetables if they want dessert? Well, here’s the problem: what happens when they don’t?

In the case of some unwanted fingerprints on your freshly waxed paint, I’m here to tell you that a policy of politeness will get you much farther than blind rage and a verbal berating. Step out of your oil-stained shoes and remember that not all spectators who attend your average car show understand how seriously we take our vehicles. They probably rolled up in a 15+ year-old Camry that they see as an appliance – not something to be cherished and enjoyed. Politely explaining how much your car means to you is usually all it takes for them to wise up. This holds especially true for children; teach them, don’t punish them. Helping to raise a new generation of enthusiasts that don’t purchase Camrys – or think that people who take cars too seriously are jerks – is essential to continuing our culture!

8. Thou Shalt Be Respectful of Others

Always show respect to others

Everyone has different tastes. Everyone has different budgets. Just because the car next to you doesn’t have perfect paint, or features some discount brand parts doesn’t make it any less deserving of its owner’s pride. Don’t like his style? Keep it to yourself – because there are probably plenty of people who don’t like yours either. Do you care what they think? We’re guessing not.

This is especially true when it comes to Newbies. Offering real advice or help instead of a put down helps make for a better community. Not everyone has the means or experience to create a 100-point show-winner. However, their story might be far more interesting than that of the guy with unlimited funds who just dropped a bare chassis off at the local restoration expert and told them to make it perfect. Either way, BOTH deserve respect.

9.  Thou Shalt Patiently Answer Inquiries

patiently answer questions commandment

You brought your car out of the garage to show it off. If you don’t want anyone asking you about it, well, you should have stayed home with your door locked and windows bolted up. We’re sure you’re a blast to have at a cocktail party.

People who are interested in your car will want to speak to you about it. They will ask you all manner of questions, and have all manner of personal experiences. Even if you think the inquiry is dumb, have some patience – it takes at least some amount of courage to strike up a conversation with a stranger. You’ll come off the much bigger person than the gruff, stand-offish ogre acting like even rolling out of bed that morning was barely worth his time. Don’t want to talk about your car? Don’t show up.

10. Thou Shalt Abide By The Judges’ Decisions

respect the judge's decision

The competition at some shows is as fierce as any professional sport out there. Everyone wants to win – and that drive is what makes for some of the most stunning vehicles we have ever seen. With that said, no one here is being paid millions to perform – whether you’re the attendee, or the judge. Feel like you were overlooked or mis-judged? Don’t cause a scene during the awards ceremony, Kanye. There will always be another show – most likely less than a week later.

If you didn’t take home a top prize, seek out one of the judges after the event, and ask what you could do to improve. Don’t lose your cool if you don’t like their suggestions though; with the exception of certain Concours-level shows which apply strict point systems, most of this stuff is subjective. The judges at the next one might love what you’ve got!

The most important thing to remember above all of this, is that you are a guest of the show’s host. What you do while at the venue ultimately will end up as a reflection on the coordinators. Everyone wants their shows to stay around – so be an active part of making sure your hosts want to invite you back!