11 Car Shows and Auto Tech Events You Don’t Want to Miss in 2018

For the latest in driverless car technology, the latest makes and models, even classic cars – 2018's got you hooked up.

car shows 2018

Even with smart cities and ridesharing on the rise, there are still hundreds of millions of cars on the road every day across the United States. So perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that there are hundreds of annual events and conferences that showcase those cars – and the technology behind them. Naturally, the lines between technology and the automotive industry are becoming increasingly blurred, so even tech-focused conferences have large auto elements. With so many events out there, it’s hard to know which ones are worth checking out. But that’s why we’re here. Check out The Zebra’s roundup of top auto and tech conferences in 2018:

1. CES

Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, is always a place for the latest trends in technology, but the show has evolved to have a fully immersive automotive portion. Get a firsthand look at advances in connected vehicles and cities while seeing how companies are trying to ensure these cars remain secure despite having vast amounts personal data.

Why You Should Check It Out: Experience self-driving cars and learn about upcoming trends in vehicle technology

Details: January 9-12, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Cost: Early bird special through December 19 – $100 for an Exhibits Plus Pass, $700 for a Starter Conference Pass, $1,400 for a Deluxe Conference Pass. Normal prices are $300, $900, and $1,700 for the three types of passes, respectively. Open to ages 18 or older and affiliated with the consumer technology industry.

2. NAIAS (aka the Detroit Auto Show)

The North American International Auto Show, or NAIAS, is one of the largest auto events in the nation. Get a chance to see the cars and technology that will be shaping our roads in the coming years and decades. Whether you’re a fan of muscle cars, electric vehicles, high-performance supercars, or towering trucks, there’s something for everyone.

The week before the show starts, you can also join the AutoMobili-D conference, which dives into topics like connected cars and smart cities. If you’re handy with a camera, you can enter the NAIAS Photo Contest for a chance to win $150 Bose SoundSport wireless headphones. If photography isn’t your thing, you can enjoy a literal parade of cars, stars, and “a few special surprises” at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily.

Why You Should Check It Out: This show sports the largest concentration of the top automotive and technology executives, designers, engineers, and thought leaders throughout the world.

Details: January 20-28 in Detroit, Michigan

Cost: $14 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public.

auto show floor
NAIAS (Photo: GM Authority)

3. Philly Auto Show

Perhaps more than any other car event, the Philly Auto Show likes socializing with its visitors. A select number of private owners can contribute their rides to the Classic, Car Club, and DUB displays. The Black Tie Tailgate invites attendees to enjoy a top-shelf open bar and custom cuisine while viewing the finest automobiles of the show. All proceeds benefit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And speaking of children, aspiring artists in 10th-12th grades can also contribute by designing posters for the event. The winning selections will be on display throughout the PA Convention Center and will appear in the official show program.

Why You Should Check It Out: No other auto show has a tailgate.

Details: January 27-February 4 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Cost: $14 for adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public. Black Tie tickets range from $250 to $5,000.

4. Chicago Auto Show

The Chicago Automobile Trade Association has owned and produced North America’s largest auto show since 1935. The Chicago Auto Show will feature nearly 1,000 vehicles from 36 manufacturers this year. Visitors can hop into their favorite rides and take them for a spin on three indoor test tracks and six outdoor test drives. For drivers with children, February 12 is billed as “Family Day” with a host of additional activities for youngsters.

Why You Should Check It Out: Both a 2018 Ford Mustang and a 2018 Ford Expedition will be given away during the event.

Details: February 9-19 in Chicago, Illinois

Cost: $13 for adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and children between 7 and 12, free for children 6 and under. Open to the public.

car shows 2018
A Dodge Viper at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show (Photo: Road and Track)


South by Southwest, or SXSW, is an ever-growing gathering diverse musical and film talent, entrepreneurs, innovators, and others discussing the most current issues and trends and debuting the next big thing in one whirlwind event. This year, as in the past few years, SXSW is paying special attention to how automobiles interact with the Internet of Things, and indeed to innovation in transportation as a whole.

In 2017 SXSW partnered with Mercedes-Benz to debut the “me Convention,” which put great minds from the creative, design, and technology fields together. We’ll see a handful of new looks into the automotive industry in 2018, with sessions like “Your Car Has X-Ray Vision” and “A Music Revolution in the Connected Dashboard.”

Why You Should Check It Out: It’s a gathering of brilliant minds and outstanding talent in, ahem, a pretty fantastic city.

Details: March 9-18 in Austin, Texas

Cost: $445 for an Education badge, $1125 for Interactive, Film, and Music badges, $1425 for a Platinum badge. Open to the public.

6. IBM Think

Attendees at the IBM Think conference can dive into connected vehicles and see how the automotive industry is transforming, thanks to technology. IBM conducts several studies per year in how people interact with technology, and a recent survey examined how consumers want to interact with their cars. As it turns out, we want to be highly involved in our rides, customizing every detail down to the dials on the control panel.

Why You Should Check It Out: This conference is backed by one of the biggest names in tech. You’re going to get thorough, in-depth analysis and insights.

Details: March 19-22 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Cost: Standard rate is $2,295; a one day pass is $895. Open to the public.

7. New York International Auto Show

The very first auto show in North America is still one of the best. At the New York International Auto Show nearly 1,000 cars and trucks will be on display over a span of four floors, showcasing both the latest in today’s vehicles as well as futuristic concept cars. If you’ve heard of a car company, you’ll see it at the show. And if you haven’t…you’ll still see it at the show. At the Inner Roadway, you can even ride along in models from Jeep and Toyota to get a truly immersive experience.

Why You Should Check It Out: You’ll get a taste of cars from every kind of company around.

Details: March 30-April 8 in New York City

Cost: $17 for adults, $7 for children 12 and under. Before December 26, tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for children. Open to the public.

8. Back to the 50s

You don’t have to have lived through the 50s to appreciate the style of some of the most classic cars. Put on by the Minnesota Street Rod Association, the Back to the 50s event is the premier place to see some of the most beautiful rides of the past. If you’re a real car junkie, you can head to the swap meet to pick up a spare part to complete your latest tune-up.

Why You Should Check It Out: The classic models are gorgeous!

Details: June 22-24 in St. Paul, Minnesota

Cost: $12 for adults, $10 if you stop by a NAPA Auto Parts store. Kids under 12 get in free with paying adult. Open to the public.

car events 2018
Back to the Fifties (Photo: Cal Car Cover)

9. TechCrunch Disrupt

At TechCrunch Disrupt, the newest and most innovative startups from around the world make their appearances and try to wow the public (and the startup junkies who write for and read TechCrunch…guilty), and as connected cars play a more significant role in our lives, we’ll see even more on them at this event. Previous Disrupt events have had discussions around hacking into vehicles and how startups are looking to ride the momentum of flying cars.

Why You Should Check It Out: If it’s going to change vehicles as we know them, you’ll find it here.

Details: September 5-7 in San Francisco, California

Cost: Varies, but you can save up to $1,000 with early-bird registration. Open to the public.

10 L.A. Auto Show

With more than 1,000 cars on display, the Los Angeles Auto Show offers a west coast flair to car enthusiasts. Visitors can purchase cars onsite, check out renowned tuners, customized exotics and other goods and services in “The Garage” Aftermarket, and participate in the Design & Developer Challenge to help build a better L.A. for the future.

At this year’s event, you can test drive more than 100 cars, demo some virtual reality tech and other racing simulators, or snap a selfie with a bevy of celebrities like former NFL running back Steven Jackson, Laker dancers, and R2D2.

Why You Should Check It Out: Because it’s L.A., you’re going to get a flashy experience.

Details: November 30-December 9 in Los Angeles, California

Cost: $5-$15. Open to the public

11. TechWeek

Your TechWeek experience may vary based on what city you attend, as TechWeek hosts events in Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Kansas City, Washington D.C., New York, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles. No matter the city, you’ll get a good mix of topics, from smart cities to financial technology, to our favorite: automotive connectivity.

Why You Should Check It Out: An excellent variety of presenters, from established leaders and investors to startups and talent cultivators.

Details: Dates vary, hosted in nine cities across the United States

Cost: Explorer tickets are free, Executive tickets cost $75 + applicable fees. Open to the public

Did your favorite event make this list? Is there another auto conference you think is worthwhile? Give us a shout in the comments.