Car Week on a Budget: The View From the Cheap Seats

Car Week on a Budget: The View From the Cheap Seats

Now that the dust has settled and we've (mostly) recovered from Car Week activities, we want to take some time to highlight Car Week opportunities that will not empty your wallet.  To any who will listen, we always make the pitch that you can "do" Car Week on as little, or as much money as you like.  

At at the very minimum, driving to Monterey will cost you some gas money, possibly/probably a bridge toll, and  potentially some unwanted speeding tickets if you can't control your heavy right foot.  Area hotels and motels triple and quadruple their pricing so people can pay 5 star prices for 1 star accommodations.  Marque events require tickets and they are typically not inexpensive.  All of this plus meals and any swag can add up to a pretty expensive weekend.  Luckily, we’ve done this before so we have a suggestions and tips to help you hit up Car Week with the least amount of damage to your wallet.  Call it balling on a budget.

If you want to do things "right," Car Week requires several days to soak it all in, so hotel/motel costs are unavoidable.  The best advice we can give is to reserve your accommodations as early in the year possible.  And by early, we mean the day you leave.  If you can find a place that will let you reserve a room a year in advance, we suggest you do it.  If you can't swing a room because of the cost, or you're just not willing to drop some coin till you're sure it's for you, just go for a day.  Posting up at one of the locations we're going to be talking about in this post will absolutely deliver an experience that will probably rival most of what you've seen at your local meet-ups, or shows.  It's damn near impossible to avoid having your mind blown or your neck broken, just walking down most streets in Carmel or Monterey during the event week.   We've both done single day trips, and have even driven down and back from Sacramento twice in a weekend a few times.  We don't recommend it, we haven't done it in quite a long time, but we can absolutely guarantee that it's worth the effort and/or fatigue.

Here are some of our picks for Car Week activities that will cost you nothing more than time and a little patience with traffic.

Exotics on Cannery Row:

EOCR is a Car Week event that’s been around for a few years now.  It’s a free car show/street party that occurs on the Friday night of Car Week.  It draws almost every modern sports car, super car and hyper car that you might dream of seeing.  The only bad news is that, as popularity has grown, so have the crowds.  It gets so packed that we've developed a mild case of claustrophobia.  (we won't mention the incredibly loud pop music remixes they blast, as we may just be getting old and sensitive)(but it really is excessive)

EOCR is a mix of car fans, fan boys, gawkers and tourists.  The best advice is to arrive early as cars are coming in, or conversely, arrive late as cars are leaving.  For those that just want to see cars and not take photos or video, any time will work.  (You just have to be prepared for crowds and noise)

Since it began, EOCR has delivered (for FREE) an overstuffed menu of modern wonder cars that is unrivaled.  Year after year they have presented something special,  and this year was no exception as Christian Von Koenigsegg was on hand with eight of his namesake cars.  One egg is rare to spot anywhere, but eight in one place is ludicrous! And if that wasn't enough, we saw a Bugatti Chiron two Lambo Centenarios, 3 Ferrari F50s and no less than 2 Ferrari F12 TDFs.  It got a little nuts.

The Garages:

With a little luck and some planning and strategy, it's also possible to check out many of the cars that you'll see on display at various venues, in absolute tranquility.  All of the people that arrive to Car Week must stay somewhere, and their cars have to park somewhere too.  From our years of experience, we have found a number of hotel garages that serve as temporary vaults for exotics cars.  Unlike bank vaults though, these things generally aren't guarded.  Where are these places?  Sorry, we’re not ready to give up our secrets yet, but the best advice we can give is, pay less attention to where you see a car stationary and pay more attention to the direction from which it came from.  Frankly, you're unlikely to find and garage or parking lot in the area that doesn't have something amazing in it.  We've found many great finds on accident.

Spotted on the Street:

The best place to get your free fill of the Car Week buffet is Friday through Sunday in Monterey and on Ocean Ave and surrounding streets in Carmel (next year we'll be exploring the area near Quail Lodge).  Our earliest adventures in Car Week, long before we became the "legit automotive journalists" you now know, we's spend the evenings around Carmel taking in the constant flow of supercars, vintage cars and rare automotive oddities. 

The Random Rolling Car Show:

Car Week is all about finding the unexpected.  Every year, without fail, Car Week has provided us with something unexpected.  Maybe it was the garage with two Koenigseggs and countless Ferraris. Perhaps it was a rare pre-war Bentley cruising down the avenue.    This year, the unexpected surprise occurred in central Monterey as we stood around drinking capuccinos on Saturday night.  We were reflecting that the streets were pretty OK, better than the last few years, but not as good as the good old days. 

Then It started with the low grumble of an American V8.  Then there was the sound of a siren, one of those old siren sounds like you hear in 1950’s gangster movies.  Our attention focused down Alvarado Street.  As the cars came closer,  other sounds emerged such as the hiss of hydraulics.  What happened for the next 20+ minutes was parade of custom low-riders and hotrods and customs that were clearly the product of passion, sweat, talent, perseverance and grease.  It was a nice change from the constant parade of manicured classics and super exotics that usually prowl the streets.  Those minutes will remain a seminal memory for us at Car Week and representation that Car Week is about a love the automobile in its many forms.  It was everything we love about cars...and trucks....and bikes.

Pebble Beach

Yes, Pebble Beach, but let's be very specific.  Pebble Beach on Friday is another opportunity.  Friday is the time when things are starting to get set-up at Pebble Beach for the Concours on Sunday.  This includes major (and some minor) automakers that often set up their displays early, to take advantage of the heavy foot traffic that Sunday will bring.  It's also a way for automakers to charm and "appreciate" current owners of their brands.  The good news is that many of these opportunities are free.  Check out this gallery of things we found at Pebble Beach that didn't costs us a dime.

And in conclusion...

The long and the short of Car Week is that you can go everywhere, spend lots of coin and see lots of spectacular stuff.  Or, you can post up on the boulevard with a cup of coffee and get much the same experience.  You can't go wrong no matter what you do...or what you don't do. Take it from us, we've done it every which way.  The most important thing of all is simply to do it.  Make the plans, reserve the room, get the time off from work, arrange for childcare, beg, lie, obfuscate...whatever it takes.  Get to Car Week and prepare to see the show.  You will have no regrets.

Full Gallery

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