Q:“I’ve never driven on a race track, but want to, and found your website full of great information. But since I’ve never been to what I understand is called a “track day,” how much will one cost me? Also, how should I prepare to do one?”
A: Hmmmm… that’s a bit like asking, “How much does a car cost?” There’s a big spread, depending on what you’re looking for
If you want a bit of a free-for-all day at the track where you can just go and drive with as little supervision or assistance as possible, well… that’s not something that I’d even recommend. Still, that’s going to cost you somewhere in the couple of hundred dollars range. That’s just for the entry to the event. You really should factor in the cost of wear and tear on your car, in addition to the obvious of gas to and from the track, as well as while on the track (your car will go through a lot more gas on the track than you’re used to – depending what you’re driving and how much time you spend on track, it’s not unusual to go through two full tanks of gas in one day).
If you’re looking for something more like a High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) event (which I would strongly recommend), then you’ll see the cost of entry in the $200-500 range when they’re put on by a volunteer-based organization (car clubs like Audi, BMW and Porsche are most active with these). Attending a professional school will likely cost you somewhere in the $500-1,200 range for the day. The upper range with the professional schools may provide you with a car, rather than you using your own car.
As most things in life, you get what you pay for, so going for the Walmart of track days may not be the best decision. Not that Walmart doesn’t provide good quality for the price, but the difference here is the safety factor. I doubt many cars and people get hurt (or worse) from a purchase at a low-budget retailer. My experience suggests that the cheaper track day organizers tend to put on events that are not as safe. And when I say that, I’m basing that off some events that I’d label “dangerous – do not go near!”
When you’re looking at an event where you can drive your car on track, try to get a feel for the culture that it has. Some event organizers encourage education, some don’t care much about helping you learn, some pretend to care but don’t really do much; some foster a sense of community, where the fun social aspect is as important as anything else; some have a very loose approach to safety and organization, and some are run as strictly as a military operation. In my opinion, finding events that fit your personality and your goals is far more important than the cost.
Understand that driving on a track is likely to become addictive. I say that only to prepare you. You may think this will be a one-time experience, you wouldn’t be the first to have that in mind, only to find yourself preparing to mortgage the house to pay for your next track day! Yup, it’s that much fun!
The second-to-last thing I’ll say about the cost of track day driving events is that the entry is just that – the entry. Also, consider the aforementioned cost of getting to and from the track; car preparation and maintenance before, during, and after; upgrades to safety items, such as brake pads; wear and tear on tires and brakes; and even food and refreshments at the track.
Which leads to my final comment on the cost of a track day: If you can’t afford good quality safety equipment, you should not go to the track. That starts with a proper helmet, as it’s a personal thing that you’ll be able to use for some time (but not forever, as regulations will result in having to upgrade to a better helmet every few years). As the saying goes, if you have a $5 head, buy a $5 helmet (of course, $5 helmets don’t even exist – for good reason). Do not scrimp on safety equipment, Period.
Regarding your second question about preparing for a track day, my best advice is to download and read the free eBook that my friend Ryan Staub and I wrote. It’s called The HPDE 1st-Timer Guide, and you can get it at https://hpde-1st-timer.com.