From opening day to the playoffs, if you want tickets to any major sporting event, you may face some steep costs, especially if you don’t do your homework. If you want to make it to the big game without breaking the bank, you’ll want to look at all of your options for purchasing tickets. As a buyer, you should have three things on your mind: price, availability, and location of the seats.
Fortunately, more and more businesses are providing efficient marketplaces for buying and selling sports tickets. From online to in-person exchanges, if you know what you are doing you should be able to find good seats at a price you can afford and with an amount of risk you can tolerate. These top ten ticket options come with their own upsides and downsides for you to consider.
Where to Buy Cheap Sporting Event Tickets
1. Box Office
Let’s start with the most basic choice. If you want 100% confidence that you’re not overpaying and that your tickets are valid, make a trip to the box office. While online options are more convenient and secondary markets come in handy for high-demand tickets, if you can visit the box office in person, you’ll avoid some fees and charges. You’ll also get personal advice from the ticket seller about seat options. If you’re getting tickets for a family or group, you’ll have more flexibility on your seating arrangement if you buy in person. Don’t forget: If your event appears sold out, the other team’s box office might have some options for you if you’re willing to have seats in the visitors’ block.
- Top Benefit: The box office is a low-stress option since you know you’re dealing with official channels and getting the real face value of the ticket.
- Top Drawback: You’ll always pay full price, never giving yourself a chance to score a deal on tickets, and visiting the box office in person may not be a practical option for you. Some of the largest events, like the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup playoffs, don’t sell tickets at a physical box office.
Since opening for business in 1976, Ticketmaster has been one of the top companies in the world when it comes to ticket sales and distribution. You can access Ticketmaster online, over the phone, or in some cases, at local retail outlets.
- Top Benefit: It’s the biggest name in the industry, and you can be confident that your order is in good hands. You’ll receive timely service, and their customer relations team can resolve any problems.
- Top Drawback: Ticketmaster is a virtual box office, so tickets tend to sell out pretty quickly. And service fees can add $10 or more to the cost of each ticket.
When you consider forums for online ticket purchases, Craigslist is one of the top choices. When you purchase through Craigslist, you are making a one-on-one transaction with another individual, often an anonymous one. If you see an offer you want to grab, you’ll need to act fast. The number of buyers on Craigslist is huge, especially for big events.
- Top Benefit: Craigslist sellers tend to mark up the ticket prices less significantly than vendors in other markets. Of course, big events like the Super Bowl are the exception to the rule.
- Top Drawback: You never know who you’re doing business with, so safety and trust issues come into play. Always meet in public places and beware of fake tickets.
Once the game is sold out, you’ll need to check the secondary markets, like StubHub, the king of online ticket sales. In fact, even if the game isn’t sold out yet, it’s worth checking StubHub for some good deals. Sellers rely on StubHub’s secure, well-organized system, and if anyone’s looking to get rid of tickets, you’re likely to find them there. Plus, the company has formal relationships with the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, CFL, MLS, and NCAA, which will increase your options.
- Top Benefit: StubHub is the best-known online marketplace, and they’ve built up a credible reputation and strong base of sellers.
- Top Drawback: Due to its status as the number one online sports ticket broker, StubHub’s fees are on the rise, and the sellers often have an advantage in the market.
5. Vivid Seats
Vivid Seats may not be as popular as StubHub, but they have carved out a nice niche, excelling in two areas: website layout and customer service. If you have any questions regarding your purchase you can get an answer on the spot.
- Top Benefit: The selection of tickets is among the best, and finding what you want is a breeze.
- Top Drawback: The 14% service fee on all tickets is one of the highest in the industry.
It doesn’t take long to realize that TicketsNow has built its business in the same mold as Ticketmaster. The only difference is that this company focuses on the secondary market. The main similarity between the two is the high service charge: a 15% service fee on every ticket.
- Top Benefit: Live chat support makes it easy to not only find the tickets you want, but to discuss your many pricing and shipping options. With the wealth of buyers now using StubHub, many buyers look to TicketsNow as a more exclusive “place to go” for tickets to sold-out shows.
- Top Drawback: In addition to the service fee, shipping costs start at $14.95.
There was a time when GoTickets had no service fee. Unfortunately, they have changed their pricing structure to keep up with the competition. Even though things have changed, the company still offers a large selection of tickets at reasonable prices.
I have found that the prices and selection at GoTickets to be better than StubHub in many cases. Even for high-profile events like select NCAA men’s basketball tournament games, for example, tickets are about $10 cheaper than they are on StubHub. Does this mean that GoTickets is cheaper for every game? Of course not. But it goes to show you one thing: Don’t assume that StubHub is the best because of the name recognition.
- Top Benefit: Prices and selection are every bit as good as, if not better, than other services.
- Top Drawback: Implementing a service fee diminished the savings you could get in the GoTickets marketplace. Worse, the fee varies based on price and event, so you do not know how much you are going to pay until you checkout.
8. Coast to Coast Tickets
With their customer satisfaction guarantee, you have a good reason to at least consider Coast to Coast Tickets when shopping for sports tickets. Selection is strong and searching is simple, but when compared to the competition you may not find a good enough reason to stick around. Depending on the game, selection can be sparse and prices can skyrocket.
- Top Benefit: The customer satisfaction guarantee means that you are going to get what you want when you buy from this company. For example, in the unlikely event that you run into an issue with your tickets or the event, they provide a 100% money-back guarantee.
- Top Drawback: Outside of the customer service, nothing about the inventory and prices sets the company apart. And the 18% service fee is the highest on this list.
9. Online Forums
It’s easy to overlook online forums. Don’t make that mistake. If you want to attend a particular sporting event, find some forums dedicated to the teams that are playing. Not only will you be able to find threads about tickets for sale, but you can post your own inquiry. I have successfully hooked up with ticket sellers through online forums, and my only bad experience was when the seller did not show up on game day with the tickets he promised. Fortunately, there were enough scalpers on hand, and I eventually found two tickets at a reasonable price.
- Top Benefit: Low prices, especially as the event closes in. You also get the chance to communicate with other die-hard fans.
- Top Drawback: You have to trust that the other person has tickets and that they are going to ship or meet you in person to exchange them for money. Don’t pay until you have the tickets in hand.
No matter what sporting event you attend, there are sure to be people outside the venue selling tickets. Some people are trying to unload tickets for friends who didn’t show: They’re the ones who are often desperate to just make back a little bit of money and will give you a great deal. Others are “professional scalpers,” who are out to get as much cash as possible from you. The trick is to seek out a desperate seller and negotiate your way down. And you have to be wary of frauds.
- Top Benefit: If you wait long enough, you can get tickets for below face value – often far below face value.
- Top Drawback: In some cases you may not be able to afford the asking price. At high-profile events, scalpers – even the desperate ones – know how much their ticket is worth. And while they might be eager to sell, they know that you’re the one wandering the parking lot with no ticket. Also, in the technical age of “print at home” tickets, fake tickets are more prevalent than ever in the unofficial scalpers market. See if your stadium has an officially sanctioned secondary sales area where you can find guaranteed valid tickets.
Scoring great tickets at a great price is a phenomenal feeling. Unfortunately, a bad deal can ruin the whole experience. You never know where you will find the best seats, and if you’re not careful you can end up wasting your money or getting duped by frauds. Once you compare these pros and cons, you’ll be able to figure out the most comfortable situation for your budget, and make your purchase based on the overall price and selection.
The next time you utter to yourself, “I will never find tickets for that game,” think again. Armed with these ten choices, you have a good chance of locating great seats.
What sites or other options have you tried to score sports tickets, and what were your successes and failures?