The average cost of a family of four or a group of friends to go to college football game can be difficult to calculate, as expenses vary widely. Costs to consider are of course the tickets themselves, then parking, concession stand costs and finally funds leftover if you want any souvenirs (like a t-shirt with your favorite team's logo).
Average Cost to Attend a Game
Tickets for a regular season college football game range anywhere from $5-10 on the low end to upwards of $200+ a game a person, for the most popular teams. For reference, the average Alabama Crimson Tide ticket will currently run you $213, whereas a non-televised North Texas bout can be seen for roughly $12 in person.
Simply put, the more nationally popular your team, the more expensive the seats tend to be. Also of note, if your team is playing a highly ranked team in a given week, prices will rise considerably that weekend as well. So let your team's schedule dictate your budget on ticket prices.
While there is no national average found online for exactly what an average ticket costs, it's fair to assume $50-$75 a person for reasonably popular markets. And adjust accordingly for lesser or more widely known teams.
(When it comes to bowl games or crazy popular rivalry games like Texas vs Oklahoma, all bets are off. Ticket prices tend to double to quadruple. Some bowl games regularly run upwards of $775 on average (like the Chick-fil-a kickoff) and national championship games can set you back over a $1000 a ticket, and should be purchased well in advance.)
Concession stand costs
Food will also be a major factor for your game budget. If you are planning on eating there, as many do, plan for roughly $15 per person for the average meal and a drink. If you plan to purchase alcohol at the stadium, a single beer usually ranges from $5-10. So keep that in mind as well.
Parking is another consideration.
Best to carpool for the event, but sometimes that's not always an option. Regardless, expect $10-30 for parking, depending on the market and the venue. A local small college could even have $0-$5 parking, where parking at Cowboys Stadium to watch SMU would run you closer to $25-30.
This is the most optional part of the budget, but worth including if you only plan to go to one game a year or less. You'll have ample opportunity to buy t-shirts, hoodies, calendars, and anything else they can think of, all branded with your team's logo. T-shirts can be bought usually in the $10-30 range, where a hoodie is typically a $30-60 expense.
Budgeting for tickets, concession stand food and parking for 4, plan to spend in the ballpark of $250-$400 for all, or $60-$100 per person. Then a bit more for alcohol and souvenirs, if desired. Once again these ranges vary greatly depending on the popularity of your team and market, as well as demand.
Getting Cheap/Affordable Tickets
Last minute deals
Tickets certainly don't have to cost you what the average ticket payer shells out, if you are resourceful. Often times ticket prices plummet the day of, so the stadium can pack in as many people as possible in hopes of selling out the game, or bringing in more customers for food and souvenirs. Use this to your advantage and check on ticket prices at the last minute for optimal value. Just be prepared to go the game at the last minute, or have a back up plan to stay at home if the prices don't drop, for whatever reason.
Less desirable seats, on the cheap.
Everyone wants to sit in the first row on the 50-yard line. And prices are inflated for those seats accordingly. That means serious value and discounting can be had the further you are away from that vantage. Typically the best value comes from seats around the 10-20 yard lines, near the top.
Standing Room only
These kind of tickets are only going to available for the most popular games and the biggest, more professional venues, and they certainly aren't for everyone. These tickets are available for venues expecting to sell out of all seats, to allow fans to stand and watch the game in certain areas. Standing for 4-5 hours can certainly be taxing, but also worth it considering the heavy discount you get. While an average price isn't available for this option, expect 50-75% savings off an average seat ticket.
Tailgating and Concession Stands Breakdown
A good way to save on the budget, as well as have some fun before the game even starts is to tailgate. People cook out, have drinks and in general throw parking lot get togethers before the game even starts. For many, going to a college football game is an all day event that starts early in the morning in the stadium's parking lot.
Bring along a cooler of food and drinks. Most stadiums allow you to grill out in the parking lot before the game starts. This can save money on the inflated costs of concession stand food as well. Just make sure to research your stadium's rules on tailgating before you go. Tailgating is an event unto to itself, so there is sure to be lots of info online about your team's parking lot do's and don'ts.
Concession Stands and Buying Alcohol at the Game
Food you should expect in a typical college football concession stand would be: nachos, hot dogs, slices of pizza, burgers, pretzels, bags of chips or peanuts, and cotton candy. Said another way, food you would find at a fair.
Some venues will also offer alcohol. These are typically the stadiums that expect to draw in many non-college students (21+ in age). Currently 34 stadiums sell beer during games. Use that link to see if your team does. It's good to know, if you want to drink and your stadium does not sell alcohol inside, tailgating is your next best option, so plan accordingly.
Bringing your own food and drinks to the stadium.
This can be an option as some venues actually allow you to bring your food and drinks inside. Though a comprehensive guide doesn't exist online for that. So be sure and do your research before game day. This is another excellent way to save on your game day budget, in place of concession stand food.
Best and Worst Seats Breakdown
End Zone vs 50-yard Line
Which is better depends on your personal taste. If you have never been to a game before, both have pros and cons. To sit at the 50-yard line is the most coveted location of the entire field. Reason being, you can see the most action. The con is you are not as close to the scoring plays that happen in the red zone (from the 20 yard line to the end zone).
The opposite is true for end zone seats. Sitting near or at the goal line guarantees you an excellent view of half the scoring plays. Though you are as far away as possible when the score happens at the other end zone.
High Up vs Close to the Action
Lower seats have the advantage of being closer to the players, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the band and all the activity. Though if you aren't lucky or if the stadium isn't elevated for the lower seats correctly, being too low can have the disadvantage of having your view frustratingly blocked by all that action to actually see the full game playout.
The trade off of sitting higher up comes with much more of a guarantee you'll be able to see more of the game unobstructed. Also if you are watching from the end zone or closer to it, higher up seats make it much easier to see the game when it's happening on the other side of the field.
The Atmosphere of Average vs Expensive or Private Seats
Game day atmosphere is why many even go to the games. An average game day ticket comes with it all the crowd noise, cheering, booing, taunting of the away team and the like that you can handle. But the more expensive your seat, the less of that added atmosphere you will experience. Private suites have less college football antics and atmosphere, but come with it added comfort and usually TV's and more conveniently located bathrooms.
Dress for the Weather
Always best to dress for the weather as college football games are usually played outdoors or in open roof venues. Expect either lots of sun or rain, or both. Could be very hot or extremely cold depending on the time of year and location as well.
Light rain jackets are a good idea, if there is even a chance it might rain that day. The stadium might sell them, but best to be prepared. Also consider zip lock bags or weather-proof bags of some kind to protect any electronics you'll bring along.
Aside from rain, the sun will certainly be another factor to prepare for. To avoid the glare, consider bringing along a hat and/or sunglasses, as well as some sunscreen. Most games last 3-4 hours.
Otherwise in general check the weather on game day and dress accordingly, knowing you will be out in the elements for 3-4 hours, or likely more if you plan on tailgating. The lone exception are for the rare games that will be played indoors.