Fireworks are a time-honored way to celebrate holidays like the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, and even Christmas. You don’t even need the excuse of a special occasion to light fireworks – plenty of households do it just for the fun of it, and if you never used firecrackers to blow up one of your toys, you didn’t have a childhood.

But if you’ve never bought your own fireworks before, or haven’t bought many, you may not know what to look for. Is bigger always better? Are aerial fireworks better than ground? Read on for the answers to these and other questions about buying fireworks.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

In the United States, fireworks can contain no more than 500 grams of flash powder. But don’t assume that a cake with 500 grams of powder is automatically going to be louder, brighter, and more impressive than a smaller firework. The reverse may, in fact, be true.

When it comes to determining how loud and bright a firework is going to be, it’s best to go by the weight of the firework. You’ll find that 200- to 300-gram fireworks are often heavier than their beastly 500-gram counterparts. That means the gunpowder and other elements are packed more tightly into the tube. The more tightly the tube is packed, the more impressive a display you can expect. So, if you’re on a budget, or just looking to get more (literal) bang for your buck, you may want to steer clear of the largest cakes.

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Similarly, you may want to avoid buying multi-packs or value packs. Those huge, shrink-wrapped multi-packs often contain year-old fireworks that didn’t sell last season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – the flash powder will stay good as long as it’s not exposed to moisture. However, fireworks are more likely to get wet when they’re stored in a warehouse somewhere for a year after production. And that’s not the only reason you’re better off buying your fireworks individually. When you buy individually, you can get exactly what you want, and you may end up paying less, too.

Aerial Fireworks Can Eat Up a Budget

You can end up spending a lot of money on cakes, mortars, and aerial shells, only to end up with a display that doesn’t last very long – for many aerial fireworks, the display lasts about 25 to 30 seconds. By contrast, ground fireworks, like fountains, can emit colorful sparks for up to three minutes, and smoke bomb fireworks can emit smoke for up to six minutes. 

That’s not to say you should avoid aerial fireworks altogether. A large finale cake can leave your audience oohing and ahhing. But for your wallet’s sake as well as your display’s, a package of bottle rockets can keep you entertained for as long as an hour, at a fraction of the cost of a large cake.

Don’t Be Afraid to Shop Around

Firework vendors are typically able to mark up their inventory by 200 to 300 percent, so prices may vary widely from one vendor to the next. Don’t be afraid to shop around at the various fireworks tents and stands in your area – you can even get good prices on fireworks by shopping online. Some vendors will place coupons in the local paper, and many will price match. So, take pictures of the different products you’re interested in at each local vendor – if you can show your favorite vendor evidence that a competitor is underselling them, they may be willing to match the price.

Ask Vendors for Guidance

Don’t hesitate to approach a vendor and say, “I have a budget of $300. What can you do for me?” or “I have in mind a display with lots of aerial explosions. What can I buy on a budget?” Vendors know what kinds of displays their products create, and if you can describe what you have in mind, they’ll be able to help you pick out the best products for your event. If you’re spending $300 or more, you can usually negotiate a discount of 10 to 15 percent – and if it’s close to the holiday, you might even be able to get a discount on a smaller purchase. 

A home fireworks show can be a great way to get family and friends together for an outdoor, COVID-free party. When you know how to shop for the best fireworks, you’ll be able to put on an even better show – and one that will keep them talking all year.

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