When Is a Car Considered a Classic?

Whether a car is considered a classic depends on who you ask. Some define a 'classic' car as any car older than 25 years, while others only deem the label appropriate for cars manufactured between 1915 and 1948. While classic cars are usually valuable and unique, they often need frequent and expensive repairs. Insurance for classic cars can vary depending on how you use and store the vehicle, in addition to the other standard variables in auto insurance rates.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • A car is considered ‘classic’ if produced between 1915 and 1948
  • Certain requirements for qualifying for classic car insurance include age, condition, usage restriction, eligible driver and safe storage.
  • Common holdbacks of a classic car are safety issues, reliability issues, and more maintenance

Owning a classic car can be a great investment, but without proper insurance, repairs and restorations can be impossible to afford. If you have an old, well-kept car sitting in your garage, it’s time to see if it qualifies for classic status so you can secure full coverage for your classic vehicle.

While opinions may vary among car collectors and enthusiasts, insurers have clear standards. A “classic car” typically needs to be a certain age without any modifications to its original design. 

Age and quality aren’t the only factors to consider when purchasing classic car insurance. This article will cover everything from classic car standards to the cost of liability insurance and other forms of coverage.

Whether you need to insure a classic car or just find rates for your brand new vehicle, you can use our free quote comparison tool to find the best auto insurance rates near you. 

A Classic Car, According to the Experts

Depending on who you ask, there are multiple different definitions of what makes a car a “classic.” You wouldn’t give the title to just any old car. 

And while the average person would probably use antique, classic, and vintage as interchangeable labels, they actually have different definitions:

  • Vintage  – Cars generally manufactured between 1919 and 1930
  • Antique – A car that’s over 45 years old
  • Classic – A car that’s at least 25 years old but not more than 40

Still don’t know when a classic car is considered a classic? That’s okay, most experts haven’t reached a consensus either. 

To this day, there are disagreements between various car experts and clubs. The Classic Car Club of America considers a car to be classic if it is “produced only between 1915 and 1948” in a certain model that they recognize while the Antique Automobile Club of America defines classic cars as those older than 25 years.

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Applying for Antique Plates for Your Classic Car

What’s cooler than a distinct antique license plate, reserved only for a select few drivers? Like membership in an exclusive club, antique plates are a way to show other car enthusiasts that your sweet ride is the real deal. 

But antique plates are more than just for show. Registering as an antique vehicle has a host of benefits, including:

  • Waived vehicle inspections or emissions testing
  • Reduced or waived registration fees
  • Discounted automotive insurance
  • No mandatory re-registration each year

Without antique plates, your classic car may be subjected to yearly inspections that can be costly and time-consuming. 

Instead, here’s how you can go about locking down antique plates for your antique vehicle:

  • Check regional qualifications — Every state’s requirements differ, but usually not by much. Some areas only allow cars older than 30 years while others accept 25 or even 20 years. 
  • Complete application — For most areas, there will be a series of forms to fill out and submit by mail to your state DMV. In New York, for example, the application includes:
  • A Vintage License Plates form
  • An Application for Registration form
  • Color photos of the original vintage plates from the year your car was manufactured
  • A copy of your driver’s license
  • Proof of ownership and insurance
  • A Sales Tax Receipt for any vehicle not registered under your name in your state
  • The application fee of $3.75 for vehicles in your name and $28.75 for new registrations, either by check, money order, or credit card
  • An additional $50 fee for models after 1973 that don’t already have a title in your name in the state
  • Follow all state regulations — Antique plates can save you money upfront but the classic car designation can also impose driving limitations. In some cases, your usage will be severely limited, as well as your allowable mileage. To avoid costly fines down the road — literally — you’ll need corresponding classic car insurance.  

Qualifying for Classic Car Insurance

To qualify for classic or collector car insurance coverage, your vehicle has to meet certain requirements:

  • Age — Classic cars usually need to be between 25 to 40 years old. It varies state by state with some having a lower or higher age requirement. 
  • Condition — The car must maintain its original design without any changes. Restorations and repairs have to be made using materials consistent with the original fabrication methods. 
  • Usage Restriction — Some policies impose mileage limitations and may even require you to use a different primary vehicle. Naturally, as with any vehicle, more mileage correlates to a higher risk of accidents so insurers tend to place stricter limitations.
  • Eligible Driver — To guarantee safety, your insurance company will generally require that only those listed on the policy can drive the car.
  • Safe Storage — You may also be required to keep it in a safe, enclosed place like a garage to lower the likelihood of costly damage from the elements or a neglectful driver.

Along with that, you must retain a good driving record, a primary car for everyday use, and proof of regular vehicle maintenance.

Eligible Cars

There are a variety of vehicles that can be covered under classic car insurance, including:

  • Motorbikes
  • Antique and classic cars
  • Classic military vehicles
  • Muscle cars
  • Classic trucks
  • Exotic and luxury autos
  • Antique farm vehicles

Cars that are in poor condition, that have been damaged in some way, or are unable to be driven safely on the road are ineligible for classic car coverage.

The Cost of Coverage

Cost is a common concern for car enthusiasts looking to protect their prized possessions. Perhaps surprisingly, the cost of classic coverage can be cheaper than regular auto insurance.

Why would that be? 

Insurance companies recognize that you won’t be driving your classic car nearly as much as a regular vehicle. Since your classic car will spend most of its days in the safety of your garage, you aren’t as likely to file a claim, which limits the insurance company’s risk and allows for more affordable policies. Beyond that, the premium amount is determined, in part, based on the value of the car. 

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What Does Classic Car Insurance Cover?

Similar to your everyday auto insurance, classic car insurance can include coverage for:

  • Collision
  • Comprehensive
  • Property damage
  • Bodily injury liability
  • Roadside assistance

Classic car insurance can help pay for repairs and restorations, which can quickly add up for vehicles that require specialized parts or specific materials. While maintaining a classic car can be expensive, having classic car insurance can reduce the overall cost to a more manageable amount.

Pros and Cons of Classic Cars

Buying a classic car or earning classic status for an existing vehicle comes with both advantages and disadvantages. While inexpensive insurance sounds desirable, you can’t ignore the mounting cost of maintenance and the upkeep requirements just to maintain the status. 

Pros: Resale Value and Signature Style

Owning a classic car comes with a ton of advantages. Not only will lower insurance costs benefit your wallet, but a classic car that you love will benefit your everyday life.

Here are a few benefits worth emphasizing: 

  • Valuable — Most cars depreciate in value the moment you drive them off the lot. Classic cars, on the other hand, increase in value with every passing year, especially if they’re unique collectibles. Well-kept, classic cars are a great investment. If you ever decide to sell, regular restorations and maintenance will increase your chances of earning back what you put into it.
  • Style — Classic cars are unlike anything else you see on the road. Because of this, they attract attention wherever you go, whether that’s an antique car show surrounded by other aficionados or the supermarket down the street. 

Cons: Faulty Systems and Routine Maintenance

As with any piece of machinery, the many moving parts are bound to break down over time. Whether that’s a rusted undercarriage or busted transmission, classic cars can be much harder and more expensive to repair than last year’s Honda Civic. 

Here’s what you’ll have to worry about behind the wheel of a classic car:

  • Safety issues — Some classic cars were produced up to four decades ago. They could lack key safety features that are common in modern cars such as seatbelts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, and more. Beyond the legally required safety features, they won’t have any of the new-age bells and whistles that keep drivers safe, from backup cameras to lane-drift alerts.
  • Unreliable — Older cars are likely to break down more frequently, resulting in costly repairs and unforeseen circumstances. There’s an added layer of uncertainty every time you take it out on the open road.
  • More maintenance — Like a newborn child, classic cars require ongoing maintenance. As with diaper changes and nightly feedings, many old vehicles need their oil changed more frequently. Oftentimes, they have to be driven on a somewhat regular schedule to prevent rust build-up and deterioration. 

Though classic cars present a series of challenges that newer, flashier cars don’t, you can’t ignore the value of an older vehicle. After all, newborns are fussy, messy, smelly, and noisy, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still love our children — the same applies to the right vintage car. 

Securing Classic Car Insurance

Insuring your classic car doesn’t have to be an expensive hassle, despite the limitations. Our comparison tool is free, easy to use, and guarantees you’re purchasing the best policy for your investment. 

Whether looking at how to buy a classic car, how to sell a classic car , or how to restore a classic car, our resources are here to inform you of your options so you don’t end up overpaying. All you need to do is enter your ZIP code and you’ll be able to compare rates right away.

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