A classic car is not your average run-of-the-mill vehicle. Unlike most cars, these vehicles tend to be older and increase in value over time. Collectors seek out these cars.

When is a vehicle considered a classic? That depends. Definitions vary widely, with car collector organizations, individual insurance companies, and states with their own rules about classic cars.

Read on to learn the answer to the question, “when does a car become a classic?” And find out whether you need classic car insurance coverage.

Key Highlights
  • Car collector organizations define “classic cars” based on age and special qualities.
  • Insurance companies may define a “classic car” as being 25-30 years old and of interest to collectors or historians.
  • States may have their own rules to define “classic cars” based on age and type of vehicle.
  • Insurance for classic cars offers protection in ways a standard auto policy wouldn’t: reimbursement of the car’s value even if it appreciates, specialized repair and towing coverage in case of a breakdown or if the car needs special parts.

What makes a car a classic?

When does a car become a classic? There is no single definition of what makes a vehicle classic. The Classic Car Club of America says a “Full Classic” is a fine or distinctive automobile built between 1915 and 1948. By this club’s definition, most classic cars had special qualities when produced.

They were:

  • Highly-priced
  • At the top end in terms of quality
  • Built-in limited quantities

The club states that mass-produced assembly line vehicles cannot be considered classics. This differs sharply from insurance company definitions, which tend to view cars as classic so long as they are roughly 25 to 30 years old and of interest to collectors. Examples might include hot rods and muscle cars.

How old is an antique car? The Antique Auto Club of America says the definition of an “antique” vehicle has changed over the years. In 1974, the rule was widened to include all cars that are 25 years old or older, and that standard remains in place today.

Finally, American Collectors Insurance has its own definition of classic car years. It lists three types of special cars:

  • Vintage: manufactured between 1919 and 1930
  • Antique: manufactured in 1975 or earlier
  • Classic: manufactured in 1990 or earlier

Frequently asked questions: Classic cars

Is a 20-year-old car a classic? What about a 25-year-old car?

Is a 20-year-old car a classic? Some insurers and car organizations might say “yes.” In general, though, auto insurance companies consider a vehicle eligible for “classic” status once it is at least 25 to 30 years old, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

However, car insurance companies have their own definitions. For example, you are eligible for State Farm classic car insurance if your vehicle is aged 10 to 24 and has “historical interest,” such as a hot rod or muscle car.

Once a vehicle like this is 25 years old, it is an “antique” in State Farm’s eyes and is no longer eligible for classic car insurance.

Geico classic car insurance is available on cars from 1995 or earlier that meet other criteria: A new exotic car; common antiques; a new replica car like a 1966 Batmobile; or a classic military vehicle, hearse or fire truck.

The type of vehicle can also make a difference. For example, how old does a truck have to be a classic? The answer can be different than with a car.

Hagerty Insurance offers collector and classic car insurance on the model year 1979 and older cars. But it offers collector truck and SUV insurance on vehicles the model year 1996 and older.

Do I need classic car insurance?

Classic car insurance can be a good investment for owners of special vehicles. This coverage protects your classic cars in ways that a standard auto policy does not.

For example, classic car insurance reimburses you for the car’s value. Unlike most vehicles, which depreciate as the years roll on, classic cars often increase in value.

These policies also tend to allow you to bring your vehicle to a specialized repair shop should it need to be fixed. Such shops often charge much higher costs than a typical repair shop, but the sellers of classic car policies understand the importance of specialized service if the job is to be done right on classic cars.

Finally, these policies might offer coverage for special types of towing guaranteed to protect the car in the event of a breakdown and coverage for specialized — and often expensive — spare parts.

How old does a car have to be to be considered an antique?

How old does a car have to be to be an antique? As mentioned previously, the Antique Auto Club of America says “antique” cars are 25 years old or older.

By contrast, American Collectors Insurance says an antique car was manufactured in 1975 or earlier.

States may also have their own rules. Some states also may use terms other than “antique” in describing older cars.

How old is a vintage car?

What age is a car vintage? As mentioned above, American Collectors Insurance considers a car to be “vintage” if manufactured between 1919 and 1930. However, definitions may vary. And, as with antique cars, states may have rules for what qualifies as a “vintage” car.

Are vehicles over 25 years old tax-exempt?

This depends on your state. Most states impose sales tax on classics, but some states, like Montana and Alaska, don’t. In some states, the sales tax for classic, antique or vintage cars is the same as any other car, but in other states, the amount differs for classics. Check your state sales tax laws so you’ll know what to expect.

Can a car last 30 years or more?

Yes. Many vehicles reach antique or vintage status and last longer than 30 years.

Final thoughts: How many years old is a classic car?

If you are a lover of classic cars, you know there are significant time, money and emotional investments in those vehicles. Classic cars, antique cars and vintage cars bring a sweet nostalgia and sentimental value that often exceed their financial value to classic antique owners. They’re practically part of the family.

Knowing whether or not your vehicle is a classic antique is important for more than just prestige. It may mean a classic car insurance policy is more suitable than a standard auto insurance policy. If you’re still not sure if your car is a classic, speak with your insurance company so they can help to ensure you’ve got the proper coverage.

Why you can trust CarInsurance.com

The CarInsurance.com editorial team bases its reporting on data it commissioned Quadrant Information Services to gather on average auto insurance rates for more than 34K ZIP codes across the United States. Typically, averages are based on rates for a single, 40-year-old male, with no violations who commutes 12 miles to work each day and has a full-coverage policy with limits of 100/300/100 and a $500 deductible for collision and comprehensive coverage.