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How to register your classic car

Couple driving in a registered classic car

When you buy a new or used car, you register it with whichever agency regulates vehicles in your state. Depending on which state you live in, this will most likely be the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Revenue or the Motor Vehicle Division. You provide the agency with the title with your name on it, proof that you’ve passed the required emissions test and/or safety inspection and proof of automotive insurance. 

But classic or antique car registration is not always that simple. While the process is still very similar, there are a few things you should be aware of before you take the first step.

Know if your car is considered a classic

The first thing you will need to find out is what qualifies as a vintage, antique, historic or classic car. This varies from state to state, and the restrictions placed on such vehicles differ with the age and use of the car. Research your state’s particular guidelines in advance of registering it – if you didn’t before you bought the car. If you are registered in one state with a certain special designation, such as “classic,” it may not qualify for that same designation in another state. 

States are allowed to choose what kind of registrations they offer and to determine what qualifies for that designation. Some states will also issue special classic car license plates to antique cars. So while the Antique Automobile Club of America says a classic car is one between 25 and 50 years old, and the Classic Car Club of America says it is a car produced between 1925 and 1948, your state may have a completely different interpretation. 

Some states say a car must be at least 20 years old to be considered a classic, while others require it to be at least 25 years old.

Classic car driving restrictions

Once you’ve established that your car is considered a classic, you will want to check into any restrictions placed on the car. Many states will not allow a car registered as a classic, vintage or antique car to be used as your primary car. So if you were planning on driving your meticulously restored 1978 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 to and from work every day, you might not want to register it as a classic. 

Also, keep in mind that if it’s not registered with a special designation like classic or vintage, in most states it will have to meet the legal emissions and safety requirements, which not all cars will be able to do without some aftermarket touches. 

It’s very important you do your homework to know what requirements and limitations are placed upon classic, antique or vintage cars in your area. This includes checking if you need classic car license plates. And, of course, always check with the DMV (or any other applicable office) to make sure you have all the proper paperwork and documentation required for registration. 

Classic cars are also unique in that they usually require their own type of insurance. Learn more about classic car insurance from Nationwide.

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