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How old is a classic car to qualify for insurance?

Blue classic car driving on a dirt road

Buying insurance for your classic car isn’t the same as buying insurance for the car you drive every day. When it comes to automobile collectibles, there are many variables including how old your classic car is, how it’s going to be used and how it will be registered. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, either. Different states have different regulations and guidelines as to what actually qualifies as a classic car. While the terms are often used interchangeably, there’s a difference between antique, vintage and classic cars. Here is a general overview of how old an antique car has to be to qualify for classic car insurance.

What age makes a ‘classic’?

There’s more than one definition of “classic car,” and they can differ greatly. For example, the Classic Car Club of America defines a classic as a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile built between 1915 and 1948. However, for registration purposes, many states would consider cars of that age to be antique or vintage automobiles. (You’ll want to consult your state’s specific laws to see its guidelines.) 

For insurance and registration purposes, the age of a classic car, in most cases, is at least 20 years old but not more than 40 years old. If you are going to register it (and insure it) as a classic, it should have been kept to its original design and specifications. That means any restoration must remain consistent with the way the car was originally built, including the kinds of materials used in the interior and the kind of parts used in the engine. It also means no modern touches can be added; For example, an MP3 player or a built-in GPS navigator in a 1988 Mustang is a no-go. Click here for more information about whether or not your car qualifies for classic car insurance.

Counting the cost

You might be surprised to learn that in some cases it may actually be less expensive to insure a classic car than it is to insure a regular car, although the insurance process works pretty much the same as a standard policy. 

Your policy terms will be for one year, and it will include collision, liability, comprehensive and uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage. Your state’s mandatory liability coverage applies to your classic car. Most states require that you carry insurance on a classic car even if it isn’t being driven. However, some states allow you to drop coverage on a vehicle that’s not being driven – on the condition that you surrender the tag and registration.

Why classic car rates can be lower

The reason rates are often lower is because of the restrictions placed on classics. When a car is registered with the state as a classic, that state may have certain restrictions such as when it can be driven, where it can be driven (events like car club meetings, car shows, parades, etc.) or how far it can be driven. If a car is registered as a classic that designation may prohibit it from being used for general daily transportation. 

When a car is spending more time in the garage than on the road, the risk of accidents or other damage decreases – which means the rates may decline as well.

Cars can become more valuable with age

However, don’t assume that you will always pay less for an older car. In fact, owning a classic car could turn into a valuable investment, and your coverage will reflect that. Insurers recognize that a well-maintained classic car will, at some point, begin to appreciate in value rather than depreciate. Their parts are harder to find and, if properly restored and lovingly cared for, classics often will be more valuable than new cars. 

Much of the cost, and the sometimes counterintuitive variables, of insuring your classic car depend on such factors as where you live, your driving record, how your car is registered and how it will be used. Consulting with your insurance agent is the best way to review your options and make the choice that is right for you.

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