Antique or Classic Cars

The information on this page is partially obtained from documents/web pages of CCCA, AACA, PA State DOT

The difference between Classics, Vintage & Antique Cars

There is a lot of confusion on what exactly a classic car is, and what sets it apart from vintage and antique cars. We have heard the term “classic” used interchangeably when describing any old car that looks as if doesn’t belong on the roads with the modern daily drivers.
The term classic car generally applies to vehicles over 20 years old. Antique cars are considered those over 45 years old, and vintage cars are those built before 1930. But as with many subjects in the motoring world, not everyone agrees on the same definition. State DMVs, insurance companies, and classic car clubs each have their own classifications. And some classifications overlap between classics and antiques.

The state of California has a very broad classification on what a “classic” car is, and they do not differentiate between classics, vintage, and antique cars. According to California DMV, if the vehicle was manufactured after 1922, and is at least 25 years old, it is a Historical Vehicle. However, if it has a 16-cylinder or larger engine, and is manufactured between 1922 and 1965, it gets classified as a Horseless Carriage. Modified cars and replicas aren’t considered to be part of either category.

The state of Pennsylvania has a more specific classification of ANTIQUE AND CLASSIC vehicles

Antique Motor Vehicle – A motor vehicle, but not a reproduction thereof, manufactured more than 25 years prior to the current year which has been maintained in or restored to a condition which is substantially in conformance with manufacturer specifications.

Classic Motor Vehicle – A motor vehicle, but not a reproduction thereof, manufactured at least 15 years prior to the current year which has been maintained in or restored to a condition which is substantially in conformity with manufacturer specifications and appearance.

Vintage Registration Plates – A vintage registration plate is a “period-issued” registration plate from 1906 to 1976 to be displayed on an antique or classic vehicle with the same corresponding model year. Vintage registration plates are not manufactured or issued by PennDOT. Applicants are required to provide the vintage registration plate they wish to display on their antique or classic vehicle.

If you’re looking to register your classic with the DMV in order to receive special rates or those cool historical license plates, make sure that you know your state’s specific requirements. In Michigan, for example, a “historical” vehicle must be 26 or more years old, owned solely as a collector’s item and used only for events such as club activities, parades, and car shows.

Again, each state’s rules are different, so be sure to check.
Insurance companies set their own guidelines on what they define as a classic car. According to Hagerty, cars from 1900 to 1979 are considered either Antique or Classic. If the car is manufactured in 1980 or later, it is considered a collector car.

The Classic Car Club of America is even stricter in their description of classics. They only consider cars between the years 1915 and 1948 to be classic. The CCCA goes another step further, and only includes vehicles “distinguished by their respective fine design, high engineering standards and superior workmanship.”

Have you been thinking a lot lately about what makes a car a “classic”? Are there certain qualities or qualifications to be considered classic? Is it strictly an age thing? If so, how old does it have to be? Maybe it’s a combination of age and other factors. Make? Model? Engine? How about popularity among enthusiasts? Seriously, there are a million different answers to the question, “When will my car be considered a classic?” When it comes to a few specific tasks, it can matter a great deal when your car is considered a classic.

Here is when and why it is important.

A Simple Definition: Age.
Here’s the simplest and broadest definition of a classic car: old. That’s right, the one thing everyone can agree on is that for a car to be a classic it must be old.

The Antique Automobile Club of America has been around since 1935, so surely they must know. They define classic automobiles as “fine” or “unusual” vehicles, foreign or domestic, that are between 25 and 50 years old. 50 and older means a car is officially an “antique”. This is really not unusual. Many clubs and organizations distinguish between classic, antique and vintage automobiles.

The Classic Car Club of America is considered by many to have the “definitive” definition of a classic. A CCCA Classic is a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948. Classic Car Lenders and Insurers.

If you are considering the purchase of a “classic” vehicle, it is important to know how the term is defined by lenders and insurers in order to qualify for specialized rates.

For example, The Hagerty Group, a major insurer and lending agent for classic and antique vehicles, notes that, due to lower production quality standards, some mid-1970’s and 80’s vehicles that would normally be classified as classic are not considered collectible and therefore may not qualify for specialized classic car rates.

Each company has their own definitions, so be sure that you fully understand whether you will be able to obtain a specialized loan or insurance policy before putting cash down on that “classic” car you’ve been dreaming of.

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