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The Difference between Classic and Antique Cars

Classic Car

The term antique is most often used interchangeably with the term classic when talking about older vehicles. In many instances using one term or the other may mean the same thing, but there are differences between the two depend on the company you keep.

Antique Car Definition:

An antique car as defined by the Antique Automobile Club of America must be at least 25 years of age or older and is currently functioning and restored to comply with the manufacturers original specifications.

Over the years the definition has been refined to include several classifications of vehicles. For example, in 1953 a new Class 18 – ‘Antique Cars with four-wheel brakes’ was added to the definition. There have been many changes in classes from time to time, but the common
thread is that vehicles have to be restored, in good running condition and in excess of 25 years of age. Visit the AACA website for a more comprehensive history of the definition of antique vehicles.

Department of Motor Vehicles Definition

Each motor vehicle department has varying definitions of the term antique vehicle. The state of New York for example, is much less discriminating in its definition than AACA (as with many other DMV’s across the US). New York’s DMV allows any vehicle in excess of 25 years of age to be issued historical or vintage plates. In order to qualify for these special license plates, however, the vehicle must be insured under a specialty insurance policy.

Massachusetts DMV classifies an antique vehicle as “any motor vehicle over twenty-five years old maintained solely for use in exhibitions, club activities, parades, and other functions of public interest. This includes test drives to prepare for such functions and transportation to and from repair facilities, and not used primarily for the transportation of passengers or goods over any way.”

Some states require 20 years while others 25. It’s best to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles in advance to avoid registration surprises.Antique Vehicle

Classic Car Definition:

Incorporated in September of 1952, partially because their vehicles were considered “too modern” to participate in AACA’s events the Classic Car Club of America defines a classic car as: “…fine or unusual motor cars which were built between and including the years 1925 to 1948. (Some cars built prior to 1925 that are virtually identical to a 1925 model that is recognized by the Club are currently being accepted on a “Please Apply” basis). All of these are very special cars which are distinguished by their respective fine design, high engineering standards and superior workmanship.”

CCCA understands that other clubs recognize other cars as classic vehicles that do not fall within their definition, but they do not consider them as ‘Full Classic’ vehicle. To review the list of ‘Full Classic’ vehicles as defined by CCCA, visit their website.

Insuring Classic/Antique Cars

Probably the most important definition is how your insurance company defines these vehicles. Insurance companies have various programs to insure antique/classic cars. Some policies require the vehicle to be 25 years and older while others insure ‘newer’ collector cars.

Whether it is an antique or a classic vehicle, the only way to insure it is with a specialty policy. Listed below are several insurance companies that will be able to help you secure the right coverage for your vehicle:

About the author: Felicia A. Williams is a former insurance broker who is now a freelance writer.

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