What Makes a Classic Car a Classic?

When it comes to cars, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to classic cars? It’s not all about beauty. In fact, while the word ‘classic’ might allude to certain qualities or traits in a vehicle, whether or not a car is actually a classic comes down to much more than looks. 

When is a car considered a classic?

It all comes down to age, The Balance reports. Though, that is putting it broadly. According to The Antique Automobile Club of America, classic cars are vehicles that are more than 25 years old. The Classic Car Club of America, on the other hand, defines a classic vehicle as a “Fine” or “Distinctive” vehicle that’s American or foreign built and was produced only between 1915 and 1948.

As it turns out, however, where you live might also have its own criteria for such cars. Take, for example, states like New York and Montana. While vehicles 25 years or older can receive vintage historical plates in New York, Montana requires classic cars to be at least 30 years old, The Balance reports.

Do classic cars qualify for antique license plates?

1948 Plymouth coupe classic car on display
1948 Plymouth Coupe | Robert Alexander/Getty Images

In certain states, classic cars do qualify for special license plates. While that might be good news for some, it’s important to keep a few key facts in mind when it comes to antique license plates. Because, as it turns out, outfitting a vehicle with an antique license plate isn’t always such a good idea.

While some states may have different regulations regarding antique plates, Nationwide reports that most states allow a vehicle to be designated as a classic after 25 years. If a car qualifies for a special license plate, a separate special registration form will need to be filled out. 

What many don’t know about antique license plates is that they come with many rules and stipulations. In fact, Hot Cars reports that cars with antique license plates can only be driven to and from car shows and exhibitions in many states. Cars with antique license plates must also be considered a collector’s item by the owner, Hot Cars reports.

Do you need special car insurance?

A Black 1931 Cadillac Series V8 parked
1931 Cadillac Series V8 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

As it turns out, in many cases, classic cars do need special insurance. According to the IIHS, to qualify for classic car insurance, vehicles must meet certain criteria. Beyond age specifications, the car can’t be used for everyday errands or commuting. Instead, it can only be used for car shows and exhibitions. Many insurers also require that the vehicle be stored in a locked, enclosed, private structure to qualify for this type of insurance.

The good news is that this type of car insurance can be immensely helpful in keeping a classic car in good condition. According to the IIHS, this type of auto insurance should provide the flexibility to bring a classic vehicle to a specialist, even if their rates are more expensive. Coverage for towing tends to be more comprehensive too, the IIHS reports.

How to find the perfect classic car

After learning more about what makes a classic car a classic, you may find yourself wanting to shop for one. The good news is that there are plenty of classic vehicles on the market today. But to find the best classic car for you? We recommend doing plenty of research. 

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