When Exactly Does a Car Become a Classic Car?

Everyone loves spotting a clean classic car. They’re pinnacles of automotive beauty, whether it’s obnoxious tailfins or immense amounts of chrome. They just stand out among some of the drab, aerodynamic designs coming out these days. But how long does it take for a car to become a classic car? And when will the new electric cars of today become the classics of tomorrow?

1980 Cadillac Le Cabriolet
1980 Cadillac Le Cabriolet | Denver Post via Getty Images

When does a car become a classic car?

Unfortunately, that question is easier asked than answered. It all depends on who you ask because there are a dozen different opinions as to what makes a classic car classic, vintage, and antique.

There are a few classic car clubs out there that set their own standards for what cars are eligible. The most exclusive age range was set by the Classic Car Club of America, which includes only certain cars made from 1915 to 1948. That means such icons, like the first Ford Model T first produced in 1908, wouldn’t make the cut. The Antique Automobiles Club of America, however, has looser rules, stating that any car that’s more than 25 years old is considered a classic.

One tidbit of information I find funny: The nit-picky Classic Car Club of America group was founded in 1952. The more welcoming Antique Automobiles Club of America, however, was founded in 1935. Maybe it’s just me, but one of these clubs seems a bit stuck up.

But while posh collectors define classic cars in one manner, the insurance man classifies them in another.

When is your classic eligible for classic car insurance?

Morris Minor Classic Car Covered By Tarp
Morris Minor Classic Car Covered By Tarp | In Pictures via Getty Images Images

Now, if you’re a bureaucrat, then you’ll be more interested to know when a classic car is eligible for classic car insurance. That all depends on 1.) your insurance carrier and 2.) the state you live in. One thing to note: if you’re using your car for commuting, or as a daily driver, you aren’t eligible for classic car insurance. Oftentimes, insurance companies set a yearly limit and only allow you to drive to parades, classic car shows, and other such events.

If you’d like an extensive list of what insurance companies consider to be a classic, head on over to Carinsurance.com, but I’ll sum it up for you. State Farm considers a classic to be anywhere from 10 to 24 years old, but once it’s 25, you’re no longer eligible. Nationwide is similar, saying a car must be at least 20 years old, but no older than 40 years old. And Geico has it so anything made after 1995 that adheres to certain regulations can be considered a classic.

What are those regulations? Well, the big one is that it’s a stock vehicle. There may be exceptions depending on the modifications made, but all in all, you’d need a different type of insurance. This is because classic car insurance covers classic car repairs, not modern engine rebuilds.

That’s all the technical jargon, but what about now? What cars are soon to become classics, and do they even feel like classics yet.

What cars are set to become classics next?

1996 Porsche 993 Turbo Classic Car
1996 Porsche 993 Turbo | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

For this demonstration, we’ll be using the Antique Automobiles Club of America’s guidelines, which state anything that’s older than 25 years is a classic. Do the math, that means cars from 1996 are about to become classics. And in just four years, cars from the turn of the century will start becoming classics too… really makes you think.

That makes the 1996 Motor Trend Car of the Year winner, the newly designed third-generation Dodge Caravan, a classic. But the Dodge Caravan had been around since the 80s, what about cars first built in 1996?

You can find a full list of cars that debuted in 1996 here, but I’ll highlight a few of the better-known ones. There’s the Acura CL, the fancy European Accord that came to the states. But perhaps the most “gray-hairing” cars on the list are the Volvo S70 and V70. They’re nothing special, just simple Swedish steel, and yet they just became classic cars. So as we all hurl through time, let’s ask one final, somewhat unsettling question: when will today’s cars become classics?

When will today’s cars become classic cars?

A red 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E electric crossover SUV traveling on a bridge overlooking a city skyline
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E | Ford Motor Company

We’re seeing the new Ford Mach-E and Bronco hit the streets, but by the year 2046, those too will become classics. It’s a startling example of just how quickly time goes by, as the cars we talk about today turn into the cars we reminisce on tomorrow.

Alright, that’s enough existentialism for one article. The point is, classics are more than just cars. They’re a staple of time passing by, they’re works of art. And in the eyes of the insurance man, they’re best left in park.

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