What Year Constitutes As A "Classic" Car?

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Consumers often consider a classic car to be something flashy and on display at a local car show, but many factors decide what year a classic car is.

A classic car is typically one that was well-engineered with a timeless design, and had unique features like an engine size that could only be found in its particular year. But there are rules that matter when insuring the car, registering the car, and paying taxes on the car.

There is no specific year that constitutes as a “classic” car, as it’s always changing. However, any car at least 25 years old typically falls under this classic car category. Other factors like performance, design, value, and rarity determine whether it’s a classic or not.

The general rule in the industry is that a car is considered a classic when it is older than 25 years. However, others would claim there are more factors besides just the age so we are here to solve this debate and provide a concrete answer that allows you to differentiate a car, classic car, antique car, and vintage car.

Information and research about classic cars below has been collected from reliable sources like the Insurance Information Institute. The IRS also has rules on these cars because things like insurance and taxes differ based on the car type.

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What Year Constitutes As A "Classic" Car?

A classic car is defined by many as a vehicle that was manufactured before a certain cutoff date. Depending on who you ask, that date may be anywhere from the 1920s to the 1990s.

However, specific criteria must be met for a car to be considered a true “classic” automobile. Typically, any vehicle older than 25 years is qualified as a classic, and when you look at much older cars, they can become antiques instead.

Classic cars are also defined based on value and whether they are better off being scrapped or restored. A car that gets scrapped because of age isn't a classic.

There are several elements that most agree on when it comes to classifying a car as a classic. These things include age, performance, design, and production quantity.

What Else Determines If A Vehicle Is A Classic Car?

A classic car is a vehicle that has been around for more than 25 years. However, more than just the year determines whether a car is a classic or not.

These include the originality of the model, its age, its rarity, and more. Below are the key factors to consider, which insurance companies also factor in.


When determining whether a car is considered a classic, the first thing most people look at is the age of the vehicle. Most agree that any car made before a specific cutoff date is a classic, no matter how it stacks up against the other criteria.

If your car is over 25 years old, it can qualify as a classic car. However, there is no set age for a car to be considered a classic car.

Instead, the age is determined by the model year and the decade that it was manufactured.

For example, a 1973 Chevrolet Corvette would be 49 years old today, meaning it would be a classic car. However, a 2010 Chevrolet Corvette would not be considered a classic car since it is only 12 years old.


Performance can depend on many things, including acceleration, top speed, and handling. This can also include horsepower and the car's fuel efficiency.

Many people believe that a car must be able to reach a certain speed or have a high amount of horsepower before it can be considered a classic. This is not necessarily the case every time, but oftentimes they do.

The important thing to note is that a car must be able to perform the tasks that it is designed for. In other words, the vehicle must get you from point A to point B without breaking down. A car with a high amount of horsepower or speed is not necessarily a better car than one that is not.


Most people agree that the design of a car can be a crucial indicator of whether or not it is a classic car. However, design can be a subjective factor.

The design of a car can be broken down into several categories. The exterior of the car, the interior of the car, and the engine of the car are all aspects of design.

The look and feel of the car can be judged by many people based on a person’s taste. Some people prefer classic vehicles that have a fundamental and simple design.

Other people prefer cars with a modern and flashy design. It is important to note that the design of a vehicle is subjective and can be challenging to define.

Production Quantity

Production quantity refers to the number of cars manufactured in a given year. Many people believe the car must have low production numbers to be considered a classic car.

No specific number of cars must be manufactured for a car to be considered a classic car. Instead, it is all about the year that the car was manufactured among other things.

If an automobile has low production numbers, it will be more valuable in the future. Many people mistakenly believe that a car must be rare to be a classic car. While rare cars can be classic, they are not the only cars that can be classified as such.


The amount you use a car will also determine whether it’s considered a classic car or not. For example, insurance policies limit the amount you can drive your car and they won’t provide daily driver coverage.

If you need daily driver coverage, you won’t qualify for classic car insurance. It’s also worth noting that classic cars are insured to travel to events like classic car shows too.


Another thing that determines how your car gets qualified is the way it gets stored. For example, leaving your “classic” car in the driveway at all times would not get you approved for classic car insurance.

Instead, you need to keep it somewhere secure and enclosed like a garage or storage unit.

Differences Between Classic, Antique, And Vintage Cars

Many people have different opinions when it comes to defining a classic car. However, there are a few things that most people agree on. These criteria include age, performance, design, and production quantity.

If a car can be classified as a classic based on these factors, then it is likely to be a classic car. But as you start looking at even older cars, there are other classifications like antique cars and vintage cars.

We will explain the difference between the three below to help with your future vehicle registration, insurance, and taxes.

Classic Cars

Classic cars are typically defined by any vehicle manufactured 25 years ago or before 2000. Classic cars also have much more utility and they are popular for restoration projects.

Most classic cars are older muscle cars and sports cars with the old lead fuel engine designs. But this can also vary.

Antique Cars

Antique cars are at least 45 years old and this usually qualifies any vehicle built in the 1950s or sooner. They are not typically used on the road and only serve as a collectors item or a project car.

Vintage Cars

Vintage cars are the oldest of the three with a manufacturing date between 1918 and 1930. These are much more difficult to find and they tend to be too outdated to drive unless they are completely restored.

Does A Classic Car Need A Special Insurance Policy?

The Insurance Information Institute clearly states there is no specific definition for what constitutes as a classic car, but a special insurance policy is required.

The special insurance policy required will differ based on the car’s value, restoration requirements, and any other unique features. It may seem like a limited policy, but you’ll also pay much lower pricing.

On average, classic car insurance costs between $200-$600 per year whereas regular car insurance is likely to be five to ten times this cost.