Even someone who doesn’t know anything about cars apart from that cars are just an engine running on four wheels will know, even at first glance, that a sixties Corvette is a classic. But what about your neighbor’s nineties BMW or an eighties Honda Civic? Well, here is a quick answer.
So, how old does a car have to be, to be considered a classic? That depends on the state you live in and can be 15, 20, 25, 26, 30, 35, 40, or 45 years old. Also, some states classify pre-1975 cars as classics, and certain states may include additional requirements other than age.
What Makes a Car Classic
The only thing that universally makes a car classic is age, but even that isn’t precisely defined and largely depends on who you ask. The same goes for other factors like how much the car costs, certification, historical significance, etc.
For example, for a car to be considered classic in the UK, it has to be at least 25 years old plus hold a value of over £15,000. The value of classic cars isn’t defined in the US, but some states like California may require a “special interest vehicle classification.” To get the “special interest classification,” the car has to be at least 25 years old and in the original manufacturer’s specification, meaning without modifications or any other significant changes.
That said, most other states don’t require anything else other than proof of age, but insurance companies might. And in the end, the definition of a classic car is not universal or entirely clear, for that matter. But we can say that one or more of these factors make a classic car: how old the car is, the general condition of the vehicle, its historical significance, and originality.
How Old Does a Car Have To Be To Be a Classic
Generally speaking, a car has to be 25 or 30 years old to be considered a classic, at least that’s according to the majority of classic car clubs and organizations. However, when it comes to different states or countries, the definition and age of classic cars vary wildly.
While in some states, there is no age requirement, in others, it can be as high as 45 years. At the same time, other states may determine the age using simple math formulas or adding additional requirements like proof of historical significance or a ban on major modifications.
So ultimately, there is no all-defining answer which is why we have compiled a list of all US mainland states with their individual classic car age requirements. At the top of the list, you will also see one of the largest classic car clubs in the states, and in some cases, you will find additional factors that determine whether or not a car is a classic in a specific state.
Classic Car Age Requirements by State
- Antique Automobile Club of America – 25
- California – 35 and
- California – 25 and “Special Interest Vehicle Classification”
- Texas – 25
- Pennsylvania – 15 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- New York – 25
- Florida – 30 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- Ohio – 25
- Virginia – 25
- Washington – 30
- Montana – 10 and “Historically Significant”
- North Carolina – 20 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- Arizona – 25
- New Mexico – 30
- North Dakota – 40
- South Dakota – 30
- Massachusetts – 25
- Georgia – 25 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- New Jersey – 25 and “Used Only for Exhibition and Educational Purposes”
- Colorado – 1975 or Older
- Michigan – 26
- Illinois – 25
- Minnesota – No Age Restriction
- Utah – 30
- Alabama – 30
- Maryland – 20
- Oregon – “More than half the number of years old between 1900 and the current year.”
- Louisiana – 25
- Connecticut – 20 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- Indiana – 25
- Wisconsin – 20 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- South Carolina – 25
- Kentucky – 25
- Wyoming – 40
- Maine – 25
- Vermont – 25
- Oklahoma – 25
- Mississippi – 25
- Delaware – 25
- Nevada – 25
- Nebraska – 30
- Iowa – 20
- Rhode Island – 25
- Arkansas – 45
- Idaho – 30
- Kansas – 35 and “Maintained or Restored to Manufacturer’s Specification”
- New Hampshire – 25
- West Virginia – 25
How Do I Know if My Car Is a Classic, Vintage, or Antique Vehicle?
So far, we have learned that there is no concrete definition of a classic car, and it’s much the same case with other classifications, such as vintage or antique. Still, we have managed to scrape up one clear definition, which comes from the “American Collectors Community,” and it goes like this.
Classic Cars – 20 to 45 Years Old
Classic cars are classified as those older than 20 years. The earlier classification stated that all cars built before the year 2000 were classics, but since 20 years now falls after that, we will take the 20-year mark as the correct one. Also, in case the car is older than 45 years, it falls under a different classification.
Antique Cars – 45 Years or Older
Antique cars are those 45 years or older, plus all the cars built before 1975. But again, because 45 years fall after 1975, the first classification is the correct one. Also, the antique cars have to be in original condition or restored to their original specifications.
Vintage Cars – 1919 to 1930
With vintage cars, it’s pretty simple. As long as the car’s production year falls between 1919 and 1930 and is restored to its original specification, it’s vintage.
When Does a Car Become Classic for Insurance
A car becomes classic for insurance whenever the state you are living in classifies it as such. That’s why most classic car insurance companies don’t have age limitations. However, insurance companies may put in place other requirements on top of those coming from the state’s governing body.
For example, Hagerty requires that the classic car isn’t a daily driver, that it’s stored in a private garage or a storage unit, that the driver doesn’t have any major infractions, and that all household members have their car. Of course, Hagerty, State Farm Classic Car Insurance, and other insurance companies all have their set of rules, so it’s best to do your research before settling for a specific insurance company.
Q: Is a 20-year-old car a classic?
In some states, yes, a 20-year-old car is a classic. Some of those states include Iowa, Connecticut, Maryland, and North Carolina. However, the average age a car has to be to become a classic is 30 years, and even in most states where the age is 20, there are additional requirements a classic car has to meet.
Q: How many years till a car is considered a classic?
How many years till a car is considered a classic depends on the state or country where you live, but the average age is 30 years. Still, in some states, the age can be as low as 20, or there may not be any age restrictions, while in others, it can be as high as 45 years.
Q: Is it ok to buy a 20-year-old car?
Yes, it’s ok to buy a 20-year-old car as long as it’s in good condition and has a full service history. A car that’s 20 years old, in good condition, and with quality maintenance can still have a lot of life left in it regardless of its mileage.
Q: What is a modern classic car?
There isn’t a clear definition of a modern classic car, but generally, a modern classic is considered to be all cars built between 1980 and 2000. However, others will argue that cars built between 2000 and 2010 are also modern classics making, which sets the age requirement at ten-plus years.
Q: What is the best age for a car to buy?
The best age for a car to buy is, simply put, brand new. New cars have extensive warranties, are covered by lemon laws, and will last the longest. But if you are looking for the best deal, a car that’s between four and seven years old is the best because, at that point, the car has lost the majority of its depreciation, and it’s still relatively new with low miles.
Q: How do you tell if a car will become classic?
The easiest way to tell if a car will become a classic is to look at production numbers and the level of media coverage when it first came out. Another factor you can consider is how exclusive the engine and transmission combinations are. For example, the F430 is the last manual V8 Ferrari, and it’s already higher in value than the newer 458 Italia.
In the end, the generally accepted classic car age inside automotive circles and car clubs is either 25 or 30 years. However, the laws in your state or country may disagree, which is why you should always confirm that information at your local DMV. And even though you can find the required age for all states in this article, there may be additional restrictions.
How old does a car have to be to be a classic? There is no simple answer which is why we have answered it for every US state individually.