Old vs. Classic: How to Know if Your Old Car Is Considered Classic

It is hard to say how old a car has to be to be considered a classic for auto insurance, but most people agree that classic cars are at least 20 years old. Auto insurance companies like Safeco say that cars should be at least 10 years old to be considered a classic, but states tend to include much older cars in their metrics. No matter how old your car is, the Internal Revenue Service will collect taxes if you sell it or allow you to deduct taxes if you give it to a charity.

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Written by Sara Routhier
Director of Outreach Sara Routhier

Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
Licensed Agent Cynthia Lanctot

UPDATED: Dec 24, 2021

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A Concise Overview

  • Auto insurance companies, states, and car enthusiast organizations have different metrics for how old a car must be before it is considered a classic
  • Most sources agree that cars should be at least 20 years old to be deemed classic vehicles
  • Depending on the age or value of your classic car, you may need to pay sales taxes, registration fees, and capital gains taxes

How old does a car have to be to be considered a classic for insurance or other purposes? Also, when does a car become a classic for tax purposes?

Answers will vary depending on the source. In some cases, your car only needs to be at least 10 years old and contain parts that deem it a collectible.

Auto insurance companies define what makes a car a classic. This distinction dictates which auto insurance coverages they offer for certain cars. States also have different specifications for a classic car, and certain car clubs and associates have their metrics.

Read on to discover how old your car should be for consideration as a classic and compare requirements from top auto insurance companies. However, if you want to see rates from top auto insurance companies in your area right now, you can enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool above.

Generally, how old does a car have to be for consideration as a classic?

That is a difficult question to answer since the definition can vary wildly among companies and organizations. In general, a car should be at least 20 years old to be considered a classic, but states and car associations may also consider the era. For example:

  • Car insurance companies like State Farm offer classic auto insurance for collector cars aged 10 years or older.
  • A state like Connecticut defines classic cars as those that are at least 20 years old. Florida and Washington recognize 30-year-old cars as classic or collectible.
  • The Classic Car Club of America refers to cars produced from 1915-1948 as Full Classics. The Antique Automobile Club relies heavily on this definition for its classification of collector cars.

Now, how old does a car have to be for consideration as a classic for insurance? Read on to discover the different metrics among auto insurance companies.

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How old must a car be for consideration as a classic for an auto insurance company?

When choosing an auto insurance company to cover an older and restored vehicle, you may have to ask, “How old must my car be to be considered a classic?” Some car insurance companies may tell you up-front, likely on their websites.

To assist you, we have a handy list of companies that insure classic cars and clearly define how old a car should be to be considered a classic.

Auto Insurance Companies that Offer Extended Warranties
CompanyOverall RatingCustomer Service Rating
autopom!4.24.1
CARCHEX4.43.2
CarShield4.23.6
Endurance 4.64.5
Olive4.23.8
Protect My Car4.04.5
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Safeco considers cars younger than 10 years old modern classics and antiques to be at least 25 years old. Also, State Farm defines antiques as cars that are at least 25 years old.

Other Auto Insurance Companies That Offer Classic Car Insurance

There are a few companies that do not appear in the table above. They include AAA, American Modern, American National, Auto-Owners Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Hagerty, J.C. Taylor, and Leland-West.

AAA, American Modern, American National, Auto-Owners Insurance, and Farmers Insurance do not specify on their websites how old a car must be to be considered a classic.

Hagerty offers classic and collector auto insurance for cars that were produced in 1979 or before. Hagerty partners with Allstate, Esurance, The Hartford, Nationwide, and Progressive to provide their customers with classic auto insurance coverage.

  • Allstate and Hagerty share similar requirements for what makes a classic car.
  • GEICO, which is flexible concerning what it considers a classic, also partners with Assurant for classic auto insurance coverage.
  • Progressive acknowledges that classics might be 20-25 years old, but it is flexible with its specifications. The definition of a classic car depends on the state where you reside.

J.C. Taylor underwrites classic and antique auto insurance for 21st Century Insurance. However, the former does not disclose on its website what makes a car classic.

Leland-West is flexible regarding what it considers a classic car. It acknowledges that some may consider a 20-year-old collectible car a classic, while antiques should be at least 45 years old. However, Leland-West defines an antique car as one that is at least 25 years old.

How old must a car be to be considered classic for tax purposes?

That is a question with a multi-layered answer. For one thing, your car’s age will dictate how much you pay in state registration fees and sales taxes. The IRS treats classic cars a little differently.

State Examples for License Plate Registration

States define differently what makes a vintage, historic, or classic car. For example:

Arizona specifies a historic vehicle as one that is at least 25 years old. The state also requires historic car owners to pay an initial $25 fee and $10 for annual renewal.

Arkansas defines classic cars as those that are at least 45 years old. In 2019, the state shifted its definition from cars that were at least 25 years old.

Classic car owners  in Arkansas can register license plates with the classic car designation for $7. Also, they are exempt from annual registration fees and taxes.

In Connecticut, classic cars must be at least 20 years old. If you want to replace an Early American style plate with a Classic Vehicle plate, you will pay a $27 fee. Your initial registration fee for a classic license plate is $47.

You will also pay a registration fee in Connecticut. However, it is prorated based on the amount of time you have left on your current registration. If you want to order a vanity plate with a Classic Vehicle design, you will pay a $96 fee.

Sales Tax

If you buy or sell a classic car, you will need to pay taxes on that transaction based on the car’s ultimate destination.

For example, if you are in Washington State and buy the car from another resident in the state, you will pay Washington State sales tax. If you have the car shipped from Washington to Texas, you will pay Texas sales tax.

Other State Taxes

In some states, you may be exempt from paying additional taxes for owning a classic vehicle. For example, California has numerous exemptions, including gifts, a simple title change, and inheritance. However, you may need to pay federal taxes on some of those transactions.

Federal Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service does not expressly define what makes a car a classic, but it considers the car’s total worth. Note that the IRS does not appraise your vehicle, so you will need to handle that yourself.

That said, if you sell a classic car, you will likely pay a 28% capital gains tax. However, you can deduct some of the expenses you incurred to restore and sell the car.

The IRS will also need to know the car’s value if you donate it to a charity. If the transaction is legitimate, you can deduct the value of the car from your income taxes.

How old must a car be to be considered a classic for auto insurance? What is the Final Word?

Your classic car has value and not merely sentimental value.

  • If your primary concern is auto insurance, be aware of how an auto insurance company defines a classic vehicle. Also, ascertain whether or not they offer either full auto insurance coverage or storage auto insurance for vehicles.
  • You should also be aware of how old your car must be to be considered a classic in your state. Not only does it determine how much you will pay in applicable fees and taxes, but it may come in handy when you choose an auto insurance company.
  • The value of your car can affect your federal tax rates.

Ultimately, have the car appraised by a professional appraiser or use an appraisal service like Kelley Blue Book. Discovering the value of your car is beneficial in all three scenarios.

Now that you know more about how old a car must be to be considered a classic, for auto insurance and other purposes, would you like to see rates from top auto insurance companies in your area? If so, enter your ZIP code into our free quote tool and get started.

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