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Basics of Classic Car Insurance

Get the Right Coverage for Your Classic, Vintage or Antique Car

A classic car can be a source of great pride. Whether you intend to take it to car shows, or restore it in your garage, getting automobile insurance to protect the car you’ve invested so much time or money in is a no-brainer. But your everyday, run-of-the-mill car insurance won’t cut it. Classic cars require insurance policies all their own, and it’s important to understand how classic car insurance differs from traditional car insurance to ensure you’re adequately covered if you need to file a claim.

Just because you consider your car to be a classic, it doesn’t necessarily mean the insurance company will. Although what constitutes a classic is subjective, with both age and acclaim playing a role, each insurance company has its criteria. The three most common categories are classic, vintage and antique cars. Definitions vary for each category, but general guidelines should help you determine where your car fits in.

Classic red convertible with the hood popped
Courtesy of Port Townsend Kiwanis Classic Car Show

Classic, vintage or antique?

Classic cars are generally regarded as vehicles at least 20 years old, but no older than 40 years old. The Classic Car Club of America defines classic cars as those produced between 1915 and 1948. Some companies also cover what are called “modern classic” cars. Modern classics are typically considered to be at least 15 years old.

Vintage cars are generally defined as vehicles manufactured between 1919 and either 1925 or 1930. Antique cars are vehicles more than 45 years old. Antique cars also must be kept up to the original manufacturer specifications. Additionally, each state has its own legal definition of what constitutes an antique vehicle, and most states require a special license plate designating it as such.

If your vehicle doesn’t fit into one of these categories, you still might be able to get classic car coverage, but you’ll need to check with your insurance agent to see exactly what kinds of vehicles various insurance companies cover. Other vehicles that may fall under classic car coverage include reproductions and replicas, race cars and muscle cars.

Requirements and eligibility

Once you figure out if your car qualifies for classic car insurance, you need to be aware of any other requirements insurance companies may have. One of the most important things companies consider is how the car is stored. When the car is not in use, many insurance companies expect the vehicle to be stored in a secure area, such as a storage unit or your home’s garage.

Additionally, insurance companies only provide classic car coverage if you use the vehicle on a limited basis; if you drive it regularly for your commute, you won’t qualify. Each company’s criteria for what constitutes limited use vary. Some might impose mileage limits, and others might forbid certain uses, such as commuting to work. It’s also common for insurance companies to require you to own another car for everyday use.

Like other car insurance policies, your driving record also plays a role in your eligibility. Serious offenses on your driving record — such as driving while intoxicated, reckless driving or repeated speeding tickets — are an indication to insurance companies that you’re a risk, and it might make them hesitant to offer you insurance.

If you intend to bring your classic vehicle to car shows or meetings, many classic-car policies cover such travel under their limited-use provisions. Some insurance companies might have restrictions on such travel, however. If you intend to be a regular on the car-show circuit, your agent will work to find you an insurance company that specializes in covering such travel.

One note: some insurance companies that offer classic car insurance don’t insure certain types of cars, such as off-road vehicles or vehicles used for commercial purposes. They also may not insure vehicles that have been previously damaged or are in poor condition.

Cost of classic car insurance

Once you’ve determined your car’s eligibility for classic car insurance, you’ll want to consider the cost of insuring it. It can sometimes cost less to insure classic cars because they’re driven less often. On the other hand, classic car insurance is considered a specialty insurance product and is more complicated than traditional auto insurance.

In addition, classic cars tend to be worth more than regular cars, making them more expensive to replace. Repairs and parts for classic cars tend to be costlier as well — so classic car insurance could cost you more than a traditional policy. Your insurance agent can help you get quotes from multiple companies and find the best deal. Additionally, many insurance companies offer both classic and traditional auto insurance, and you might be able to get a discount if you bundle them together.

Value considerations

Classic and traditional car insurance are similar in that they both offer standard property damage and bodily injury liability coverage, but they differ in how the vehicles are valued. Because classic cars tend to be worth more, a standard car insurance policy typically doesn’t leave you adequately covered. Standard vehicles depreciate in value over time as they age and rack up mileage. Classic cars, however, may retain their value, or even increase in value over time.

Because many classic cars are unique, it’s also difficult to pinpoint an exact value. Many classic car owners opt for what’s called an Agreed Value policy, in which the owner and the insurance company agree on the car’s value before the policy is purchased. Although Stated Value policies — in which the company pays out the lesser of either the vehicle’s stated value or its actual cash value — come with lower premiums, such policies are not advised for classic car owners unless the car was obtained without cost, such as through an inheritance.

Owning a classic car should be fun. The last thing you want is to worry about what will happen if you get into an accident. By purchasing classic car insurance, you can hit the road worry-free.

– Written by Steven Wyble, last updated in November 2022.

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