What is the Difference Between Classic, Antique, and Vintage Cars?

What is difference between classic antique & vintage cars

A lot of people are confused about what a classic car is, and how it is different from an antique or vintage car. We’ve heard the term “classic” used interchangeably to describe just about any old car that seems out of place among modern daily drivers. It’s not just age that determines whether a car is an antique or a classic. There are several terms and jargon people use when describing these cars.


Key Highlights

  • Age: Classic (20+ years old), Vintage (1919-1930), and Antique (45+ years old, varies by state).
  • Originality: Classics prioritize original design and specs, Vintage allows modifications, and Antiques accept various conditions.
  • Definition Variations: Classifications depend on state DMVs, insurance companies, and classic car clubs.

If you are going to register your car, exhibit at car shows, find a mechanic who can handle your car’s unique problems, and apply for Classic Car Insurance, understanding the key differences between each type of vehicle is essential.

Our car transport experts have been shipping classic, antique and vintage cars vehicles for over 17 years so we asked them to describe a few of the most important distinctions between classic and vintage cars, as well as classic and antique classifications.

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Classic vs Antique vs Vintage Cars

We have listed all three and their generally agreed-upon ages below:

  • A vintage car is one that was manufactured between 1919 and 1930.
  • An antique car is any car manufactured in 1975 or earlier (older than 45 years old).
  • The classic car is a vehicle manufactured in the 1990s or earlier (at least 20 years old).

However, every state’s DMV, insurance company, and classic car club classify them differently. Classic cars are defined very broadly in California, and there is no differentiation between classic, vintage, or antique vehicles. The California DMV defines a Historical Vehicle as one that dates from 1922 or later and is at least 25 years old.

Those with engines larger than 16 cylinders, manufactured between 1922 and 1965, were classified as Horseless Carriages. Modified cars and replicas don’t fit into either of these categories.

Insurance companies define classic cars according to their guidelines. Hagerty defines vehicles from 1900 to 1979 as Antiques or Classics. A car manufactured in 1980 or later is considered a collector car.

Classic Car Club of America is even stricter in defining classics. As classic cars, they are only accepted between the years 1915 and 1948.


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What is the Difference Between Classic,Antique and Vintage Car

How old is a classic car?

“Classic car” is defined differently by different people. A classic automobile, according to the Classic Car Club of America, is one that was built between 1915 and 1948. For registration purposes, however, many states consider such cars to be antique or vintage vehicles.

In most cases, a classic car has to be at least 20 years old to qualify for insurance and registration. The car should have been kept to its original design and specifications if you intend to register it (and insure it). In other words, any restoration should stay true to the original design and construction, from the interior materials to the engine parts. This also means no modern touches are permitted.

How old is a vintage car?

It is interesting because, in some ways, this category is very specific, but in other ways, it has the loosest interpretation. To be regarded as vintage, a car must have been manufactured between 1919 and 1930. It does not have to be in its original condition, however. They can be lifted, chopped, modded, or customized without losing their vintage status. The only prerequisite is an age range.

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What makes a car an antique?

If you enjoy browsing antique car stores, you’ll find a lot of old junk mixed in with some treasures. Antique cars are different from other cars. The condition of an antique car can range from nearly original to nearly new, depending on the state.

Generally speaking, cars getting into this category are 45 years or older, but it can vary from state to state. In Michigan, for example, antique plates can be registered on vehicles that are over 20 years old. If the car or truck is not modified, it can either be considered vintage or antique.

Now that you know what classic, vintage, and antique cars are and you own one, you may be wondering how valuable it is. Here you’ll find a list of the top 10 classic car sites and everything you need to know about buying, selling, or transporting a classic car

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Bilal Ahmed is a dedicated auto transport researcher, blogger, and digital marketing expert with over a decade of experience. Holding a degree from MIT, Bilal passionately shares insights and knowledge with the world. His journey in blogging began as a means to connect with like-minded enthusiasts. With an honest and relatable writing style, Bilal swiftly garnered a devoted following. Renowned for his candid discussions on challenging subjects, he aspires to empower others in finding their voice through his platform.
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