How Old Does a Car Have to Be to Be a Classic, Antique, or Vintage?

how many years for a car to become a classic

How old is a classic car, an antique car, and a vintage car? I know it changes from state to state on some of these classifications. I wanted a final answer for the following question.  How old does a car have to be a classic, antique, or vintage?

As a general rule, a classic car is 20 to 40 years old, an antique car is 40 to 80 years old, and vintage cars were model years of 1930 or older. Although not everyone agrees with these definitions, it’s generally accepted criteria, but each state sets the laws on the ages of vehicles for legal purposes.

If you are a fan of older cars… or vehicles in general, this article may help you clear up some confusion on ages and how the cars are classified into one of the 3 basic categories.

Let’s get started.

Classic Cars – Classic cars must be at least 20 years old, but no older than 40 years and any maintenance done must keep it extremely close to its original condition. No modifications are allowed on these cars. Some rules state that to be a classic car, the car must not have been made before 1925.

Antique Cars – Antique is a special classification that is usually a legal one in most states. These cars are often given specialty license plates so that they’re easily identified by police and other authorities on the road. There are different rules for each state that has this classification, but in general, the car must be as close to the manufacturer’s original design and specifications as possible to qualify.

Vintage Cars – Unlike antique, this isn’t a legal classification, but it does have some similarities. Cars that are classified as vintage were typically manufactured between 1919 and 1930, although some rules don’t recognize cars made after 1925. These cars are allowed to have some modifications in some states while still maintaining their status.

While the explanations above are crafted from within the industry/hobby itself, states take a different approach.

How Do Individual States Look At The 3 Categories?

Some states classify all 3 into one category, such as Louisiana. In Louisiana, anything over 25 years falls into all 3 categories as long as the vehicle has been held to the standards of all original equipment and no aftermarket modifications, including paint and colors.

While the plates are different, the fees, standards of classification and methods to acquire are the same. Ohio follows the same basic principles as Louisiana and California. Many other states classify them by the 3 different categories, but the rules of qualification may vary from state to state.

If you’re currently in the market for a classic, you should print out our list of questions you must ask before purchasing any classic, antique, or vintage cars.

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