How Old is a Classic Car?
Most people thinking of classic cars have images in their heads of cars like 1957 Chevrolets or 1965 Mustangs seen in advertisements or in publications like Hemmings. Everyone’s got an uncle or a cousin that says the same thing about almost any car made before the 1980s. But are 1950s Corvettes, 1960s muscle cars like Hemi Coronets and 7-Liter Galaxies or 1970s Vista Cruisers actually classics?
What Age Makes a Car a Classic
There are a number of misconceptions about old cars as classics. The word classic is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as an adjective meaning “Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.”
The Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) applies the Oxford definition, giving the phrase an exact meaning and they have a specific list of approved cars. The requirements for a car to qualify as a classic according to their list are:
- It was manufactured between 1915 and 1948
- It must be a “fine” or “distinctive” automobile.
- It may be American or foreign built.
- It was generally high-priced when new.
- It was built in limited quantities.
Other factors such as engine displacement, custom coachwork and luxury accessories may also determine whether an automobile meets certain standards for CCCA acceptance. From this list of requirements, it’s clear that as far as classic car organizations are concerned, a car has to be made before 1948, and age isn’t the only deciding factor. It’s not the only way to define the term, but the Classic Car Club of America should certainly be considered an authority.
Another collector or enthusiast club may define the term differently. Likewise, many insurance companies offer policies for “classics” but define the term in a different way than other clubs do.
How Are Classics Valued?
The exact value of particular collector cars is often a matter of debate. With some vehicles, there is a long track record of auction results that speak to a very high market value. The most important reason to understand the value of a collector car isn’t necessarily to put it up for sale or to finance a loan. The most important reason is to adequately insure such a valuable possession against theft, loss or damage.
The way that insurers go about determining the value of collector cars, vintage cars and classics is by examining auction sales, reports of private sales and by consulting with professional appraisers. Based on the vehicle’s overall condition, miles driven since new or restored, equipment like engine size, rarity of color, special fabrics and other options these experts will rank them among other vehicles in the same category to arrive at what is known as Actual Cash Value.
However, collector cars and classics tend to appreciate with age. You want to insure the car for more than it’s worth to cover future appreciation, not what it’s worth today. Alternatives include declared value or stated value, where the vehicle owner states the price and insures it at that value. Another option is agreed value, where the owner and insurer negotiate for a value that both can live with.
No matter which option you choose, it’s important to read the fine print. Insurance companies frequently try to add disclaimers allowing them to pay either stated value or actual cash value, whichever is less. Watch out for this. Ask directly whether the agreed value or stated value policy is guaranteed to pay at that value. Ask to see the specific clause that says so. If it’s not in writing, it’s not guaranteed.
Who Sells Classic Car Insurance?
Most of those large and well known insurance companies you’re already familiar with do sell specialized policies for classic, muscle and other collector cars, but you have to specifically ask for them. Generally, these are the main companies you have to watch out for with the disclaimers mentioned above. However, there are plenty of insurers that specialize in vintage cars, specialty vehicles and collector cars. It always pays to shop around. Some have restrictions on age, type of registration, driving time, a garage for the vehicle and other requirements. Here are just a few.
Ways to Save Money on Insurance for Classics
Some of the easiest ways to cut down on the cost of insuring your vintage car are special policies for some clubs, driving the car very few miles, keeping it in a secure garage and installing alarm and tracking systems on the car.
Collector cars come under a variety of labels. However, just because they’re old, vintage, antique, special, even limited, exotic, historic or extremely expensive, these labels don’t mean they are classics. Classic cars are certain cars, perfect examples of their types, and they need to be manufactured between 1915 and 1948, along with other specific requirements.