What makes a car a classic?

For classic car lovers the world over, there is always one question that throws up different answers and sparks a debate. 

Spend an afternoon talking to a group of car enthusiasts, and you’ll soon realise that the term ‘classic car’ means something different to each of them. While ‘modern classics’ are gaining in popularity, and some cars seem to straddle the border between ‘vintage’ and ‘classic’, a quick Google search will bring up such a wide spectrum of opinions it can seem that no one really has the answer. Is it really that difficult to determine what makes a car a classic?

Why does it matter?

It’s not just the feeling you get knowing that your pride and joy is defined as a classic car (as great as that is). In understanding what makes a car a classic, you can also find a number of benefits to classic car ownership that you can take up with confidence once you’re clear your motor fits the bill.

1. Vehicle Tax Exemption

Some vehicles, including many classics, are exempt from paying vehicle tax.

Currently, vehicles made before 1 January 1980 are exempt from the need pay vehicle tax. However, according to the government guidelines you must still go through the process of taxing your vehicle even if you don’t have to pay.

So, are all pre-1980 cars, classic cars? They could be considered so! For insurance purposes though, the useage, condition and storage of the car are also factors.

2. MOT Exemption

A rolling 40-year MOT exemption was introduced in May 2018, meaning that any car, upon reaching 40 years since it was registered, is no longer legally required to get an MOT.

We still recommend that classic owners get their vehicles MOT’d – it’s a good way of ensuring your vehicle is still roadworthy, and in the grand scheme of things doesn’t cost a lot. However, if your vehicle is MOT-exempt, there’s a good chance it can be considered a classic.

Read more about the 40-year rolling MOT exemption here.

3. Specialist Car Insurance

If we had a penny for every time we’re asked ‘how old does a car have to be, to be a classic?’ – let’s just say we’d have a lot of pennies! The vehicle age for classics, for insurance qualification purposes, can be a tricky area. Insurers vary as to where they draw the line, and a lot depends on other criteria, too.

For example, you can get specialist ‘modern classic’ vehicle insurance through some insurers, for vehicles newer than would usually be considered classic. Some will say 15 years old, some 20, some 25.

But if your car is a classic, it can qualify for classic car insurance, which is often at a lower cost than standard vehicle insurance.

Beyond age, the way in which you use your car will also determine whether it counts as a classic for specialist vehicle insurance. Broadly, this comes down to:

  • Useage: is it a second (or third, or fourth) vehicle, or your only vehicle?
  • Mileage: do you limit the mileage done each year?
  • Storage: is it kept on a driveway, in a garage, in a secure facility?
  • Age and condition: does it count as collectible, ‘cherished’, vintage or in some other way unusual?
  • Modifications: is it modified, and if so is this cosmetic, functional, both?

Here at Heritage we’re as flexible and accommodating as we can be, and we’ll look at your vehicle and your insurance needs and see what’s available from the wide range of insurers we work with. For example, we can cover modified 4x4s even if they were registered in say 2016, provided they have 3+ modifications for off-roading. We can also cover performance cars, which might not strictly all be classics but do count as specialist.

If your vehicle is defined as a classic by insurers then you’ll likely save a decent amount of money on your premium, benefit from limited mileage discounts and/or discounts for car club members, if you belong to one.

As a Heritage Car Insurance customer you’ll also get free agreed value, the option to retain salvage, and cover for modifications. All of which help you protect and enjoy your classic a little bit more than you would with a standard every day vehicle policy.

4. Value

Your car being defined as a classic vehicle will most likely have a positive effect on its value, but you do need to make sure that value is taken into account when you take out insurance. ‘Agreed value’ is a way to confirm the value of your classic car in your policy, so that if it does get written off, you’ll be paid a set amount rather than market rate at the time of the claim. We offer free agreed value on classics: no extra costs for protecting your investment.

So, what makes a car a classic?

Really, it’s a combination of things ranging from age and provenance to useage and condition, rather than being down to popular opinion. It also depends who you look to for the answer.

If you are looking to specifically buy a car that’s definitely a classic, look at car clubs for that marque or model. If you need support on determining whether your car is a classic for insurance purposes, we’re here to help – just give us a call on 0121 248 9229 or email us service@heritagecarinsurance.co.uk