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What age does a car become a classic?

Is your ‘classic car’ your pride and joy? Is it a genuine classic or are you talking about that rusty old banger in the garage? Well, you might be surprised to learn that even if it’s a dodgy tin can on wheels, it could still be a classic. Discover how to find the right insurance for an older car.

Is your ‘classic car’ your pride and joy? Is it a genuine classic or are you talking about that rusty old banger in the garage? Well, you might be surprised to learn that even if it’s a dodgy tin can on wheels, it could still be a classic. Discover how to find the right insurance for an older car.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
6 MARCH 2023
5 min read
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When does an old car become a classic car?

In truth, there’s not really a definitive answer. Some enthusiasts think classic cars have timeless design, technological or nostalgic value, and embrace the idea of modern classics. But if you’re using car tax exemption as a cut-off point, then any car that’s aged 40 or older is a classic – even if it’s not very desirable.

If, however, you ask HMRC for a definition, then a classic car is anything that’s at least 15 years old and worth a minimum of £15,000. This will affect you if you have a company car that’s considered a classic by HMRC, as it will impact how you’re taxed.

Ask a random selection of insurance providers for their definition of a classic and they’ll probably all tell you something different.

What’s the difference between veteran, vintage, post-vintage and classic cars?

In short, a classic car is like beauty – it’s in the eye of the beholder. But as a general guide, here’s what the car connoisseurs say.

Type of car Definition Example
Veteran Anything made before WW1. Renault Voiturette
Vintage Anything made before 1930. Rolls Royce Phantom
Post vintage Anything made between 1930 and 1945. 1935 Talbot 65
Classic A matter of opinion but something desirable that isn’t made
any more.

Lotus Elan

When does a classic car become valuable?

It takes more than age to make a car a true classic. After all, the Renault Laguna is old but you wouldn’t necessarily say it’s desirable. The main characteristics that determine the value of a classic vehicle are:

  • Condition — how rusty is the car? A classic vehicle that is in excellent condition and safe to drive is highly collectible.
  • Rarity — how many came off the production line, and how many are still around?
  • Popularity — how sought-after is the car? The greater the demand, the higher the value.
  • Model quality — when it came onto the market, was the car model considered high-end or cheap?

How valuable your classic car is will depend on how many of these conditions it meets.

Are any newer cars considered classics?

According to the HMRC definition, it’s impossible for a ‘newer car’ to be considered a classic. However, you might be surprised to learn that some much-loved models have recently earned classic status.

For example, the Peugeot 205 turned 40 in February 2023, which now makes it exempt from road tax. An instant hit with consumers, it shattered Peugeot’s conservative image and racked up 5.3 million sales until production ended in 1999. The chic and sporty Peugeot 205 GTi model is already well on the way to achieving iconic status.

More recently, the Audi TT seems to have become a modern-day classic. The design icon made a big impact when it was first released in 1998 and first-generation models have remained a favourite with enthusiasts, helping to retain their value. By many people’s standards, that’s enough to make it a classic. Its distinctive looks certainly help.

Wondering which cars could become classics? Read about affordable future classic cars.

My car’s pretty old. Do I need classic car insurance?

Because there’s no hard and fast rule about what a classic car is, it depends on the insurance provider. Most mainstream providers will insure cars built from the 1970s onwards, and you can compare prices for cars from this era at Comparethemarket. Get a quote for classic  car insurance.

If your car is older than that, you might need to consider specialist classic car insurance.

What do I need to consider with classic car insurance?

This is a specialist and often bespoke area of car insurance, so make sure you research it properly and give your insurance provider all the information they need. This includes:

  • Agreed valuation — this means you agree up-front with your insurance provider how much your car is worth, so that in the event of total loss you can be reimbursed. Getting an industry expert or classic car dealer to help provide a valuation could be useful.
  • Modifications — if you’ve modified or restored your car, you should let your insurance provider know. Not doing so could invalidate your policy, or you run the risk of lowering the value of your prized possession.
  • Where you’re going to keep your car, especially overnight —some insurance providers might expect you to keep the car in a garage at the same postcode as your home, so check the policy details before you buy.

If you’re deciding whether or not to invest in a classic car, bear in mind that parts might not come cheap or easily. Let’s be honest, ‘classic’ is just another word for ‘old’ – and old in the context of cars can mean it’s hard to fix and find parts for.

Before you buy, it’s worth checking your insurance provider’s Ts & Cs to make sure you’ll be entitled to authentic replacement parts.

How can I lower the cost of my classic car insurance?

Follow these steps for cheaper car insurance:

  1. Improve your car’s security — classic cars don’t benefit from the security features we have these days, like modern alarms or factory-fitted immobilisers, so it could be worth getting your car fitted with an approved security system. It’s a good idea to speak with your insurance provider first, though, to see how any possible security improvements could be reflected in your premium.
  2. Track it — you could also consider getting a tracking device fitted. That means if the worst happens and someone makes off in your beloved classic, you have a chance of finding it and getting it back.
  3. Cut down on your mileage — it’s also worth knowing that if you limit your mileage, you could pay less for your insurance (just make sure you’re honest about how much you’ll be driving your classic).

How can I find the right classic car quote?

That’s the easy bit — you can search for a quote right here with us. You just need to tell us about you and your vehicle and, if it’s a post-1970 classic car, we’ll do the rest.

Get a quote

Frequently asked questions

Can I insure a classic car for business?

Yes. Insurance providers will happily cover a classic car used for business purposes, like wedding or funeral hire. When comparing quotes, you should specify how you use your car to make sure you have appropriate cover.

Can I insure my classic car even if it’s declared SORN?

Some insurance providers offer laid-up insurance, otherwise known as SORN insurance. It can cover your classic car while it’s declared off-road or SORN, to protect it against accidental damage, theft or vandalism.

Please note that we don’t compare standalone quotes for SORN insurance at Comparethemarket.

Does my classic car need an MOT?

If your classic car was built or first registered more than 40 years ago, you won’t need to arrange a regular MOT – provided there have been no ‘substantial changes’ to the car in the past 30 years. If you’re not sure what that includes, you can find more details on the GOV.UK website.

See more on MOTs for classic cars.

What are the benefits of joining a classic car club?

As well as the chance to socialise with other fans of your particular classic, you might be able to save on your car insurance by joining a classic car club. Insurance providers sometimes offer discounts because they expect club members to value their vehicles and look after them properly. You could get help with valuations too.

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