When does a car become an antique?

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An antique car
When does a car become an antique? With so many differing points of view, it is a difficult question to answer
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Old cars become antiques when they are treasured by the owner and others alike.

The term antique is used pretty freely to describe anything old. But in most cases there are actually specific parameters to determine whether or not something is really an antique. In his tongue-in-cheek song All About the Pentiums Weird Al Yankovic describes a computer that has reached one-week old as an antique.

Defining Antiques

More seriously though, some define the term antique as being attached to a certain date rather than a particular age. For instance, there are those who claim that nothing is an antique unless it was made before 1830. They basically use the claim that an antique had to be hand-made before the industrial era. Not many ascribe to that theory, but some whole heartedly do.

How then, do we define an antique car, since cars weren't invented until long after 1830? When does a car become an antique? Again, there are some who would claim that an antique car is one manufactured before a specific year or era. In the case of cars that era is World War II. Most would not ascribe to that definition however.

How Old Is Your Car?

There are those who believe that a car becomes an antique at 15, 20 or 25 years. To make the issue more confusing there are also those who consider the phrases classic car and antique car to be synonymous, while others use the term antique to describe a car that is at least 20 or 25 years old and classic for cars that have reached 50 years of age. It's partially a matter of passion. You will often encounter these terms and delineations when looking for classic car parts, and when researching your car or joining enthusiast clubs. Those who are avid lovers of cars from the 50s might not want to include my favorite era, the late 60s and early 70s, in their definition of antique car.


Those who love the old wooden-spoked wheels of Model A and Model T cars may also choose to exclude the cars from the 40s and 50s. When you include any car made more than 20 years ago you have to throw in the truly horrible cars of the early 80s. Given that fact, it's hard to argue with those who claim that such cars should never be called antiques or classics.�

No Set Definition

Because there are so many differing points of view, there really is not a definition set in stone. So when does a car become an antique? Without a clear cut definition, how do we decide?

A good place to look is with state DMVs. By throwing them into the mix, things begin to solidify. While there are still slight variations even among DMVs, most allow a car to be considered an antique when it reaches 25 years of age. Once they reach this age in those states, cars can be classified an antique and in many cases (for a fee) can have a special license plate indicating its antique status.

Although there may never be complete agreement, the general consensus then among the average collector and among state DMVs is that a car becomes an antique at 25 years of age.

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