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Antique vs. Vintage vs. Classic Car – What’s the Difference?

Have you ever wondered what exactly sets an “antique” car apart from a “vintage” or a “classic” one? In the automotive industry, these terms are often used interchangeably to describe older cars, but there are actually significant distinctions between them. In this article, we uncover the differences between classic, vintage, and antique cars.

Defining Antique, Vintage and Classic Cars

Trying to pin down the exact definitions of vintage, classic, and antique cars is not easy, and there is generally some overlap as insurance companies, state DMVs, and classic car clubs classify these collector cars differently. However, certain widely accepted guidelines help to distinguish between them:

What Is an Antique Car?

An antique car is generally defined as a vehicle that is 45 years old or older; however, this can vary between states. Currently, this would be any vehicle manufactured in 1979 or earlier and would include models such as the Dodge Charger and the Chevrolet Camaro.

While antique cars may be road-worthy, they are typically not used on the road alongside modern daily drivers, but instead kept for restoration purposes and car shows.

What Is a Classic Car?

The definition of “classic car” can vary greatly. For instance, the Classic Car Club of America defines a classic automobile as one manufactured between 1915 and 1948. However, other organizations, such as insurance companies and car enthusiasts, often use a broader definition, including cars that are at least 20 years old in this category. Some examples of classic vehicles include the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Corvette.

Unlike antique and vintage cars, the definition of a classic car isn’t solely based on age. It also takes into account cultural significance, rarity and collectibility, and design and styling.

If you plan on restoring your classic vehicle, you should take care to maintain its authenticity by recreating its original design and structure.

What Is a Vintage Car?

Generally speaking, a car is considered a vintage vehicle if it was manufactured between 1919 and 1930. Cars produced during this time are often characterized by elegant styling, handcrafted details, and innovative engineering. Some examples include the Ford Model T Sedan and the Mercedes-Benz 680s Torpedo.

The only prerequisite for vintage status is age range. Unlike classic and antique cars, vintage cars do not need to be in their original condition; modifications are acceptable. It also doesn’t matter how many miles the vehicle has clocked up to be considered vintage.

As vintage cars were often produced in limited numbers, they are typically hard to source and can be very expensive. Vintage cars are incredibly popular as both show vehicles and restoration projects.

What Are the Key Differences Between Vintage vs. Classic vs. Antique Cars?

Here is a brief breakdown of the key differences between classic, antique and vintage cars:


A significant difference between classic, antique, and vintage vehicles is their age and era. Vintage cars generally hold the title of the oldest vehicle, as they were usually manufactured during a celebrated era in automotive history: 1919 to 1930. Next, antique cars follow, being built in 1979 or earlier. Finally, the youngest category of cars is classic vehicles, typically ranging from 20 to 40 years old.


Price is another significant factor that differentiates antique, vintage, and classic cars. Vintage cars are often the most expensive category of vehicle due to their historical significance and rarity. Depending on the car model and condition, vintage cars can range in price from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.

Although generally more affordable than vintage cars, antique cars can also attract high price tags. Their cost can vary depending on the year, make, model, and condition of the car.

Classic cars are usually the most affordable of the three categories. However, the price of a vehicle will ultimately reflect its value and whether it is desirable to a car collector. The final price will depend upon the make, model, condition, and mileage of the car, as well as the quality of any restoration work.

Historical Significance

Vintage, classic, and antique vehicles are considered to have much historical interest.

Vintage cars represent a transformative era in automotive history, characterized by luxurious materials and precise craftsmanship that is less common in modern cars. Likewise, antique models typically hold tremendous historical value, representing early development in automobile manufacturing and design. Meanwhile, classic cars symbolize a period of advancement in automobile technology and boast unique iconic designs.

Applying for a Historical Vehicle Registration

Applying for a historic vehicle registration can offer great benefits, including significantly reduced vehicle registration fees, lower insurance costs, and certain exemptions from state vehicle standards and emissions regulations.

However, it’s important to understand that the process and requirements for obtaining historic vehicle registration can vary significantly from state to state in the U.S. You can find out the specific requirements for your state via your local DMV.

Shipping Your Antique, Vintage, or Classic Car With CFR Classic

Are you looking for a shipping expert to ensure the safe transport of your beloved antique, vintage, or classic car?

As the global leader in classic car shipping, CFR Classic provides secure, reliable, and specialized shipping services tailored to the unique needs of your old car.

Don’t leave the safety and security of your beloved classic car to chance. Contact CFR Classic today to get a personalized online quote within 24 hours.

Joey has spent his entire teen and adult life in cars. Joey's father owned a Jeep store, and Joey had his own used car lot that he ran himself from age 22 until I was 30. At 30 years old, Joey got "out of" the car business and joined CFR Rinkens. Joey started when there were only 9 people at CFR, but the company grew to over 150 employees during his time there. When Joey started, CFR Rinkens was shipping about 40 vehicles per week from Los Angeles. Joey established locations in Houston, Miami, and New York and within the first year, CFR went to shipping 150 cars per week. Joey started as a customer service rep and later moved up to sales manager, operations manager, and marketing manager. Joey then moved to Europe for two years and spent the entire time traveling through Europe meeting with clients. In 2022, Joey and his partners purchased CFR Classic from CFR Rinkens and he returned to California to watch over the operation more closely.

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