How Does Antique Auto Insurance Work?

Classic Convertible Car
Getty Images/Dennis Gerbeckx

It is important to know how antique auto insurance works. For the average American, they hear the term “antique auto,” imagine some fragile old thing with spoke wheels and a crank in front, and go back to whatever they were doing before.  But you are different.  You actually dream at night of ’63 Sting Rays and ’69 Boss 429 Mustangs.  You scour internet classified ads for beat up ’37 Buicks rusting away in someone’s barn.

  Admit it.  You’re a car nut.  Or maybe you prefer “car enthusiast.”  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that.  But let’s face it, once you have paid good money for your first antique automobile and it is about to be sitting in your garage, you have got to answer some tough questions.  And one of them is, “how do I insure my new baby?”

What exactly is an “antique car”? 

The first thing you have to determine is whether or not you actually own an “antique automobile.”  Like many things in life, there is not a simple answer to this question.  Definitions vary between car owners, between state agencies and between insurance companies as well.  For example, the Antique Automobile Club of America considers an antique car simply as one that is over forty-five years old.  On the other hand, for purposes of registration, the state of Michigan defines an antique car as one that was manufactured at least twenty-six years ago and is “used as a collector’s item.”  By the way, distinctions are also often drawn between “antique”, “classic” and “vintage” automobiles.

  So while collectors and state governments may argue the distinctions and merits of their own definitions, when it comes to insurance, you will do well to clearly understand your chosen insurer’s criteria.  That means check with your agent before purchasing insurance or, if you already have it, review the definitions in your policy.

How are antique automobiles insured?

The first thing that will happen when you sit down with an insurance provider is that the two of you will determine the “agreed value” of your vehicle.  Typically, the agreed value is determined by a professional appraisal.  It is very important that, in the event your precious antique is damaged, destroyed or stolen, your insurance pays you the agreed value for your vehicle and not, I repeat, not the “actual cash” or “stated” value.  Be certain that your agent understands this and read your policy carefully! 

 It is also very important to understand the terms of usage for your antique automobile.  Terms may vary slightly from company to company, but all antique auto policies will significantly limit the ways in which you may utilize your vehicle.  You will typically be limited to using it at car shows , exhibitions, auto club events, parades and similar activities.  Many companies include a severe stated mileage limit as well.  And most will require that your antique automobile be stored in a very specific way when not in use.  So, be clear on how you intend to use and store your vehicle before you sign on to any policy.    

How do I find the right insurer?

Once you have determined that you have an antique automobile, what its agreed value is and how you intend to use it, the best place to start looking for the right insurer is with your regular car insurance agent or company.  Many of the major providers also write policies for antique, vintage and classic cars.  Also check the specialty insurers.  There are a number of them out there.  Make sure that you understand each company’s definitions, terms and rates.  Get information on several companies.  It may take a little time on the phone and online, but finding the right insurance fit will likely save you money and possibly a large headache somewhere down the road.

Here’s some good news for all of your trouble.  Antique automobile insurance is almost always less expensive when compared to regular insurance.

  That is because insurers appreciate the extra special care and attention you give your antique vehicle and reward you for it.  So, put in the time and effort it takes to find the right antique auto insurance for you.  You’ll be glad you did.