What is the difference between an antique and a classic motor vehicle?

Classic Cars and Vintage License Plates

This is a gray topic. Ask four different people and you may get four different answers. But according to two authorities, the Classic Car Club of America and the Antique Car Club of America, here are the distinctions:


Sometimes called historic cars, these vehicles must be 25 years old or older, completely restored and in good running order. If you go to apply for antique license plates with your DMV, you may enter the "gray area" and find your state has a different definition for an antique. In Nebraska, for instance, its defined as any vehicle that's a minimum of 30 years old. 

Cars fitting into this category are eligible for vintage, historic and antique license plates.  


A classic car is defined as any vehicle manufactured between 1925 and 1948, is fully restored and in good working condition. Interior modifications, such as power steering, have no bearing on the vehicle's classification. 

Definitions, just like antique cars, vary by state, however. For example, the Texas DMV makes classic license plates available for any car 25 years old or older. 

Bottom Line

If you're in the market for specialty plates, contact your DMV for its definitions of classic and antique vehicles.

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