Classic vs Vintage vs Antique Cars: What’s the Difference?

June 15, 2022

Classic vs Vintage vs Antique Cars: What’s the Difference?

Classic cars. Vintage cars. Antique cars. Is this a “different name for the same thing” scenario? The answer to that question is no: all three terms refer to different kinds of cars. But what, then, distinguishes the three from one another? To those who want to know what the difference between classic vs vintage vs antique cars is, we're here to help. Here's how to tell them apart.

Classic Cars

Generally, classic cars are those that are more than 20 years old.

Vintage Cars

Vintage cars are any car built between 1919 and 1930.

Antique Cars

Antique cars are cars that are over 45 years old.

Wait, That's It?

Well, these are the definitions most auto enthusiasts operate with. But not all entities agree on what makes a classic a classic or an antique an antique. For example, the Classic Car Club of America has a stricter definition of what makes a classic: it has to be a car built between 1915 and 1948. They also note that, to be a classic, a car has to meet lofty standards in terms of design, engineering, and workmanship.

State DMVs and insurance companies set their own standards of car classification, and these can vary wildly and include odd exceptions. For example, the California DMV classifies any car manufactured after 1922 that's at least 25 years old as a classic…unless it has a 16-cylinder or larger engine, in which case it's a "horseless carriage." Fun!

Meanwhile, insurance provider Hagerty says cars built between 1900 and 1979 are either an antique or a classic. How do you tell which one your car is? Who knows? It's not specified! They also state that cars built after 1980 are considered neither classics, vintages, or antiques; they fall under the broad term “collector car.”

So, what's the difference between classic vs vintage vs antique cars? It depends on who you ask! If you're at a car show or talking about your car casually, refer to your car using the general terms above. If you're visiting the local DMV or trying to insure your ride, consult the state or company rulebook for answers.

If you're looking for a classic, vintage, or antique car (or maybe even a horseless carriage), come and check out Ideal Classic Cars’ fleet. We're a classic car dealer in Florida that has cars from various manufacturers and eras. Our stock changes regularly, so stop by often—who knows? You might even find the car of your dreams!