What Qualities Make a Classic Car a Classic?

November 30, 2022

What Qualities Make a Classic Car a Classic?

A classic car is a term that we’re all familiar with and have a general understanding of, but what qualities make a car a classic? We answer that question and explain the key factors in valuing a classic car below!

Its Age

Age is the primary criterion for whether a vehicle officially qualifies as a classic car. Unfortunately, there’s no universal consensus for how old a vehicle must be to be considered a classic among state transportation agencies, insurance providers, and classic car clubs and organizations.

Generally, the minimum age for a car to be considered a classic by the local DMV is 20 years, but that’s not universal in the US; in Florida, the cutoff is 30 years. Even classic car clubs have differing views—the Antique Automobile Club of America sets the standard at 25 years, while the Classic Car Club of America specifies the vehicle must’ve been manufactured between 1915 and 1948 to be considered a classic. There are many differing viewpoints, so consult your local state agencies and insurance carriers for their specific criteria.

Original Specifications

The one quality seemingly everyone can agree makes a classic car a classic is that it still follows the same original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. State transportation agencies, classic car clubs, and insurance providers all include the stipulation that a vehicle must still have the original OEM specs to be a classic.

This basically means that a car can’t be explicitly changed and modified to the point that it’s not the same car it once was. Even if the car is a century old, most organizations won’t recognize it as a classic if its specs have been changed from the OEM specs.

What Makes a Classic Car Valuable?


Typically, the most significant factor in appraising the value of a classic car is its condition. The age and popularity of a classic car are key, but if the vehicle is rusted out and about to fall apart, no one will want to buy it.

A classic doesn’t have to run as well as it did when it first came off the factory line, but it’s always better if it looks and sounds as close to new as possible.

Pro Tip: Documented maintenance on a classic is vital to appraising its condition, so keep those service and repair receipts for your vehicle.


Another vital factor in a classic car’s value is how rare the model is. Rarity goes hand in hand with the vehicle’s age; the older a car is, the less likely there are other models available for purchase.

If there weren’t many of the vehicles made initially, and fewer survive today, that would make it more valuable in the collector’s eyes. But if, for instance, it’s a classic Ford Mustang, of which over 10 million models were made, it won’t have much value regarding the car’s rarity.

We hope our overview has helped to clear things up! At Ideal Classic Cars, you’ll find plenty of impressive classic cars online in the USA. Contact our staff to learn more about classics and to find your next vehicle today.