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What Qualifies As A Classic Car

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  • 19-04-2022
What Qualifies As A Classic Car

When do classic cars lose value? If you want to invest in a classic car, you will want to know how long they retain their value. This article looks at how to keep your classic car as a good investment.

When Does An Older Car Become A Classic Car?

Considering whether a car is a classic or just old can be a matter of opinion with no definitive answer. Some people believe that any car with a particularly timeless design or those that elicit nostalgia from their owners can be determined as "classic cars".

In this way, you can embrace the notion of the "modern classics". Alternatively, if you're thinking about vehicle tax exemption cut-off points, cars over 40 years old can all be considered classic, even if they aren't timelessly designed.

Additionally, you have classic car clubs, with fans and classic car owners of particularly models designating them as classics.

On a more official note, HMRC and insurance companies will also have their own definitions of what vehicles qualify as classic cars for classic car insurance cover and tax exemptions.

For the tax official, a classic car is any vehicle over 15 years old with a minimum market value or list price of £15,000. Therefore, with this reckoning, even your company car may be classified as a classic, ultimately affecting how you are taxed on it.

Again, depending on which insurance providers you choose, they will all have different definitions of a classic car. 

When Do Classic Cars Lose Value?

What Is A Classic Car? 

So, given that classic cars are an enigma when trying to pin them down to a specific definition, it may be useful to look at the different factors that affect whether a car can be a classic or not. In other words, what makes classic cars so special?


Usually, classic cars are out of production (i.e. not being made anymore), and they have to be models you don't often see on the roads.


Unlike other vehicles, the market value of classic cars doesn't depreciate; its money value either plateaus or increases. This is mainly determined by the vehicle's rarity, how desirable it is and its overall condition.

 "WOW" Factor

Again, this is where the subjectivity comes in. History, pedigree, marque, engineering, design, style, personality - all of these factors, and more, can all contribute to a car's "classic" status.


Nostalgia can play a big part in whether a car is considered a classic. Some may feel a particular model is a classic because it was their first car or their parent's car when they were growing up. Any of these reasons can create an emotional connection for people with a particular car. 

What Is A Vintage Car? 

As if it wasn't difficult enough to determine the difference between what is and isn't a classic car, you also have to consider whether a car might be called "vintage" rather than "classic".

For example, vintage cars are far easier to pin down, given that a specific production timeline determines whether a car is vintage. Cars produced between 1919 and 1930 are 100% vintage.

Antique cars built before this time are known as "veteran cars", while those built between 1930 and 1945 after World War II are called "post-vintage". 

Are Any Newer Cars Considered Classics?

As we've already discussed, according to HMRC's definition of a classic car, newer models cannot fall into this category. However, some surprisingly popular models you might think of as newer or modern that have recently gained classic status.

Given how "classic" is different for different people, it's possible to have cars from the Ford Capri to a Rolls Royce Phantom described as classic, but you may also find some surprises in classic car lists.

The first of these is the Fiat Panda which recently celebrated its 40th birthday in 2020. A model with a great reputation, manufactured with mass production and easy maintenance and repair costs in mind, owners of first-generation models haven't had to pay tax on their classic vehicles for the past couple of years.

As an incredibly popular model, especially in its home country of Italy, it can be surprising to find the Fiat Panda on the list of classic cars.

A model that has recently acquired the "modern classic" moniker is the Audi TT. 

Are Any Newer Cars Considered Classics?

Despite only being around since 1998, the TT's iconic style and fine design have made it a firm favourite amongst Audi fans. 

This popularity has meant that first-generation models have retained a lot of their value, adding to their classic status. Design, popularity, and market value are enough for many motorists to secure the Audi TT a spot on any modern classic list. 

What Makes A Car A Classic?

Again, while being a certain age plays a big part in whether you can consider a car a classic, this isn't the only factor - not every car that reaches the magical 40 is automatically made a classic. 

While what makes a car a classic model can be debated the whole day long, with many insurers, fan clubs, and owners favouring different aspects of different cars, some common elements give a car a better chance of being a true classic.

Nostalgia is one of the biggest factors when determining a car's classic status, with many motoring enthusiasts having fond memories of particular models. 

It could be that you remember a particular car from your childhood that you saw at car shows that you don't see on the roads these days, or that one of your relatives took you for a spin in a certain model, or simply that you collected car magazines and a certain type of motor caught your eye.

You don't have to have lived in the same era as a particular car to feel a sense of nostalgia for it. Simply loving a specific period of history, such as the 60s, 70s, or 80s, is enough for people to fall in love with the cars of that era. 

Perhaps it was the aesthetics, tastes or designs of that era that you love, or you have seen classic models in movies from the ear and have grown fond of them. There are many reasons for timeless vehicles attaining the status of classic cars, with nostalgia possibly being the most personal.

Design and aesthetics are crucial when thinking about a car's classic status. In some cases, how a car looks can be more important than its performance for some enthusiasts, and you will rarely find an "ugly" car amongst a list of classics.

Not that quirky or distinctive designs can't make a classic, especially if the model was particularly unique or a one-off. Bench seats, shark fins and fender mirrors can all contribute to a vehicle's determination as a classic car.

Another crucial factor, and one not to be underestimated in the making of a classic car, is the cultural impact different vehicles can have. 

From film and television to fashion and beyond, trends in various industries can affect how we view our cars. Think of what James Bond did for Aston Martin (or what Aston Martin did for James Bond). You also can't think about the Back to the Future franchise without thinking of the famous DeLorean.

Different cars also become part of the culture of the country they were built in. Think of Ferrari in Italy, Mercedes in Germany, or Mini Cooper in the UK. 

They become flagships of a culture and a people, forever linked to the memorable logos, designs or performance each vehicle has to offer. These cars become classics for the cultures they are a part of, with enthusiasts getting their hands on a piece of that culture for all to see.

Alongside all the reasons already mentioned, one of the most obvious as to why certain cars can be considered classics is their performance. The thrill of driving particular cars or the sound of their engines as they roar along can get people excited on their own, regardless of design or cultural impact.

Some classic car enthusiasts, such as comedic genius Rowan Atkinson, baulk at the idea of hiding classic cars away in your collection and never taking them for a spin. Some classic cars have fantastic drives, so letting them sit idle in your garage would be a crying shame.

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