How do I know if my vehicle qualifies for classic car insurance?

If you own a classic or heritage/collectible vehicle, then classic car insurance can offer certain benefits not available with traditional car insurance policies.

Most notably, specialist classic car insurance can work out more cost effective as insurers assume that you will be doing a lot less miles in your cherished vehicle, and classic car owners tend to take good care of their vehicles and maintain it to a high standard.

How old does a car have to be to be a classic?

The classic car insurance criteria – according to HMRC – all depends on the age and value of the car…

A car has to be at least 15 years old to be deemed a classic car, and the value should be £15,000 or more. However, different insurance companies will have their own classic car criteria so it’s important to shop around and compare different insurers.

Compare classic car insurance quotes

Classic car insurance cover options

While classic car policies share many aspects of traditional fully-comprehensive car insurance policies, there can be some big differences that you should be aware of.

For instance, working out exactly how much a classic car is worth can be more difficult than assessing the value of a modern car. A mistake here can leave you being under-insured if you take up a policy that just states it will pay out the ‘market value’ of your classic car in the event of a write-off or theft, so make sure you can agree an accurate value for taking out a policy.

Cadillac classic car

It’s also worth bearing in mind that many collectible and vintage cars increase in value over time, particularly if you do a good job of keeping it well-maintained. Therefore you should speak to your chosen insurer about whether it’s possible to review the valuation periodically.

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Another area that can pose problems for classic car owners is the cost of replacement parts for your car. Most modern cars have a very active parts market which means the cost is pretty standard.

In contrast, replacement parts for classic vehicles can be hard to find and therefore can cost a lot more. Some car insurance companies place limits on the costs of parts, so take the time to check the small-print before buying a policy.

Classic car insurance FAQs

Learn more about all aspects of classic car insurance with our FAQs below…

What types of classic car can I insure?
What types of classic cars may not be included?
How old does a car have to be to be deemed a classic?
Do classic car insurance policies have an annual mileage limit?
Are older cars cheaper to insure?
Is my car exempt from tax?
What is the difference between classic cars and vintage cars?

Why is classic car insurance so cheap?

It’s not that often in life that we get something for nothing, as usually there’s a catch or some hidden costs lurking not far behind what first seem like great deals.

Yet as a nation of canny-minded bargain hunters we love it when we do actually land on something that’s actually as cheap as it sounds. Classic car insurance is one such rare occasion when the hyperbole is justified as this branch of motor insurance does tend to be far more cost-effective and competitively priced than mainstream car premiums.

But just why is this?

The answer is relatively straight forward. Nine times out of ten, classic car insurance providers assume that drivers of such prized vehicles get behind the wheel of their cars much less than owners of modern – and everyday – alternatives.

And by and large opt to drive their pride and joys exclusively during the warmer summer months than all year round (and especially during long, hard winters), essentially totting up dramatically less miles than our everyday rides.

Either that or they know that some of the more vintage classic cars will spend more of their lives being tinkered with in glorified potting sheds at the end of enthusiast’s gardens rather than being fit for road-using purpose.  But therein also lies another answer, as because classic cars by their very natures are looked after far more diligently than ‘ordinary’ cars (half the time being wrapped in cotton wool) they will conversely be less prone to break-downs too.

classic car

But above and beyond any of this the simple fact of the matter is they’ll generally be on the road less (definitely not used for commuting and school runs), and therefore courting less trouble and minimising how prone they are to being involved in accidents.

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Plus they’ll be travelling around less at night than their modern combustion-engined counterparts, thus placing them out of harm’s way when, statistically, more incidents are likely to occur. Oh, and it’s a no-brainer that they’ll be kept under lock and key when not out on the open road and guarded with their fastidious owners’ lives; as at the heart of insuring classic cars is the notion that the vehicles are held in esteem by their owners so aren’t going to place them in what’s deemed risky situations.

Less-used classic cars result in lower risk taken by the insurer

Returning to the limited miles element though, and due to classic cars being driven less, then the opportunity for accidents to take place is seriously minimized.

However, because a classic car insurance policy specifies an annual mileage cap, owners must be overtly aware of this self-imposed restriction and do everything in their power not to exceed this unless they contact their insurance provider prior so as to arrange an extension to their existing cover.

And then there’s the nitty gritty of actual thrashing out that competitively priced premium with a dedicated specialist classic car insurer, which isn’t always a walk in the park.

Like any other motor insurance policy it’s not just the car and applied usage which determines the premium price, with the normal personal circumstances and risk profiles still coming very much into play as you’d expect.

One of the biggest fundamental differences between mainstream car insurance and classics is the perceived valuation of the individual vehicle which has to be taken into account in an altogether different way than motor insurers do with ordinary vehicles.

Typically everyday cars will depreciate over a period of time, some more so than others. Yet when the spotlight is put on classic cars the opposite logistic comes into effect, and generally they tend to appreciate in value (especially so if they are in the process of being restored). Which is another reason classic car owners would be advised to ignore general car insurance policies and instead go with a more bespoke classic car insurance provider.

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It’s a widely held belief that assessing the value of a classic car is a notoriously challenging task, compared to referring to the abundance of handy guides provided for modern makes and models of vehicles still in production. Which is why classic car owners should side-step any policies which imply it will merely pay-out the agreed ‘market value’ of the car should it fall victim to being written off or stolen.

Classic car owners are urged to seek the advice of industry professionals or vintage car dealers so as to establish a fair monetary figure based on their expert opinion and experience before even approaching a classic car insurance provider, so that you’ve got a useful indication of the vehicle’s considered worth on the open market.

In addition to this it’s in the owner’s best interests to ensure that some form of review period is included in the eventual policy, with the potential for increases in value to be placed on revised insurance packages if and when required. What’s more it’s hugely important to ascertain the replacement parts policy with any future classic car insurer, to safeguard like for like authentic replacements being sourced and used in the event of the vehicle requiring them in the aftermath of a claim being lodged on the policy.

Another stipulation which is imperative in the arena of classic car insurance is that surrounding the subject of attendance (or more pertinently, travel between) car shows and rallies; and to make sure that any insurance documentation includes this.

Classic vehicles tend to be more loved and better protected than conventional modern cars

In summary there are certainly some fantastic deals to be had on classic car insurance if you shop around, with cover arranged on some particular vehicles for under £100 per year.

Seriously, recent research conducted by finance companies discovered that an iconic Porsche 911 for example could cost in the region of just £85 for 12 months for a driver over the age of 40-years, while elsewhere it was found that the same car deal for a 25-year old would only set them back around £400.

Which when you consider how inflated car insurance premiums normally tend to be for this age range when it comes to more modern – yet unspectacular – vehicles (i.e, four-door family saloons) certainly appeals.

Even if you wished to insure a classic VW Beetle without going down the restricted mileage route (therefore expecting to drive over 6,000 miles per year on average) it would work out a great deal cheaper than securing similar levels of coverage on the modern version of this old favourite.

Not least because from an insurers’ perspective the original model is quite a lot more pedestrian of pace and therein less likely to find itself involved in an accident.

Many of us know of someone who owns a classic (or heritage/collectors) car. Someone’s dad, or someone’s dad’s friend or neighbour.

The tell-tale signs are the late nights spent in garages, the cold winter’s night’s air interspersed by the sound of hammers and drills, coupled with the occasional ghost-like oil splashes suddenly appearing on the drive every now and again. These are the people who emerge from their garages and take to the roads for a few weeks every summer in vehicles which by rights should be in museums in many cases, yet who steadfastly maintain them at home during the close season to elongate their natural lifespans as much as is automotively possible.

But that’s a fair description of a blatantly obvious classic car, the more readily accepted likes of an MG BGT, a Triumph TR3, 4, 5, 6 – any number you wish to add, the Jaguar E-Type, the (real, original) Mini and the Morgan Plus-8 (although the list is pretty infinite, and burgeoning all the time). But what about those less predictable cars which some of us might even currently own and drive as daily runners, without even knowing that they could qualify as a classic; which as a result would reduce our motor insurance premiums.

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I guess what we all really want to ascertain is just what credentials ensure that a car is considered a classic, not by the general public or specialist manufacturer-dedicated motoring groups at large, rather the motor insurance industry per se? Well, according to the go-to website for facts and figures of our times (and pre-our times), Wikipedia, and a classic car is defined here in the UK as follows. Beginning with veteran vehicles (pre–First World War), to vintage (1919–1930), to post-vintage (1930s) and then on to post–Second World War classic cars, which are not so precisely elaborated on.

That’s one of the enduring problems the classic car purists, auto-afficianados and routine beard growers have, determining just what is what and which is which. From a motor insurer’s point of view things are a little bit less left to chance/deliberated over long into the night. Although there is no fixed definition of a classic car in policy provider’s protocol, there are the two commonly held acknowledgements which help car insurers arrive at their own conclusions.

There Are a Few Variations on a Classic Car Qualification Theme, Depending on Individual Insurers

Both based on taxation issues, the first one implies that all vehicles manufactured BEFORE January 1st 1975 (correct as of 2015) are considered classics, aided and abetted by the underlying fact that cars which fall into this category have long been deemed road tax-exempt in the eyes of the DVLA. This revision came to bear as of April 2014, when the classic car exemption from VED began rolling from 40 years.

This effectively saw cars built before January 1974 (now as it stands, 1975) eligible for a zero-rated tax disc, then (and as actioned from January 2015 thereon in) the formerly fixed cut-off, will become a rolling one. HM Revenue and Customs on the other had apply a different criteria, and suggest that a classic car in relation to company car taxation purposes is anything in excess of 15 years old and having an estimated value of more than £15,000.

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This still leaves something of a grey area, yet as a ball-park reference point we’d say that most insurers operate on the 40-year rolling rule here and now. So for instance if you happen to own/drive an MkII Ford Escort built in 1974 then you’ve definitely got a classic car on your hands and should be insuring it accordingly.

That said, some classic car insurers greatly dispute what constitutes a classic vehicle, with one, www.adrianflux.co.uk/classics/ even going as far as to intonate that certain cars as young as 5-years old qualify under their specific qualification criteria. But then this amendment edges into what’s colloquially referred to as the ‘modern classics’ or ‘future classics’ territory, where rare vehicles such the Vauxhall VX220 reside.

High street (or information superhighway-based) insurers tend to practice independently of one another with no one-size-fits-all approach to classic car policies, with most employing varying criteria when deciding whether to confer classic status on your car.

In terms of which of the mainstream, household name motor insurers offer policies on classic or collectors cars, the list is wide-ranging and routinely includes, www.rac.co.uk/insurance/classic-car-insurance, www.theaa.com/services/insuranceandfinance/classic_car/, www.admiral.com/classic-car-insurance/ et al, while there’s a host of dedicated classic car insurance policy providing companies out there too, with years of experience in safeguarding your pride and joy every time it hits the open road. www.lancasterinsurance.co.uk, www.footmanjames.co.uk, www.heritagecarinsurance.co.uk, www.rhclassicinsurance.co.uk/classic-car-insurance.html being just a few.

Limited Mileage Cover is A Given for Classic Car Insurance Policies

When you have determined whether your perceived classic car is in fact a collectors/heritage vehicle in the interests of a motor insurance provider, then you should choose carefully just which company to go with, as again, key features, terms, conditions, clauses and restrictions vary wildly.

The majority of familiar named insurers will afford you plenty of policy options and levels of coverage, yet if you want the full monty then you should perhaps consider going with a specialist provider. By electing to do this you’ll then be able to box-tick such core classic car policy features such as ‘agreed valuation, club member discounts, laid up cover, limited mileage insurance, wedding car insurance, historic rally cover, static show cover’ and ‘track day/rally cover’, depending on your priorities and bespoke preferences, which can then be tailor-made around said policy agreement.

Whichever type of motor insurance provider you go with, all will share certain qualifying elements. These typically comprise limited mileage cover for a start, as insurers assume that for the most part your classic car is not a daily driver and only wheeled out onto the road/track during the (hopefully) dry summer months.

It’s also worthwhile agreeing to a valuation of your classic vehicle with your preferred insurer before signing any policy agreement, as opposed to purchasing a classic car insurance plan which simply states ‘market value’ as how much it would cost to replace in the event of it sustaining damage or being stolen.

It’s also important to remember that classic cars have a tendency to appreciate in value, rather than depreciate like most modern cars, so with this in mind it’s a good idea to ask your insurer to undertake regular policy reviews so that any increased vehicle valuation can be figured into a revised package.

One last point worth mentioning is that policy prices will fluctuate expansively between providers, based on the features you rate more important than others, so shopping around is vital as it is with all motor insurance products, whilst the opportunity to accrue any no-claims bonus reductions will be remote, based on the limited mileage/use a classic car owner/driver/policyholder habitually covers.