Collector Auto Insurance Coverage

If you're a collector of classic cars or just drive an older car and want to see if you can save, collector car insurance may be for you. Collector car insurance rates tend to be lower than average car insurance rates because classic cars tend to be driven less and are often stored. This makes threats of damage from trees, weather, or vandalism significantly less. Depending on your car's age, condition, and value, you may be eligible for collector car insurance which could save you a lot.

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Lauren Blair has been practicing law for more than 25 years. Lauren has been a licensed member in good standing of the Illinois bar since 1994, the year she graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law. Prior to law school, Lauren obtained a Bachelor of Arts in government from Cornell University. For the first 20 years of her practice, she worked in mid-size l...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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  • Auto insurance companies use several categories to determine whether a car qualifies as a collector, or classic, car. Those categories include age, condition, and value.
  • Classic cars are typically 20 years or older, the vehicle’s condition must be operational and restored, and the value must be higher than comparable vehicles of the same make, model, and year.
  • Classic cars appreciate in value as they get older, whereas new and used vehicles depreciate with age, so regular car insurance does not work for classic cars.
  • Collector car insurance provides specialized coverage and, most importantly, pays replacement claims based on an agreed value of the automobile rather than the Actual Cash Value formula.
  • The cost of collector car insurance tends to be lower than regular car insurance because classic cars are driven less and often stored, which makes theft, accidents and other damage less likely.

There are many things to love about classic cars. Some people like the nostalgia of classic cars and that they harken back to bygone eras. For some, restoring old cars is a passionate hobby. Others just enjoy the aesthetic look and feel of vintage cars.

One thing most everyone can agree on is that classic cars are an investment, and investments need protecting. Classic cars need special protection because of their special nature. Just as you wouldn’t use ordinary tires on a classic car, you shouldn’t rely on ordinary liability insurance or collision insurance.

Read on to learn about how collector car insurance provides unique coverage for classic cars. If you own a classic car and don’t yet have collector car insurance, put your ZIP code into our search tool to talk to a knowledgeable auto insurance agent in your area.

What is the Difference Between Typical Cars and Collector Cars?

To get collector car insurance, you first need to think about whether your vehicle actually qualifies as a collector car. Although it’s technically possible to collect any type of vehicle, including new cars (e.g., supercar and sports car collectors), most collector cars are what we refer to as “classic cars.”

Classic Car Defined

So, what is a classic car? By most definitions, a classic car is typically 20 years or older. Generally, classic cars were high-priced or luxury when new and were not mass-produced.

There are many other factors, but a common theme for classic cars is that the automobile has sufficient historical interest to be collectible and worth preserving or restoring, rather than scrapping. The Classic Car Club of American defines classic cars as a “Fine” or “Distinctive” automobile, either American or foreign built, produced between 1925 and 1948.

Collector Car Eras

Not all collector cars come from the same era. Indeed, there are several distinct automobile eras. Although there are different schools of thoughts on when these periods begin and end, identifies the following eras:

  • Brass Era (Pre-1915): Automobiles manufactured prior to 1915 are typically referred to as “Brass Era” motor vehicles. Their engines generally ran on steam or electricity, like the Ford Model T Roadster and the Mercer Raceabout.
  • Antique Era (1915-1918): Automobiles built during this time had gasoline-powered engines. Because the Antique Era coincided with the “Factory System” period of the Industrial Revolution, these were mass-produced cars.
  • Vintage Era (1920-1945): The “Vintage Era” generally describes automobiles built after WWI and before the end of WWII. The automotive design for cars of this era leaned toward comfort, like heating systems, in-car radios and hydraulic braking, stemming from that fact that the U.S. was building a national road system and paved roadways were becoming the norm. Many “classic cars” were built during the Vintage Era.
  • Classic Era (1946-1972): During this time period, foreign automakers were importing compact and more efficient cars, and American automakers followed suit. While describes the Classic Era as between 1946 and 1972, it cautions that the “Classic Era” doesn’t necessarily define a classic car.
  • Muscle Era (mid-1960s-mid-1970s): Muscle cars are often considered automobiles built during the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. Their distinguishing characteristics include body-type, powerful V8 engines and rear-wheel drive.

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What are the Insurance Factors For Qualifying Classic Collector Cars?

How collector cars are classified for insurance purposes will ultimately depend on the insurance company, but there are several categories that they all consider.

Classic car qualifying factors for insurance companies include:

  • Age: By definition, a classic car cannot be new. Most providers accept vehicles between 19 and 25 years old as sufficiently old to be in a special class above basic used automobiles.
  • Condition: The condition of a classic car is an important factor for insurance companies. They will want to verify that the vehicle is operational, and prefer to see it restored as close as possible to its original condition. Even if lack of restoration doesn’t prevent the car from qualifying as a classic car, it will affect value.
  • Value: Possibly the most important factor is car value. Insurers expect the classic car’s value to be higher than comparable vehicles of the same make and model that were manufactured the same year. Without restoration work on a classic vehicle, the car value will likely be deprecated.

Other factors, like the car’s provenance and history, can also impact the insurer’s determination. 

What is the Differences Between Collector Car Insurance and Typical Car Insurance?

You probably have to look beyond the basic types of auto insurance to find the best insurance for classic cars. Classic car insurance providers take a different approach to covering collector vehicles than regular insurance plans for your typical new and used cars. That’s because classic cars appreciate in value as they get older, whereas new and used vehicles depreciate with age.

How Do You Calculate Value For Typical Cars?

Let’s say you have a regular car and it gets stolen or totaled in an accident. If you have comprehensive or collision insurance, the replacement value you would collect from your car insurance is generally the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the car at the time of the accident minus any deductible.

Most standard car insurance policies state that the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of any vehicle is the market values minus depreciation. Because regular automobiles depreciate, i.e., lose value, the second you drive off the dealership lot, your potential replacement pay-out decreases from that moment and the car continues to depreciate in value as it ages. 

How Do You Calculate Value For Classic Cars?

The way that classic car owners avoid having the standard ACV formula apply is by working with the insurance provider on the front end to determine an agreed-upon value. In other words, the potential payout is determined in advance based on what the owner and insurance provider agree to be the value of the automobile.

The agreed value will likely be based on purchase price, expert appraisals, classic car valuation guides and the provider’s underwriter research. The car owner should provide as much documentation as possible to get the highest value. The agreed value approach, sometimes referred to as a “guaranteed” or “stated” value, is probably the most significant difference between regular car and classic car insurance.

What is the Cost of Classic Car Insurance?

The good news for owners of collector cars is that insurance premiums tend to be lower for regular car insurance policies. Full coverage insurance (meaning general liability, collision and comprehensive coverage) for classic cars could cost as little as $50 a month. That’s because classic cars tend to be driven less and stored or garaged for significant portions of the year, which means they are less likely to be stolen, involved in an accident or otherwise damaged.

That said, there are standard risk factors auto insurance companies use to determine car insurance rates, even for classic car owners. The type of vehicle you own and drive is just one of several risk factors that providers look at when calculating insurance premiums. In addition to vehicle type, factors like your age, education, gender, location, marital status, credit history, prior coverage, claim history, and driving record go into determining auto insurance rates.

Because classic cars may require continuing restoration, be sure to notify your insurer about any modifications and repairs, as they could affect premiums. If the modifications or repairs increase the value of the car, that would also require a revised agreed value to make sure you get the appropriate payout in the event of a total loss claim.

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How Do You Find The Best Classic Car Insurance Company?

When looking for the best classic car insurance provider, you definitely need to do some homework. Of course, you’ll need the usual general liability coverage, and because classic cars tend to be rare and expensive to repair or replace, comprehensive and collision coverage is highly recommended. 

You should first look for companies that specialize in classic car coverage. If you can’t find any through an Internet search, you can contact classic car dealers, clubs and associations for recommendations.

Most specialty insurance carriers use the stated value method and will offer a guaranteed payout based on the agreed value. Although you can expect annual mileage limits, some providers may be more flexible than others depending on your particular driving habits and storage accommodations. Many don’t require a deductible for classic cars.

You should also ask about extra coverage options, like restoration coverage for upgrading your vehicle’s condition after the restoration project is verified. Some plans even have coverage for classic car memorabilia, spare parts and tools. Even though classic cars aren’t typical cars, don’t forget to inquire about typical car insurance perks, like roadside and emergency assistance. 

Make sure you find out about any special use restrictions (above and beyond daily driving and mileage restrictions). It’s typical for classic car policies to list certain unauthorized uses, like livery, tours, racing, and sometimes even exhibitions and meets.

Finally, whether you’re shopping for classic car or regular car insurance, you always want to ask about options to bundle your car insurance with other insurance policies, as well as safe driving programs, to get discounts and save the most money possible. 

Get Help

If you’re a classic car enthusiast or collector, then you appreciate the uniqueness, history, and beauty of what others might simply view as old cars. You understand that classic cars are treasures. You wouldn’t want to leave your treasure unprotected, but you might not know how to find the best insurance plan for your classic car. Finding the right collector car insurance is easy with the right tools.

When you’re ready to look for the best coverage for your classic car, you can simply put your ZIP code into our insurance finder tool and get started comparing the best collector car insurance rates and coverage options. 

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