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Classic, Vintage, and Antique Cars: What’s the Difference?
Many people who do business with Show Cars of Boca Raton are seeking an older car as a showpiece for their collection. But, not everyone fully understands the terminology we use in the automotive industry to differentiate categories of vehicles. Knowing car classification vocabulary like classic, vintage, and antique will help us better serve you as we acquire the ideal model for your collection.

What distinguishes classic, antique, and vintage cars

All three of these terms refer to vehicles that were produced in prior model years. So, these cars aren’t modern or have any contemporary status. Rather, they have withstood the test of time to remain a desirable, functional collector’s piece. The primary factor that differentiates classic, antique, and vintage cars is their age.

What is a classic car?

A classic car is a broad classification that encompasses any automobile that is at least 20-25 years old and is generally considered desirable to own. The vehicle can be used for commuting or kept as a collector’s piece for cruise-ins or an investment. In some states, you can even apply for a historic designation license plate when a car is 25+ years old!

While there is no fixed definition of what qualifies a car as a classic, most automotive experts consider an automobile to be a classic if its production year was 20-45 years ago. And, the model must have some financial or historic value attached that makes it desirable to own. You wouldn’t consider a junker or a lemon to be a classic! A few examples of classic cars are the DMC DeLorean, Oldsmobile 442, Geo Storm, Acura Legend, and Porsche 959.

What is an antique car?

When a classic vehicle reaches an age above 45 years from its production date, it becomes an antique. As an antique, the car must live up to stricter quality and condition standards.

The vehicle must have all of its major original parts or have been restored according to the original manufacturer’s strict specifications. Recreations and retro-style replica kit cars do not count as antique vehicles since they weren’t originally produced during a designated earlier point in time. Some Chevrolet Chevelle, Plymouth Barracuda, Aston Martin DB5, and Shelby Cobra models are old enough to be considered antique cars now.

What is a vintage car?

Vintage cars are the oldest cars that a collector can own. These vehicles are at least 90-100 years old and come from the earliest period of automotive history. Because of their age and fragile condition, vintage vehicles are hardly ever driven on the road or to car shows. Instead, vintage vehicles are often kept as artifacts from history in museums or curated collections of car clubs.

The most valuable vintage cars are ones that have a special place in history and are still in good shape for their age. However, even derelict older cars can still be considered vintage due to their age — they just may not have much value as a collector’s piece. You can find vintage cars from many defunct auto companies, like Packard, Studebaker, Tucker, Durant, Duesenberg, and Willys–Overland, along with a slew of early Rolls Royce, Cadillac, and Ford models.

Why does this matter?

It’s important that you understand a car’s value, rarity, and appeal before you spend money on it. Every wise collector should consider a purchase to be an investment; if you spend your money on a vehicle with no desirable traits simply because it’s old, you may wind up wasting your cash on a rust bucket.  

Before you purchase an old car, have a professional assess its condition, rarity, desirability, and projected long-term value. This will help you decide if the car is a good collector’s piece to own. Our experts at Show Cars of Boca Raton are here to make the research and acquisition process clear for you. Contact us for information on locating and shipping your dream car.

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