What type of insurance do you need for your classic car?

Taking great care of your beloved classic car isn't enough -- you need to insure it properly. See more pictures of classic cars.

There's a reason you call that hunk of metal in your garage your baby. Whether it's a cream-colored '37 Buick, a turquoise '57 Chevy or a cherry red '77 Camaro Z-28, you treat it like one of the family -- maybe a little better. But no matter how protective you are of your kid-on-wheels, you'll still need to insure it. Driving a classic car even short distances on the road without auto insurance is both risky and illegal.

About half the owners of antique and classic cars put them on their regular auto insurance policies [source: Kristof]. Not a good idea. Ordinary insurance is for ordinary cars. The book value of an ordinary car goes down every year, and so does the total amount the insurance company will pay if it's damaged. Well-maintained classic cars, on the other hand, hold their value and often appreciate in price. You definitely want insurance that recognizes the real market value of your car.

The special, classic car insurance that you should look for will do that, and also includes standard liability, collision and comprehensive coverage. In the event of an accident or other loss, the insurer pays to repair or replace your car as a valuable classic, not an old junker.

And here's the bonus: Even though it offers this higher coverage, classic car insurance usually costs less than regular auto insurance. Insurers know that you drive your cream puff carefully, don't rack up the miles and polish it to a shine every Saturday. That means you're less likely to have an accident, and the company is willing to give you a break on your premiums, typically anywhere from 20 to 40 percent less than a regular policy [source: Krisof].

Driving Right: Getting Classic Car Insurance

A specialty insurer will sit down with you and negotiate an "agreed value" policy based on your car's appraised market value or on auction prices for similar cars. Some policies even include a clause that bumps that value up a certain percentage every year. This is the opposite of regular policies, which pay out only the "actual cash value" of the car -- a value that goes down over time [source: Drivesteady.com].

To qualify for classic car insurance, your roadster has to be collectible or antique. Different companies have different criteria for determining what they consider to be classic. Car models older than 20 years used to be considered classics, but today, some older cars are not seen as collectible because of high production runs in the 1970s and 1980s and lack of interest in the designs of cars of that era. At the same time, a later model might be called a classic if it's a limited edition or an exotic vehicle, like a Ferrari F40 or a Corvette ZR1. Street rods, muscle cars and low riders may also be eligible for classic car insurance [source: Hagerty.com].

The policies do come with restrictions. For example, the amount you can drive will be limited -- typically to no more than 5,000 miles (8,046 kilometers) a year [source: Kristof]. You must own another vehicle for daily use, and you'll have to store your classic in a secure garage. Additionally, you may not be eligible for classic car insurance if you're younger than 30, and even if you meet the age requirement, the insurer may require you to have a clean driving record [source: Drivesteady.com].

There are a number of companies that specialize in classic auto insurance. You can find them online or by asking members of your local car club. Buying a classic car policy is a win-win proposition: You get the coverage you need and save money in the bargain.

Author's Note

Though I once owned an original Chevy Nova (a rust-bucket rather than a classic, but with a very powerful small-block-eight engine), my current ride is a mundane Toyota. This article brought to mind vintage songs as well as vintage cars. The Beach Boys sang "Little Deuce Coupe," but who remembers the "lake pipes" they referred to? Ronny and the Daytonas are long gone, but their paean to the Pontiac GTO survives on the oldies station. I find that once these songs, like Commander Cody's "Hot Rod Lincoln," start playing in your head, it's hard to silence them. "My pappy said, `Son, you're gonna drive me to drinkin', if you don't stop drivin' ...'"

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Sources

  • Drivesteady.com. "Antique Car Insurance 101," August 8, 2011. (March 22, 2012) http://drivesteady.com/antique-car-insurance-101
  • Hagerty.com. "Antique & classic vehicles." (March 22, 2012) http://www.hagerty.com/Collector-car-insurance/Does-my-vehicle-qualify/Antique-and-classic-cars
  • Kristof, Kathy. "Collectible cars get a rare break on insurance," Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2009. (March 22, 2012) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-09-27/news/0909240629_1_collectible-cars-state-farm-classic-car-insurance