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Classic vs Vintage Cars: Know the Difference

Posted by Master Power Brakes Team on Jun 27, 2022 9:45:33 AM

camaro ss

As a fan of collector and restored vehicles, you probably noticed not all cars fall under the category of classic, vintage or antique.  What makes a car a classic? How do you know if a car is vintage?  There are subtle differences that set each apart. Whether you’re looking for your next ride or planning to add to your car collection, being able to tell them apart could help you to save a few bucks, especially if you’re planning on heading down the restoration route


This post will tell you everything you need to know about the differences between classic vs vintage cars. Learn more about the features that define each type of car and what to look for if you’re planning to buy a collector vehicle of your own. 


Classic Car Features

There are several features that set a classic car apart from a vintage vehicle. This comes down to:

- Age

- Whether it's a modern classic or full classic

- Interior and exterior design and details

- Use

- Value

RELATED: Classic Car Restoration: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Started



Depending on who you ask, a classic car can be determined by how long it’s been around. Typically, a car is considered a classic if it’s at least 20 years old, so it should have been manufactured in or before 2000. 

The classification of a classic car can be subject to state laws and insurance providers. For example, in some states like Texas, a car can be registered as a classic if it’s 25 years or older. Insurance companies can determine a certain type of vehicle as a classic car, such as a Hot Rod. 


RELATED: At What Age is a Car Considered a Classic? 


Full Classic

According to the Classic Car Club of America, a full classic car was manufactured between 1915 and 1948. These are cars that were made in limited quantities and not mass produced like modern classics. Anything newer than this would be deemed a modern classic. 

Some cars that are considered full classics include:

- Double

- Julian

- Maybach

- Ruxton

- Bugatti (expect 52 and 68)



Interior and Exterior Classic Car Features

What interior and exterior classic car features should you look out for?

- Manual driving

- Handbrake levers

- Large windscreens and rear windows

- CD or cassette players

- Pop-up headlights

- Hood ornaments

- Tail fins



Generally, classic cars are used for driving purposes, including seasonal driving, as well as car shows and restoration projects. They are faster than vintage cars and many have contemporary safety features like airbags and seatbelts. 



Classic cars can increase in value if they’re considered rare or have rare parts. As this makes them more expensive to repair, their value is higher. Newer cars, such as those made in the 90’s and early 2000’s may be less expensive to buy, especially if they were mass produced so there are more of them around. 

A car’s value will be determined on:

- Year manufactured

- Model

- Factory options

- Vehicle trim

RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Classic Car


Vintage Car Features



Vintage car features are often determined on:

- Age

- Who's defining it?

- Interior and exterior design elements and details

- Use

- Value


As a general rule, vintage cars are normally those manufactured prior to 1930, and they can be easy to spot by their use of brass fittings, particularly in cars made from the late 1800’s to 1915. These cars are known as the ‘Brass Era’. 

Some states define cars made before 1922 as historical vehicles rather than vintage, while others like California have a general classification for grouping cars together as classics rather than separating them. 

If you’re confused as to whether a car is classic or vintage, think of a vintage car as being from the early days of motoring, and closer in manufacture date to the start of the 20th century (early 1900’s) than 2000. 


Interior and Exterior Vintage Car Features

You'll notice a vintage car when you see it based on a few interior and exterior characteristics, such as:

- Brass fitting or radiators

- Large wheels

- Bench seats

- Gasoline engine

- No roof

- Lack of safety features like seatbelts

Some examples of the earliest vintage cars are the Ford Model A, Locomobile, and St. Louis Gasoline Buggy. 



Vintage cars, in particular some of the earliest motors, are only used for car shows and exhibitions.  They are often collector cars or held by car enthusiasts after car restoration. You'll rarely cross paths with a vintage car on the road unless it's been well-restored or modernized, simply because most lack contemporary safety features. 



Vintage cars don’t reduce in value like classic cars do. Brass Era cars are especially valuable amongst 

car enthusiasts and collectors. Even when restored or modified, vintage cars tend to be more valuable than classic ones. Some rare vintage cars can be sold for millions of dollars at auction houses, whereas classic cars can often be found cheap at trade shows, auctions and online selling sites for restoration projects. 


Classic vs Vintage Cars: What Sets Them Apart?

So, what determines a classic from a vintage? The main differences lie in age, classification, design elements, and value. If you’re considering an investment for your next collector vehicle or restoration project, consider the features of each when determining price, budget, and style preferences. 


UP NEXT: Classic Car Restoration: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Started

UP NEXT: 5 Classic Car Websites and Blogs Worth Following in 2022 

Need Help? Speak to a Specialist Now!

Topics: classic vs vintage cars, classic car features, vintage car features

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