How to Get Antique License Plates for Your Classic Car

antique license plates

If you recently bought (or already own) a classic car, you may be considering putting specialty license plates on it. Such plates, available from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, indicate the car is of a certain age. Depending on where you live, these license plates may be referred to as collector, classic, vintage, historic or antique plates.

What qualifies?

The first thing you have to do is make sure your car actually qualifies for the license plates. Once you’ve determined the car is old enough to fit the criteria in your state, you’ll need to carefully review what restrictions come with the plates. Again, these vary from one state to the next.

Usually, the magic number for cars to reach this designation is 25 years. Some states, though, allow cars to be classified as antique or classic in just 20 years, while others require it to be older. In Florida, for example, vehicles must be at least 30 years old to qualify for antique or historic designation.

How do I register?

Buying the plates is relatively simple but it does require research on your end to make sure you qualify. You’ll follow the same process as you would to register any other motor vehicle but you will also have to fill out a separate special registration form which regulates what type of plate you’ll be allowed to place on your car.

In some cases, the state will designate what era the car is from; for example, in Tennessee, a car produced anywhere between 1977 and 1983 would be given a 1977-era license plate. In New York, you’ll receive plate dates for whichever year the car was made.

Costs and Restrictions

While such license plates may be less expensive to buy upfront, you’ll want to avoid having them cost you money in the long run. If you don’t follow the restrictions, you could end up with fines or tickets. Since each state has its own rules and regulations for ownership, don’t assume when moving to a new state that the laws will be the same, even if you already have antique plates on your car.

In most cases, the real price you pay for antique or classic license plates is that you are not able to drive it the way you would drive a normal car. Its use will often be limited to things such as participating in car club functions, test drives, driving to and from a garage for repairs, or driving to an auction.

In some states, you’ll be allowed to drive a certain distance for your own driving pleasure, while other states place limits on when the car is allowed on the road. In Virginia, for example, you can drive up to 250 miles from your home on any day of the week; in Tennessee, the car can only be used for general transportation on Saturday or Sunday, but there are no limits on the number of miles you drive.

Once you have your antique license plates squared away, make sure you have the right classic car insurance to go with it. Learn more about Nationwide’s vintage car and truck insurance options.