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What Are Historic License Plates and How to Get One for Your Car

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According to studies, the average life expectancy of a vehicle is 8-10 years. But, with proper maintenance and light usage, a car can last for much longer than that. If the automobile last for decades after its original manufacture date, it can qualify for special registration status.

An historic vehicle–also known as an antique vehicle–is a particular classification of motor vehicle that’s available in many countries around the world. Here’s what it takes to get that special historic license plate and if you should consider signing up.


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Getting and Maintaining Historic Vehicle Registration Status

The guidelines for what qualifies as an antique or historic vehicle varies by country and even by US state. Generally, the vehicle should meet these qualifications:

  • Be a certain number of years old (i.e. past its manufacture date), around 20-30 years minimum
  • Owned only as a collector’s item, not for transportation
  • Not be driven to places other than specific automotive exhibitions

To reiterate, vehicles with an historic license plate should not be seen around in town running errands or taking joy rides on vacation.¬†Historic vehicles are only allowed on the road to be travelling to and from an event like a cruise-in (or a garage if maintenance is needed). That means no cruising through the park, no taking it to the grocery store on a sunny day. A police officer has the right to pull you over and question where you’re headed if they see your vintage vehicle and suspect you’re taking advantage of the system.

Some states outline a set maximum number of miles the vehicle can be driven each year and require owners to keep a log of every mile traversed. Other limit the distance the vehicle can be driven from the driver’s home address.


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If you do abide by the rules, registering your old car as an antique has fantastic advantages.

  • Historic registration plates are¬†permanent and will last for the life of the car.
  • The registration is a fraction of what standard vehicle registration costs.
  • Some insurance companies offer discounted insurance packages for vehicles registered as antique/non-transportational.
  • The vehicle gets a unique license plate that boasts its status (style can be customized in some states).

To get your vehicle registered as historic, simply obtain and complete a special application from your local DMV office and submit it as you would a normal vehicle registration (unless your state/country gives specific instructions).

Sources: DMV, Jalopnik, Wikipedia