When Does An Old Car Become A "Classic" Car?

I still have my 1994 Saturn SC2 that I bought new - with only 85,000 miles on it, in great shape and runs great.

Somewhere I read that any car over 20 years old could be called a “Classic”, and thus the value might start to go up instead of down.

Does that mean that starting next year, this car might start to hold its value and then start to be worth more?

I am in no hurry to sell it - still a nice second car for us, though we don’t drive it much.

But would keeping this car a few more years increase the resale value - and if not now, how much longer until it becomes a “Classic Car”?

Usually 20 years or so is where a car has fully depreciated, at which point the value equalizes to some sort of baseline “cheap junker” price, but at least isn’t depreciating anymore as long as it stays in running condition. Economists might say there’s no exchange value left and so the price equalizes to the use value. It’s actually the opposite of a classic, which is valued entirely for exchange value.

It’s probably going to be closer to 30 years or so when certain cars begin to accrue collector’s value. But it won’t happen to every car (there’s still cars from the 60’s that are essentially worth their scrap value) and I’m not sure I’d bet on yours being one of them.

Ha! That was subtle.

OK then…no big $100,000 offers coming soon. Sigh.
Well, I still think it looks great and good to know the value probably won’t sink to zero…and as mentioned, it really doesn’t have a scratch and runs great, so in my mind it already IS a classic.

Thanks for the info!

In WA, after 25 years you can skip smog checks. After 30, you can get a ‘Collector Plate’ that does not have to be renewed. Check for similar in your state.

As far as big buck$ for an old car, it is always subject to the rule of The Greater Fool

I had to decline a classic plate when I registered my car in CT - it was just so damned ugly I didn’t want it. I am not sure what the criterion for eligibility is, but I see it on some rather - pardon the contradiction in terms - pedestrian vehicles.

In WA, you can use ‘Year of Mfg’ plates - in CA, you can order new vintage black/yellow, yellow/black or yellow/blue plates.

Are you sure of that? That was the case until about 2000, but when I lost a black/yellow on an older car a bit after that I was able to get only the new blue/white plates. CA does change its DMV rules about every 15 minutes, though.

IIRC, in Ohio, there are requirements beyond age for a collector plate–such as driving a limited number of miles per year. This is all anecdotal, though–while I guess I probably qualified for a collector plate w/ my 1969 Cutlass, I never bothered.

It’s not as if there is some guarantee that any car will automatically become a “Classic Car” and begin to appreciate in value once it is sufficiently old. The 20-year threshold is just a legal definition in many states for registration, tax, etc. purposes. In order for the car to appreciate in value, there has to be something about it that makes it desirable to collectors, enthusiasts, etc. Many aspects about cars made in the 1960s and 1970’s push those buttons for people (e.g. tailfins, chrome, etc.), but I don’t think there will be nearly as many “classics” among cars made in the 80’s and 90’s, even 30 years from now.

An old car in nice shape will always be worth something, but 95% of all such cars will never actually appreciate in value regardless of how old they get. I do not think a 1994 Saturn econobox is going to be in that 5% that do. If it were a limited-edition Corvette, that would be a different story.

Maybe if it’s used in a remake of Wayne’s World. That movie helped the AMC Pacer gain a little cult status.

Everyone will have an opinion on this. IMHO, and unless it has a very low production run, nothing from1973/newer will ever qualify.

You know, it’s a funny thing. Back in the 1970’s, I would have said that a car 10 year old was a classic. In the 1980’s, that had stretched to 20 years. And now, I would have to say that any car less than 30 years old is just “old”.

Now get off my lawn. Heh.

Here in Virginia any car more than 20 years old can be registered as an “antique”. I think I posted on here a few months back about the surreality of seeing a DeLorean with black “Antique” plates on it.

Worse, Connecticut’s antique license plate prominently displays the logo “Early American” for some reason, which looks particularly stupid on foreign-made automobiles, such as my friend’s 1985 Mercedes-Benz. Apparently, you can get it for any car that is 20 years or older.

In New York, after 25 years you can apply for historical plates (with HX as part of the plate number); you can’t use an HX plate car for daily transportation, but just to drive to exhibitions. Most owners also have an old plate for the year the car was made; they have licence brackets for the HX plates that can be easily removed if the car is used in a film.

That’s the one I meant. The DMV lady handling my registrations couldn’t figure out why I wouldn’t take it since I qualified for it. (Of course, it would have been temporary on that vehicle anyway, since I was turning around and trading it in for a vanity plate… but still. Yuck. I see them every day and can’t figure out how they could have been made less attractive.)

Also, thanks to administrative inertia, you can get a “horseless carriage” plate for anything over 40 years old, which is now 1973 and older.

Pretty sure, since I don’t live there I have not tried.

ETA: looks like there is a Jan 2015 deadline for 7500 orders.

A car doesn’t appreciate because it’s a classic, it appreciates because it’s collectable. Anything over 20 years is a classic, few cars are collectable.

The comments are correct…any old car can be called a “classic”. But that has nothing to do with the value of such a car. Value is related to scarcity, uniqueness, and desirability. There is a saying “unloved when new, unloved when old”-that sums it up. AMC made lots of interesting cars-but most of them are almost worthless. Is there a big market for Kaiser Frasier cars today? Not really-because nobody wanted them when they were new. There is a 1958 Edsel, rotting away in the yard of a house down the street fro me-is it worth anything? Probably not.

ummm…this page shows 10 edsels for sale at a mere 20-40 thousand dollars