It is safe to say that the majority of people consider all old cars to be vintage in one way or the other. But, to be considered ‘vintage’, the car needs to be a little bit more than just old. For example, you find a T-shirt in a thrift shop, and the seller claims it was made back in the 1970s; so, it is pretty old, or vintage. But, what determines the price isn’t just that; it’s also the brand of the T-shirt, its condition, the design, and whether it is significant in one way or the other. The same goes for anything else; there needs to be something else to an item to be considered fully vintage and get your money for it.

So, in the following paragraphs, we’ll go over some of the main definitions and understandings of what constitutes a vintage car, and what makes a car vintage, but also classic (fun fact, vintage and classic cars aren’t the same). So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

The Difference Between Classic, Antique, and Vintage Cars?

What Does ‘Vintage Car’ Ever Mean? (Vintage, Antique, Classic = Old?)

There are a lot of definitions of ‘vintage car’ out there, but only one really makes complete sense. So, the meaning of a ‘vintage car’ term is as follows; vintage cars are those cars that have been manufactured between 1919 and 1930. The vintage car period/era ends with the start of Great Depression, in 1930, and has greatly affected the overall car and automotive industry for decades to come.

So, when someone refers to a car as ‘vintage’, chances are the car was made somewhere in the said period, which would indeed make it vintage. But, people like to throw other terms alongside ‘vintage’ as well, to describe their cars and  add value. For example, many refer to their cars as ‘antique’ or ‘classic’, without truly considering the meaning and differentiation between those terms as well.

To loosely define it, an antique car would be a car that is anywhere between 25 and 45 years old. But, these number really depend on the organization providing the evaluation and the rules. Nevertheless, the general consensus is that car withing this age range are considered antique, but not vintage. This is where the synonymous use of the expressions like ‘old car’ and ‘vintage car’, as well as ‘classic and antique car’ becomes tricky for people to follow.

So, to avoid any misunderstanding, here are the three main terms and their definitions, all in one place (so we can continue with a better understanding of the terms and their meanings);

  • Vintage car – generally defined as a car made in the period between 1919 and 1930 (when the period of Great Depression commenced).
  • Antique car – a car that is between 25 and 45 year old.
  • Classic car – generally a car that is at least 10 to 25 years old, but is considered to have a pedigree of some sorts; highly valuable car in excellent condition, generally collector vehicle. A classic car can be vintage and antique as well.

So, What Makes a Car Vintage?

As we mentioned, a vehicle made in the period between 1919 and 1930 is considered vintage. That alone is enough to determine a vintage car. But, there are other indicators and auxiliary factors that can help determine whether a car is truly vintage. Upon further inspection, car collectors can easily determine the state of the car, its condition, use over time, mileage, appearance, design, history of ownership, and much more. All of this can add to the value and increase the price of the vehicle. Also, a vintage car can be a restored or a so-called ‘survivor’ car that is restored according to the original manufacturer specifications.

Things To Consider When Buying a Vintage Car

When buying a vintage car, you can’t really expect to drive it around. Most of the time, vintage cars are just collector pieces that are either to be exhibited or kept for personal reasons. Either way, these are some things people need to take into consideration when purchasing a truly vintage car (for whatever reason or purpose);

  • Safety issues – vintage cars, or cars made prior the 1930 Great Depression, aren’t really equipped with safety features (at least not those that are currently standard in modern cars). Vintage cars and their safety features are pretty rudimentary, so keep this in mind as a rather important information. For example, should you be able to drive a vintage car, there is a high chance that the front wheel breaks and hydraulic breaks might not be within the car (because they only began appearing in the cars in the 1930s).
  • Rarity and price – it is no secret that vintage cars are pretty rare; you won’t be seeing the on the road, but there is a chance they’ll appear in vintage car shows and exhibitions. The point is; these cars are old, and rare. So, when purchasing a vintage care, you need to be ready for a higher price as well. Vintage cars that are in good condition can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And, if they need further restoration, the price can skyrocket pretty quickly. So, unless you have the budget, purchasing a vintage car might take a toll on your finances.
  • Valuation – determining the value of a vintage car can be rather difficult. There are many factors that affect the price, but it can be difficult to find someone who is an expert on vintage cars as well. Truth to be told, services do publish vintage car valuation data and price baseline to the public (for cars in different conditions). This ensures an insight into the state of the market, making things a bit easier. Still, determining the age, condition, rarity, mileage, vehicle provenance and history, alongside the observable factors, can be rather difficult and requires an expert in the field.
  • Condition category – when purchasing a vintage car (especially if you’re a collector or investor), a vehicle’s condition rating is essential. The rating system has six categories that are used to rate the condition of the car, and points are assigned (from 40 to 100, the latter being ‘perfect condition’ points). There are currently two condition rating systems in the United States, so make sure to consult both.

Examples of Vintage Cars

If it’s a bit difficult for our readers to differentiate between classic and vintage cars, here are some vintage car examples to make it a bit easier. The observational difference between classic and vintage cars is pretty stark, so you’ll see what we were really talking about in the previous paragraphs;

  • 1919 Ford Model T Sedan – this cars is the true vintage car; it was made in 1919 and is considered the first affordable car for middle-class families. The car was designed by an American and Hungarian engineers. The Model T was also referred to as the ‘Tin Lizzie’, ‘Leaping Lena’ and ‘flivver’. Its estimated cost back in the day was around 500 USD (which would be around 8,800 USD in 2023).

1919 Ford Model T Sedan

  • 1921 Hudson Super Six Phaeton – the first Hudson automobile was introduced in 1916, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that this car become available to the wide public. The Hudson Super Six car was super stylish and had a four-wheel break system. This model was kept in production until 1928. The base price for this model used to be around 2,000 USD, but nowadays it can be valued at around 40,000 USD.

1921 Hudson Super Six Phaeton

  • 1930 Cadillac V-16 – this was the Cadillac’s top-of-the-line model that was launched in 1930. Because of the Great Depression, only 4,076 examples of this car were built, so it is pretty rare. The car powered by an engine, that was both powerful and smooth; a breakthrough in the automotive industry back in the day. The base price for this car was around 5,000 USD, but nowadays it is sold for around 90,000 USD.

1930 Cadillac V-16

Pros and Cons of Owning a Vintage Car

As awesome it is to own a vintage car, we need to present you with both pros and cons that come with the said car. So, before you decide to invest your hard-earned money into a vintage care, let’s observe the advantages and disadvantages of this decision;

The pros of owning a vintage car definitely revolve around the wow-factor. Owning an almost hundred year old car is always going to be the main topic of any conversation. It is also super fun to own such a car, especially if you’re a fan of the attention. There is also the investment-return, because, let’s face it, vintage cars are always going to be cool and sought-after. As time goes by, and if the car is well-maintained, the value can go nowhere else but high.

Now, the cons of owning a vintage car are less fun, and a bit more elaborate. First of all, vintage cars require regular and specific maintenance, which isn’t really cost-effective. Between maintenance, restoration, storage, and insurance, a vintage car can cost some serious money.

Moreover, a vintage car isn’t something that you can just drive around, and even if you do, the experience won’t be the best you ever had. Such cars aren’t really safe according to modern standards, and in case of collision, you could be in great danger. There are no airbags, and the break systems are pretty unreliable.

It is surely up to you to figure out whether this is the right investment or not. But, at least you’re now familir with the whole concept of a vintage car, what it means, and what it brings to your finance and maintenance responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Many of us dream about owning these rare, awesome, classic cars, and why wouldn’t we. They’re not just cars; they’re the very best examples of the evolution of the automotive industry, and certainly and proof of those different times. They’re also a delight to observe, and you’d be getting a lot of attention wherever you show up. But, vintage cars are also a pretty tricky investment, and it isn’t definitely for an average joe. Hopefully, we’ve cleared up the misunderstanding between different vintage/classic/old car definitions. The rest is up to you to figure out if you’d rather go for a classic or vintage car, or maybe neither.

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