Rules for Antique Automobile License Plates

by Pamela Hilliard Owens, M.

Car licensing is a function of the individual states, whether the car is a current model or an antique or classic car. Just as each state has its own licensing regulations for late-model cars, the laws relating to antique cars also vary according to the state in which the car is registered. It is important to check with your state Department of Motor Vehicles to ensure that your classic or antique car is properly licensed and tagged.

Types of License Plates for Antique Cars

Year of Make plates are usually assigned to antique cars to designate the year the car was manufactured. Many classic cars are owned for historical reasons and are driven in parades and special car events, so YOM license plates indicate the year of the car to casual observer. Some jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia, have issued HMV (Historic Motor Vehicle) plates and AC (Antique Car) plates. States define “historic” and “antique” in different ways. Usually, “antique” cars are of any make or model of a certain age, while “historic” cars have some kind of special value, such as a limited production run or manufactured by a car company no longer in business. Another license plate for antique cars is the “collector” plate. To receive a collector plate, the car owner must register an affidavit that states that the car will be used as a collector’s item only and not for general transportation. The car owner has to decide whether to use a collector plate or a Year Of Manufacture plate, but not both. States want to ensure that duplicate license numbers are not being used.

Licensing Rules for Various Types of Older Cars

Many states have an additional designation for antique cars: “exhibition” cars. These cars must receive special tags, sometimes in lieu of actual plates because they are not allowed to be driven on roads. Exhibition cars are meant only to be shown at car shows or driven in parades and similar events. Because they are not used for general everyday transportation, antique cars that are only exhibited usually are not issued typical license plates. License plates for antique or historic cars are often issued in alternate colors and non-standard numbering systems to differentiate them from license plates for current car models.

International Antique Car Licensing Rules

States within the United States have different rules and regulations for designating and licensing antique or historic cars, and it is the same for many countries around the world. In many countries, cars that are a certain age are considered “antique” regardless of their historic significance. In Australia, a car must be at least 30 years old, while in the United Kingdom, cars are considered antique if they were built before 1973.

About the Author

Pamela Hilliard Owens is a former public school teacher, college instructor and sales manager. With a master's degree in English, she writes and edits for individuals, grad students and businesses in nine countries. She founded Writing It Right For You in 1998 and is published in many online and print media.

Photo Credits

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