Make sure your classic car gets the coverage it deserves.

4 things you should know before insuring your classic car

What do the 1956 Buick Centurion, 1964 Sunbeam Tiger, and 1955 Cadillac LaSalle Roadster all have in common? Each is considered a classic car – a distinction virtually every automobile seeks to embody, but few will ever achieve.

Identifying the best classic car models lies in the eye of the beholder. Some will point to a major motion picture film series, like James Bond, for inspiration, as the protagonist is frequently seated in a highly refined automobile on his globe-trotting missions. Others will go to auto shows, where classic cars are frequently featured and double-takes by onlookers and gawkers are all too common.

But whether you're merely an admirer of these head-turners, own one, or hope to be a buyer in the not too distant future, you may be wondering what makes classic cars, well, classic.

What do classic cars all have in common?

Believe it or not, there really is no textbook definition of what makes a vehicle classic. However, there are a few general guidelines. According to the Insurance Information Institute, models worthy of the designation generally have model years of 25 years old or more, appreciate in value – i.e. sell for more than their original manufacturer's suggested retail price – and are limited in number. For instance, if a model's production has been discontinued, it will be more likely  to eventually receive "classic" status because inventory levels will gradually diminish.

Classic cars have a variety of uses. Some owners prefer to keep them under lock and key to preserve their value, perhaps selling it one day. Others will take them for a spin every once in awhile, like for special occasions.

But in order to qualify for special auto insurance protection, appropriately known as classic car auto insurance, a few standards have to be satisfied. The III references a few of them:

Limited use

Are you using your Austin Healy to drive to and from work every day, or for taking the kids to their weekly soccer practices? That's fine if you are, but not if you want to qualify for classic car coverage. If the car's used on a limited basis, however, you're good to go. What's considered "limited"? This is a definition that varies among classic car insurance companies. Make sure you speak with your provider to find out more.

No traffic citations

Everyone knows that a clean driving record can help keep your premiums affordable. However, if you have a track record of speeding or other moving violations, that may disqualify you for classic car insurance.

Garaged or stowed away

Storing your automobile – classic or otherwise – in a secure area is a great way to keep it from falling into the wrong hands or being vulnerable to damage. For primary cars, this is more of a convenience than anything. However, storage is usually required for classic car insurance. Your insurer will want to know what type of unit or covering your classic car is kept in and whether it's under lock and key.

Good shape

The condition of your classic car may also be a deciding factor. Of course, a classic car should ideally be in pristine shape to ensure it maintains or increases in value. But if there are scratches, dents, or dings on the exterior and you still want the special insurance product, that may present a problem.

Securing classic car insurance is a smart, affordable way to keep your investment protected. Be sure to ask your insurer about it so your coverage is as safe and reliable as the venue that houses it.