Car enthusiasts: How to get insurance for your classic or vintage car

MICHAEL LUND
Car enthusiasts are a passionate bunch. They love to talk, watch, eat, live and breathe anything to do with cars. If you’re in this camp, you’ve most likely invested your hard-earned cash into a particular car or car collection, or into restoring that cherished car you’ve always wanted.

But when it comes to protecting your prized possessions, you may find that a regular comprehensive car insurance policy might not be the best fit. So, how do you find the right car insurance policy for your special classic or vintage car?

Let’s explore a few terms that you’re likely to come across as a car enthusiast while searching for insurance for your vehicle:

In this article, we cover:

What is a classic car?

That depends. Generally speaking, a classic car is not your everyday runabout but one you use for special occasions, weekend trips or keep just for show at events. They also tend to be older cars, not your mainstream models of today, but some modern cars can be considered classic.

A modified vehicle is typically considered to be different, for insurance purposes, to a classic or vintage car.

Neil Athorn is President of the Australian Historic Motoring Federation (AHMF), a national body which oversees the thousands of classic car clubs across Australia. He estimates there are some 175,000 club members around the country who own in excess of 400,000 classic cars and spend up to $1 billion a year on maintenance and restoration work to keep their vehicles going.

Some clubs can be specific to a particular model of car, some to a particular manufacturer and some to a certain era.

The AHMF has its own classification for veteran, vintage and historic cars but there is no single definition of a classic car agreed by everyone, so the exact level of cover available comes down to what any insurance provider deems appropriate for a car.

Shannons, part of the Suncorp Group, describes itself as one of the leading insurance providers for motoring enthusiasts in Australia. It also runs auctions and a club for car enthusiasts.

Damien Bray, a portfolio manager for Shannons, told Canstar the motor industry typically understood cars made before 1950 to be considered vintage, veteran or antique, depending on their year of manufacture.

Other categories Shannons considers include:

  • Classic for cars older than 30 years
  • Emerging classic for cars made 15 to 30 years ago
  • Modern for cars made in the last 15 years.

Mr Bray said the company provides cover for modified cars, too.

Some classic cars on show at a race event in Darwin
Some classic cars on show at a race event in Darwin. Credit: Michael Lund

What type of classic car insurance cover is available?

Not every car insurer provides classic car insurance as this is a very specialised market, so you’ll need to look carefully at what type of cover is available to see if it suits your needs, your car and your pocket.

The type of cover available will be detailed in the product disclosure statement (PDS) of any insurance policy. It’s important you read this document carefully to see what is and isn’t covered in any policy you are considering for your car, and what conditions of use may apply

These conditions can vary between providers, whose numbers are limited as not all insurance companies have cover for classic cars.

Mr Bray said there are a number of factors Shannons takes into consideration when issuing any policy for a classic car.

“The main differences between typical car insurance and classic car insurance are the following features, which make the cover better suited to a classic car,” he said.

Agreed value of your car — something between you and your insurer

Unlike most car insurance policies, where market value cover is more common, Mr Bray said insurance for classic cars tended to be for an agreed value determined by the policyholder and the insurer.

“The value of a classic car can vary greatly from one vehicle to another. The value is determined by the condition of the vehicle, its rarity and its desirability. These factors are all considered when determining an appropriate agreed value,” said Mr Bray.

Limited use options and laid-up cover — how often do you use your car?

“A sunny weekend is a great time to enjoy a classic car, but often classic cars spend most of their days tucked away in the shed. Classic car insurance offers reduced premiums for cars that aren’t used regularly,” said Mr Bray.

Many classic car insurance policies offered reduced premiums while a car was off the road being restored.

“Classic cars usually go through a restoration stage at some point, and many projects can take years to complete. The car might be out of commission for an extended period, so classic car insurance offers a reduced premium while the car is off the road,” he added..

Choice of repairer — you get to choose

Most classic car insurance policies allow you to choose which repairer or mechanic you want to fix any damage to your car.

“A classic car owner will often know the most experienced and trusted repairer for their car,” said Mr Bray.

Multi-vehicle discounts — more than one classic car

“Classic car enthusiasts often have more than one car. Classic cars tend to ‘breed’ in a garage and many enthusiasts end up with several,” said Mr Bray.

As a result, he said many policies designed to cover classic cars included discounts on premiums for each classic car insured under a multi-vehicle policy.

Salvage rights — what happens if the car is written off?

“If a car is 35 years old or more and is a total loss in a collision, the owner will be able to keep the unrepaired vehicle at no cost. Then it could be used for parts for another vehicle or as a head start for the next project,” said Mr Bray.

Bear in mind, that’s just the Shannons version of classic car insurance. Not all insurers cover classic cars, but another that does is the NRMA, which classifies cars by age in a slightly different way.

  • Veteran cars are those made before 1919
  • Vintage cars were made between 1919 and 1930, and
  • Classic cars of 15 years of age or more may be recognised by NRMA as a collectable.

The company also covers other types of vehicles and motorbikes as part of its classic car cover and the price you pay depends on the value it agrees with you as the owner.

“We will determine the value of the vehicle by assessing the market, reviewing similar vehicles and considering the condition of the vehicle,” an NRMA spokesperson told Canstar.

“We may ask for photos of the vehicle to help our assessment and to insure your vehicle at the right value.”

The condition of the car is taken into account but cover may still be available even if the car is still being restored.

The NRMA’s classic cars cover is only for cars that are used occasionally such as a hobby car, for special occasions such as weddings and for recreation, such as any morning club activities. Cover is not usually available if your classic car is used as your main car, if you use it regularly or if you drive it for more than 9,000km in a year.

Enthusiast Motor Insurance is another provider that caters for classic cars, and may consider cover even if the car is your everyday vehicle, although it said you may get a discount on premiums if your car isn’t on the road much.

Brett Williams, a business development manager at Enthusiast, told Canstar the company catered for a broad range of motoring enthusiasts, including those looking to more modern collector cars.

“Some enthusiasts might be interested in having the latest model of a particular car, and others might take cars apart and restore them nut and bolt to be just like they were when first built,” he said.

“An enthusiast really is any person who has a passion for their car.”

How can you negotiate a good deal on a classic car policy?

Good deals are always possible, said the AHMF’s Mr Athorn, and club members are often the first to spread the news to others.

“The strength of the movement is such that if anyone does get a good or raw deal then it will be spoken about at club meetings,” he told Canstar.

Brian Garrett, president of the Classic and Historic Automobile Club of Australia, based in Victoria, agreed and said it’s a good idea to shop around, even though your options may be limited.

“Word of mouth is the main source (of information on good deals), followed by a ring around to insurance companies,” he told Canstar.

Irene Garrett in a 1975 Mercedes Benz 450SL Roadster
Brian Garrett’s wife Irene in their 1975 Mercedes Benz 450SL Roadster (supplied).

How much is your classic car worth?

A key part of negotiating a good deal is the agreed value of the car to be insured. Popular classic cars may be easier to value than rarer ones.

“Most classic car owners follow values fairly closely,” said Mr Garrett.

“The owner can suggest a value and the insurance company will either accept that value or reject it. Sometimes they may want to see the vehicle before insuring it.”

That’s a point highlighted by Enthusiast’s Mr Williams.

“We stress to all our clients that we do not value cars,” he said. “We come to an agreed value that we and the client are comfortable in covering the vehicle for – not actually telling people how much their car is worth.”

Shannon’s Mr Bray also noted that unlike a typical everyday car, which tends to depreciate over time, the value of classic cars can often go up, so any policy renewal needs to reflect that changed value.

Graeme Adams, vice president of the Queensland-based Roadrunner Car Club, said it was important to keep up-to-date records of your classic car to help you when negotiating that agreed value.

“In all cases when establishing a value, have photos, documentation of any recent restorations, component reconditioning, and/or new parts, trim, or tyres,” he said.

“It is often good, when entering into an initial insurance policy, to take the vehicle to the insurer’s assessment centre and update and keep records on an annual basis.”

Roadrunner Car Club President Graeme Block with his 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera
Roadrunner Car Club President Graeme Block with his 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera (supplied).

Does how much you drive your classic car affect your policy?

The more your classic car is used, and the more kilometres it travels, the greater the potential risk of any accident or damage.

Enthusiast’s Mr Williams said there would be a difference in pricing of a policy for a car driven every day, as opposed to one used occasionally.

Some providers may even include kilometre limits in their policies and require regular odometer checks to make sure you don’t exceed your allocated distance.

Roadrunner’s Mr Adams said a car’s usage was often a “huge discussion factor with a potential insurer”. So too was where a car is stored, age of the driver and any driver restrictions, all of which could affect a policy’s price.

But you’ve probably bought your classic car because you want to take it out on the open road, or show it off at events and shows, and the AHMF’s Mr Athorn also warned of the danger of not using your treasured vehicle from time to time.

“Cars are better used occasionally, or everything dries up and you get oil leaks and binding clutches and brakes,” he said.

“So an outing, even for a short distance, every couple of months does them more good than harm.”

Compare car insurance with Canstar

Compare Car Insurance with Canstar

If you’re comparing car insurance policies, the comparison table below displays some of the policies currently available on Canstar’s database for a 30-39 year old male seeking comprehensive cover in NSW without cover for an extra driver under 25. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by provider name (alphabetical) and features links direct to the providers’ websites. Check upfront with your provider and read the PDS to confirm whether a particular policy meets your needs before deciding to commit to it. Use Canstar’s car insurance comparison selector to view a wider range of policies. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.