Cheap classic car insurance

Find specialist cover to suit your vintage motor

If you have an older car that's considered classic or vintage, you'll likely need a specialist insurance policy to provide the cover you need. Here, we run through the basics of classic car insurance, including what it covers and the things you should consider when buying a policy. 

What is classic car insurance?

Classic car insurance is a specialist policy offered by some insurers for older cars that are used infrequently and mainly for 'leisure' purposes (ie you're not expected to be doing the school run or daily commute in a vintage motor).

It works in pretty much the same way as a standard policy, though you'll likely have to go to a specialist broker to get a quote. Classic car insurance can be cheaper than standard insurance – that's because insurers generally expect policyholders to drive the car more carefully and look after it better than people do with normal cars. 

When does a car become classic?

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Think classic car, and it might bring to mind something along the lines of James Bond's favoured Aston Martin.

But ask an insurer what a classic car is and, for the purposes of insurance, it'll could tell you something a little different, because it's not all about age.

Insurers define a classic car according to how it's used and kept. To be eligible for cheaper premiums, your car must meet some combination of these general conditions (which can vary between insurers): 

  • More than 15-years-old
  • Low annual mileage (usually between 2,000 and 5,000 miles)
  • Kept in excellent condition
  • Not used as a main car – ie you either have another car for everyday runarounds, or get about in other ways.
  • The vehicle is stored in a garage, on a drive or in a specialist lock-up.
  • You must usually be 25 or older.

So it's not just about owning an older car – a bashed around 20-year-old Ford Sierra estate that you use as your everyday car, and want to try to insure cheaply as a classic car, wouldn't qualify. But a cherished old Ford Fiesta Mk2, that you keep in a garage for nostalgia and the odd trip out, likely would.

What does classic car insurance cover?

Classic car insurance covers you for the same types of risks as ordinary car insurance – damage, accident and theft of your car, as well as any damage you might cause to third parties.

And like ordinary policies, insurers will weigh up how you drive your vintage model, whether you've made any modifications (see below), how desirable your car is to collectors and its age and condition – as this will affect your car's value.

The extras you can get...

  • Cover while it's being restored

    Many people restore their classic which can take months or even years. So you can buy insurance to keep it covered during this period.

  • Displaying the car at a vintage car fair or show

    This is often included as an extra. You'll be covered for prangs and accidents, as well as public liability if you knock into something (or someone) while your vehicle's on display.

  • Racing on track days

    If you've got a classic car equipped for racing – whether it's just a gentle drive in a track parade or something slightly speedier on a track day where time trials let drivers put an older car through its paces – make sure your policy covers you for driving in this way.

    You'll pay a higher premium according to how often you race or the number of events you participate in.

  • Going abroad

    Most policies will let you spend up to 90 days a year overseas.

If your car is written off or stolen you'll get an 'agreed price' payout

Drive a modern car, and if it's stolen or written off in a smash, it should be relatively straightforward to get a valuation for insurance purposes.

However it works differently with classic cars. With older models – and particularly those that are in demand or have been extensively modified – knowing how much the car is actually worth is not as easy to work out.

That's because value of classic cars can fluctuate hugely, for example if collectors (especially from overseas) develop an interest in a given model. So with a classic car policy, insurers will ask you to settle on an 'agreed valuation'. This means if your car is stolen or written off, you'll get this agreed amount – minus any policy excess.

  • How to work out what your car's worth

    When you take out an agreed value policy, you don't usually just get to tell your insurer what you think your vehicle is worth or vice versa – you'll need some sort of official estimate.

    If you were to join one, many classic car clubs have valuers with thorough knowledge of your car type and model. Their specialists will be able to give you a document, usually bearing the club logo, as evidence of market value.  

    However, in most cases, an insurer will want a valuation certificate from an independent vehicle valuation expert. This means you'll likely need to pay for a vehicle inspection and valuation which can be anywhere from £50 to £150 – you'll need to do this once per insurer assuming the valuation doesn't change much, so if you switch you'll need to do it again. You can try the likes of Julian Shoolheifer Classic Car Valuations or JP Morriss.

    If your classic motor's value moves up or down a lot, you'll need to have it reviewed regularly, which can add to costs.

    You might also find insurers ask for photos of the vehicle and, if you've had a lot of restorative work done, ask for bills showing payment for this, as supporting evidence of the vehicle's value.

  • Keep your car for parts if the vehicle is written off

    If your classic car is badly damaged, it could cost the insurer more to get it repaired than the payout for its agreed value. In other words, the insurer would be left out of pocket.

    When this happens, you can accept the car's a write-off and take the payout, or – particularly if you're keen on using what can be salvaged for spare parts – buy the wreckage back off the insurer.

    This can set you back thousands of pounds (depending on the model) but, if you're an avid classic car fan, you may want to keep the vehicle's remnants.

    If this is the case, pick a classic car insurance policy that includes 'salvage retention' – not all do, and while many will include it for a small fee, plenty will include it as standard.

Modifications push up premiums (but not like they do for normal cars)

As with standard car insurance, you need to tell the insurer about any modifications, whether for cosmetic, performance or safety reasons. Given their age, many classic cars will have undergone alterations to be roadworthy. Generally, the most common mods include:

  • Respray
  • Introduction of computerised controls/dashboards
  • New engine
  • Improved fuel performance
  • Electronic ignition
  • Power steering.

Each can add extra costs to the premium, depending on the extent of the work and the type of vehicle. This is because anything that pushes up the vehicle's value needs to be taken into account.

For example, a high-quality respray can add £2,000-£3,000 to a car's value. However, unlike with modern cars used for daily driving, where modifications are seen as higher risk by insurers, a modification is par for the course with a classic car.

Without them, many wouldn't be roadworthy – and insurers understand that they're being done not to make the car go faster, but to preserve it. So instead of being the norm, a modification is to be expected – this allows insurers to be able to reflect this in lower premiums.

How to buy classic car insurance

buying classic car insurance

Normally with car insurance we suggest you use comparison sites which fire your details to dozens of insurers' and brokers' websites in seconds to find the cheapest quotes.

But here it's unlikely they will return accurate classic car quotes, as the potential for variation, such as the yo-yoing of a vehicle's value, makes it difficult for them to capture it all accurately. So in the spirit of your set of wheels it's a return to the old-fashioned way of doing things...

Step 1: Use a classic car specialist broker to check prices 

A number of specialist brokers offer policies for classic cars, plus unusual vehicles such as high-performance road cars, American 'muscle' cars, military vehicles or old campervans. These brokers will all search a host of different insurers for you.

Warning: Three of the four specialists below, Carole Nash, Footman James and Lancaster, charge a fee for policy renewal a year later.

This means their deal may be great for the first year but you'll need to remember to check 11 months in to see how their premium measures up against rivals at the end of the year. Don't forget to factor in the likely cost of car valuation with a new insurer too if you decide to switch.

It doesn't mean your policy at renewal will always be expensive – it may even be one of the cheapest – but the issue of charging a fee for renewing a policy is not one that MoneySavingExpert.com is comfortable with.

Those listed below have been picked for breadth of cover, based on our research and reviews – it'll be worth checking as many of the following as you can for a broad range of quotes as they don't all search the same insurers.

Hagerty

Specialist broker Hagerty doesn't charge a renewal fee so tops our list of brokers to try. Its website also offers a useful car valuation tool to help you get an idea of your car's worth.

Hagerty

It's Classic Car Insurance is a comparison site by Grove & Dean, a broker offering a range of niche insurance types. It allows you to compare quotes                                     from its brands including Peter Best Insurance and Performance Direct

Carole Nash

A policy with broker Carole Nash includes UK and EU breakdown including home start, as well as the option to choose your own repairer if needed. Its website also includes interesting potted histories of some classic car makes.

Footman James

Footman James – part of Towergate Insurance, a large insurance broker – includes options for your classic motor such as 'drive to work' and 'wedding hire'.

Lancaster Insurance

Specialist broker Lancaster uses a network of car clubs as well as a panel of insurers to offer quotes. Its online application process was also one of the easiest and quickest to complete.

You could also try a general broker for belt 'n' braces

If you've time you could always try a general broker. Your best option will be to find a broker that's a member of the British Insurance Brokers' Association – you can find a list of those in your area on its site.

Step 2: Haggle if at renewal

Haggling is not a must, especially if you want to try a new provider. But if you're looking to renew with your current insurer, it could be well worth it. Once you've called a batch of brokers as listed above and got the overall cheapest price, pick up the phone and haggle with your current insurer – if it can beat or match your best quote it saves the hassle of switching policy.

Step 3: Double-check that policy details suit your circumstances

Although this is a message we give out for when buying any type of insurance policy: always double-check the policy terms. I's particularly important for classic car cover because of its more unusual nature. With all the different variables – mileage, type of use, age of car, modifications etc – your policy needs to be tailored to your exact requirements, so make sure it is.

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How much does classic car insurance cost?

Classic car insurance is usually cheaper than ordinary car insurance.

This is because insurers reckon that drivers are more careful with classic – often keeping their vehicle in pristine condition, driving it only for a few days a year or in good weather, and keeping it in a safe place to protect its value.

Insurers consider a number of factors when working out your quote. As with any type of insurance, the more risky insurers deem you to be, the more your quote will be. Some of these factors include: 

The driver

Insurers will consider factors like age, driving experience, profession and other indicators of driving habits when calculating your quote. 

The car

All factors relating to you car will be considered including the model, its value, its age, mileage and any modifications.

Location

Where you live and where you plan to keep your car overnight will also have a bearing on how your insurance is calculated. If you live in an area with a high rate of car thefts and keep your classic car parked on the road outside your flat, for example, you might get more expensive insurance. 

Quick questions

How to reduce the cost of classic car insurance

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There are a number of hints and tips about how to get cheaper car insurance in general in our main Car insurance guide that can also be applicable to classic car insurance. You should get as many quotes as you can, compare policies to make sure you have the right cover, and renew at the right time. 

For classic car insurance, there are a couple of specific things you can do to try to get a cheaper quote...

Join a car club and cut your insurance costs by up to 25%

Depending on the club, and for an annual fee usually ranging from £20 to £45, you can qualify for all sorts of perks including discounts with suppliers for spare parts as well as special offers on annual car services.

But the biggest savings from being a member can come on the cost of your insurance. Membership can help knock up to 25% off your insurance, eg, £75 off a £300 policy – in fact, the discount on the insurance itself can often more than pay for the cost of annual membership.

Many insurers see joining a car club as further proof of commitment to careful driving – and charge you less as a reward.

Not all brokers or insurers will offer it, and the size of the discount will depend on other variables such as how often you drive, the age of the car etc. But if you're going to join a club anyway for the other benefits, cheaper insurance will be a huge bonus.

How to make a claim on your classic car insurance

Claiming on your classic car insurance shouldn't be daunting and if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks. Follow these three simple steps in the event you need to claim...

Step 1: If it's a theft, notify the police

If your classic car is stolen, you'll need to get a crime reference number as part of the insurance claims process. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.

Step 2: Submit your claim as soon as possible

Contact your insurer as soon as you can to avoid any administrative hold-ups; if it's a complex claim, it may take a while to be processed – so the sooner you start, the better.

Step 3: Show your receipts

It'll always come in handy in any claim to be able to show proof of purchase or receipts for modifications if requested.

What to do if something goes wrong

First, you need to complain to your insurance company directly. If it doesn't respond, or if you don't agree with what it says, you can escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman

The ombudsman is an independent adjudicator which will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.

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