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  • Writer's pictureSarah Morris Ocampo

In Nevada, a vehicle that is 20 years old can receive a “classic vehicle” license plate

There are classic cars that define ‘cool’ like a 1919 Ford Model T, a 1964 Aston Martin, a 1966 Shelby Cobra or a 1963 Corvette Stingray.  But would you think of putting a 1994 Honda Civic or 1987 Suzuki Samurai in the same ‘classic car’ category? Under Nevada law, almost any car more than 20 years old is eligible to be labeled a ‘classic’ vehicle and can receive a “classic vehicle” license plate. And they can be approved for one of these plates, regardless of the condition of the vehicle.

The Antique Automobile Club of America has been around since 1935. They define classic automobiles as “fine or unusual vehicles (foreign or domestic), that are between 25 and 50 years old. 50 and older means a car is officially an antique.”

Each state governs a little differently but, in most cases, you’ll find that the vehicle must be of a certain age to qualify for vintage, collector, classic, historical, or antique plates. In addition, the vehicle’s use must be limited to the following:

  1. Participation in antique car club functions, parades, and exhibits

  2. Test drives

  3. Driving to a garage for repairs

  4. Driving to an auction or yard to be sold

  5. A certain distance from home

In Nevada, classic vehicle license plates are divided into the following categories:

  1. Classic Vehicle – manufactured at least 25 years before application and has NOT been customized

  2. Classic Rod – not manufactured before 1949 or in the last 20 years before the application.

  3. Street Rod – manufactured before 1949

  4. Fire Truck – privately owned and used only in parades or similar activities.

  5. Antique Truck – at least 25 years old, larger than one ton and is used only in shows, parades or similar activities

  6. Old Timer – more than 40 years old before date of application

  7. Old Timer Motorcycle – more than 40 years old before the date of application

  8. Vintage – 1961 and older

  9. Horseless Carriage – manufactured on or before 1915. Application must be approved by the Horseless Carriage Club of Nevada.

When 2011 rolled around, the law on issuing classic vehicle plates was relaxed and the requirement for an initial smog check was eliminated. After the removal of the smog check requirement, naturally, there was a significant spike in the number of classic plates being issued. Before 2011, there were about 5,000 plates issues compared to the more than 30,000 issued in 2016. Even though the number of classic plates issued has evened out in 2016 and 2017, they remain at a level more than 5x higher than they once were.

Just in case you were wondering, here are the top 10 Classic Cars currently registered in the state of Nevada:

  1. 1969 Chevy Camaro

  2. 1987 Suzuki Samurai  

  3. 1993 Honda Civic

  4. 1968 Chevy Camaro

  5. 1989 Ford Mustang

  6. 1986 Chevrolet C-10

  7. 1969 Ford Mustang

  8. 1968 Ford Mustang

  9. 1991 Honda Civic

  10. 1994 Honda Civic

In addition to the age of the vehicle, to be eligible to receive a ‘classic/collector’s plate’, the yearly mileage on the vehicle must be documented. The yearly mileage allowed has increased from 2,500 miles a year to 5,000 miles a year. Significantly, having the special plate allows the car to be registered without a smog check if the owner signs an affidavit every year certifying the car hasn’t been driven more than 5,000 miles. The mileage is not physically verified by the DMV, it’s based on an honor system with the owner of the vehicle. They simply write down the odometer reading when they renew their registration each year.

The steps to register your antique car are the same steps as a regular vehicle registration, but you need to complete an extra application that coincides with the type of vehicle you own. If you were hoping to personalize your license plate, unfortunately, classic and antique tags cannot be personalized. The registration fees vary from state to state and the procedure for obtaining classic or vintage car registration is completed through the local DMV. After registering a vintage car or classic vehicle, applicants will have to then apply for a license plate. Fees are paid in addition to regular registration fees and renewal fees. Current fees can be found on the Nevada DMV website.

Whether you drive a pristine 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider or a 1959 Cadillac looking a little worse for wear, or even a 1993 Honda Civic in mint condition, as long as you love what you drive and drive what you love, what does it matter?

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