The Difference Between Classic, Vintage and Antique Motorcycles

When it comes to classifying older motorcycles, the terminology is often confusing and used incorrectly. With over 130 years of evolving makes and models, the design and technology of motorcycles have changed tremendously. How can you tell the difference between a classic, vintage and antique bike? And what sets each of the these categories apart?


It’s difficult to say exactly when a motorcycle becomes a classic. However, there are three main guidelines to follow in order to be considered a classic motorcycle. The primary consideration is the age of the motorcycle. Some insurance companies will tell you that it has to be at least 30 years old, whereas motorcycle enthusiasts would argue 25 years. Another consideration is the style and simplicity of its construction. The motorcycle should be designed with simple lines, two-cylinder engines, single headlights and double supports on the rear wheel, modeled after post-World War II motorcycles. It also should have maintained its original parts.  A custom motorcycle that has been rebuilt to a great extent might still be considered a classic, but the modifications usually classify it as a “custom” motorcycle. Custom motorcycles tend to have higher insurance rates because of the cost and labor associated with custom repairs. Lastly, the quality of construction or design of the motorcycle can disqualify it from being a classic. A classic motorcycle will distinguish itself from the other makes and models by its incredible performance. A true classic motorcycle should should be garage kept and ridden semi regularly.


1972 Harley-Davidson Sportster 1000

(Harley-Davidson Sportster 1957-2004)



Vintage isn’t so much a category of  bikes, but instead another way to describe them. When applying for insurance, you’ll notice that some large companies will use the terms “vintage” and “classic” interchangeably. If a classic motorcycle is overly customized, it will usually be considered a  “vintage” motorcycle . Many classics and antiques can be referred to as vintage but not all vintage bikes can be classified as classic or antique. If you enter your motorcycle into a vintage bike show most will cut off at 1980 or 1975.


1971 Harley-Davidson® FX Super Glide



Antique is the only term that has a true definition. The Antique Motorcycle Club of America, AMCA define “antique” of at least 35 years or older. This means that any motorcycle made before 1984 is considered an antique. Sometimes the definition becomes unclear because some states allow motorcycles to be registered or licensed as antiques just after 20 years. Such states another designation of “historical” that is used for licensing and registration. The stipulation for these guidelines is that the motorcycle can only be used for parades, car shows or historical club activities.


1942 Harley-Davidson® WLA Specialty Model


If your bike is designed after the post-World War II motorcycles, is at least 25 years old and is engineered with high quality construction, it is considered to be a classic. If your motorcycle is heavily customized and old, then it’s a vintage. If it’s more than 35 years old, it’s definitely an antique.


One comment on “The Difference Between Classic, Vintage and Antique Motorcycles”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *