Ongoing advancements in automotive technology make modern cars safer than ever before. Side-impact and frontal airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning… you name it. However, there are still many Texans who drive vintage and classic cars on our state’s roads and you might ask yourself, just how safe are these pre-modern cars? 

Differences between a vintage, antique, and classic car

The words “vintage”, “antique”, and “classic” are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. A car is considered “classic” if it’s 20 years or older,  while an antique car is 45 years or older. Vintage vehicles, meanwhile, are pre-war vehicles manufactured before 1930.

American Collectors Insurance breaks it down as follows:

  • Vintage Car: Manufactured between 1919 and 1930
  • Antique Car: Manufactured 1975 or earlier (>45 years old)
  • Classic Car: Manufactured 1990 or earlier (>20 years old)


Regardless of whether you own a classic, antique, or vintage car, you need to consider certain safety modifications and upgrades to ensure that it meets modern safety standards. 

Five safety modifications for-classic-antique-vintage car
Classic cars require upgrading their original sealed-beam headlight bulbs with modern halogens or LEDs.

5 safety modifications for your classic, antique, or vintage car

If you’re thinking of buying a classic, antique, or vintage car, or you already own one, there are five safety measures you need to take to make it as safe as modern vehicles:

1. Three-pointed seatbelts

The three-pointed seatbelts that most drivers use in modern cars were not patented until the late 1950s. Even then, not all car manufacturers equipped their vehicles with three-pointed seatbelts until 1968, when the U.S. government required safety belts in all passenger vehicles. So if your car is older than 1968 — or 1958, for that matter — chances are that your vehicle is not equipped with the three-point seatbelt, which makes it less safe and outside of legal limits. 

2. Anti-lock brakes

The anti-lock braking system (ABS) has been nearly ubiquitous in modern cars since September 2011. However, if you own a classic, antique, or vintage car that was manufactured before 1978, the year when the first car was equipped with anti-lock brakes, chances are that your vehicle doesn’t have this key safety feature that helps prevent wheels from locking up and thus allowing the driver to steer to safety in an emergency situation.

3. New headlights

Older cars use sealed-beam headlight bulbs, which are not as bright as halogens in modern vehicles. You need to replace the original sealed-beam headlamps in your classic or vintage vehicle with modern halogens or LEDs to improve visibility in darkness. 

4. Steering

Classic, antique, and vintage cars come with large steering wheels to give motorists leverage over non-power-assisted steering. Most modern vehicles however, are equipped with rack-and-pinion power steering that allows the driver to have more and easier control over the direction of the wheels, particularly when making turns. 

5. Ignition and keys

Last but not least, older vehicles lack many security features that modern cars have in place for preventing theft; a skilled car thief may only need a screwdriver to turn the locks and start the engine. For this reason, you should consider modernizing the ignition and keys in your older car to protect it from theft and break-ins. 

Collector car insurance requirements in Texas

In the State of Texas, drivers are legally required to purchase auto insurance for their classic or collectible car. Your vehicle may qualify for a classic or collector car insurance policy in Texas if the following requirements are met:

  • Age. As mentioned above, your car should be 20 years or older to qualify for classic car insurance. However, depending on the auto insurer, drivers may need to purchase classic car insurance coverage if their motor vehicle is only 10 years old. 


  • Value. As a rule of thumb, an insurance company is likely to consider your vehicle a classic car if its current value exceeds the original selling price. 


  • Restored. Insurance companies treat your vehicle as “classic” if it was restored and is in good working condition. 


  • Maximum usage and mileage requirements. Many classic and collector car insurance policies have maximum usage and mileage requirements, usually not to exceed 7,500 miles per year and the classic car cannot be your primary motor vehicle (e.g. can’t be used for commuting to work). 


  • Secure storage. Many auto insurance companies that offer a classic and collector car insurance policy require that the insured older vehicle is kept in a secure locked garage or storage unit. 


  • Driver requirements. The insurance company may look at your age, driving experience, driving record, and many other factors when determining whether you qualify for a classic or collector auto insurance policy in Texas. 

Speak with an experienced Houston car accident attorney

If you were involved in a collision while driving, or involving, a classic, antique or vintage car in Texas, consult with an experienced Houston car accident attorney to conduct a thorough investigation and determine fault. Following a car crash, it can be difficult to repair an historic car, in addition to covering all the costs related to recovering from your injuries, but an experienced lawyer can help ensure you receive maximum compensation. Start by contacting Johnson Garcia LLP for your free no-obligation consultation.