OLR Research Report

February 20, 1998 98-R-0003

FROM: Judy Watson, Legislative Fellow

RE: Antique Car Registration

You asked how other states register antique vehicles. More specifically, you wanted to know more about the State of Washington's program that allows antique cars to have corresponding antique plates for that particular time period. In addition, you wanted to know about one-time registration fees for antique cars and specifically mentioned the states of Montana and Alabama. Finally, you wanted to know the status of antique car registration in Connecticut and whether a similar proposal found in Washington, Montana and Alabama has ever been proposed here.


The state of Washington has special statutory provisions regarding antique vehicle registration. Vehicles classified as antiques have both use restrictions and special license plate fees that differ based upon whether the vehicle owner provides his own antique plate or purchases one from the state Department of Licensing. Similarly, Montana and Alabama both provide for a one-time registration of antique vehicles but severely restrict how an antique vehicle owner uses the vehicle. Connecticut also provides for antique vehicle license plate registration within its statutes. There have not been any proposals to change the current status of the law for thirteen years.

Registration of Antique Vehicles with Corresponding Antique License Plates in Washington

Washington's Department of Licensing has both a use restriction and a licensing procedure for automobiles classified generically as antiques under RCW 46.16.307. Automobiles older than 30 years are regarded as restored use class vehicles. Automobiles older than 40 years are classified as horseless carriages. Both types of automobiles have a use restriction imposed by law. For instance, the vehicles can only be used for excursions, shows and parades. Personal use is permissible as long as the use is “occasional” (which is not defined by statute).

Antique vehicle registration may be accomplished in one of two ways: by using one's own personal antique license plate or by purchasing the appropriate antique license plate from the Department of Licensing. If an individual already owns an antique plate, there is a title transaction fee of $5.00. If an individual wishes to purchase an antique plate from the Department of Licensing, the fee is $35.00 along with a one-time registration fee of $3.50.

An antique vehicle owner may not transfer a current use license plate over to his antique vehicle. He must comply with one of the above-mentioned procedures.

One-time Registration Fees for Antique Vehicles in Montana and Alabama

Montana's Title and Registration Bureau has the authority to register vehicles classified as antiques within the state. There are two types of antique plates available for registration: pioneer (1934 or older) and vintage (30 years old through 1935). An antique automobile owner may either provide his own antique license plate or purchase one from the Bureau at a cost of $5.00 for cars under 2,800 lbs., or $10.00 for cars over 2,800 lbs. This cost includes two plates: one for the front of the vehicle and one for the rear.

The license plate must stay with the vehicle no matter how many times ownership of the vehicle transfers. If an owner of an antique vehicle moves out of Montana, he must surrender the license plate to the bureau.

Montana restricts the usage of antique vehicles on its roadways. The vehicle may not, under any circumstances, be utilized for personal pleasure. The vehicle may be driven in shows, parades and the like.

Alabama has a similar program to Montana's. There is a one-time registration fee for antique license plates in the amount of $10.00. A vehicle is an antique if it is over 30 years old. Like Montana, Alabama does not allow for personal use of the vehicle and classifies the antique as a “collector's item” under the Code of Alabama 40-12-290. The antique plate stays with the vehicle no matter how many times it changes ownership and must be surrendered if the vehicle is moved out of state permanently.

Connecticut's Antique Vehicle Statute

CGS 14-20 authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue special number plates for “antique, rare or special interest motor vehicles”. A fee of $7.00 is charged for the plate, along with a fee of $70.00 to register the vehicle itself on a renewable basis. An antique car owner may also provide his own “porcelain number plate” provided the plate was either previously purchased from DMV or the owner files a detailed description of the vehicle with DMV. Connecticut does not have any use restrictions on antique vehicles. Legislative changes have not been made to the statute since 1984, when technical changes were made. A copy of the statute is attached.