Your collector car should have a cool license plate

By Eric Hill | Rose Law Group attorney working in the fields of automotive investment and renewable energy

If you’re planning on buying a collector car during Car Week this year, you’ll soon be faced with several choices for license plates when you register it with the state. Arizona offers several specialty license plate options for owners of collector cars, and eligibility depends on your particular car.

Here are the details for each:

Classic Car: These plates are for cars that have been designated at “classics” by the Classic Car Club of America (“CCCA”). The Club’s list of eligible vehicles is updated every five years, however it’s important to note that the CCCA’s focus is on vehicles built between 1915 and 1948, so don’t expect newer vehicles to show up on the list anytime soon.

Historic Vehicle: Vehicles that are 25 years old or older are eligible for this plate.

Horseless Carriage: These plates are for vehicles manufactured in 1915 or earlier. 

Street Rod: Enthusiasts typically think of a hot rod or street rod as a car built before 1948 that has a modified, high-performance engine and drivetrain – customized ’32 Fords are a prime example. The state’s definition is essentially the same. To be eligible for this plate, the vehicle needs to have a body design that retains at least the basic original style as manufactured in 1948 or earlier and which has been modified for safe road use. Those modifications can include updates to the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes, and the addition of other safety or comfort features. 

Unlike some states, none of the plates listed here carry use restrictions. In Michigan, for example, vehicles with historic plates are limited to use in special events like parades or car shows, but thankfully Arizona’s plates do not have that limitation.

But what if you’ve got an older car that you’re trying to keep period correct? Say, for example, you have pristine 1968 Chevelle and can’t bear the idea of ruining your car’s original looks with a modern plate. Well, you may be in luck!

If your car meets the requirements for either the Classic Car or Historic Vehicle plates, the state may allow you to display an older plate that corresponds with the year that your car was manufactured. To do this, you’ll need to track down a previously issued Arizona license plate from your car’s model year.

The plate needs to be in good condition because the ADOT Motor Vehicle Division will need to confirm the plate is legible and serviceable before you can use it. MVD will check that the plate’s numbering does not conflict with any other plates that are currently issued as well. If it’s approved, you can use your plate in lieu of a Classic Car or Historic Vehicle plate.

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