How Old Does a Motorcycle Have to Be to Be Considered Vintage?

Vintage motorcycles are very popular, both with collectors and legitimate motorheads who love the sound, feel, and vibe of cruising on a vintage two-wheeler. However, the fact that a bike looks vintage doesn’t mean that it is vintage. In truth, a motorcycle needs to be of a certain age and fulfill certain other criteria to be considered in that bracket.

How Old?

How old does a motorcycle have to be if you want it to be considered ‘vintage’? The answer isn’t as simple as it sounds. Sure, “a ballpark of 30 years” is some sort of an answer, but there’s a lot more to take into account.

Why Is It Important?

First of all, for registration purposes. Secondly, you’ll want your treasured old motorcycle to be properly insured, as there are special and specific insurance deals for old bikes. Finally, you’ll want your bike to be officially considered ‘vintage’ if you want to enter various contests and shows. 

Classic, Antique, and Vintage

These three words may sound synonymous with vintage, but in the world of motorcycles, they’re far from the same thing. A common trait between the three categories is that all classic, vintage, and antique models are considered such if they’re at least 25 years old. Another common factor in deciding whether a model fits into these categories is whether the bike looks the way it was intended to look when manufactured.


Other than age, a classic motorcycle needs to have a particular simplicity of design in order to be classified as ‘classic’. Single headlights, double rear-wheel supports, two-cylinder engines, etc. Additionally, all its original parts need to be properly maintained. If a few-decades-old bike undergoes a significant number of customizations and replacements, it’s generally considered a “custom” bike.


The antique category is pretty much the simplest and the most straightforward. If your bike is 35 years old or older, it’s considered ‘antique’. Some states allow motorcycles to be registered as antiques after no more than 20 years. However, in the world of classics, antiques, and vintage bikes, this is designated as “historical”, meaning that the motorcycle in question can be used solely for parades, historical club activities, and car shows.


Finally, to answer the burning question; what makes a bike ‘vintage’? Well, ‘vintage’ isn’t really a category, more a way of describing a motorcycle. To put things simply, for the purposes of entering your bike into a vintage bike show, the limit is around the production year of 1980, maybe even 1975. The thing with vintage motorcycles is that the insurance companies often use the term as a synonym. Most classic and antique bikes are ‘vintage’, but vintage bikes aren’t necessarily ‘antique’ or ‘classic’.

So, How Old Does It Need to Be?

Let’s say around 35 years old. But this doesn’t really mean anything other than being able to enter vintage shows. For insurance and other purposes, focus on the terms ‘classic’ and ‘antique’.