Explained: In new policy, what owners can or can’t do with their vintage vehicles

Rather than only regulating vintage cars and two-wheelers with strict dos and don’ts, the policy seeks also to enshrine the freedom and passion of owners of such vehicles.

India will usher in a new regime for vintage motor vehicles soon through a new policy intervention.

Rather than only regulating vintage cars and two-wheelers with strict dos and don’ts, the policy seeks also to enshrine the freedom and passion of owners of such vehicles, which represent a bygone era frozen within their wheels, hood and chassis. The government says the objective is to preserve and promote the heritage of old vehicles.

What are vintage vehicles, and how many are there in India?

Currently, the Central Motor Vehicle Rules (CMVR), 1989 do not define what vintage vehicles are. The new policy will insert new clauses to bring a standard definition and how such vehicles cannot be used. The term will cover any vehicle, four- or two-wheeler, which is more than 50 years old from the date of first registration after first sale, including any vehicle imported into India. This will be subject to the condition that such vehicles should be maintained in its original form, and should not have undergone any substantial overhaul that includes any modification in chassis or body shell, and/or engine.

Enthusiasts estimate the number of heritage vehicles at around 5,000 across India.

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What will the new policy allow?

It seeks to mandate that such vehicles cannot be used for commercial purposes or put to regular use. This means you cannot use your vintage vehicle to, say, commute to work. Other than that, the owners can use their vintage cars in any way wish — such as an exhibition, or a ride from time to time.

How did it come about?

In November 2020, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways released a draft notification for public comments and objections on a proposed vintage vehicles policy. It sought to bring in a strict regime of regulation, like setting up committees of state- and Union Territory-level officers to decide what is vintage and what is not. It also proposed far-reaching restrictions on use. For example as per the draft, these vehicles could be only be used for a demonstration, technical research, refuelling, and maintenance, exhibitions, vintage rallies and travelling to and back from such exhibitions/rallies.

After deliberation with all stakeholders, especially heritage vehicle enthusiasts and owners, the new policy does away with such restrictions and actually emphasises that the vehicles can be used but not regularly or for commercial purposes. This allows vintage enthusiasts to indulge in their passion without running afoul of any laws.

How to register these vehicles?

Old vehicles already carry their registration numbers, which will continue. For new ones, like imported vintage vehicles or old Indian cars over 50 years old seeking to enter the vintage category, a new numbering system will come into effect. These vehicles will carry a registration plate displaying the state code in two letters followed by VA for vintage, then a two-letter series and finally a four-digit series between 0001 to 9999 allotted by the state registering authority.

Registration information will be on the Parivahan portal of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. New vintage vehicles can be registered for Rs 20,000; re-registration/renewal will cost Rs 5,000.

Every application for registration will have to be accompanied by a policy of insurance, appropriate fee, bill of entry in case of imported vintage motor vehicles, and old registration certificate in case of a vehicle already registered in India.

The registration certificate will be valid for 10 years, renewable thereafter. Sale and purchase of vehicles registered as vintage is permissible; the buyer and seller have to inform their respective State Transport Authorities.

Will the upcoming vehicle scrappage policy apply to these vehicles?

No. Vintage vehicles are insulated from the scrappage policy. If a vehicle is more than 15 years old but within 50 years, the owner can continue to keep it by passing fitness tests every five years.

How are vintage vehicles treated internationally?

Internationally, the term “classic” is used to describe any car that is about two decades old. In the UK, cars more than 40 years old are vintage. All such vehicles are exempted from paying the annual road tax, vehicle excise duty, and also exempt from the annual UK safety test.

In the US, the rules of defining the classics vary as per states, but typically the Antique Automobile Club of America says motorised vehicles 25 years old or older, which were built in factories and specifically designed and manufactured for transportation use on public roadways and highways, are eligible to be called “classic”.

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