What Shall I do with my Horseless Carriage?

In the state of Washington, if you have a car that is more than 40 years old, you can apply for a horseless carriage license plate. The vehicle must be in good running order and be operated primarily as a collector vehicle.  Practically speaking that means the 1965, 306 horsepower, Shelby American Mustang you have parked in the garage may qualify as though it was a Model T. 

To apply for a horseless carriage plate you need only purchase a registration and pay a special license plate fee – currently $35 and any other fees or taxes required by law.  Horseless carriage license plates do not need to be renewed; they are valid for the life of the motor vehicle.  As an option, you can also substitute a restored license plate on your horseless carriage.  A restored plate is a Washington-issued license plate designed for use in the year of the vehicle’s manufacture. The plate must be restored so it can be identified with its year of issue and you can’t use a reproduction. 

If all that sounds great, there are some drawbacks.   You can’t use the car for regular transportation as though it was a fully licensed vehicle and you can’t use it for commercial purposes.  You can drive it to and from auto shows, circuses, parades, displays, special excursions, and antique car club meetings.  You can also take it out for test drives and drive it “for the pleasure of others without compensation.”

Washington requires most vehicles that are registered have Auto insurance, be self insured, or get a certificate of deposit or a liability bond as proof of financial responsibility.   Insurance is not required for vehicles licensed as horseless carriages.

What the law requires and what makes good sense are not always the same.  That 65’ Shelby could easily be worth $40,000 or more.  Even driving it in a parade without some sort of coverage may be more risk than you can tolerate.    If you have a car that qualifies as a horseless carriage, it would be worth your while to consult with your Washington auto insurance agent at Homer Smith Insurance to review your options.

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